Monday, January 29, 2018

Interview: Dean Ray

Australian singer-songwriter Dean Ray won fans on the 2014 season of The X-Factor with his incredible voice - but his musical career started far earlier than that. Indeed, it started before he was born, as I found out when we spoke recently about Ray's second album, The Messenger, and other things. Originally from Queensland, Ray now lives in Melbourne and tours around the country.

Ray is a fascinating artist, and The Messenger is compelling; I only wish we could have spoken for longer.

You come from a musical family and your parents were performing while you were growing up – what is your earliest music-related memory?
I think it’s a sound memory – it’s not so much something that I saw. The sound of being behind the stage, and the smells and everything that goes with backstage. It’s like a really muffled sound. You can hear mostly bass – a bass sound – from behind the music. That’s probably the thing I remember most, because from maybe the age of one they’d put me to sleep backstage while they played shows. I remember that muffled sound and the smell of the curtains and the equipment.

A lot of kids don’t get to be where their parents are when they’re working. Was there a certain age when you thought, I really want to be out there with them – I don’t understand why they’re leaving me behind?
It did get to that point once I started to play music. When I was eight or ten, I said, ‘I want to be doing that’, because I was already playing drums by then. I started playing drums from birth [laughs]. I always had this natural rhythm and I’d be playing rhythmic stuff on Milo tins and hubcaps. I was always trying to play drums. So I think I started actually playing when I was five and when I was eight I wanted to be playing with them. But I wasn’t good enough – I was a kid. They started us playing three or four songs with them at that age.

Did you ever feel nervous doing it or were you more excited?
I don’t think I was overly nervous. It was more of an excitement thing. I felt nerves more when it came to singing, but as far as playing music, I could be on a stage in front of it wouldn’t matter how many people and I wouldn’t be nervous about just playing music – being a guitarist or a drummer. But being the frontman, I get nervous about that. I still get nervous now before shows.

In some ways you wonder whether it’s good to have those nerves – they keep that edge there, and they suggest that you still really want people to have a good experience in the audience. If you lose the nerves, I wonder if you lose the interest in the audience in some ways.
You don’t lose the interest in the audience but you do lose the high. You want to have those nerves so that when you hit the stage the adrenaline will kick in, and then you get that high. I’ve only played a few shows when there’s been no nerves and I’ve still performed the show just the same but I didn’t get a high out of being on the stage. I got a high from the audience – I felt the vibes – but I didn’t have that adrenaline rush.

Just thinking of you being a little fella and wanting to play drums – it’s interesting that you connected with beats first instead of melodies, given that you now play guitar and sing.
My mother played in bands up until she was eight months pregnant with me, so I believe it’s that. I think it was the subconscious. I just always had rhythm because of that. I was in the womb just getting pounded by the bottom end, by bass – there wasn’t much of a choice! They didn’t play when she was pregnant with my brother but when he was born they’d get him to sleep by my dad playing records like The Shadows – real melodic music. He never had a sense of rhythm but he can play piano really well. His sense of melody is beautiful.

So you two are like a little science experiment, in a way. If you want to produce certain types of musicians …
You can influence certain things, definitely.

And given she was playing when she was eight months pregnant, you really would have been feeling those vibrations.
It would have been so loud [laughs]. I’d have been thumping around from kidney to kidney.

Eventually you did progress to melodies because you started singing – at what age was that?
I was forced into it. I was really, really bad at singing – I’m talking tone-deaf bad.

I can’t believe that, given how you sing now.
It’s because I’ve worked my arse off. Ten thousand hours [laughs[, that’s all it is. It’s a skill, it’s not a gift. People say, ‘Oh, you’re so gifted’, and I say, ‘In what sense?’ They say, ‘Your voice and your guitar playing.’ And I say, ‘No, that’s skill. That’s all skill.’ When I first picked up a guitar, I was shit. And when I first played the drums or played bass, I was shit. And when I first sang, it was bad. It was quite woeful. But I think the reason I was able to get to where I am is because I became obsessed. I think a lot of musicians have a mild sense of autism about them. I did an autism test once and apparently I’m autistic [laughs]. A friend of mine, his son was autistic and he did the test on me and he said, ‘You’re autistic.’ And I said, ‘No? Really?’ But I do get obsessed with things. That’s what I was like and I’m still like now. I didn’t have video games as a kid – we didn’t even have a computer – so I was obsessed with music. I’d be playing drums all the time. And then when guitar came about, when I was twelve or thirteen, that was it for me then – I was just really addicted to that. It was full-on, all the time. My fingers would bleed and I’d have to Supaglue them back together so I could keep playing. Singing – I’d started writing songs and I think I was fourteen when I first sang. Dad forced me into it. I’d written a song and he said, ‘Well, are you going to sing it?’ And I said, ‘Oh no, man – hell no.’ He said, ‘How are we supposed to know what it sounds like?’ And I said, ‘It sounds like shit. I know what it sounds like and I’m not going to sing it.’ Anyway, he talked me into singing. I stood in a corner and sang it – I couldn’t face anybody. And it wasn’t long later – I think the first time I played in front of people was on the Gold Coast at Lloyd Nugent’s house. Lloyd Nugent made Moccasins, which are the shows that shearers wear. And we were there at his place, with his family, and I sang in front of about 30 people. That cured it then – I wasn’t nervous singing in front of people again.

