Interview: Shea Fisher

Australian artist Shea Fisher has been resident in the United States for the past few years, but before moving there she established herself on the Australian country music scene, releasing two albums. Fisher is the daughter of bull riding and bareback riding champion Eddie Fisher, and champion barrel racer Joanne Fisher, and she too had great success on the rodeo circuit.

‘When I was nine I won my first Australian title barrel racing,’ she says. ‘So I’ve rodeoed most of my life. Rodeo was my passion and what I did at a young age and when I was ten, eleven, I dreamt of making the NFR rodeo and I didn’t even realise I would be a singer. I just grew up around it. I was riding horses at the age of three and competing in rodeos at nine.

‘When I moved to the US I had actually competed in pro rodeos here in the US and won some pro rodeos and got to travel with my husband as well. So I’ve been lucky enough to rodeo here in the States at a professional level too.’

Fisher is married to Tyson Durfey, the 2016 World Champion Tie-Down Roper, and the rodeo circuit is the reason why they live in Texas, in Forth Worth-Dallas. The nearby airport makes travel for the circuit easier and also means Fisher can visit Nashville on a regular basis. Although these travels it isn’t always necessary for competitions.

‘Just last month the Mt Isa Rodeo had a virtual rodeo,’ says Fisher, ‘which sounds kind of crazy, but everybody had to measure a certain pattern and leave their camera rolling so you could make sure no one was cheating. People from all around the world – Australia, America, everywhere entered it – and I was lucky enough to win that with my horse here in America. So I’ve now won the Mt Isa Rodeo, which is really cool.’

Given Fisher’s longtime involvement with rodeo sports, her career as a singer and performer was not a foregone conclusion, although she says, ‘I always loved being in front of the camera and performing for people, things like that.

‘When I was about 12 years old I started singing the national anthem at rodeos, and that was kind of my first introduction to music and I really enjoyed it. I entered talent quests but I don’t even think I played at some of them in Australia. But I really started to enjoy singing. My school had a chapel band and I was in that.

‘But my big break, I guess you call it, came when I was at Longreach rodeo, competing, singing the national anthem, and Steve Forde was performing there and I happened to see his tour bus, so I went up and knocked on his tour bus door and introduced myself. He was familiar with my dad from rodeo. I just asked if I could sing before him … His support act had gotten sick so he let me get up on stage with my karaoke backing tracks,’ she says with a laugh.

‘So I performed on stage at that rodeo and then he was on the same rodeo tour that I was competing at, so I ended up performing with him at several different places. After that he offered to help me out and we wrote my first album together. He helped me get my recording contract with ABC Music. I still remember it – it was really surreal, because growing up in a rodeo family with no one musical then signing a major recording contract, it’s just not really heard of. So it was really surreal that it all happened and fell into place.

‘I had that first album [Everyday Girl] out; I was still touring and rodeoing at the same time and juggling school. That first album had two #1 songs on it. Then that second album [Shea], again, we co-wrote most of those songs. But I was probably about 14 when I started writing songs.’

Shea was recorded in Nashville; Fisher says she wasn’t even trying to find an American recording contract but her album was being mastered in the studio, ‘and the recording head guy walked into the studio and heard my music, and asked the producer, “Who’s this girl?” [He] called me in Australia. I was at Warwick Rodeo when they called me and they said, “Do you think you could fly to America in two weeks to meet with us about a recording contract?”

‘So I flew over, signed a record deal, came home for two weeks and had to pack up my Australian band because they had a certain date they had to release the music in America. We all flew halfway around the world. I was 20. And it just all happened so quick. I remember flying back to Australia just for 36 hours one time just to shoot a music video. It was really a crazy time.’ 

Given that Fisher had experience – via rodeo – in doing things that were risky and unpredictable, it seemed to set her up well to take those opportunities when they came. For years she’d been doing things that really tested her – so when the chance came to pick up and go to the US, it didn’t seem too daunting.

‘And also travelling a lot with rodeo and being used to being on the road,’ she says. ‘When we went out on a radio tour of America we were on a tour bus for three months. So I was used to small quarters and being on the road and things like that. To me, it was just a different area I was doing it in – instead of rodeo it was music. So it definitely helped me to be able to go with the flow a little bit more.

‘When Tyson and I met, even being able to understand the rodeo world here, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without having my background in Australia. And I think that’s why Tyson and I work so well – rodeo’s a lot like music. He understands what it’s like to travel and be on the road and I understand what it’s like for him to travel and be on the road. No two days are the same. I love to stay busy.’

In addition to music and rodeo, Fisher has other interests and activities.

‘When I moved to the States I knew that I would have a little bit of downtime. You’re not guaranteed a paycheque just because you move and have a recording contract. So I started a belt buckle company in the States and built that over the last ten years, and it’s one of the bigger belt buckle companies in the US now. By just being willing to try new things, it’s really been a blessing because especially with weird times when we can’t go back to Australia and tour, we can’t be out on the road performing, it allows us financially to have other things to do as well.’

Fisher is also a jewellery designer – clearly she has a creative streak a mile wide.

