Month: March 2017

Interview: Hayley Wilson

Hayley Wilson’s debut album, Further Than Forever, is an unforgettable collection of beautifully constructed and thoughtfully performed songs. A listener would never know that Wilson had to change producers in the middle of the album’s creation – not because she wanted to, but because her original producer, Karl Broadie, died after a short illness. Karl had taken steps, though, to make sure that the album was finished and that Wilson was able to showcase her talents to the world. I spoke to Hayley Wilson about Karl, collaboration, the Dag Sheep Station, and other things.

When did you first meet Karl Broadie?
We first met at the Dag Songwriting Retreat [in Nundle, NSW] in 2014. I had some mutual friends of Karl’s who told me to say hello, so that’s how I started talking to him and very quickly we started to form a friendship based off of artists that we liked and different kinds of art. I would draw and he would ask me about my drawings and stuff like that.
At that time were you listening to that you had in common?
Jana Kramer, the Pistol Annies – which is Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, Angaleena Presley. He had explained to me that he had done some songwriting wth Angaleena in Nashville, so we were talking about that. And the Wreckers with Michelle Branch.
Mentioning those artists gives me a clue as to where your pop sensibilities come from.
Those ones are definitely big influences for this album. I think when we realised we had those artists in common it was really easy for us to find a style to fall into when we were songwriting together.
Collaboration is not necessarily a foregone conclusion – some songwriters prefer to write on their own or on their own most of the time. Had you collaborated with anyone else by that point?
I had done some songwriting with Drew McAlister, Troy Kemp, Mike Carr and I’d gone to the CMAA Academy in 2012 so I got to write with David Carter from Carter and Carter as well.
Do you prefer collaboration to writing on your own?
I kind of do and I don’t. Sometimes I enjoy writing by myself and having full control, being able to really stick to my guns and just go with what I feel and my ideas. But at the same time I really, really love co-writing because I can get stuck on something really simple and together we’ll figure it out. And you just bring more to the table when there’s two of you. You get more of a story, I guess, from both people’s perspectives.
As you were working towards having songs for this album were you writing with an album in mind or were you writing a bunch of songs to choose out of that?
We were definitely writing with the album in mind. The first song that Karl and I wrote together was ‘Further Than Forever’, which is the track that we ended up naming the whole album after. We really knew from that first song what the sound was that we were going for and we had a direction we needed to go in. So once we had written that song we pretty much just said to each other that that was going to be the centrepiece and we were going to write around that. I had done some writing by myself – there’s two on there that I wrote by myself – but most of the album [wasn’t].
Karl produced the album up until the point that he became sick. It’s one thing to co-write with someone and another for them to be the producer. Was there ever a point where you felt like he was being overly bossy?
[Laughs] Not at all. He was so great to work with because he was very much allowing me to be in control, and over the years I’ve had pretty much all of the control with my music and I’m kind of not ready to let that go. I really like having control in every single aspect whether it’s the business side or things or stuff online or the writing and creative stuff. I very much like to try to do everything myself. So he was not bossy at all – he made sure that I was completely comfortable and that I was happy with everything. If ever I didn’t like something we could do it as many times as we wanted, there was no time limit or rush. He was so chill and he brought that into recording with him.
That shows in your voice – there’s no sense of you being uptight about what you’re singing, regardless of what the subject matter is. You sound very much at ease and on point.
Yes – it was so comforting because it was just us two for most of the project. Eventually I worked with Glen Hannah but then it was just Glen and me in the studio for most of it. So most of the time it was just me and the producer and I was able to get to those places that the songs needed to be and feel completely safe and comfortable in doing that because of the nature that Karl and Glen both have when in the studio – they’re both so caring and nurturing of the process.
And, of course, there are a lot of great country music producers to choose from – how did you

choose Glen?

