Saturday, June 24, 2017

Album review: An Introduction to Failure by Daudi Matsiko

Technically An Introduction to Failure is a double EP but as it has eight tracks in total, I'm classifying it as an album review ... calling it an EP review wouldn't hint at the length of the work, and it would also suggest that, as the name suggests, it's merely an introduction to Matsiko, when really this is a complete work.

The first half - the first EP - is reflective, ruminative and minor-keyed, while the second half kicks off with a relatively more jaunty tune and turns back to make a musical circle by the close. From the first song, 'Home', Matsiko's voice has a hook in it that will either catch you or not. There's a sense of sadness there - perhaps it's just longing, but the fact that it's ambiguous (to this listener, at least) means that Matsiko knows to allow room for the listener to bring their own interpretations.

Matsiko was born in the United Kingdom to Ugandan parents and has been playing guitar from a young age. An Introduction to Failure is said to feature 'fractured folk techniques' that have been influenced by musical discoveries from Matsiko's heritage. That may well be the case, but what I hear is a collection of songs that, even when layered with instruments, sound stripped back to allow Matsiko's voice to connect immediately with the listener. There is confidence in that: Matsiko is not hiding behind anything, and he's not letting the listener hide either.

Categorising music - as folk, country, rock, pop, and so many others - while necessary, can sometimes make a potential listener turn away from work they may enjoy (this is never more true than in country music, where the mere application of the label can cause an adverse reaction in someone who declares they 'never listen to country music' but in the same breath will anoint Ryan Adams as their favourite artist). This is a roundabout way of saying that maybe Matsiko is folk, and maybe he's other things, but 'singer-songwriter' is the label that seems to fit best. So if you like singer-songwriters of any stripe, you may well like this fine example of the form.

An Introduction to Failure is available now. You can buy it on Bandcamp or ...

Album review: The Wide Horizon by Darren Coggan

Some would say it takes a brave man to cover the beloved Australian Crawl song 'Reckless'. For one thing, James Reyne's vocals are inimitable, so that brave man would be wise to not even try. But that brave man would also realise that a song so iconic has lingered for a reason: it's a bloody good song. Such a song is worth taking a tilt at then, and on his new album, The Wide Horizon, Darren Coggan is that brave man taking that tilt, with wonderful results. The occasionally hopeless melancholy of the original is still there in Coggan's interpretation, but this version has a bit more grit and determination. The song sounds completely contemporary, which is down to Reyne's skill, but also to Coggan's. And it is Coggan who has written most of the other songs on this impressive album.

Coggan is partly known for his Cat Stevens show, Peace Train, and there is plenty of Cat in his voice, but not so much that he sounds like an imitator. It's the warmth and slight edginess that's the same, and Coggan uses that to very good effect on this album of songs that are rich in sentiment and setting.

'The 'Bidgee' takes us to the Riverina of New South Wales - Coggan grew up in Wagga Wagga - and 'Inasmuch' to Norfolk Island (with guest vocals from Felicity Urquhart). 'Until We Meet Again' is a stirring farewell to a friend, and 'Seventeen' is an act of devotion to his wife. Each song is a story worth listening to over and over, and Coggan brings just the right amount of feeling to each.

In a country music culture as rich as Australia's, the standard has become very high. We have so much extraordinary music to choose from that even great artists who ply their craft with dedication and professionalism can get missed. If you are someone who likes their music to have heart and authenticity, who likes a good story well told, who doesn't need their country music to always sound country but who appreciates that at the core of country music is storytelling and respect for the audience, don't miss The Wide Horizon.

The Wide Horizon is available now.

Gympie Music Muster announces new artists

The Gympie Music Muster will take place from Thursday 24 August to Sunday 27 August, and an announcement of additional artists for the line-up proves that the Muster attracts the very best Australian music talent. Joining headliners Jessica Mauboy, Adam Brand and Busby Marou are Lyn Bowtell, Jody Direen and Kaylens Rain. Already announced artist Amber Lawrence has added her children's show 'The Kid's Gone Country'. Joining them are:

Chelsea Basham – Melanie Dyer – Joe Robinson
Hussy Hicks – Georgia Fall – Judah Kelly – Hurricane Fall
The Killer Queen Experience – Viper Creek Band – Fred Smith
Kaylee Bell – Pete Denahy – Christie Lamb – Matt Cornell – Karin Page
Kyle Lionhart – Blues Arcadia – Linc Phelps – Liam Brew
Tim Wheatley – Darren Middleton – 8 Ball Aitken – Shelley & Lawrie Minson
The Electric 80's – Simon Kinney Lewis Band
Bob Abbot & The Fabulous Green Machine – PC & The Biffs – Rachael Fahim
The Mercurys – The Faceless Men – Casey Barnes – Mitch King – Luella Widt
Freya Hollick – Route 33 – Emma Beau – Seleen McAlister – Mason Hope

Held in the Amamoor Creek State Forest in the beautiful Sunshine Coast Hinterland, the 2017 Muster will feature more than 100 artists in more than 300 performances across multiple stages. The artists cover a range of genres including country, bluegrass, folk, blues and rockabilly.