When you wrote that song, and wrote other songs, who did you think was going to sing them?
Not me. I was just doing my job, I guess. I was channelling stuff and writing it down. I hadn’t thought any further than that. I just thought, I’d better write this down.

That idea of channelling – did you obey that urge to write things down when it first came to you or did you have it for a while before you began writing?
I met them when I was probably eight. I met these strange characters that weren’t from around here, you know? They gave me certain knowledge and energies and things, and they’ve always guided me through certain situations. They’ve guided me through everything. That opened me up to all spirituality, not just hierarchy spirits. Which was quite dangerous, you know – it’s a very dangerous thing to be open to everything spiritually. You need to be able to protect yourself otherwise you get hit with negative energies, forces, whatever you want to call them. There’s different strengths among them. I never had any trouble with it, though, until I was older. But they’d just take over and you’d write a song. You don’t remember writing it, you just know that the time had changed – the time on your watch was different to what it was before.

That idea of protecting yourself – if you’re open to that you’re open to everything, and it takes a lot of practice and discipline to protect yourself. Is there a correlation between the practice and discipline it took you to play instruments and become a great singer, and learning to protect yourself? That recognition that work is required, I guess is what I’m trying to say.
I don’t’know if it’s discipline – it’s not too hard to protect yourself. I just didn’t know how. If anyone is reading and struggling with something like that, they f*cking hate crucifixes. I have crucifixes all over the place, and I’m not Christian. I take bits and pieces from all different religions, but as far as religions themselves, I think they’re a man -made thing to control people. It’s no different than a government now. Religions were the government back in the day – suck money out of the poor. There’s a lot of truth to all the different religions and their writings, but a whole lot of it is manipulative bullshit.

Designed to keep people in line.
To keep them suppressed. Keeping people in line and keeping people are down are two vastly different things. The issue with the world at the moment is that they’re obsessed with keeping people down, which is why 10 per cent of the world make most of the money. And they won’t share it. They have no intention of sharing it. Why the f*ck not share it? If you’re sitting there with 70 billion dollars in your bank account, what good is that? There’s so many people starving around the world and there’s so many people sitting there with stacks of cash. Gene Simmons is incredible – the bass player from KISS. He’s gone out and made squillions of money, and he’s set up all sorts of schools all through Africa. The kids can go in – they’ve got clean, running drinking water and he supplies breakfasts for them when they get there, lunches, dinners, sends them on their way. That’s what you should be doing with the money.

I would happily talk to you further about all sorts of things, because I’m sure it would be interesting, but I should go back to your music. And the topic of channelling the songs. You’ve said elsewhere that a lot of the songs aren’t about you personally – they’ve come to you – but all the songs on the album have the same sense of emotion and power behind them, as if they’re all occurring to you. Is it ever hard to summon that each time – each take you do – does that ever feel like it’s draining, or does it come back to learning to protect yourself?
It’s draining as shit [laughs]. It’s so draining. It’s one of the most tiring things I’ve done, what I do now. When I perform I have this rapid meditation before I go on. It only lasts about 30 seconds and I pull in as much divine energy as I can and charge myself up. There’s pictures that I’ve seen that people have taken at shows, of the aura that’s around me, and I charge that up and give it all out while I perform. But I don’t like to leave the stage unless I’ve given it all out. Which is why people feel good at the shows. They get the goosebumps and they feel this mysterious force going on -it’s because there is a mysterious force going on. It’s mysterious to them. They’re unaware of what the bloody hell is going on. But I’m feeding them not just songs. There’s an energy play going on.

That’s a massive commitment from you, so it’s no wonder you’re drained.
Yes, but it’s my purpose. People think that singing and guitar is my gift, but it’s not. I was given a gift and I remember the moment and the beings that gave it to me, and it was the gift of energy and knowledge of being able to communicate that. That’s my gift. My gift is not the music. My music is purely a foundation in which I can spread the knowledge that they’re telling me. I’ve had to get good at it so people will listen to it [laughs].

But it’s also feeling that responsibility to the knowledge you were given and also responsibility to the audience to bring it to them.
Yes. I try not to focus too much on responsibility and feel the pressure of everything, because at the end of the day I don’t write the path. The path is written. People think you can change it because they say, ‘No, I won’t do this today – I’ll do that. There you go, I’ve changed the path.’ No, but it was written for you to change. It’s always written. Nothing that I can do – except do the best I can.

I now understand better why I keep going back to your album. Musically it’s terrific but there was something else going on, and now I know what it is. So thanks for creating it and thanks for your time.

No worries. Thanks for your time. 