That actually wasn’t up to me. Before Karl passed away he had spoken to Glen and said that he was passing it on to Glen to finish it off. I didn’t actually know about that conversation until Aleyce Simmonds told me that Karl had spoken to Glen and that everything was going to be okay and that it was going to be in good hands. I was very fortunate that Karl chose Glen and I don’t think I could have picked anyone better to finish it off because working with Glen was very similar to work with Karl. I don’t know what it would have been like if I’d gone with another producer who wasn’t as passionate about the project as Karl obviously was and because Glen handed it to Glen, Glen had this sense of pride in the work and he really cared about finishing it off in the right way.
And that shows, too, because it is carefully done album without sounding overworked. Of course, Glen is hugely experienced with a range of artists. I would he knew what to do with you when he heard you because of all that experience behind him.
And I think he very much understood what we were trying to accomplish with the album and I think he really enjoyed the songs as well. The best part was that even though it was 50 per cent Karl and 50 per cent Glen in the end, there’s still so much of Karl in the album. You can hear Karl doing backing vocals. A lot of the guitar parts are Karl. There are some amazing guitar parts from Glen too because they’re both fantastic players but you can really hear a lot of Karl’s work. In no way did we override anything that Karl did – it was very much a combination of two styles.
I would think this is a very bittersweet experience for you, though, to have this great album to put out in the world but not have your primary collaborator with you.
It really is bittersweet because there are so many times at the moment where I wonder if he’d be proud or if he’s able to see what I’m doing and if he’s watching over me. It is really difficult because there are times when I just want to call him up and talk to him, tell him everything I’m doing or things that I’ve achieved.
You mentioned Aleyce Simmonds. You wrote with Aleyce and with Luke O’Shea, and I can imagine they’d be different experiences.
Definitely. I think Aleyce is one of the first women that I’ve written with. She and I are very similar in nature – we’re very sensitive and very open hearted so it’s really nice to write with her because we just pour out all this emotion onto the paper and we’re both very much like that in real life. So writing with her is fantastic and I hope we get to write again more in the future because we write some really beautiful heartfelt ballads. And Luke writes so quickly – he’s just on it and so full of energy. Writing with him was really, really fun. It was so quick and so upbeat, and it really kept me on my toes.
What you said about writing with Aleyce, and both of you being sensitive people – do you think that songwriting is a way to almost manage those emotions? It gives you a structure not necessarily to make sense of everyday life but, in a way, to make everyday life a little easier to bear than it might otherwise be.
Definitely. It does help me make sense of everyday life, to write songs. It does make those kinds of emotions a lot easier to process whether it’s the good stuff or the bad stuff. When I’m writing songs like that, that are about something that’s happened to me or something that’s really important to me, I often find that afterwards about the situation and I can kind of let go. Whatever was bothering me, after I write a song about it I feel like I can really let it go. It’s done and I can move on.
And then it’s a piece of work that someone else can relate to when they need it.
Hopefully it helps them move on as well and continue what they’re doing.
That is one of the great strengths of country music and what audiences love about it is that they know there’s authenticity in every artist and their work. It can mean that you as a performer are more vulnerable to your audience in some ways but there is strength in that as well.
Yes, definitely. I try to allow myself to be really vulnerable with my writing because that’s just how I express myself and how I choose to express myself, through that kind of artwork, I guess. I really try to go to places that people might be afraid to go otherwise.
That sort of thing can take a toll sometimes. Do you have a way of balancing it?
I just write whatever comes to me at the time. Sometimes it’s harder to write happier stuff but maybe that’s because when I’m happy I’m doing something enjoyable and I don’t think, I have to sit down and write a song about this right now. I’m just happy, enjoying life. I don’t think it’s a struggle for balance just because I love what I am doing and I’m really passionate about songwriting so it just makes me happy. Even I’m writing sad songs, it makes me happy that I’m writing.
I read in your bio that the album has been two years in the making and there have been many obstacles along the way. In 2013 you were intending to release some music then. Do you think those obstacles have strengthened your determination to do what you’re doing now?
Absolutely. I don’t think I could have, with this album, I don’t know that I could have finished it if I hadn’t been through those obstacles a couple of years beforehand. That really did make me determined. When I came back to [music] it was, Yes, this is definitely what I need to do and this is what I’m doing, and I will do anything to make that happen. I think because of that obstacle then I was able to face everything that happened last year and just plough through it. Take it day by day and just know that that’s what I was meant to be doing and to keep going.
