Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Single release: 'Pity Me' by Paula Standing

This new song from South Australian artist Paula Standing evokes dusty roads, broken dreams, love gone wrong and revenge about to be taken. You know when a song contains a lyric about fluid being drained out a brake, something is about to turn bad ... Standing's narrator means business, and Standing sounds like the business as she sings the story.

Standing is a classically trained singer, which accounts for her fantastic tone and control; she is newer to guitar, which she took up in 2010. Standing is set to release her new EP Good Heart soon, the follow-up to her 2015 album All Fun & Games. 

Watch the video for 'Pity Me' below.


Single release: 'Fall Apart' by The Sound of Ghosts

As more proof of my theory that some of the most interesting country music is coming out of Los Angeles, The Sound of Ghosts is a band that combines traditional country sounds with Americana with brass and some rock and blues. The result is the powerful, irresistible sound heard on their new single, 'Fall Apart' from their upcoming album Delivery & Departure, a song about being 'perfectly imperfect' with lead vocals from Anna Orbison, who also plays uke. She's one of five members of the group along with James Orbison (vocals, bass), Anna Orbison (vocals, ukulele), Ernesto Rivas (lead guitar), Phoebe Silva (fiddle) and Jon Sarna (drums).

Listen to 'Fall Apart' on Soundcloud.


Single release: 'To Our Home' by Anais

Brisbanite (Brisvegan? Where are we landing on that these days?) Anais is 17 years old and has already had a life-changing moment thanks to social media. After placing second in the Ekka Country Music Showdown, she posted a photo on Instagram and was noticed by producers Will and Michelle Gawley of Lighthouse Records in Nashville. Despite initially thinking their message was a joke, Anais soon found herself travelling to Tennessee between school terms to record her debut EP, Push Through.

Her new single from that EP is 'To Our Home' and it's clear very quickly why Anais would have received the opportunity offered by the Gawleys: she has a well-developed country music voice and style. She's already attended the CMAA Country Music Academy, and Tamworth festival goers can look our for her this coming January.  

Listen to 'To Our Home' below.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Album news: Wild & Free by Vanessa Delaine

New Zealand/Australian singer-songwriter Vanessa Delaine has released Wild & Free, a country-blues album that had its beginnings in the end of an 18-year relationship. It's likely not surprising, therefore, that this is a personal and somewhat confessional album - and from the sound of these songs, and Delaine's voice, she's doing just fine. As she sings on the third track, 'Good Advice', 'I don't need anybody tellin' me what to do'.

Delaine has a background in country music, having studied it several years ago, although she took a break for a few years and didn't return to performance until her fortieth birthday party, when she performed for her guests accompanied by a neighbour who played guitar. Now she has Michael Barnard as her guitarist and another Michael (Carpenter) produced the album. Delaine doesn't sound like she took a break from music - she's a natural singer - but the advantage of coming back to it might have been that she had life experience to bring to her songwriting, resulting in a mature work that balances light and dark, and offers some very sweet moments.

Wild  Free is available now.


Single release: 'Got Me Fallin'' by Emily Markham

Emily Markham is from the South Coast of New South Wales, and played to audiences there recently when she opened for Amber Lawrence and Travis Collins on their Our Backyard tour. Emily's new single, 'Got Me Fallin'', can be found on her debut EP, Come on Over. It's a lovely song about the beginning of a relationship - with its great tempo and Markham's smooth voice, just the thing to play to put a smile on your face.

Markham is working on some new material to be released in early 2018 - and keep an eye out for her in the Star Maker competition at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Watch the lyric video for 'Catch Me Fallin'' below.


Album news: Aurora by Case Garrett

The amount of music I'm being sent these days is far outstripping my ability to keep up - but instead of being paralysed by choice, I'm going to try to cover as much as of the good stuff as possible even if it means I can't always do a full album review, as these can take a few hours.

Which leads me to this very first 'album news' piece - not a review, but not not a review. A shorter review, if you will.

Aurora is the debut album from Missouri-born New York City resident Case Garrett. This is backwoodsy, bluesy country music that tells stories of travels around the countryside and to Garrett's interior. There is tradition and humour, and Garrett's voice holding true throughout.

I've seen this album described as alt-country but I tend to think that label gets applied to work that is actually quite traditional in its lineage - in other words, not alternative to country. Garrett strikes me as a traditionalist in that you could draw a straight line from his work back a few decades and find its roots. That doesn't mean his music sounds old - it means he knows his country music, and he is drawing on it to fine effect on Aurora.

Aurora is out now.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Single release: 'Learning to Let Go' by Josh Taerk

Josh Taerk is a Canadian singer-songwriter who was playing a show in his home town, Toronto, when he was spotted by Max Weinberg, the drummer for Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. Impressed, Weinberg invited Josh to open for him at his sold-out show. That was in 2010, and since then Taerk has been writing, recording and performing - and steadily building his following. He released his debut album in 2013. He then set to work on his second album, which was recorded in Nashville.