The Messenger is out now.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Single release: 'Always On My Mind' by Jessica Mauboy and Warren H Williams

The soundtrack albums for the Seven Network series The Secret Daughter have yielded several great new tracks from singer Jessica Mauboy, and the second season soundtrack contains a cracker in the form of a song made famous by a young lad named Elvis Presley and, later, by an older lad called Willie Nelson. On 'Always On My Mind' Jessica teams up with legendary country music performer Warren H Williams to give this song a new, rich sound and a different poignancy to the other versions.

Mauboy has said of Williams that he is 'an uncle of mine who taught me how to sing and gave me my first spot in the studio' - so that richness may come from the history these two outstanding performers share. It was Williams who opened the door at CAAMA Music (Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association) to the 11-year-old Jessica Mauboy and immediately recognised her considerable vocal talent. They reconnected at the Yabun Festival in 2017; it was a chance meeting that saw them make a pact to record together again. 

Listen to 'Always On My Mind' below or

Album news: Vacancy by Broads

This is actually old album news, as Vacancy by Melbourne duo Broads was released almost a year ago. But given that the internet facilitates serendipitous discoveries of all sorts, and albums are hypothetically available forever, I feel it's another better-late-than-never situation.

I first heard a Broads song on ABC Country online radio - a great place to discover new music, even when your inbox is in regular receipt of news about new music - and immediately got their album. The vocals and harmonies of Kelly Day and Jane Hendry are completely irresistible on this album of slow croons and blissful melodic seductions. Don't believe me? Just play the video for 'Nod Off, Dream' and try to not fall in love with them.

Vacancy is also available on Bandcamp or you can listen to it on the Broads website,

Album review: Rise by Amber Ikeman

American singer-songwriter Amber Ikeman grew up in the state of Florida then moved to live and work in Yellowstone National Park in Montana. This journey echoes that of Australian artist Harmony James, whose first album, Tailwind, was created while she was working on the Barkly Tableland in the Northern Territory, and just as the Barkly lefts its mark on James's music, so has Ikeman's state of residence influenced the music she creates in her second album, Rise.

Rise is, therefore, not the music of sunshine and beaches - from its first song, 'Wild Buffalo', it's evocative of spaces and land and history, and of relationships forged around those elements. Ikeman's lineage is cited as folk and Americana, and there is traditional country music in there too. Her voice has a beautiful pure quality, and she has wonderful control of it (with excellent diction - longtime readers will know how highly I prize this!). When a singer can turn a phrase the way Ikeman can there's a temptation to say they sing 'sweetly' but while Ikeman's tones are sweet, there is an edge there throughout that is intriguing. Although that sweetness does hook you immediately.

Ikeman's is a voice that simultaneously suits an old-time sound and modern songs. Which is, probably, a way of saying that it's a well-developed instrument that can adapt to its material. That adaptability is evident in the first three songs, as she moves from the grit and force of 'Wild Buffalo' to the plaintive love song 'Cheyenne' to the ballad 'The Firefigher'. Ikeman's voice has a lot of nooks and crannies, and there are surprises accordingly. But it's all very well to listen to a voice - the songs have to be there to provide the right vehicle, and Ikeman has them. She's a storyteller who embraces emotional tales, and that's not a way of saying they're all love songs. There are songs of strength and challenge, and of loneliness. The love songs that are on the album also acknowledge the aforementioned spaces and land and history - albeit the history of the relationship concerned - as well as distance and challenge.

While the musical arrangements of the songs are spare - not sparse - all the better to support the songs and the singer, there is a lot going on in each song, to the point that before each song is over you know you'll want to go back and listen to it over and over again. This might be a second album but Ikeman is no sophomore - this is a very well-rounded and well-executed work that should attract listeners from across the spectrum (including pop) to bring Ikeman the audience she deserves.

Rise is available now on Bandcamp.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Single release: 'Waiting for the Rain' by Alison Ferrier

Melbourne singer-songwriter musician Alison Ferrier has released the first single from her forthcoming third album, What She Knows (out 16 February). 'Waiting For The Rain’ is a laid-back yet gutsy country rock song that features some lovely pedal steel and Ferrier's warm, inviting voice.

Watch the video below or

Single release: 'Insane' by Georgie Taylor

One of the observable effects of the CMAA Academy of Country Music in Tamworth is not only the level of professionalism amongst singers, musicians and songwriters in their twenties and older, but the emergence of artists in their teens. At least, that's my theory. By creating a culture of professional development within the Australian country music scene, the Academy has sent a signal - subliminally, perhaps, but I think it's more overt - to younger artists that there is a place for them to go to learn about the art and craft of country music creation and performance. In order to get to the Academy, of course, they need to have some material, so the earlier they start, the better.

There have been a few artists in their teens or just out of them emerging over the past few months, and it's a sign that country music not only appeals across generations but has a talented future. The latest example of that future is Georgie Taylor who at sixteen years of age is already a CMAA graduate, having attended its Junior Academy of Country Music.

Georgie is a singer-songwriter from Thornlands in Queensland who also plays guitar, ukulele and piano. She was wwarded RedArts Young and Emerging Artist 2017 Award and won multiple awards at Wynnum and Brisbane Eisteddfods and the MTAQ (Music Teachers Association of Queensland) Vocal Competitions and Redland Sporting Club Vocal Competition winner for the categories of Junior (2014) and Intermediate in 2017.