Run by the community, for the community, the Muster is a not-for-profit charity event which has raised in excess of $15 million for charities all over Australia since its inception. Proceeds from this year’s Muster will again go to charity partner Mates4Mates to help Australian Defence Force personnel with mental and physical injuries as a result of their service.

The Muster runs from Thursday August 24 to Sunday August 27, 2017.

To book tickets visit or phone 1300 GET TIX (1300 438 849).

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Single release: 'The Trouble with You' by O'Shea

Australian duo O'Shea now reside in the USA but regularly return to their homeland. Their next trip will be in July, in support of their new album, 61-615, which will be released on 28 July. Given that Jay O'Shea's voice is incredible live, I heartily recommend you catch one of the shows.

They have released a music video for the new song ‘The Trouble With You’, which is available as an instant download for digital pre-orders of 61-615, along with the album’s first official single, ‘Start Over.’

 You can watch the music video for ‘The Trouble With You’ at:

Fans can per-order the album now at:

The tour dates are:

Friday 28 July – Leadbelly, Sydney NSW
Saturday 29 July – Centro CBD, Wollongong NSW
Sunday 30 July – Lizottes, Newcastle NSW
Thursday 3 August – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane QLD
Saturday 12 August – Mt Isa Rodeo, Mt Isa QLD

For ticket information, visit

Interview: Thomas Wynn

Thomas Wynn and the Believers are a Florida band who have been named number one country/folk as well as number one rock band by the Orlando Weekly for seven consecutive years. Their latest album, Wade Waist Deep, is all the proof you'll need as to why. Central to the band's sound are the vocals of Wynn and his sister Olivia, and when I spoke to Wynn recently I asked about their joint musical history as well as his songwriting, amongst other things.

Are you in Florida at the moment?
I’m not, I’m in New Orleans. We’re on the road.

How extensive is your tour?
This one’s a month long. We just started two days ago and we’ll be back home July 2nd.

Do you like being on the road?
Yeah. I certainly love playing, and that’s the way that you need to play. There are aspects that aren’t so great – I’m away from my family – but we all make sacrifices.

From someone in Australia, where we have a large land mass but not so many towns and cities, the logistics of organising a tour in the US seem to be enormous. It must take a lot of preparation.
Thankfully it does. There are a lot of cities and routing is generally pretty good. We try to do around four hours of drive time between cities, maybe less than that. We’re in New Orleans and then we’re in Baton Rouge, and Baton Rouge is only 80 miles so that’s not far at all. We have a wonderful agent, Jesse Rosoff over at the United Talent Agency, and he’s pretty great at working things out. We do have two seven-hour drives on this run but most of it’s pretty close.

The actual first question I was going to ask you was: do you recommend being in a band with a sibling?
If you like that sibling, sure. I certainly do like being in a band with Olivia. She’s wonderful and we get along great, and as far as musicianship goes, siblings can be tighter and more aware of where one person is going. Like an inner feeling – we just kind of go there. It’s ingrained in us somehow.

And from a singing point of view – there aren’t actually that many sibling singers. In Australia we have a group called The McClymonts, three sisters whose harmonies are out of this world, and there’s certainly a sense with you and Olivia that your voices are symbiotic in so many ways. It’s no doubt a result of singing together for a long period of time but also that understanding, as you said, about where you’re going. There’s something almost mystical about it as well.
It’s pretty cool that we have the same genetics and so our voices kind of do the same thing and have the same characteristics, so we can kind of get on a wavelength where it sounds like one big person. There’s another Australian group called the Vaudeville Smash – we met them in Austin a few years ago. It’s three brothers and they have two other members as well; they’re a disco revival band and their harmonies and their musicianship together – it’s very, very apparent that they’re been doing it together for potentially a lifetime.