His latest single is 'Learning to Let Go', which is about taking leaps of faith - and not getting in your own way. Taerk certainly knows how to write a pop hook and layers that into a country-rock sound, and he has a great voice, so this is a song that has my favourite combination: it's meaningful and entertaining.

Watch the video for 'Learning to Let Go' below.


Single release: 'Mr Wrong' by Natalie Pearson

When Perth native Natalie Pearson released her EP Long Time Coming, it went straight to number 2 on the Australian iTunes country music charts. The first single, 'Chance at Love', was awarded 'Best Country' in the 2016 MusicOz Australian Independent Music Awards and Natalie also received a Top 5 nomination in both the Video and Female Artist of the Year categories. She's just finished a 22-date national tour alongside Brook Chivell.

The latest single off the EP is 'Mr Wrong', a strong, catchy country rock/pop tune that should bring Pearson more fans ahead of her appearances at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January. You can watch the video below.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Album review: Queens of the Breakers by The Barr Brothers

The core of this Montreal band is, fairly obviously, the Barr Brothers, Brad and Andrew, who are joined by harpist Sarah Page. The band's folky sound initially seems to be not constrained so much as modest: there are no fancy tricks here. No doubt that's because they're not needed. The sound relies very much on the instruments, which are lovingly, crisply and expertly played, with the vocals floating over them. And it is to those instruments that the listener's attention keeps being drawn, not just because of how they're played but because of the attention to detail in the production: each of the individual sounds are so clean that it's possible to get lost inside each song, following each instrument, only to realise you need to go back and listen to the song again to listen to a different instrument ... and on it goes until you can sit back and realise that, for all the individuality, the songs cohese very, very well.

It may be self-evident to say that Canada has a rich, diverse music community - which country doesn't, really? But there is so much very good, if not excellent, Canadian music that seems to belong to a certain genre yet really plays with the boundaries of it. Call it an ingrained national trait of curiosity. There is also a strong tradition of storytelling, and it's one of the few places on the planet where a fiddle player can rise up the charts just as easily as a pop singer.

The Barr Brothers draw on those characteristics of Canadian music: they are telling stories not just in their lyrics but also through how these songs are played, offering a very well-rounded, fulfilling experience for the listener that demands you listen again and again, because there are all sorts of nooks and crannies in these songs, not to mention twists and turns. And so many jewels, too, waiting to be found.

Queens of the Breakers is out now through Secret City Records.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Single release: 'Summertime Soundtrack' by Hayley Jensen

Hayley Jensen started in country music but took a detour via Australian Idol before returning to country and embracing it with gusto. In recent times she has released an EP, Past Tense & Present Peace, and now has a new single, 'Summertime Soundtrack', from her forthcoming album.

The song is feel-good country rock of the sort that will be played out of car windows and in back gardens. It's also a really tightly written, produced and played piece of music. Jensen has a great voice, and she knows how to entertain. She sounds like she's having fun on the track, and consequently it's easy to have fun listening to her.

Watch the video for 'Summertime Soundtrack' below.


Album review: The Closest Thing to Home by Ira Wolf

Ira Wolf is Montana born and Nashville resident, but her music has taken her around the globe - including to Australia - to tour. She draws on a lineage of folk, bluegrass and Americana, and she's also studied at the esteemed Berklee College of Music. A formal education in music is not essential, of course - some may argue that it can get in the way of an artist expressing themselves. But there's another argument to be made: that a knowledge of structure is fundamentally important in order to explore freely. Learn the rules before you break them.

Wolf's pedigree is evident in the construction of the nine wonderful songs on her third album, The Closest Thing to Home. There is a wealth of skill behind each of them: they are restrained and expressive at the same time, a balance that is often present in artists who are experienced enough to know exactly what to deliver and when. It's the difficult art of editing yourself, made more challenging when you have a voice like Wolf's, which clearly has great range and a lovely timbre, and which could, no doubt, be let off the leash to wander and trill all over the place. Except that wouldn't serve the song - and there is that restraint again. That's not to say that Wolf is straining - she sounds completely at ease within each of these songs. Instead, it is her saying to the audience, 'I'm here with you - I'm not going anywhere.' And that creates an intimacy with the listener that is an essential component of the experience of listening to this album.

Lyrically, Wolf is both vulnerable and strong. These are confessional, emotional songs that honour the listener, too, because Wolf is essentially saying that she trusts us enough to share. The album sounds immediately accessible - it felt weirdly like a relief to hear these songs for the first time. The album also grows richer and warmer with each listening, the way a great friendship should. And that's what Wolf seems to be offering: an opportunity to get to know her well. It's a beautiful privilege to have it, and to be able to listen to it over and over.