There is an assuredness about your work – I’m never really a believer in saying, ‘Oh, you’re so young to sound so assured’, because I think you can be any age as an artist and still feel insecure about what you’re doing, or always feel insecure, but there is on that album that real sense of you feeling that you’re in the right place.
I’ve had a lot of people say how young I am but what the music sounds like. I don’t really know why it comes across more mature or anything like that, but I really just try to focus on what I’m going through and write from there. So I guess it’s just that kind of headstrong thing comes out when I’m writing. I’m not too sure.
Or maybe it’s because, as you mentioned, when you came back to music you decided it was what you wanted to do. A lot of people might go deep into their career and never question what they’re doing and then have essentially a crisis of faith and go back to it. You’ve been through a process where you’ve been away and come back and made that decision at an early age and that’s what I’m hearing in the music.
I think I’m very fortunate to have decided very early on. I decided when I was eleven. I’d always done music and always done dance but then when I was eleven I decided, This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Everyone said, ‘Oh yeah, you’re eleven, you don’t know.’ But I definitely knew that that’s what I wanted to do. Now I’ve really accepted that and there’s nothing else that I want to do and nothing else that I really can do, so I know that this is what I’m meant to do. And with everything that’s happened I’m a big believer that life is short and there’s no point in wasting it doing something that doesn’t make me happy. And music makes me happy so I’m just going to do that.
I think that’s a very reasonable conclusion. So when you were eleven and you made that decision, were you already singing and playing an instrument?
I was only singing. I’d always sung and done choirs in school, and I think at eleven I’d just picked up the guitar. I had done other instruments. I’d dabbled in violin and trumpet and clarinet but when I picked up the guitar I thought, Oh, okay, this is it – this is the instrument that I want to stick to. Because up until then I just couldn’t find something that I wanted to stay with. So I was already doing music but I think it was a combination of picking up guitar, I started writing songs when I was eleven, so I think it was just that year that I decided that this is what I’m going to do.
And you have persisted with great results. I also want to ask a question about the Dag retreat and the CMAA Academy – what are the relative virtues of those programs? What have they brought to your career?
The Academy definitely opened up a lot of doors for me. Up until that point I was very fresh and didn’t really know anyone in the country music industry in Australia, so that really opened up a lot of doors in terms of meeting people and networking and understanding more of the business side of things. I would say the Academy gave me that early knowledge of the business and really made sure I paid attention to that, and from there I met a producer. A producer saw my graduation performance and got in contact, and that’s how I started the EP at the end of 2012. Then the Dag I went to in 2014. Mostly I was just hoping to become a better songwriter and it definitely did that for me. But because I met so many great artists again, it was another great networking thing. I’ve kept in contact with a lot of those artists who were on the first retreat. I still see Roger Corbett and say hello to him. Luke O’Shea I see. And obviously Karl and I stayed in contact quite a bit. I became really good friends with John Krsulja, who owns the Dag. Just from all those trips I did with Karl, the three of us became really, really close. [The artist at the retreat] really inspired me and pushed me to be better. They said, ‘You need to go home and be performing every week. Hone you guitar skills, do this, do that.’ I take all of that kind of advice on board and that’s what I did, I went home and said, ‘I’m going to do this.’ Whenever people give me advice I usually do my best to try to make myself a better musician.
It all feeds into that early decision of yours to do what you’re doing now. You’ve seen all these opportunities as chances to learn and develop and keep going. Therefore, I’m curious about what’s next. Are you heading out on the road? Already thinking to a new album?
I’m really happy at the moment promoting this album but I’ve already starting thinking about songwriting for the next one. I’ve started writing a couple of songs by myself. I think I know how I want it to sound for the next album, which is kind of cool. I’ve been doing some research into that and I’m pretty certain how I want it to sound, so we’ll if it turns out that way. I really want to go on tour. I’d like to go and do some performances in my home town, which is Mount Isa. I’d like to go up there and maybe do an album launch. I’m going down to Victoria in May to support a friend for his EP launch. I’m doing a couple of gigs around the place. This year will be focused mainly on songwriting and more gig performances – doing more festivals. But all in all I really want to start touring, that’s my dream.
I’d think you’d be a natural for the Mount Isa rodeo.
Oh, I really want to do that! [laughs] That’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid. That’s definitely on my bucket list. I need to do that. That’s not a want – that’s a need.