Do you and Olivia have to work on how you sing together or is it something that does now flow so effortlessly that you don’t even really need to rehearse how you work those harmonies with each other?
I’d like to say that of course not, we just innately know, but practice makes everything better. I think it’s easier for us to get to the place where we want but it certainly takes practice and it certainly takes a level of awareness and trusting the other person to go where we’ve established. I can go off the cuff a little more than Olivia likes to but I really appreciate the fact that she doesn’t necessarily like to do that because with being rehearsed, it kind of ensures that we’re going to give you something good. And that’s the point.

The whole band’s sound on the album – it’s immediately apparent that we’re dealing with professionals. The sound is really tight and it does sound like it’s coming from people who take their music seriously, and that does involve rehearsing. It shows when that doesn’t happen – I was in a band that rehearsed a lot but one member did not like to rehearse, and that showed.
It does show. Live is a different animal than the studio. The studio, we certainly rehearsed a good bit before we went in so that we weren’t wasting time and we were able to do what we went in there to do, but live we’re a little more free, we’re certainly wanting to hit the parts together but we can stretch our legs when we’re live. But at the same time, you’re not able to do that unless you’re practised. You’re not able to do that unless you know, ‘Okay, they’re going to stretch this out a little bit.

You and Olivia seem to have almost been trained since childhood to be musicians, because you’ve been doing it for so long – does it feel like you’ve always been a musician?
Thinking about it, music’s always been in my life. I’d say we’ve always been artistic, always been creative in that our parents really gave us that ability and that freedom to express ourselves, and we chose for the forefront of that expression to be music. But all of our siblings are artistic in ways. All of us are musicians but then all of us express our art in different ways as well.

You grew up playing music in church, and your songs certainly don’t shy away from what might be called big questions and theme. It’s often not deemed cool, I think, particularly in contemporary music, to address those sorts of subjects – to be visibly looking for meaning, I think is what I’m trying to say. Have you ever doubted your lyrical direction, particularly on this latest album? You really are getting into some very meaningful, fundamental questions.
I appreciate that. I never doubted where the lyrics were heading. I might have doubted how they would be received. But I knew the direction I wanted to take the lyrics in the record – the songs that I was writing, and have been writing, go along with that vein of, like you said, the big questions in life. At this point in my life that’s a very important part of it, trying to find deeper meaning and then, if it’s found, trying to understand why it’s found in that way.

I think we’re also at a time in history where meaning is required, for many people, in day-to-day life. And in art, quite often, meaning is seen as being cheesy but to be entertaining and meaningful at the same time is what audiences respond to best, and you’ve certainly accomplished that.
Thank you. I was wary of how it might be achieved but in the end I trusted that our audience – and, hopefully, a large audience – would be capable of following that and asking even more questions. I think a lot of art these days is just about YOLO or whatever. It’s about bottles in the club or some stupid thing, and that doesn’t touch me. I wanted to give something to everyone and to myself, to my family, in the form of art that they would know I was thinking something deeper.

And that does require you, of course, to be vulnerable, as the lyricist and the lead singer and the band leader. In order to be vulnerable – particularly on a stage – that requires a certain courage, and I do hear that in your music, as well: you are not resiling from this, you want to connect to the audience, you want to take these questions to them. Where does that courage come from?
I don’t know. I think we all go through things in our lives and then at some point we have to reflect upon them. At some point the best of us reflects upon them. Thankfully I’m at that point in my life. I’m reflecting on in it, and if I’m choosing to be an artist and put myself out there, I have no other way to do it. I have on other real way to do it. One of my favourite artists of all time, Levon Helm, said, ‘You’ve got to give them something real.’ At the time that he said that it was late ’60s, mid ’70s, and I think people were on a different wavelength altogether. Nowadays it’s a little different but I still try and subscribe to that effort: give them something real. I’ll give you something real because you’ll know if I don’t. We all may like the cheesy songs, and they’re catchy – of course they’re catchy – but it doesn’t mean that we can’t also realise that it’s faith.

And to deliver the music you have to have this voice – and yours is a real instrument in and of itself. Has that voice always been there or has it taken time for you to develop that instrument to the point it is now.
Of course in some respects it’s been there, but I think … my son always asks for ‘Dadda’ on Youtube, so we’re listening to the old videos and then the new videos and I can definitely hear a difference in the maturity of it. I’m not stretching for things that I don’t think I can do and I’m confident in what I can do, so that’s what you’re hearing now.

You’ve said that fundamentally you want audiences to feel something, and I think the tracks are really layered and complex in such a way that we can feel that when you’re performing them. What was the studio experience like for all of you, creating those songs?
It was the best experience in the studio that we’ve ever had, and I think in large part it was due to Vance Powell, the producer. Another large part is that we were all together for a month just concentrating on the creation of this project that we’ve yearned for and worked for, for so long. And to hear it after every few days, listening back to what we got and hearing it really come into being and the fruition of that dream of this new record, it was just amazing. It was an amazing time – and we certainly hope to do it again in about a year.