The Closest Thing to Home is out now.


Single release: 'Scars' by Cloverdayle

Nasvhille-based duo Cloverdayle is made up of Chad and Rachel Hamar, who originally hail from the Pacific Northwest of the USA. 'Scars' is a song they first played live to audiences in the northern summer this year, and the response was so strong that they recorded it as soon as they could. It is a gutsy, inspiring, anthemic song and it's easy to see why it resonated with audiences. The initial concept for the lyric came in 2013, after Rachel had an unexpected major surgery, waking up with what she described as both 'physical and emotional scars'.

Listen to a snipper of 'Scars' in the video below.


Interview: Cory Chisel from Traveller

Traveller will be familiar to Australian audiences who saw the band recently at the Out on the Weekend festival and in side gigs. They will also be familiar to American audiences, both as a band and from as individuals: Cory Chisel, Jonny Fritz and Robert Ellis have so much experience and talent between them that one band possibly can't contain it all. While the band was in Australia I spoke to Cory, and learnt a bit more about them and their album Western Movies, which has already been released in Australia but not, as yet, in the United States.

I’ll offer you a late welcome to Australia because you’ve already been here and played the Out on the Weekend festival on the weekend – how was it?
Thank you. It was extraordinary. It was full of our friends from home, which is always kind of an interesting feeling when you’re far away on the other side of the world and you’re hanging out with the same people you hang out with at home. The audience was really the difference-maker. You guys are incredible music fans in this country.

You’re not unknown individuals, but this is your first venture to Australia as a group, so there was a bit of the unknown there – but it sounds like no one minded.
You can go see all the other bands who rehearse a bunch and know what their songs are going to be, or you can come see us, where anything can happen. It’s fun.

That’s probably part of the appeal – and in keeping with the spirit of a festival too.
We’ve all obviously spent a lot of time in our careers doing not predictable things but certainly well-worn pathways, so it’s really fun to get out there and push the boundaries of something that we don’t really know how it will go either. It feels present, at least.

I guess when you come into this group with so much individual experience, it’s a bit like jazz musicians coming together: once you know the structure, you can play around within it, and that’s when really interesting things happen.
Yeah, that’s a lot of the idea of the group in general, was to make sure in a lot of ways that it wasn’t well rehearsed, so we could have fun being really present and push boundaries as we’re playing. We know more or less the road map, but which road we take to get there is the fun.

So when you are on stage – because the three of you, I would imagine, have equal weight and equal roles within the band – who gets to be the band leader?
Our personalities sort of work that out easily. Some of us don’t care which song is first or last, and someone in the band really does. They’re all leaders in their own way. Like Robert, certainly, musically sets a lot of the tone for what we do because he’s just such a phenomenal player, so if he wants to change the colour or the direction, he can do that very easily. Jonny’s such a creative craftsman that I think he puts a lot of set lists together and those kinds of things. And my job oftentimes is to be the glue between the two forces that are pulling on the wheel.

In some ways it’s like forming an instant family, because you have these transactional relationships where things have to get done but it’s also intensely personal. So I was actually quite surprised to read that your induction into the band came via a text message and you didn’t know the other two when that text message came through.
Well, I definitely did know them. Jonny and I weren’t as close as Robert and I were. Robert and I really met here in Australia. That’s the thing: inside this group it’s also incestuous. We all know who each other is. But I hadn’t spent a lot of time with Jonny until we sat down to form this band. I think we figured out a lot of what our strengths are individuals. I really love writing melodies and Jonny loves writings words, and Robert’s such an explorer in his way harmonically. The power struggle is easy because I think we all fall into what we want to do and it works itself out.

So when that invitation came to join them, had you had any thoughts of doing different projects, side projects, or was it just one of those great spur-of-the-moment things where you thought, Yep, I’m in.
I’d been writing for other people for a while and working with people like Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, appearing on records with Roseanne Cash and a couple of other people, so I was really enjoying however many years it was – sixteen years – professionally just kind of beating your own drum. And then after a while you wear out on the side of your own voice. So I was definitely looking to get into something that brought the inspiration back into writing, and this was just the right opportunity for it.

So it was 2015 the band had its first live performance, and then there was a gap and you came back together to write and record the album.
Yes, that’s it. We formed for one of the largest folk festivals in the country and I think we had four or five songs or something like that. And Robert said, joking, to the promoter that he needed to book this band and he took us up on it. So we were, like, we stumbled into this and now we’ve got to get serious about it. So in that break we all went to work on our little pieces of the puzzle and just getting our schedules to line up so we could be in the same room took a few years, and now I think we’re all really prioritising this group. To be in a group that has a sense of humour is really liberating for Robert and me. So much of this job is so narcissistic and self-gratifying, that to be able to take the air out of our tyres in a group but also write songs intentionally has been really fun.