Georgie's debut single, 'Insane', is from what will be Georgie's first studio offering, an EP of original songs, produced by Liam Kennedy Clark at Lush Recording Studios in Queensland. It showcases Georgie's lovely strong voice and her songwriting skill through its story of deep emotional turmoil.

Listen to 'Insane' on Soundcloud.

Georgie is on Facebook @GeorgieTaylorMusic

Jess Holland takes her Miss Demeanour to Tamworth

Singer-songwriter Jess Holland has a brand new album, Miss Demeanour, and she is launching it during the upcoming Tamworth Country Music Festival. Jess is a fantastic live performer, and the singles she's released so far from the album - including the latest, 'Australian Dreamer' - have built anticipation for a great new release. I had a chat to Jess about her launch show and other Tamworth shows, and about the album.

The album is done – how are you feeling?
Excited. I cannot wait for it now. I think the last time I was talking to you I was releasing my last single and I think I was hinting there was a new album coming out. I’m just so excited because it’s been such a long process and I’m ready for it to be out now.

I remember talking to you quite a while ago when ‘Linburn Lane’ wasn’t even on an album at that time – you were talking about the song and it sounded amazing. So how long has it taken to write the songs for the album, and how long has the recording taken?
I stepped into the studio itself straight after Tamworth [2017]. I started the first week of February and I’ve been recording on and off until about maybe August. All my stuff got done really quickly but because there’s been so many different people on the album as instrumentalists and musicians, it’s been a process of trying to get them when they’re free. Everyone’s just so busy. But it’s so worth it. And prior to that I guess I was probably writing songs for well over a year. So you can see why I’m ready [laughs]. I’ve had these songs under my wraps for so long and I guess I’ve been test running them at gigs but now it’s all but done. I’m ready for it to be released.

Did you have more songs than you needed?
Oh, way too many. I think initially I had maybe 31 songs or something silly. I had to take a step back and say, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I going to do here?’ [laughs] I found myself combining some as well, because I thought, Well, they’re very similar so maybe I can take those lyrics out into this … And it just seemed to mesh really well. By doing that sort of thing, and complete culls as well, I got down to 15 or 16. I sent them away to my producer in Newcastle at Funky Lizard Studios, Rob Long, and said, ‘Mate, it’s up to you now. You need to tell me what’s going to work and what’s not because I’m too close to it now.’ So we got down to the 13 tracks that are on the album.

I always think it’s better to have more than less, because you don’t ever want to be in a situation where you’re trying to play catch-up with yourself and then you might end up with songs that are less than ideal.
Definitely. And I don’t think I’ve ever had the problem of never having enough. When I released my first album I think I had to write one song for it, and I thought, That’s cool. That’s heaps. Then for my second album I had way too many and I culled a few. This time it was way, way too many. It was very hard this time. It’s kind of like saying, ‘Which kid is your favourite?’ [laughs] So I did as much as I could and left the rest to the professional.

The next single is ‘Australian Dreamer’ – can you talk about what inspired it? What’s it about?
Really the inspiration was my house. I live 20 Ks out of town. It’s this really old place. I’ve only in the last year put on TV. It’s a hundred-year-old house and I really just got to thinking one day – I’d been working all day and I thought, I wonder how many people have been in this house, have lived in this house. The families, what they used to do. And I got to talking to my grandmother, who’s 93, and she can remember because she’s from this area. She was telling me all these stories. And I thought that’s a lot like our family – they’re a very hard-working blue-collar family overall. And I think that’s probably what it is – the song captures that hard-working essence of what all Australians are. We work hard – it doesn’t matter what we do, we’re very hard workers, and we’re doing it for a better future for us but also for our kids.

Do you have a favourite song on the album?
[Laughs] Oh, don’t ask me that. It’s hard. But I think ‘Linbur Lane’ is always going to be the one that stays with me, because it’s so personal and I’ve had it for so long. I didn’t even think I was going to put it on the album initially, or release it. And because I’ve done that, I’m just really proud of myself for getting it out because it’s been so emotional. And because it’s about my grandma I think it’s probably going to be one of the songs that is my favourite, for sure.

Why did you hesitate to put it on the album?
Because it’s so personal. I had it written for months and months before I even plucked up enough courage to sing it in public, let alone put it out so the whole world could hear it. It’s just been a process because our family is so close, and I was afraid, I suppose, what my mum and my aunties and uncles, her kids, would think about me writing a song about my grandmother. If it wasn’t good enough or accurate enough. I think all those insecurities came out because I just wanted to make everyone proud, I think. So it was hard. The very first time I sang it, my mum and my auntie were in the audience and they were bawling, and I thought, Okay, I must be doing something right. I think from there it was a lot easier – each time it got a lot easier to sing – and now I can sing it as many times as I want and the emotion’s still there but the physical welling-up isn’t there. Everyone has really taken it and rolled with it, and they appreciate it, so I think that’s been the biggest thing for me. I just can’t believe it’s got so much momentum.