‘I’ve always liked to perform and always like to do acting and things like that,’ she says. ‘It’s funny because I have a jewellery company and I have a belt buckle company and I do the designs myself, but I can’t draw a stick figure. I’m a terrible drawer! So it’s just crazy that I can do all that other stuff. I wouldn’t say that I’m artistically creative but on the entertainment side of it I feel like I’ve always been creative and willing to try new things. And the same thing with music – I’ve never wanted to do what everybody else is doing. I’ve been willing to take risks. If you look at the music video for the new single it’s just different and weird, but that’s okay because it’s okay to be different and not do what everybody else does.’

‘I’ve always liked to perform and always like to do acting and things like that,’ she says. ‘It’s funny because I have a jewellery company and I have a belt buckle company and I do the designs myself, but I can’t draw a stick figure. I’m a terrible drawer! So it’s just crazy that I can do all that other stuff. I wouldn’t say that I’m artistically creative but on the entertainment side of it I feel like I’ve always been creative and willing to try new things. And the same thing with music – I’ve never wanted to do what everybody else is doing. I’ve been willing to take risks. If you look at the music video for the new single it’s just different and weird, but that’s okay because it’s okay to be different and not do what everybody else does.’

The video is for Fisher’s new single, ‘Imagine’.

‘I actually came home last October and shot the music video, planning to release it early this year, but when COVID hit we had to delay everything,’ she explains. ‘I said to Duncan [Toombs, from The Filmery] – because he’s shot several videos for me – “I’m going to give you free range on this one” … When he came to me with this idea I thought, Oh my gosh, what have I done? But he convinced me. I said, “We’re going to do it because it’s fun and it’s different”, and I’m really glad I did it. It’s a little wacky and a little crazy but no one can say they have a music video with a spaceman in it right now, so what the heck.’ 

  

The single was written eight years ago, just after Shea was released.

‘I had all the singles from that album to release,’ she says, ‘then after that I got married. I have two little girls under the age of four. We started the businesses in the States. I also have a baby boot company called Sheababy. So I just got really busy between Tyson’s rodeoing, our businesses, the kids. I never felt like I was in a good spot to release new music and I just don’t do anything unless I can do it a hundred per cent. So I now feel like I’m at a place in my life where I can release new music.

‘The good thing about this song is that it was written pre-Tyson, pre-marriage, and you can tell by listening to the words. I was at a point in my life when I was sick of guys not taking relationship serious and not wanting to step in with two feet, just wanting to date and hang out. My co-writer was actually in the same spot with women.

‘Literally this song took 30 minutes to write – it was just one of those songs that fell into place. And when I wrote it eight years ago I thought, I don’t know if country music will accept this yet. And I know I’m the person who doesn’t care but it still was very weird! Now music has changed a lot in the eight years – most songs sound weird, you know? They’re just all so different and unique. And I felt now was a better time in life and a better time in music to release it.’ 

Fisher actually shot two music videos when she was in Australia last year, ‘just so people know that I’m not just releasing one song and going to be gone for another five years’, she says.

‘I have several singles coming out and an album next year. The album’s really going to take people on a journey … of my life for the last eight years, which I think will make the album very relatable because I’ve had a lot of life experiences since then.’

Even though changes in the way music works in 2020 have meant Fisher has had to wait to release this new track, she says, ‘I would rather wait for the right time. And there really is no time like the present because even right now the world’s so uncertain. But I thought, You know what? People just want to have a smile and a laugh and have some upbeat music right nowBring some positivity back into the world. A lot of artists still aren’t releasing songs but I decided I was going to take the risk and just do it. I just felt like it was good timing and I wasn’t going to just sit around and wait – I feel like you’ve got to live every day and not be living in fear. So I’m just releasing this music and I’m going to go about life in a normal way – as much as you can with everything going on.’ 

The video for ‘Imagine’ has been playing on CMT in the US, ‘which is a huge thing even for Duncan,’ says Fisher, ‘that an Aussie could have a song on CMT, that makes me so happy to see that he has a song here in the States doing well.’

In terms of other activity to support the single, she says, ‘I’m not out on a radio tour or doing anything like that but we are promoting, definitely. Between Tyson and my fan base we have around 800 000 followers … I do plan to come home and do some shows once the world opens back up again. I love Australia and it will always be home. But I can’t set anything yet because we just don’t know when the borders will open.’

Out of all her musical roles, Fisher says that performing is her favourite.

‘Everyone loves songwriting and doing all the other stuff, but I love being on stage. So that’s why COVID’s a little interesting because not being able to be on stage as a performer – I just love being able to see the audience and take them on a journey, so it’s always been my favourite part of it since I was a little girl.’

And when asked if she has any advice for those who may wish to try to emulate her rich creative life, with music and family and businesses, she says: ‘I’m one of those people that likes to follow a list. I’m very organised and I think that’s very important. I have my list of things that I like to get done and I tick them off as I do them, because that’s the only way not to get things all mixed up. You can’t have a schedule when you have kids but I try to know how my day looks beforehand. I love my lists.

‘But I also say to people who want to do more than one thing: don’t be afraid to dream big and don’t be afraid to try different things. Just because somebody says you can’t do it or you’re not good at it, who cares? Give it a crack and if it doesn’t work, well, I always say that failure is one step closer to success.’

sheafisher.com