Wade Waist Deep is out now through Mascot Records.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Single release: 'It's Good to Know' by Jeff Gibson

Shearer/musician Jeff Gibson released his third album, Tin Dog Road, last year. This collection of memories and stories from his life in western Victoria won Best Album at the 2016 Australian Roots Music Awards (ARMA). He has released the single 'It's Good to Know', which won the ARMA Best Song.

'It's Good to Know' features Suzannah Espie - who produced the album - and Jeff Lang on backing vocals, and Pete Baylor on guitar. But it's Gibson's voice that really captivates on this song of manipulation and regret.

Listen to 'It's Good to Know' on Soundcloud.

You can buy Tin Dog Road at

Single release: 'Saturn's Rings' by The Demon Drink

Over the past few decades Brisbane has, as the saying goes, punched above its weight when it comes to contributions to Australian musical culture. The Go-Betweens now have their own bridge; Powderfinger had the charts almost to themselves for a while there, and Regurgitator redefined rock and had fun doing it. There's now a small but steady country music scene which includes Brad Butcher - and the quintet The Demon Drink, who have a debut album, Highway Robbery, due for release on 14 July. From it they've released a single, 'Saturn's Rings'. Vocalist and lyricist Kieran Waters says the song is 'really a variation on the idea that time heals all wounds. Sometimes it doesn't ... sometimes time runs out.'

You can watch the video below and find The Demon Drink on Facebook.

Single release: 'Slaughterhouse Blues' by Gretta Ziller

In 2014 Victorian singer-songwriter Gretta Ziller released the excellent EP Hell's Half Acre and announced herself as a dynamic new talent in Australian country music. While her fans (including me) were probably impatient for new music, Ziller has only recently completed her debut album, Queen of Boomtown, which will be released on 1 September by Social Family Records.

The first single from that album is 'Slaughterhouse Blues', and you can watch the video - shot in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg - below and buy the song on .

Monday, June 12, 2017

Single release: 'Die Alone' by Whitehorse

A year living in Canada, writing for a street-press music mag and doing some radio in Vancouver left me partial to Canadian music of all kinds. The standard of Canadian music was high, as was the level of professionalism. So when I have a chance to bring attention to Canadian artists, I will.

And, lo, here is the new single from JUNO award winners Whitehorse. 'Die Alone' is taken from their forthcoming album Panther in the Dollhouse and the video documents a powerful stripped-back performance of the song at a Ghostlight Session in Massey Hall.

Panther in the Dollhouse will be released on 4 August.
Watch the video for 'Die Alone' below.

Single release: 'Well Dressed Man' by Brad Butcher

Queensland singer-songwriter Brad Butcher has released two albums and they were two of the best releases of recent times. He is an exceptional songwriter and a performer who wants to connect with his audience and knows how to do it consistently. His sound is not traditional country but country music is an appropriate umbrella for a man who writes and sings from the heart.

Butcher will release his third album, From the Bottom of the Well, on 4 August. From that album he has released the single 'Well Dress Man'. It was inspired by Butcher's grandfather, Norman, who grew up as one of thirteen children in a cane cutter's cottage just south of Mackay in Central Queensland. Norm was a beacon of hope and resilience to his large family during the tough times of the years after the Great Depression and during World War II.

Watch the video for 'Well Dressed Man' below.
Pre-order From the Bottom of the Well on

Album review: Gold Rush by Hannah Aldridge

A confession: I started listening to Hannah Aldridge's Gold Rush somewhat in the background, while I was doing other things. There were a lot of things on the to-do list and instead of being able to sit down and really listen, the background listening seemed to be the best way to become familiar with it. Except it very quickly stopped being something I could listen to without it pushing its way into the foreground, and it also didn't take long before I was hearing the songs in my head all the time. For me, as a listener - and, first and foremost, a reviewer has to be a listener - that is the prize: songs that I'm carrying with me, songs that won't leave me alone, songs that I'm humming, songs that I can't wait to hear again.

Aldridge is a daughter of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and she embraces that heritage in her lyrics. She opens the album with 'Aftermath', in which she declares 'I was born in a crossfire', and she does not resile from that throughout this hugely impressive album which is country-influenced rock, with an emphasis on the rock.