It must be a bit of a relief, too, when you know that the other two are so accomplished and the level of professionalism is the same – after all those years of doing it on your own it must be nice to think you can relax and let some other people pick up some slack, and then you can pick it up for them, and you can all enjoy yourselves that way.
It’s a vacation, truly. Even doing interviews – like today, I’m doing the one because the other boys did them the other day. It’s not so much on one individual person’s shoulders and it really is so much easier. And when you’re on stage in a band that you love with people you love, you don’t really care if anyone else likes the show – we’re doing this for us as much as anything else. It has a gang mentality, you know.

You’ve released Western Movies in Australia but not yet in the United States – I’m guessing that’s because you’re out here for the festival, but you must have some fans in the US who are wondering why they have to wait.
Yeah, but that’s the way our band works – it seemed intelligent to go exactly in a different direction with this. We thought about even not releasing it in the United States and just releasing it in Australia. We’ve had a band for the past two years without even releasing a record. In this day and age it’s such an interesting process of trying to figure out what that even means any more, to release a record. So it’s fun to come down here where we don’t have a lot of skin in the game; we’re not trying to be the largest band in Australia, we’re just trying to come and have as much fun as possible. And then when you release it in the States it starts to feel more like, How many albums are we selling? And all that kind of stuff that none of us are really all that eager to get into.

When it came to writing the album you took ten days, and it was January so it was cold and a good time to be inside. That’s a really intensive writing process, but had things been bubbling away in your mind and the others’ minds so that when you came to write it flowed pretty easily?
I don’t worry about anything other than the melodies, so I have a Rolodex, phone memos, voice memos full of ideas. The other two have such strengths of their own. I don’t think we set out as a rule but when we all came together we’d been doing our mental work ahead of time. Jonny is extremely … he gets on these creative rolls. He’s got a story and he’s saying, ‘We should write a song about this’ and ‘We should write a song about that’, and as long as I have a melody to match it, we’re good to go. We could write a whole other record while we’re here.

I work with words in my day job and I love music obsessively, but I can never imagine coming up with a melody – not even a bar that works – even though I play instruments.
Well, that’s why you’ve got to have me in your band – I’ll help you out.

[Laughs] In terms of your musical background, are melodies things that have always come easily to you?
Yes. It always sounds a littlepretentious or boring when you hear it, but they’re really around all the time. You’re humming things and they’re not songs that you’ve heard before. So you just go about collecting them and capturing them as best you can. If you’re in a public place it gets a little awkward if you’re trying to record and remember things, but they leave really quickly, so you have to be vigilant about grabbing them when they come in.

It’s a discipline to be able to capture them when they come – did it take you a while to develop that discipline, or at least that awareness that you need to do that?
No. You said the right word. I personally think everybody can do it. I think you’re sort of conditioned away from it. If you’ve ever watched a child, they’re always making up songs. They’re always making up words that sound fun together to say. And it either gets nurtured or it gets turned into ‘Oh that’s nonsense’, or ‘What are you singing?’ There’s so much, like, song shaming, I feel like that is [laughs]. And then if you foster it – my parents, the minute they caught on that I was doing this stuff, and I was really young, they got me this little tape deck and would buy me endless amounts of tapes, and they taught me how to press record and rewind. They made it into a real special thing, so I just have a long habit of cultivating it, I’d say.

And also you’ve maintained it. That’s a practice you started young and you’ve still got it, so I can’t imagine you’ve had many times away from it.
I’ve been lucky enough – knock on wood – that I’ve never had a dry spell or a time when I couldn’t access … I’ve had lots of times where the melodies don’t necessarily tell you what they want to say, and I get very frustrated in that part of the process. I don’t want to just write instrumental music, necessarily. So teaming up with other guys – if you’ve ever met Jonny, you would know in a second, he’s got a constant inner narrative running that’s funny, interesting and sad. And right on the money. It’s sort of how he walks around too. So combining those things. And Robert is literally an energy ball of ‘Give me a guitar, give me a guitar, give me a guitar, let me touch that.’ If you sit in a room and there’s only one guitar, he has it.

Therefore, it is a perfect trinity. It sounds like it has been a meeting of minds in many different ways.
And I think all of us always really wanted to be in a band, we just couldn’t find enough people in our home towns, who we grew up with, who wanted to stick with it as long as we would. So this is always what I wanted to do, essentially. I’ve never really had a huge need to be, like, ‘The world needs to know what Cory Chisel thinks’, but I do love being in the creative process with people who are pushing you and expanding. And we get to travel the world together, with our best friends. And the rhythm section of the group – you could do a whole separate article on their diverse backgrounds that they’re bringing in. When you get the right chemistry it’s fun. Until we break up and hate each other.