Further Than Forever is out now.

New acts added to Broadbeach Country Music Festival 2017 line-up

Now in its fifth year, Broadbeach Country Music Festival on Queensland’s Gold Coast is starting to look like ‘Tamworth by the sea’, so talent-laden is the line-up for this year’s gathering. On 28 to 30 July you will be able to see previously announced acts Kasey Chambers, Troy Cassar-Daley, Shane Nicholson, Travis Collins, Fanny Lumsden and America as well as those just announced:

Caitlyn Shadbolt
Tomato Tomato
The Viper Creek Band
The Wilson Pickers
Roo Arcus
Col Finley Band
Round Mountain Girls
Jetty Road
Freya Josephine Hollick
Georgia Fall
Benn Gunn Band
Dana Gehrman
Alex & Bec Crook
Rex G Miller
Neilly Rich
Thor Phillips
Whistle Dixie
Brooke Lambert
For full details, go to

Single release: ‘New Wall’ by Tori Forsyth

This is another from the better-late-than-never files as I should have posted this at the start of the year. So consider it instead advance notice that the very talented Tori Forsyth will release an album at some stage this year – because apparently she started recording it after this year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival.

This song, ‘New Wall’, should also whet your appetite for more of Forsyth’s dulcet tones and haunting Americana sound. Of course, you could always go and buy her EP Black Bird while you’re waiting. It was produced by Shane Nicholson and Trent Crawford.

Single release: ‘Forever Roam’ by Kiera

If The McClymonts are the exemplars of Australian country pop, it can be said that they’ve created a platform for other country pop artists in this country. New artist Kiera – originally from country Victoria – is on that platform and finding chart success already with her EP Forever Roam.

Like many country music artists Kiera has released the EP independently. Also like many of those same artists, independent production and release these days means the same high-quality product as a signed artist, and that’s the case here.

So if, like me, you find a great melody and exceptional singing voice an irresistible combination, watch the video for the title single below.

Album review: Leave on a Light (The Songs of Karl Broadie)

Many moons ago, I remarked to Karl Broadie that it was a great test of an artist if all their songs held up when they had only themselves and a guitar to rely on, and by that test his songs all held up. ‘That’s a nice thing to say to a person,’ he replied.

Karl is no longer around to sing his very fine songs because he moved on to his next plane of existence in April last year. But he left behind a trove of tunes that have now been interpreted by several great Australian country music artists on Leave on a Light. And if these songs had all passed the solo test, they also prove themselves in the hands of this diverse range of singers. The construction of Karl’s songs is so good, the lyrics so right and the sentiments so universal, that it is easy to forget that these songs are not the work of each of the singers – all of them also songwriters – who have made them their own on this album. So that’s an additional test they pass: being written in such a way that another artist can feel them so truly that the song sounds like it belongs to her or him.

Having said that, it is still a little strange to hear Amali Ward sing ‘Chamomile Days’, for example – except that she sings it so beautifully that this version should be equally as cherished as Karl’s own. Kasey Chambers finds shadows inside ‘Leave on a Light’ that weren’t on Karl’s original – or maybe they were and Kasey just listened more closely than others. Amber Lawrence’s ‘Country Bound’ is less jaunty than Karl’s original but she has connected with the lyrics in her own way and that, too, is true to Karl’s work.

There’s a live version of ‘Long, Long Way’ sung by Harry Hookey at a tribute concert held for Karl not long before he died, and one of Karl’s last songs, ‘Hope is a Thief’, is sung by his close friend Micky Blue Eyes (who was also responsible for the creation of this album) and Kasey Chambers. Shane Nicholson takes on ‘Once in Your Life’ and Jasmine Rae gives ‘If He Calls’ the pathos it deserves to have on this particular album. Felicity Urquhart delivers ‘Tears’ with all the poignancy of Karl’s original. Also on the album: Dianna Corcoran, Kevin Bennett and The Flood, Michael Carpenter, Katie Brianna & Caitlin Harnett, Den Hanrahan & Adam Young, Aleyce Simmonds, Catherine Britt, Craig Johnston & John Kendall, Alex Ryan & Danny Widdicombe, Brett Hunt and Luke O’Shea.

The way these nineteen songs have been interpreted and the very musical range shown within the songs is the only evidence we should need that Karl Broadie was one of the most diverse, vibrant and effective songwriters in Australia. Karl did bittersweetness better than anybody and it is so incredibly bittersweet that he is not around to hear this work. But it is my hope that those who weren’t familiar with Karl’s work before this will seek out his albums – there are many more songs to discover. As an introduction, however, and as a tribute, Leave on a Light has clearly been very carefully curated and created with the abundance of love and admiration that Karl inspired during his life. It is a credit to Karl and to every single artist who appears on it.

You can buy Leave on a Light on iTunes.