Aldridge's voice and sound remind me of Alannah Myles and Pat Benatar, who have quite different singing styles yet both come from a deep, dark place. Aldridge is prepared to go down that same well, and she pulls out track like 'The Irony of Love', a song laced with pain and knowing, and 'Living on Lonely'. These more melancholy tracks are offset by the occasional upbeat track but overall this album feels like a serious piece of work, created by an artist who takes her work seriously - and that is to its great benefit. Being serious about work is not always seen as cool - if a person is really talented they shouldn't have to try so hard, right? But the trying and the work is what allows the talent to shine. Aldridge has talent in spades, and these wonderful, thoughtful songs, executed with guts and grace, are clearly the result of hard work but are not themselves overworked.

Just as Aldridge says she was born in a crossfire, she's also in a crucible - forged in the fire, her steel burnished, weapons held high and wielded on behalf of those who care enough to listen. She deserves to be taken as seriously as she has taken this work, and this is a mighty fine album.

Gold Rush is out now in Europe and will be released on 16 June in the UK and other parts of the globe, via Rootys Music.

Interview: Paul Costa

 Australian country music fan favourite Paul Costa is back with a new album, Whisper in the Crowd, backed by his ever-present enthusiasm for his work and his audience. I recently had a chat to Paul about making the album with producer Matt Fell, how he looks after his voice, and whether big or small crowds are his favourite.

Congratulations on your album, because it’s now out in the world and it’s terrific, as all your music is. I was listening to it thinking that even when the songs are serious, you always sound like you’re having the time of your life – what do you love about your job?
That’s a great question. I think it’s because it’s my passion, singing. I cannot recall a time in my life when I didn’t enjoy singing, right from a little kid. Singing, performing, creating music and just getting that feedback – there’s no better feeling, so I’d have to put it down to those things.

There would be a few singer-songwriters who like the studio more than they like performing, but I’ve always seen you as a real entertainer. You obviously love that connection with the audience.
Definitely. I recently did a show outback in Pooncarie [NSW]. I was singing my stuff and a lot of people knew the songs, which is always a fantastic thing. But not only that, we started going into party mode towards the end of the night. And when the young ones – the guys in their twenties – know Slim Dusty songs better than I do, you know you’re in the right place [laughs]. It’s a fantastic thing. You throwing ideas out and getting that feedback is just fantastic. That live connection.

Has there ever been a show when you’ve thought, I’m too tired to do this, or do you enjoy every gig you do.
I have to say I enjoy every gig. Some gigs you are tired because of the travelling and that type of thing, but it just all goes away. It’s like this newfound energy comes back into your body and once again, if it’s what you love doing, you don’t work a day in your life [laughs].

For your new album, when did you start assembling the songs? Most of them you’ve had a hand in. I know the lead track came from Nashville but most of the songs you’ve done yourself, so when did it all start coming together?
I look back and it’s been almost five years since my last album. It’s been three and a half or four years from the first song that I wrote [for the new album]. I’m pretty sure that ’The Best Version of Me’ was the first one I wrote that made this project. I can’t put my finger on exactly why it took so long but I’m glad, in a way, that it did because every song on it is there for a reason. It’s there because I love it. When you’ve got a bunch of songs that you really love it comes through in the recording process and it comes through when you’re singing it live. It also tends to make a lot more contact with the audience you sing it to.

I’d imagine it took that long because you’re busy playing your previous songs! When you have a back catalogue like yours, your set lists must get harder to decide on because you have so many songs to choose from. So maybe that means you don’t rush into a new album because you have all those other songs.
Maybe that’s a consideration – Wheels of Steel had some great songs that I still enjoy playing live. So I guess the more music you’re putting out, yes, it gets a bit of a competition. With a 75-minute set list, which one do you drop? [Laughs] It only happened to me not that long ago.

And with new material, you’d want to give it a run – but your fans, of course, are hoping to hear your old songs. It’s a good problem to have.
Exactly right. There is a balance. You do hear this over the years – fans come to see the show and they’re expecting the songs that they love. When the show’s too heavy with brand-new stuff they say, ‘Oh yeah, but I’ve come to hear that song and that song …’ It’s a fine line you’ve got to tread.

It’s almost like you should do two sets: the first set is new material so they can hang around for their favourites in the second set.
It’s just like you’re a mind reader, because I’ve got a hometown album launch coming on July the 8th and that’s exactly what I was planning to do. I’m going to do the first set as all-new songs and let everybody know that’s what’s happening and we’re going to do all the other stuff that you like and know and we’ll party a little bit harder for the second set.