I think it’s probably because it’s so personal, and it’s offering up that vulnerability in yourself and that’s something that people do connect with. So many of us struggle to be vulnerable in their own lives, but when someone else offers it, and offers it willing and without any conditions, it gives the listener an opportunity to feel it in themselves and start to explore it. And that’s one of the things country music is so great at – that connection. So you, having now done this – and I acknowledge how much courage is required in doing something so personal – do you feel emboldened to try exploring some other subjects that might have felt too personal before?
Yes, definitely. And I think as well this album is a lot of that. Because ‘Linburn Lane’ was written way before any of these other tracks and I went through all that process of performing it live for the first time and all that sort of stuff way before any of these other tracks were written for the new album, I think this new album is … It’s still my very sassy self but it’s dug deeper than that. One of the tracks on there is about a wild bloke I was entangled with for so long, and it wasn’t until I could sit back and look at it that I thought, I can sing about this stuff. I went through a break-up, and I’m not necessarily writing about a break-up so much but now I’m on my own and I can think for myself, and I think that’s where the song ‘Solitary Mind’ comes from. I get told what you’re leaving behind and how bad it’s going to be, but now I’m free and I can think for myself. And all of that sort of emotion – I’m not the sort of person who’s going to write about the break-up and how much I hate or love. That’s not who I am as a person. But the residual feelings and all the stuff that comes after that, that’s what I can now write about because ‘Linburn Lane’ let me do that.

You’ve given yourself permission to do it.
I think so. And that album is such a healing process for a lot of different aspects of my life. And getting back to my roots – getting back to the stuff that I love to do, liking being out of town and doing farm work, head down bum up sort of stuff, and getting around the family – it’s all been such a process, and I think the last part of it is getting the album released.

You’re going to launch the album in Tamworth on the 20th of January – in fact, you have quite a line-up of gigs for the festival. What is planned for the launch show in particular?
So I just really wanted to have a lot of fun. That’s what I love to do: music and perform for people and just make them feel the energy that I’m feeling about my songs. We’ve got a full band that I love to perform with, and I’ve got a few guest artists. There’s a guy by the name of Brock Henry, who’s from Newcastle, and he’s just amazing. He’s just hit his straps and going so well, so I said, ‘Mate, come and do a few songs at my launch!’ Kahlia Martin, who’s an awesome guitarist and singer from Cobar, she’s going to be playing guitar and doing a few songs as well. I’ve also got Carl the Bartender, who is one of my great mates. He used to be in Good Corn Liquor, so he’s gone out and he’s now Carl the Bartender. He’s just real chillaxed and he has a great sound. So it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Brock Henry is going to be on your bill for some other shows and you’ve also got Allison Forbes, who I know is a long-time colleague of yours.
She’s actually doing these things called the Medicine Shows, upstairs at the Tudor, so it’s going to be kind of cool. Years ago Allison and I and another girl, Gretta Ziller, we had a trio and did a few gigs, and we had so much fun. So we’re kind of doing a little bit of that this time. We’re doing our own music but also a few songs together, so it’s going to be just a bit of reminiscing and a lot of fun.

What else are you looking forward to about the festival in general?
For me the festival is always so much fun. It’s always so bloody hot but it’s so much fun. I haven’t seen a lot of these people for twelve months. A lot of my friends, I haven’t seen them or caught up with them properly. We might have talked on the phone or on Facebook or messages, but you don’t get to really catch up with them and play music. And I think that’s the best thing to be able to do – not just release my album and show people what I’m made of, but get out there and support other people and watch other people, and catch up and have a bit of fun. So I’m excited for that.

Over the years of going to the festival, do you think that connection with other people has been the best thing that you … I don’t want to say ‘got out of it’, because that sounds a bit mercenary. But your impression of Tamworth – overall do you think of it as a music festival or do you think of it mainly as that chance to connect with people?
Both. It’s a great music festival but it’s probably one of the more relaxed festivals that you’ll ever be a part of. And that’s my kind of thing. I love to have a lot of fun playing music – for me that’s the ultimate. And being able to do that around not just fans that have followed you for the past few years but also new people who have never seen you before, and then also around your mates who play music, mates you get to catch up with. I always think of Tamworth as being just a really relaxed time before the rest of the year hits.

Speaking of that year, I would imagine you’re planning to tour your album once you’re free and clear from Tamworth.
I have a massive year lined up. It’s going to be big. I haven’t done such a big tour probably since my last album So I’m excited to get out to some new places and head down south again and head up north again, and go out west, and visit all the places that I haven’t been for a while but also that I’ve never been to.

I remember when you did your Queensland tour – you were going to pubs in places you hadn’t been before. Do you think of yourself as adventurous or is it the music that makes you adventurous?

I don’t know. I’ve always liked to get out and see new places. I guess to a certain extent I’m adventurous. But I also get very nervous going to new places, because I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know if people are going to turn up. I don’t know if people are going to like it. So it’s definitely that adrenaline rush, but I also love getting out seeing new places and seeing Australia, and if I can combine that with music, well, isn’t that awesome? [laughs] Isn’t that the way you should be touring as an artist? It’s not just getting out there as a tour, but get out there and meet the people. So I guess, to a certain extent, I’m adventurous, but there’s a certain amount of anxiety that comes with it [laughs]. 