It sounds like it’s going too well for fights – yet.
Oh, we’ve had a shitload of fights. That’s every day. One member of the band hates the show every time we play. We rotate it.

I think that’s also part of keeping sharp. You’d get complacent if every single one of you walked off and thought, That’s great.
Yeah, we all can’t run to the same side of the boat. We have to balance each other out. Different personalities sort that out as it goes. But everybody’s really on each other’s side at the end of the day, so if there’s people who came and liked it, great, and if not – who gives a shit? We had fun.

On a slightly technical note, I read that the album was recorded and written in your 57-room former monastery. How did you manage to choose one room to be the studio – which room did you pick?
Well, we used a lot of different spaces for different reasons. The technical aspect is that there’s certain rooms that are a little easier to control musically. All the reverbs and everything like that that are in the record, we were able to use the chapel as the place where we went after those kinds of sounds. It’s a really interesting place. It’s kind of hard to explain unless you’re in it, but there’s endless options. We could make a lot of different-kind-of-sounding records. So we just want to get back in there. We’re all ready to make another one.

And do you, on your own time, experiment with the sorts of sounds that come out of those rooms or do you wait for that recording process?
This project with the monastery is really what has … other than this group and a small amount with my own music, but really the main project is understanding that building and how to use it for art making. Then when everyone shows up I get really geeked out and excited about a specific spot that I want everyone to see, and hopefully one of them gets it and we get to use it.

How amazing that you could actually find a building like that and also really engage in exploring it. That’s beautiful.
It definitely was kind of a dream-come-true scenario with the whole property. So I plan on exploiting it to its fullest over the next thirty years.

And you have many rooms in which to do so. Now, for this album you did not have a record label.
We didn’t want one [laughs].

I did some research but couldn’t find out if you’ve had one before for your own work. But I imagine it was somewhat liberating to not have a label.
It was amazing to not have anyone else’s opinions other than our perfect opinions.

[Laughs] I often talk to Australian country music artists and there’s a lot of self-funding or crowd-funding going, and the quality of work coming out is so good that one wonders whether record companies have in the past meddled too much.
All the time. All thetime. Every one of us has a story like that. It’s our job, if we want the audience to enjoy what we’re making and if the audience at first is the record company and there’s just not giving you any positive feedback, it’s pretty impossible to not change something in the record, because you’re just getting all this negative feedback. This is really from our brain and from our mind, and we like it, and if there was a recipe – if any people from a record company knew what was going to sell and what wasn’t going to sell – they wouldn’t all lose their jobs every other day.

Part of this development of artists producing their own work is that it’s so much more direct to their audience, and the reason to do this is, in large part, to reach your audience. So the audience probably feels more connected without having a record company in the middle.
We live in a direct-to-consumer world. I watch Netflix. I want to pick the show I want to watch. I don’t want to arbitrarily have someone else force-feed me the content of what I want to digest. So I think it’s really important for artists to have that access that we’ve been granted through technology to really just cut out the people who previously have been gatekeepers – arbitrary gatekeepers and bad bankers who give us shitty loans that we have to pay back, and even when we do pay them back they still own the company. It just doesn’t make sense.

To go back to your album, and its title, Western Movies, I would like to ask you: which Western movies do you like?
Ẁow, that’s a lot to answer there. We all have our own favourite. I personally love Pale Rider. Robert’s saying [The Outlaw] Josey Wales. I don’t remember what Jonny’s favourite is – some spaghetti Western. But that’s one thing a lot of us connect on in our music, exposing the stuff that we feel maybe we’re a little nerdy or dorky for liking, and then we’re, like, ‘Let’s write songs about that – let’s exploit ourselves.’

If it’s stuff you love, passion always connects with an audience.
Every girlfriend in the world has been bored to death having to sit through one of these movies because we forced them on the world.

So for my last question I’m going to ask just about you and your music separately. Do you have plans for music of your own soon or do you think it will be another album with Traveller first?

I released a new record in the States in August, and really have an interesting time releasing my own music. I don’t know if it’s just a growth phase of time. I really enjoy making them and enjoy people close to me, having something to give them that I feel belongs to them too. But the whole process of going around and stumping for everyone in the world to care about what you think, I have an interesting relationship to. But I do have a record that I’m really proud of and now on this trip we’re making plans to come over again, just solo, with my partner Adrielle, hopefully maybe in February.

Western Movies is out now.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Single release: 'It's So Cruel' by Ruby Boots

As a big fan of Ruby Boots's 2015 debut album, Solitude, I was very pleased to see news of her new single, 'It's So Cruel', from her forthcoming long player Don't Talk About It (to be released in February).