Speaking of those new songs, I noticed a few co-writes with both Matt Scullion and Drew McAlister. How long have you been writing with them?
I think this is the third album I’ve worked with Matt Scullion and he had a hand with a couple of songs on In This Life, I think he had three songs on Wheels of Steel, and then we had five songs on this one. He’s contributed a lot to my music. He’s a fantastic writer and we just seem to get along so well. He’s one of those go-to guys for me now, which is great. He’s done so well for myself and of course Lee Kernaghan. He even got a track on the latest Cold Chisel album, which is a pretty good feather in your cap. Drew McAlister, he’s another incredible talent – such a prolific songwriter. So the two songs we wrote: ‘Whisper in the Crowd’, the title track, and ‘Road Train’. I think on the previous album he and Allan Caswell wrote a song that they pitched to me, called ‘Buying Back the Farm’, and it’s funny because I’d only listened to it once and I thought, That’s me! And that made the album. It’s always a pleasure working with such a high calibre of talent.

And I’m sure they’re happy to work with you too or they wouldn’t keep coming back.
[Laughs] I guess so.

Another of the songs is ‘Drive to Heaven’ and it’s obviously a very personal song. There’s that
element when you’re an entertainer of wanting to take something personal to your audience, but I’m also wondering how you take something so personal and take it to people. It’s almost a mystical process, I guess, so it would be hard to describe.
The whole story is that we were at the dinner table and my young son, Dylan, was only four at the time and he was trying to connect the dots of how everyone was related in the family. He was saying, ‘Grandma is your mum, Mummy, and Grandpa is your dad. Daddy, your mum’s Nonna’ – then he turns around with a puzzled look on his face and says, ‘But where’s your daddy, Daddy?’ Because my dad had passed away and he’d never met him. And I was kind of lost for words – it caught me off guard. We sort of changed the subject and went on to happier things. But about five weeks later we were going for a walk and he asked the question again: ‘Where’s your daddy, Daddy?’ And I was more ready for him this time. I said, ‘My daddy’s in Heaven.’ And said, ‘Let’s go there, I want to see him.’ And I said, ‘Heaven’s too far, we can’t walk to Heaven.’ He turned around and said, ‘Let’s drive to Heaven.’ And as soon as he said it – it’s one of those things, little moments in life, where the little lightbulb goes off and you think, There’s a song in that. Hence the way the song came out is the way the story came out. The song had really been written for about two and half years when I went to record it in the studio, and I actually became emotional in the studio singing it. Had to pause a few times. But it’s interesting that a lot of people have come back to me and said, ‘It brings a tear to my eye’ … If you can touch people with a song, it’s pretty special.

It’s also that you didn’t try to change it. That idea of taking the personal to the universal – you took the story for what it was and told it, and that authenticity of course is so important to country music, and that’s what audiences are responding to.
I think so. It’s so often that something that means a lot to the artist translates. For instance, ‘Tractors and Bikes’, my first number-one hit on my previous album, meant so much to me because that was me growing up in my teenage years, growing up on the farm, and so many people after hearing that song have said, ‘That brings me back to my years on the farm’ or ‘to my younger days’. So, like you said, it’s authenticity that people can really grab hold of.

You mentioned the song ‘Road Train’ – I really liked the detail in the press release about how a man came up to you at a gig and said, ‘People call me Road Train.’ Obviously you can get ideas from other people, but do you have many people coming up to you saying, ‘Can you tell my story in a song?’
Every now and again you get that, but once again it’s got to come from the heart, you know. With the ‘Road Train’ song, I’d just come off stage and had a great set at the Lights on the Hill Memorial Truck Show, and I was on the way to the merch tent and he stuck out his hand and said, ‘People call me Road Train’, and straight back at him I said, ‘That’s a great idea for a song.’ He sort of looked at me a bit funny [laughs]. And the next year I went back, and I’d written the song. I sang the song and he was in the audience and said, ‘I love it.’ I’m really happy it came together so well and made the album.

And it’s good that he loved it, because someone who has the nickname Road Train sounds like someone you wouldn’t want to upset.
[Laughs] He’s actually a really, really nice fella and we’d communicated since. I’ve sent him the album and he said he’s wearing it out and playing it for his friends. Writing songs about real people out there, you can’t go wrong, really.