Friday 19th January 2018 | 1pm
Tudor Hotel [Front Bar], TAMWORTH NSW
327 Peel Street, Tamworth

Saturday 20th January 2018 | 8.30pm
Special guest: Brock Henry
327 Peel Street, Tamworth

Monday 22nd January 2018 | 3pm
DAG Sheep Station, NUNDLE NSW
Richo’s Roundup
Crawney Road, Nundle
(02) 6769 3486 |

Tuesday 23rd January 2018 | 3pm
Tudor Hotel [Upstairs], TAMWORTH NSW
327 Peel Street, Tamworth

Wednesday 24th January 2018 | 12pm
Tudor Hotel [Upstairs], TAMWORTH NSW
327 Peel Street, Tamworth

Thursday 25th January 2018 | 3.30pm
The Albert Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW
w/ Good Corn Liquor Tribute
211 Peel Street, Tamworth
(02) 6766 6363

Friday 26th January 2018 | 12pm
Tudor [Upstairs], TAMWORTH NSW
Medicine Shows w/ Allison Forbes
327 Peel Street, Tamworth

Friday 26th January 2018 | 8.30pm
Tudor [Front Bar], TAMWORTH NSW
Special guest: Brock Henry
327 Peel Street, Tamworth

Saturday 27th January 2018 | 3.30pm
The Albert Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW
w/ Good Corn Liquor Tribute
211 Peel Street, Tamworth
(02) 6766 6363

For more information, please visit

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Single release: 'That Ole Train' by Slim Dime

Melbourne duo Slim Dime have been working on a new album, and their original song 'That Ole Train' is the single released ahead of it.

Trains are a perennially favourite subject for a country song, with good reason: they invoke the possibilities of new places, new people and momentum into the future, all good elements for a song. On this track band members Chris Taylor and Jen Land give us a treat with their bluegrass guitar and Land engages in some fine yodelling.

Slim Dime play gigs regularly - you can find details on And you can see the video for 'That Ole Train' below.

Single release: 'Wildflower Bruises' by Homegrown

'Wildflower Bruises' is the title track of a new six-track EP from Far North Queensland trio Homegrown, and it is a piece of utter loveliness. Siblings Katelyn, Liam and Kasey O'Donoghue (20, 18 and 15 years old respectively) share a a childhood of singing together; they released a five-track EP in 2016, and toured Australia throughout 2017. That history - and, no doubt, the family relationship - has led to exceptional, seamless harmonies in this bittersweet country-folk song of young love crushed by jealousy.

Homegrown will release the new EP during the Tamworth Country Music Festival or you can pre-order it on iTunes.

In the meantime, watch the video for 'Wildflower Bruises' below.

The Wolfe Brothers hit the road to Tamworth

After another massive year The Wolfe Brothers are taking their Let's Hit The Road Tour to the Tamworth Country Music Festival, playing one big show at Blazes Auditorium at West Tamworth Leagues Club on Wednesday 24 January at 8.30 p.m. They'll be supported by NZ sensation Jody Direen.

Towards the end of 2017 I caught guitarist Brodie Rainbird on a rare day off and found out what he and the Wolfes, Nick and Tom, have been up to lately, and what's ahead this year.

Hello and how are you?
I’m good. The boys and I are enjoying a few days at home – we haven’t had many of those this year.

Does anyone even recognise you any more?
[Laughs] They still hear from us. We don’t let them forget.

How was 2017 – what were the highlights? Were there any lowlights?
It’s been flat out. We’ve been over to Nashville for a month. We’ve written a new album. Then we came home and we started touring with Lee Kernaghan. So we’ve done his tour, which is now over. In between all of those dates we’ve done our own dates. We started our own tour. And then in between all of that we’ve been spending time in Sydney recording the new album.

Is it unusual for you to record in Sydney?
Yes. We’ve recorded one song – it was with Matt Fell at Love Hz Studios. We recorded one of the first songs we ever put out with him, seven years ago. So we’ve done a full circle: we’ve been to Nashville, we’ve come all the way home.

And Matt is a very popular producer, especially for country music, so that’s a very good fit.
I’ll just say this, though: you haven’t heard Matt do stuff like this before. This is all brand new. It’s really pushing some boundaries.

Is it pushing some boundaries for you guys too?
Absolutely, yes. We said, ‘We want our boundaries pushed, Matt. We want it to be modern and new, and sound cool and really sleek.’ And he said, ‘Right, we can do this.’

Was that a decision you made after the songwriting process or as you went into songwriting did you think you’d push yourselves in a different direction – or into an evolution, shall we say?
It’s been on our minds for a while but it sort of came after the writing process. We came home and we weren’t sure who was going to do the album. We weren’t sure if we could afford to go back to Nashville or not, then decided not to. Then we thought, Well, who at home can do this? We actually did a duet with the Baylou girls and we heard that and thought, Oh wow – this is not like what Matt Fell normally sounds like. And that got us thinking, and it all worked out so well. The boys and I are incredibly happy with it.