The new song is more rock than country - just to manage the expectations of those who like their country country - but it is very much Boots, with all the vim and vigour of the songs of Solitude. Along with the other songs on the new album, it was written and recorded in Nashville, made possible when Boots received the 2016 Australia Council Songwriting Award Nashville Residency.

Watch the video for 'It's So Cruel' below.

Pre-order the album here.


Album review: Nomad by Angus Gill

The debut status of Angus Gill’s album Nomad belies the fact that he is no novice in the Australian country music game. Already a Star Maker grand finalist and a three-time graduate of the CMAA Academy of Country Music, Gill has the credentials to create an impressive debut – and, as it turns out, he has the talent too.

Nomad is identifiably an Australian country music album that draws on its lineage – with shades of Slim Dusty and Lee Kernaghan – and also sounds like an album that a young man would release. Gill’s voice has a youthful lightness to it that’s paired with the seriousness with which he’s taken his craft and his history.

These are songs of the road, of mishaps and friendships, of hope and light. Gill doesn’t shy away from including genuine emotion in a song (‘Starin’ Out the Back of a Car’) but he’s also not averse to writing a very catchy song about traffic (‘Country Bloke City Driving’). This contrast does not seem at all incongruous, and that is, no doubt, due to Gill’s background in country music. Despite his youth, he’s paid a certain amount of dues, and he deserves respect accordingly – as evidenced by the appearance of luminaries such as Kevin Bennett and Adam Harvey on the album.

Come January, Gill will doubtless have many returning and new fans at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, and this album almost sounds like it was born of the festival, because it is so evocative of its genre and also captures the energy and enthusiasm that is characteristic of the festival. The album has an identity beyond that, of course, and it will be in farm houses and townhouses, on country roads and in that confounded city traffic. Gill has made an album that will please the traditionalists no end and also appeal to audiences around his age. This is quite a feat – no doubt the first of many.

Nomad is out now.

Google Play

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Single release: 'Pearly Gates of the Landfill' by Freya Josephine Hollick

With so much music - and so much great music - to listen to, it's not unusual for me to miss things ... as outlined in a recent post about Sam Hunt. And it turns out I missed Freya Josephine Hollick when she released her EP, Don't Mess with the Doyenne, earlier this year, and her album, The Unceremonious Junking of Me, last year. This was, at best, a faux pas, as Hollick's music is wonderful: whimsical, sincere, direct, sentimental, and sounding like she's standing on a dust-blown plain in about 1948, singing to the winds while remaining wholly contemporary.

Hollick is about to release a new single, 'Pearly Gates of the Landfill', with a launch show at The Spotted Mallard in Melbourne's Brunwick on 11 November. The single is the first release from her next album. So don't make the same mistake I did and miss out on Hollick's music - listen to it now, and forever more.

Tickets to the show available here


The Audreys and an anniversary

Eleven years ago Australian country music duo The Audreys released their first album, Between Last Night & Us. Despite intentions to do a ten-year anniversary tour, they are now on the road one year late - but, of course, for their fans, any time is the right time. The album won an ARIA, and there were other successful albums after that. Yet it's back to this first landmark album they'll go for this tour - and I spoke to one half of the band, Taasha Coates, about it.

How did The Audreys form all those years ago?
It was 2004. Tristan and I were playing together doing mostly covers but in our own style – slowed-down versions of pop songs and stuff – and we wanted a band name. We were just calling ourselves Taasha and Tristan, and we wanted a band name. And we started a competition. The winner – the person who came up with the band name that we chose – got a $50 drink voucher at one of our gigs. We got so many suggestions – pages and pages of suggestions. At one point after we’d chosen the name, we threw the pages away in frustration because we were so sick of looking at them, and I’ve regretted that so many times because I’ve had friends trying to name bands. But in the end it was actually me who came up with [the name]. I said, ‘It’s a shame there’s already a band called The Audreys because that would be really cool.’ And Tristan said, ‘I’ve never heard of a band called that.’ It’s just a nice reference to something old fashioned and I’m a big Audrey Hepburn fan, and Hank Williams’s wife was called Audrey. So it has a few little tie-ins. And then we started writing, and recorded our first record in 2005 and it came out in 2006, and that’s this record that we’re touring now.

Did you give yourself the $50 drink voucher?
Yes, I got drunk at my own gig – it was awesome.

Listening to this album, it doesn’t sound like a debut album – which makes sense, because you were obviously playing for a long time together before that. You’d reached a point of maturity in your playing. But to you, listening back, does it sound like a really developed work?
I haven’t listened to it in years [laughs]. I guess I probably should before the tour. It’s very hard to listen to your own stuff objectively. I’ll just hear, ‘Oh my god, I sound so young’. I’m sure my voice is quite different now, eleven years on.