Single release: ‘Take a Little Drive’ by Davidson Brothers

Three-time Golden Guitar winners and Country Music Hall of Fame inductees the Davidson Brothers have released a new single with their signature bluegrass sound. The principle behind ‘Take a Little Drive’ can be found in its lyric ‘Gettin’ out of town never felt so good’. This is a song in celebration of road trips, adventures and good times – preferably with a fiddle involved.

The single is from the new Davidson Brothers album, All You Need is Music, which will be released on 7 April 2017. Watch the video below.

EP review: Til the Goin’ Gets Gone by Lindi Ortega

This four-track EP of three original songs and a cover of Townes van Zandt’s ‘Waiting ‘Round to Die’ is as close to perfect as you’d want an EP to be. Ortega’s voice is accompanied only by acoustic and slide guitars, and they’re sparsely done at that, allowing all the colours of that voice to be brilliantly on display. There is plaintiveness and tragedy; regret and determination. And that’s just in the first (title) track.

This EP has tones of treatise and sermon. Ortega sounds as though she is saying farewell to what has come before and laying down the tracks for what is ahead while feeling unsure about that new direction. The farewell has not come about because of failure – it feels as though it is a natural progression, even if there is sadness bound up in it. It’s almost as if she is bidding adieu to a great love and forging ahead on her own – that’s what ‘A Girl’s Gotta Do’, as she sings on the second song. Her voice is so pure and nuanced and emotional that it can’t help but resonate with the listener, and it also sounds as if it would carry across plains and over mountains, connecting with everyone who needs to hear what Ortega is singing.
Whatever comes next in Ortega’s career, this EP surely marks a junction. And she is standing at it, calling to the listener with something as close to a siren’s song as we can get on land. She’ll decide where she goes next, of course, but we can be her witnesses. Inside the accomplishment of the music there is a rawness, too, that is touching. By showing us what’s inside her, she pays us all a great compliment: she’s trusting us with what’s there, knowing that what’s inside us isn’t all that different.
Til the Goin’ Gets Gone is out now.

Single release: ‘Western Line’ by Aly Cook

This track from Aly Cook’s album Horseshoe Rodeo Hotel is completely charming – a tale of taking the train away from Sydney, escaping who knows what and going who knows where (apart from ‘west’). Cook is a New Zealander but the song is firmly Australian in setting, with the video featuring the country platforms at Sydney’s Central Station and an old train that locals know as a ‘red rattler’. The song evokes not so much the romance of rail travel as its efficiency in taking a person away – and while it might be easy to interpret the song’s lyric as suggesting that the singer is leaving for a sad reason, the song is upbeat in tone, indicating a brighter future somewhere along that western line …

Watch the video for ‘Western Line’ below.

Single release: ‘Man Out of Time’ by Thomas Wynn and The Believers

Thomas Wynn and The Believers is actually Wynn plus his sister, Olivia Wynn Roche, and band, hailing from Orlando, Florida. It is Olivia’s voice that comes through most strongly on this driving, pulsing, swampy song that has country in its veins and rock in its heart. The song is taken from the band’s upcoming album, Wade Waist Deep, which will be released on 19 May. It can be preordered on iTunes.