Matt Fell was your producer for this album – how did you come to choose him? Obviously he’s a popular fellow, so you’d have to book him up ahead.
You do. And it was interesting because he almost made the previous album – I’d had him on the radar for quite a while. But I’m glad that this one came off with Matt. We had a bunch of songs – I’d sent him the songs, and we were talking about how I wanted a more-energy, contemporary sound. And one of the things that Matt came back with, which really brought enthusiasm to me, was, ‘Let’s be bold.’ And I said, ‘I like that.’ So we went along with that philosophy right throughout the project, and it was so much fun. I just can’t get over how happy I am with the end result.

And when you say ‘bold’, I had noticed that there’s quite a lot of instrumentation and some big backing vocals as well.
All that – for me, it’s overall a slightly more hi-fi sound. There’s a little bit more of the overdriven guitars and that type of thing. Some of the instruments … I’ve been a muso all my life and I couldn’t even tell you what some of these things were that he was pulling out! [Laughs] But they made sense in the track. If you’d have ever asked me, ‘Would you have a bagpipe sound in one of your albums?’ I would have said, ‘You’re crazy’, but ‘Whisper in the Crowd’, it’s there and they work really well, so you’ve got to give it to him for thinking outside the square.

And obviously you trusted him too.
I had a few people help me out with a bit of feedback as we went through the process, and ‘Whisper in the Crowd’ was basically as it is now. Some people said, ‘Should we do this or do that’, and I said, ‘Don’t touch it!’     [Laughs] It was one of those things where it worked for me and the feedback’s been that it’s one of the favourite tracks on the album.

Of course, the thing that stays identifiably you throughout all your albums is your voice, which is a very highly regarded and a wonderful instrument. Are there special things you do to take care of it? Obviously playing a lot of live shows can wear a voice out and when it’s time to record it has to be in its most perfect state.
I just find that staying fit, for me, is the best thing. Some cardio – running. I’ve got a little elliptical trainer here at home, and I find that makes a huge difference. Also sit-ups, believe it or not, help a lot – using the right muscles there just seems to work the voice and make it easier to sing. So before every session I go for a run and do some sit-ups and I find you go into the booth and, hey, it’s flowing … The easier it’s flowing, the better it sounds on tape and the more you can do to control it, put it where you want it, and pull off any tricks. I find that it even helps with vocal range – I can go lower and higher, and everything sounds beefier in the middle.

You’ve been on major labels and you’re now an independent artist – has that given you more flexibility, being independent?
I think so. With the market the way it is now I think it’s good. I’ve got everything I need as far as distribution – I’m up on iTunes, we’ve got distribution through the shops. And because of the competition and the way physical sales are declining – for everybody- labels don’t seem to have as much money to put into promoting as they used to. That’s just a fact. And we can do it – especially with technology these days, you can send your promotion around the world with the click of a button. You can do it so well in house with obviously the help of a publicist and that type of thing, and do a great job, so we’re not really missing anything there as far as getting the information out, and just having more control.

Certainly what I’ve noticed – because so many Australian country music artists are independent – is one key area in which they have control is choosing the producer, and I can see the quality of Australian country music is benefitting accordingly, because you guys all know who’s good and who’s producing who, and the decisions that are being made on that production level alone – putting aside songwriting and other elements – are really having huge benefits to the music that’s coming out.
It’s great. When you’ve done it for a little while you know, This guy’s going to work for me. And it might not work for somebody else. You might want a more traditional sound where you’d go for another producer. It’s good to have people to bounce off, but a good producer will do that for you anyway. If he thinks a song needs a little bit of treatment here or there, a good producer will let you know. So, yes, the right artist with the right producer is obviously going to produce the best result.

You play constantly so I’m not going to ask you about a tour for the album, so instead I’ll ask: because you’ve played so many different types of gigs, do you prefer a large audience or a small audience?
I’d have to say both are very, very enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be a big audience to be energetic. The energetic audience, or the one that will give you a lot of feedback, is always the best, but nothing beats a big audience with a lot of feedback [laughs]. One of the best gigs I’ve had in the last couple of years would be performing at Broadbeach [Country Music Festival] on the main stage. All the stars aligned: I was in a great time slot, there was probably 5 to 7000 people just lining the streets, all country fans. The sound was incredible, the band was cooking. I just felt – talking about the voice, I just felt it was all there. I felt good singing the songs and the feedback was incredible. So, yes, nothing beats a big crowd with big feedback.

Particularly when you know how to harness it – with all your experience I’d imagine you do.
It does become a feeding frenzy. You give that to them and if you get it back – it just keeps multiplying, which is great. If you can get it the stage where you’re not thinking about it too much and everybody’s just having a great time, that’s where you want to be.