I don’t know about that – haven’t listened to your solo work, I don’t think your voice sounds much different. Perhaps that’s also because your voice was really developed by the time of that first album too. It sounded like you had arrived on that album ready, and therefore it doesn’t surprise me that that voice has sustained itself through the years because it’s not like you needed to do a lot of development.
Oh, that’s nice – thank you. I did actually study voice at university. I did a music degree. But that was the first time I’d recorded – it was my first time in a studio.

Even studying music at university wouldn’t necessarily prepare you for that.
No, no, because I was studying jazz. Which I kind of can’t stand [laughs] and I don’t think I was very good at. But it certainly helped me develop my instrument – as in, develop my voice – and I was using it all the time. We had been gigging for about eighteen months when we recorded. And it’s one of the nice things about being from Adelaide: no one else was really doing what we were doing, so there was nothing we were judging ourselves against, it was just very much [that] we were making our own sound and doing our own thing. So I didn’t go in the studio worried about what people were going to think of it. I thought we’d make a thousand copies at most and sell them at gigs. I wasn’t thinking of this as some grand debut – it was just doing the best that we could and trying to make a sound that we were happy with.

Has the way you and Tristan make music together changed over the years?
Actually, not really. He’s more involved in the lyrics than he was early on – we write the lyrics together now. But we’re not tech heads – we don’t demo stuff extensively òn our laptops or anything like that. We sit in a room together, with a guitar and piece of paper. And that’s how we’ve always done it.

The tools of a piece of paper and a pencil are really easy – as a piece of technology, a piece of paper works really well.
That’s very true. And then we’ll record them on voice memo or something. Early on, before that was a feature, we had a little digital Dictaphone. If we got what we thought was a basic verse-chorus kind of idea, we’d record it a snatch of it, then we’d go down the pub with our pen and paper and headphones and just listen to it over and over again, and pass the pad and paper back between each other and each have a turn writing a line. Pages and pages. There was one bar we used to go to a lot that was near our house – the staff would come over and we’d say, ‘So what rhymes with blah-blah-blah?’ and they’d all come up with different ideas about rhymes. So they felt they were involved. It was great.

I’ve never heard of a songwriting process like that.
It was good. We used to write over a week, so we’d get up and first thing in the morning is good because you’re often really fresh, and we would just bust out until we got an idea that we thought was worthwhile. Then you’re sick of your space – you’re frustrated, you need to move, you need to get out, so you go down the pub. Especially if you’re in the Adelaide Hills and a glass of wine is $4.50 [laughs]. You probably have to search a bit harder for that nowadays. We did write some of our second record in New York, but again the same process.

Now that you have done your solo album, do you prefer the process as a duo?
Yes, I found that pretty lonely, actually, pretty hard. Also it’s quite a personal record. It was me really reflecting on the year I’d had. So I was digging into some painful feelings. I wrote that record over five weeks. I did one gig every week for five weeks and the first gig I had, I think, five and a bit songs, then by the fifth week I had fourteen. So I was writing them through that whole process. But I was also working and a single mother with two young children, so it was full on. At the end of the five weeks, a couple of days after that fifth gig, I was in the studio. So it was all a bit brutal.

It also sounds like you work really well within structure – the way you work with Tristan has its own structure, and then you structured that solo process. It sounds like you looked at it and thought, By the end of these five weeks I will have written this album.
Exactly. And you have to have faith in yourself that writing is a skill you haven’t lost. I actually did quite a lot of writing this year. I went to Austin  I did a songwriting exchange. Wrote a bunch of songs over there with some Austin songwriters. I also did one of those song hub things that APRA run, where you write three songs over three days. So I’ve been writing a lot. And if you said to me, ‘You’re going to be in the studio a year from today,’ I would write everything in the last month. So I have spurts of writing and then I’ll have spurts of being a mum and a touring musician and a wife and whatever else. I’m not someone who feels like I have to write every week.

When you do write like that, once you have that collection of songs, do you put them aside and let them marinate for a bit? Actually, no, you just told me you didn’t do that!
Although I did have those gigs. The songs I’d written for the first gig, by the fifth gig were a lot more developed. So there was that month process there. I’d probably do that again. I liked that process. I think next time Tristan and I write me might book ourselves a month of shows. Because it was pretty fun.

It also sounds like you could get on a wave, then – the creative momentum was there but it was also balanced, because there was performance as well as that interior life of writing.
Yes, and they were pretty low-key gigs. I wasn’t afraid to say, ‘I just wrote this this morning.’ But there were lots of people who came to a couple of the shows and really felt like they were involved in the process and would come up and say, ‘I love what you’ve done with that song’, and, ‘This is my favourite’. It was really good. It was really fun.

It must be hugely gratifying to feel that you’re not writing or performing into the void – it is that storyteller exchange. The audience is there and you’re meeting them.
Exactly. And I think I really wanted that with the solo record because, first of all, I didn’t have Audreys gigs to try them out on, and secondly it was a new voice for me, so I think I wanted a bit of feedback.