Tania Kernaghan releases an all-Australian new album

Tania Kernaghan has been responsible for many great Australian country songs over the course of her previous six albums and now her seventh, All-Australian Girl, is adding more hits to the list. Tania is, of course, a member of a famous country music family but she has made her music, and her identity, her own – with a little help from her sister, Fiona. I asked Tania about writing with her sister, the new album and the year ahead. 
What does being an all-Australian girl mean to you?
I think you’re one of those girls that can just about take on anything in the world and achieve it. You are able to pretty much do whatever your heart desires. And ‘All-Australian Girl’ was really written for all the women I’ve met over the years – the great women – from young girls through to our senior citizens. And whether they’re driving trucks in mines or they’re working as a nurse or they’re in a co-op or a supermarket or just being a mum – and I shouldn’t say ‘just’ being a mum and a wife because I reckon it’s probably the hardest job ever – it’s a tribute to those women.
You’ve written several of the songs with another all-Australian girl: your sister, Fiona. How has your collaboration style changed over the years? Or even how it began – do you remember the first song you wrote together?
I sure do – it was back in 1992 when I wrote my first song with Fiona, a song called ‘I’ll Be Gone’. It was released as a radio single on ABC Records and then it was four years after that that I recorded my very first album, December Moon. Fiona and I just started writing when we were teenagers, and we wrote about stuff that we were experiencing, people we’d met, places we’d been. Even though we hadn’t done a real lot by the time I was eighteen, nineteen years old – I was still so young but at the time I just wrote about some stuff that was happening in my life and ‘I’ll Be Gone’ was born. And that’s pretty much what I’ve done with Fiona for all of our writing career – we just real life stuff because I think that’s more relatable to people and I think that it connects much better with them.
Even as a teenager, though – teenage years can be a time of self-absorption so even to be able to look outwards, not just one of you but both of you to write songs about people and places, did you have an awareness, growing up, of the importance of telling stories and paying attention, I guess is what it amounts to.
I had the great privilege of travelling a lot with my family when we were younger kids when my dad [Ray Kernaghan] was touring and performing around Australia. And it was back in the days of cars and caravans, so you’d get to a town with a travelling show, you’d pull up behind the local town hall, you’d plug into the power, the musicians would load the gear in and do the show that night then we’d pack up and head to the next town the next day. I did a lot of that growing up and we got to meet a lot of people and visit a lot of different towns, and you were put in situations, I suppose, where there wasn’t the technology we have today as far as computer games and iPads and iPhones and all of that distraction, and you really had to learn how to communicate with people and talk to complete strangers. Talking to a stranger wasn’t a bad thing, it was quite interesting in more cases than not. I think it was probably because of those really early days and that kind of experience as a young kid that really helped shape the way we are today and the fact that we are a bit more aware of what’s going on around us rather than being too self centred or introverted.
Still, I find it really interesting that there’s three of you [Tania, Fiona and Lee] who wrote songs, three of you who are really interested in other people’s stories and you’ve maintained that over your lives. I guess this is a comment more than a question, but I think it’s a significant contribution from one family to Australian culture.
And there’s actually four of us, because our brother Greg is a great songwriter. Although he doesn’t pursue music as his career, he has written some fantastic songs over the years – in fact, he co-wrote ‘When the Snow Falls on the Alice’ for Lee and a really good song called ‘It is Goodbye, Aussie Farmer?’ and actually sang on that track with my dad and me. Greg’s a great talent. I suppose we all experienced similar things when we were growing up so to be able to sing about and write about it and observe things as we go through life, and then regurgitate it on paper into a song, it’s kind of pretty easy to do, really.
Well, you make it look easy but I always think it’s not, because there’s all that experience behind you that you funnel into your work. But still on the question of Fiona and co-writing – is the co-writing relationship with her more flexible because you’re siblings or does collaboration in general suit you?
I just think Fiona knows me so well. We really were connected from a very early age and we got on really well, and we’ve always been friends. I kind of scratch my head and can’t understand why some siblings don’t get on with each other – I think, Get over yourself and be friends [laughs]. But whatever karma we’ve racked up we’ve got to deal with, I suppose. So Fiona and I have always had a great relationship and Fiona knows me so well when it comes to what I want to sing about and the type of music that I like to record. Although she’s had over a hundred cuts with other people around the world and a lot of music of hers has been recorded for television and movies, when it comes to country songs for me she absolutely nails it and it’s so easy to co-write with her.
What was the first song written for this current album and what was the last?
I think the first song was ‘All-Australian Girl’.
That makes sense, since it’s your title track.
Yes, although I didn’t know what I was going to call it – it had a few different incarnations before that was the actual album title. But, yes, that was the first one. And then the last one I think maybe it might have been ‘Light in the Window’, the last track,
And that’s a family story too.