Whisper in the Crowd is out now.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Album review: I Must Be Somewhere by Raised by Eagles

The last album from Melbourne band Raised by Eagles, Diamonds in the Bloodstream, was a cracker. A hard to follow, one might say. Well, clearly the band didn't buckle until that pressure (if they even felt it) because their newest LP, I Must Be Somewhere, is a worthy successor.

When reviewing Diamonds, I mentioned how successfully the band evokes a 1970s feeling, and that is even more pronounced on this album - in a wonderful way. The songs on this album have echoes of Mondo Rock mixed with a bit of Sherbet, with some laidback California rock sounds there too, and the country-music sensibility that informed a lot of the latter. So the album is nostalgic without being twee - and neither does it sound old. As much as these songs evoke long sun-filled days in a time before our brains became crammed with minutiae, they're also complete appropriate as a soundtrack for a walk along a busy city street as you try to sidestep the pedestrians too preoccupied looking at their phones to avoid the lamppost ahead of them. These are songs that make you want to put your head up and smile - they carry you along, riding the currents.

The standout track (for me) is title track 'I Must Be Somewhere', written by singer-guitarist Luke Sinclair. It embodies the wistfulness wrapped up in pragmatism that is a distinctive characteristic of RBE lyrics, whether written by Sinclair or Nick O'Mara, the other vocalist/guitarist in the band. It hints at loneliness but instead of making the listener feel lonely, it makes them feel heard.

This is an album that is both entertaining and meaningful, which, really, is what culture should be, because if artists can't entertain the people they're less likely to get their meaning across. Raised by Eagles are, in their marrow, entertainers - and they take that responsibility seriously. What that means it that you, as the listener, can enjoy what they produce and know it's good for you at the same time.

I Must Be Somewhere is out now through ABC Music.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Single release: 'Jealous' by Ellen Amy

New country music artist Ellen Amy hails from Picton in New South Wales. She was raised on church hymns and country music - and it sounds like she might have been singing along to both for quite a while, as while her single 'Jealous' marks her debut, her voice is clearly that of someone with depth of experience as well as talent.

Ellen Amy's sound is country pop with strong hooks. She says that 'Jealous' is 'about a girl who wants to make her ex-boyfriend jealous by showing him what he has let go.' The single was recorded at Brisbane’s Red Engine Recording Studio with Andrew Cochrane (Caitlyn Shadbolt, Christie Lamb, Kaylens Rain).

Watch the video for 'Jealous' below.

You can buy the single on 

Ellen Amy is on Facebook.

Single release: 'What a Shame' by Jodie Crosby

Tamworth's Jodie Crosby knows better than most what makes a hit single: for the past two years she has been a popular radio broadcaster on local radio station 88.9 FM. Not only that, she's the lead singer of  the Golden Guitar and multi-award winning duo The Crosby Sisters.

After many years on the road as a solo performer, Jodie has returned to the recording studio to cut a new solo album, Jodie Crosby, to be released this year. From the album comes 'What a Shame', written by Jodie's sister Kelly. It's a great gutsy country-rock tune that hopefully sets the tone for the album - if there are more songs like this, her fans will be very pleased.

Listen to 'What a Shame' on Soundcloud.

Find Jodie on Facebook.

Album review: Road Less Traveled by Sara Petite

It’s not hard to fall immediately in thrall to Sara Petite’s sound. From the first (title) song of her new album, Road Less Traveled, the only possible response is a big smile, a tapping foot and a willingness to go wherever she’s taking us. There is a jauntiness to the track that is infectious, but the key is Petite’s voice: round and warm even as it delivers a wink and a nod to the listener.

This is not to suggest that the whole album runs in this vein – it does not, as Petite is a well-rounded artist who can also deliver sadness, reflectiveness and pathos, and it all clearly comes from the heart. Mind you, even the break-up song ‘Getting Over You’ has a swinging beat, so while Petite explores the end of a relationship she also sounds like she doesn’t regret it. And ‘I Will Rise’ is not a self-pitying rumble through hard knocks but, rather, a proclamation.

The musical style of these songs is swampy country: the tunes are laced with banjo, horns make an appearance, and there’s some prominent electric guitar as well. Country suits Petite – and so does rock and blues. These are all genres of music that do not support sugar-coating and Petite certainly sounds like she is not interested in anything other than the truth. Happily, she has found a way to meld them into a sound that is gloriously hers. She sounds like she belongs in an LA bar as much as a Nashville stage, and she could also sit by the side of a road with a guitar and churn out tunes for passers-by. She has a drive to communicate that goes right along with her willingness to sing from the heart, and accordingly she will find audiences everywhere.

Road Less Traveled is out now.