It is a big decision, choosing a producer. In this case it’s had a big impact on your sound but that producer can also be a collaborator. And I would think that given you guys as a band are so tight, you’re so used to working with each other, it almost gives an extra significance to choosing a producer who can work with you and not upset your band dynamic.
Yes, that’s totally true. And we wanted someone who could grab the album by the balls and just do something with it. A lot of stuff we’ve done in the past we’ve tracked the band live all at the same time, to capture that live energy. And we were, like, ‘Nah, we’re going to do something completely different [this time].’ With Matt we’d lay a couple of bass tracks down, or guide tracks, then Matt would just go to town for three hours playing synths or creating crazy noises, and messing with vocals and doing all this crazy stuff that we’d never experienced before, and the three of us would just sit back and let him do it – ‘That sounds great, mate, just keep going.’ We didn’t even have a drummer in the studio until the first week was done.

Given how the band operates, you’re clearly highly organised, and I wouldn’t say you’re control freaks but there’s an element of that.
[Laughs] We’re under control.

It says a lot about the three of you as individuals and about the band that you’re prepared to sit back and say to someone else, creatively, ‘go to town’.
It was a completely new experience for us. It was like opening the door to another room and it was completely pitch-black dark, and we’re saying, ‘I don’t know what’s in here but I’m going in.’ As it unfolded there were a lot of times when Matt was sitting with a keyboard in front of the computer and we were sitting on the couch behind, and we would all look at each other and go, ‘Oh wow – that’s cool! He’s created a whole other hook in this song that we weren’t going to do.’ It quickly became evident that that was the right decision – that it was working.

Again, what interests me, having spoken to you – and Tom – over the past few years, as this band has grown its audience and its sound, I do find this aspect really fascinating. It seems as time goes on that you push yourselves. You push yourselves in terms of your work ethic – you work super hard, you’re prepared to do some travel and other things that some bands might find beyond them – and you keep evolving. You respect your core audience but you keep finding ways to challenge yourselves, to challenge your audience, and it’s all quite seamless. I suppose it could seem like an organic development but I also think there’s that real consideration of your audience there. You want to pay them the compliment of giving them something new without annoying them.
I couldn’t have said it better than that! I think as an artist you have to grow. There’s always exceptions to the rule, like AC/DC, and you don’t want them to change – you want them to have that sound – but there are other artists who need to evolve and grow, otherwise it becomes stagnant. It’s something you have to do. And we’ve want to do this for a long time. We’ve talked about it at length so many nights: ‘How are we going to do this? What are we going to do? Who’s going to do it?’ Eventually it all just unfolded in this beautiful way and we’ve got this fantastic album.

And for you as a musician, when you first started playing guitar – as a child, probably – were you always quite curious about doing new things, what was next, wanting to push yourself as a musician?
It’s funny you say that, because since I can remember – I started playing in primary school. I think we all did. We met each other in high school and started hanging out. We were the ones who went back a generation and wanted to hear old music, from the 80s and the hair metal. Van Halen and Def Leppard and Metallica – we wanted that stuff. We were so old-school for so long, then we’ve skipped and we’re now looking ahead. And I’ve only just realised that. 

But I think it’s the case that you can look ahead because you’ve gone backwards. Having that lineage and that foundation as artists – even from a technical point of view, as a guitarist – to know what’s come before gives you the opportunity to play around. On a really basic level, if you now your scales and you can do your drills, then you’re free to improvise.
Absolutely. One thing, just as a personal thing on this album, previously – I’m not sure if Nick’s the same but I’ve always wanted to be a bit flashy on the guitar. As the albums have gone on I’ve matured a bit more and that has dropped off to the point where with this album, all the solos are not really solos, they’re just new melodies and new ideas to introduce to the song. There’s no shred, there’s no fast stuff, I just really enjoy adding to what the song is already.

Well, I’m very excited to hear the album – do you have a release date planned?
Not really.

I imagine you have to carefully slot it in around a whole lot of other things that are already carefully planned for next year.
It’s so funny – you pick a date and then look into it and go, ‘Oh no, that’s coming out then and this is on then. What about the week after? No, well, that’s happening …’ And eventually you push it so far back that it’s so far away it’s so pointless. Why is it so hard to find a good week to release an album? It’s weird.

I’m genuinely curious about whether you all sit down and open up your calendars and plan twelve months ahead, or a little more. You seem to be highly planned well in advance.
The key with that is Stephen White Management. We’ve got such a great management team – we’d be absolutely screwed without them. They do the bulk of that work while we’re out creating and playing and just being artists. They’re in the office organising all this stuff and researching, booking stuff and things like that. We wouldn’t exist without that.