Yes, it is. We grew up in Albury and my grandmother lived just around the corner from our house, and we’d always get so excited about getting on our bikes when the street lights came on and riding around to Nana’s. There was always a lot of love in her home and she always made you feel welcome and went overboard spoiling us with cups of tea and she’d even iron our bedsheets when we stayed at her house because she didn’t have electric blankets so she’d make sure the bed was nice and warm in the winter before we went to bed at night. When that song was written Fiona had written the lyric and one night I was just mucking around on the piano and I came up with a melody, and Fiona said, ‘I’ve got this lyric but I haven’t got a tune,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’ve got a melody but I don’t have a lyric.’ It was the strangest thing, because the music and the words went together perfectly, it was like they were written for each other even though we weren’t in the same room when we originally wrote it. We didn’t have to be in the same room to be collaborating.
That doesn’t surprise me given how much you’ve worked together and how close you are as siblings. There’s that mystical element of how songs are created anyway, so I think it’s rational that the two of you might separately come up with things that belong together.
I’m sure there are plenty of other songs that will come that way and get onto an album eventually. I guess it’s just testament to how close we really are and that relationship that we’ve got with each other.
Is there a song that means more to you than any of the others on the album?
Well, I love ‘Light in the Window’ – it’s a really personal song for me. But when I look at the songs, ‘Homestead of My Dreams’ is a real cracker. I met Smoky Dawson on several occasions and he was such a great lyricist and a wonderful man – both he and his wife are great people. And when I first heard ‘Homestead of My Dreams’ it took me back to when I first met him but also the stories that my mum has told me and still tells me about her life growing up in the High Country. She was born on a dairy farm just out of Corryong and the stories she’d tell me as a kid growing up, riding horses to school and riding the old steam train home, racing across the hills, mustering cattle – I just felt there was such a strong connection from the lyrics to me and to our family. Smoky felt like part of our family and maybe that’s just the kind of character that he was – all families felt like they had a bit of Smoky Dawson blood running through their veins.
All your songs are really evocative of different things, and that’s to do with the way you sing them too, so that your audience can connect to them. It is a skill and a talent to be able to connect to the audience but I get that really clear sense that you always feel like you’re singing to someone, it’s not just for you to stand alone in a booth and sing to yourself.
It comes through the lyrics, too. It’s really important that they have to connect with the people so they think, Yeah, that’s about me or, I know exactly what that person’s going through. And that’s important when you’re putting songs together and you’re thinking about an album. I might have thirty songs to choose from by the time I go into the studio to record them but I put myself in a position of standing on stage, now I’ve got to sing those songs – how’s it going to translate to an audience? And it’s really important that every song, every note, every word is really strong and it connects with people.
And I guess that goes back to what you said earlier about how you grew up – that awareness of other people, going to lots of different places. You must have had a very early sense of connection with others.
Yes, definitely, and all sorts of people from lots of different walks of life. I remember in those early days Dad was doing shows with a travelling country music show and they would play at a lot of Aboriginal missions out in the Territory and Western Australia – places that you don’t even get to go to these days. Even just talking to the little Aboriginal kids when we were kids and we’d end up playing with them behind the town hall and they’d be telling us stories about how they catch pigeons. I remember one place – in Agnew, I think it was in Western Australia – we had this huge bag of apples and these wild little kids who were catching pigeons to cook them up, we gave them some apples and they came back to the next day to the caravan wanting more of these apples. They had lots of stories to tell and I never felt afraid of where we were or the variety of people we met over our lives. I just think we’re all the same, we’ve just had different experiences.
Now, this is your seventh studio album. What has been the best thing about your career and what has been the hardest?
The best thing if I could make a sweeping statement – and I don’t mean to sound too saccharine-y here – but I really feel it’s what you can give back to people, it’s not what you take from this world or this life or this experience or this career, it’s what I can give back through what I’m doing with my life. So that’s probably the biggest highlight for me: to bring joy and happiness and make someone’s life a little bit better or day a little bit brighter. And probably the hardest thing in my career would be the behind-the-scenes administration and the taking care of business side of things. It’s an enormous amount of work and when you’re an independent artist you find that you’re doing a lot of it yourself, and I’ve chosen to go down that road, as an independent artist. Taking care of business is number one, it’s the most important thing. Getting up on stage is the easy part, and singing, and entertaining. But it’s the business side of things that is sometimes the most consuming and frustrating and hard. But the good weighs out the bad.
You are involved with a lot of charities and you do a lot of other things. What are you looking forward to achieving next?
That’s a hard question. I guess I just keep going from day to day. If you had have asked me that twelve months ago I’d have said, ‘I can’t wait to get my new record recorded and the songs written and get a new album out there.’ So I guess the next thing I’d like to achieve is lots of touring and singing and promoting the new record, and getting out and seeing a lot more of Australia in the process.
And speaking of touring: you do have a lot of dates booked and it says there might be more to come. So how does it feel to have the whole year mapped out – is it comforting or is it a bit strange to know what you’re doing in October?
It’s definitely a good feeling. There’s nothing worse than having a month when there’s nothing happening in a calendar [laughs]. You have to work six, eight months ahead all the time in the music business. When I look at my year planner and see that there’s plenty happening all through the year, well into November, that makes me feel very good. I’ve just got to keep meditation and keep the vitamins up and I’ll be pretty right [laughs].
 All-Australian Girl is out now.