Earlier you mentioned that with the tour coming up you might have to go back and listen to the first album. Are you and Tristan going to need much rehearsal time, or are you going to fit back together like puzzle pieces?
A lot of these songs we’ve been doing the whole time, but there are some that I’ll definitely have to go back and listen to [laughs] and make some notes about. But, also, Tristan’s brother Cam is playing with us on this tour, and he was on that first record. And he hasn’t played with us since. He’s an actor. But he’s having a break from acting at the moment, so he’s doing this tour with us. Apart from getting up as a special guest here and there over the last ten years, he’s not actually toured with us. It will be great fun having him on stage but it will mean a little bit of ‘Okay, so who plays what here?’

So he’s the one who needs rehearsal time.
Probably. But no, he’s a great musician so I’m sure at our first rehearsal everyone will have learnt their parts. That’s how the pros are meant to do it anyway [laughs].

Looking at the list of venues, are you going back to old favourites or visiting new ones?
Mostly old favourites. Where are you?

I’m in Sydney.
So Leadbelly [in Sydney’s Newtown] used to be called The Vanguard, and we played there on our first tour, I reckon. If not second. We’ve been playing there for ten years.

I can’t see country towns – well, there’s one. So you’re tending to stick to cities?
At the moment. We do regional touring. But it’s hard. I live in Adelaide, Tristan lives in Melbourne, Cam lives in Sydney. Regional touring takes a lot more time. But we’re playing down south in Victoria, we’re playing Newcastle, we’re playing Wollongong.

Are you going to change the set list each night?
Well, this is our tour where we’re playing that record. And then we’ll come back on stage and play some favourites of ours from our other records, and if people want to request stuff, totally. I might play a few things off my solo record. We might do some wacky covers.

It sounds like you won’t have time for a support act, then?
No, we do have a support act. Dylan Menzie, he’s a Canadian singer-songwriter.

Over your years of touring, what have been the best gigs?
That’s a tough one, because they can be so different. There’s something really great about a listening room, where people are there to hear the music. But there’s also something really fun about getting on a big festival stage and playing to people who haven’t heard of you, if you’re overseas or something. It’s much more challenging, but it can be really great fun and rewarding. So I like both ends of that spectrum. One thing I love about festivals is that for me, as a touring musician and also a mum, it can be hard to get out and see other bands. So if I’m at a festival, I get to see other bands. It’s so fun.

Are there any bad gigs that stick in your memory?
Oh my god, yes! [laughs] I think my worst one still stands out as … oh look, it’s probably a tie between a whole bunch of shitty ones. We played one year at the Gympie Muster and there was really bad feedback on stage, through the whole gig, and we decided it sounded like two whales having sex. And so, instead of actually mixing the gig, the sound engineer spent the entire time trying to work out where the feedback was coming from. It was a nightmare. Bad sound always does it for me. Bad sound makes a bad gig.

One last question: on the song ‘Banjo and Violin’, you said, ‘I used to be rock ’n’ roll’, and I’m wondering how you’d classify yourself now.
I say. ‘I’ve gone a bit country since I met you, baby, I used to be so rock ’n’ roll’. So Tristan and I, when we met, we were university students. He was in a rock band. He had long hair. He played electric guitar. And we started playing country music together. So it’s a reference to our evolution. I was studying jazz, so I wasn’t particularly rock ’n’ roll, so it’s a reference to Tristan. And now I’m probably a bit more rock ’n’ roll now. I wear black skinny jeans and there’s some pretty rocky songs on my solo record.        

So you’re a mix. We’ll call you country rock, how about that?
Country rock – I love that! When I was doing interviews for my solo record and someone said, ‘Where do you see yourself with this record?’ I said, ‘I want to be the dirty old granny of Australian country music’ [laughs].

I look forward to seeing you become that dirty old granny.
Thank you! I do too.

Tour dates:
Saturday 4th November 2017 | 3pm
The Milk Factory, BRISBANE QLD

Saturday 4th November 2017 | 8pm
The Milk Factory, BRISBANE QLD

Sunday 5th November 2017 | 7.30pm

Wednesday 8th November 2017 | 6pm

Thursday 9th November 2017 | 7pm
The Brass Monkey, CRONULLA NSW

Friday 10th November 2017 | 7pm
Heritage Hotel, BULLI NSW

Saturday 11th November 2017 | 6pm
Leadbelly, NEWTOWN NSW

Sunday 12th November 2017 | 12.30pm
Leadbelly, NEWTOWN NSW

Friday 24th November 2017 | 8pm
Meeniyan Hall, MEENIYAN VIC

Saturday 25th November 2017 | 7.30pm
Memo Music Hall, ST KILDA VIC