Also, of course, your schedule has to integrate with Lee Kernaghan’s a lot of the time. So another year of playing with Lee and also playing your own stuff – I keep expecting you guys to keel over but I can only imagine that you’re extremely fit.
[Laughs] I feel like we’re about to keel over now, actually, we’ve been so busy. In the last three weeks we’ve only had a handful of days at home. The last month, actually. And before that it was just fly-in, fly-out constantly every week. I changed my insurance and rang my insurance company to say, ‘I don’t drive to work any more so I don’t need to pay extra money for that.’ They said, ‘Well, how do you get to work?’ I said, ‘I catch planes.’

Some day in the near future there needs to be a Wolfe Brothers jet.
Oh, now you’re talking.

And you need to find a little airfield in Tassie somewhere, where you can park it and you can just leave your cars there in the meantime, come and go.
That would be so handy.

Now, I’d better move on to your Tamworth show. You’ve got the one at Blazes, which is, of course, a key venue. So what can your fans expect?
We really want to turn it on for Tamworth. The boys and I get more and more excited for Tamworth as it goes on. It’s almost become a bit of a thing for us. It used to be a lot of work and now it’s, ‘Oh Tamworth – party time.’ [Laughs] Because we’re only doing the one show we really want to focus all our energy and attention on that and make it something really worth remembering.

I like the way you say you really want to turn it on for Tamworth like you haven’t in the past.
Just another 10 per cent. Every year another 10 per cent.

I’ve even seen you play the Peel Street Fanzone, three songs in the middle of the day, and you guys were on. I don’t imagine it’s easy to switch on that energy but it seems like you have a good mechanism for switching it on.
We come from the school where you play for three hours in a pub. That’s hard work. Then you get up on Peel Street and play three songs and it’s, like, ‘This is so easy.’

I would even suggest that one set at Blazes seems easy compared with three hours.
It’s so cool – we’ve worked so hard and done those long-hours gigs. Consecutive, too. I remember one weekend we went up north – we did a Friday gig, we came halfway down and did Saturday at the Lakes. We all got very drunk and were very hungover. Then on the way home we did a three-hour gig at a fair on a Sunday. That’s where we’re from, that’s what we do. So just to have a bit of success and just to do that one set, that’s so cool. That’s where you want to be.

The challenge with that is that you’re several albums into your career and you have a new album coming. Is there any argy-bargy over the set list?
Not really. It’s one thing we all tend to agree on, because we all know what works and we’ve done it a lot now. It’s an experience thing, I think. Nick and Tom especially are really good at reading crowds, so when we change the set list and it does or doesn’t work, they’re usually pretty switched on and they figure it out pretty quick.

Again, that’s a level of dedication to and awareness of your audience, and I think that’s been key to the Wolfe Brothers the whole way along, that idea that you are there to entertain, and certainly when I’ve seen you play that seems to be the mantra. It’s almost like you stand backstage and chant, ‘We will entertain.’ It’s that humility of the long-term artist as well – realising that you are in service to your audience. You might think, I really want to play that song, but if it’s not resonating with the audience it has to go.
Exactly. That’s so important, to be able to connect, because once you have that connection with an audience there’s a beautiful energy exchange that happens between artist and crowd. And everyone wins when you really nail a gig -it’s awesome.

Sometimes egos get in the way – not so much in country music, but a lot of artists can hang on to an idea of This is what I want to do. So I do think it is an achievement to get past that.
I’ve never really thought of it like that. There’s three of us, so we have each other to keep us on  the ground.

And with this show you have Jody Direen on the bill with you. She was on your This Crazy Life tour a little while ago, so obviously you all got on.
We love Jody. We absolutely love her. We were her band as well when we played that tour, and to me one of the highlights of that tour was playing her songs, sharing the stage with her. She’s just electric. She’s amazing. Such a voice.

I interviewed her a little while ago and she has a really interesting story too. I think she’s a terrific artist.
Have you heard her song ‘Spitfire’?

Probably. But I listen to a lot of songs and I don’t always remember their names!
Honestly, the best part of the entire night was playing ‘Spitfire’.

So you’re Jody’s band, you’re Lee’s band – who else are you playing for?
Who haven’t we played for? We’ve been Gord Bamford’s band when he comes out. We’ve played with Troy [Cassar-Daley], Lee obviously, TaniaKernaghan.

I think the moral of the story is that you guys just love to play.
Yeah. We’ve been James Blundell’s band, which was really cool. Heaps of stuff. It’s kind of one of our tricks, that we can do that.

It’s more than a trick, it’s an artform. It’s extra rehearsal time too.
It’s at the point now where we can all learn the songs at home, go to the gig and at soundcheck, if it’s only a small appearance, we can run the songs at soundcheck and it’s all good, we’re ready to go.

That is such a hard thing to do. But you’re professionals, so you can do that. But my time’s about to run out so I’m going to take a hard turn and ask you two things about Tasmania. The first is, what is the best thing about Tasmania?
The first thing that comes to my mind is when I get off the plane in Hobart, when I first step out of the plane, and that cool, thick, fresh air hits your face. That is the best thing.

And the thing you miss the most about Tasmania when you’re travelling?
The fact that there’s no traffic. We spend a lot of time in Sydney and it is ridiculous.

The Wolfe Brother's latest album is This Crazy Life.