Category: jody direen

Gord Bamford joins the Wolfe pack

5a56674388af2300013aea8a_Neon-Smoke_Square_v3.jpgAustralian-born Canadian country music artist Gord Bamford is back in Australia and joining the Wolfe Brothers and Jody Direen on the Wolfes’ Country Heart tour, in support of his latest album, Neon Smoke. Bamford has won more Canadian Country Music Awards than Shania Twain, and his fan base in Australia grows with each visit. I spoke to him not long before he kicked off his latest visit to Australia at the Deniliquin Ute Muster.

You’re coming to Australia for the Deni Ute Muster and then you’re going on tour, and you taking the Wolfe Brothers with you and Jody Direen. This is obviously now a long association with the Wolfes – what are they like as touring buddies?

Oh, they’re great.  They’re just very positive guys and just great people to hang around. Obviously we know how talented they are, so I just feel really lucky to be able to kind of ride on their backs and into their fan base and be with them. Lee [Kernaghan] has been really good to me, and we’re going to try and get the Wolfe Brothers over to Canada too, to return the favour. That’s the thing, you just never know what’s going to happen.  We’re not genies in a bottle, but if we can put each other in front of a fan base, give each other an opportunity to play our music, and you just never know, it’s been really good for me in Australia.

I know you brought your own band last time, but when you come out this time, are the Wolfes going to act as your band or will have your band with you?

I’m actually bringing my band again this time. [Manager] Steve [White] has been looking around, this will be the last time I do bring my band.  I feel it’s important to use musicians that are Aussies, so we’re going to hire our own band in Australia, because I’m going to be coming back there a lot and I really want to dedicate my time in that market. And obviously I was born there, and have a lot of family there, and I want my family to come over and experience it some more.  But this time, our band is coming from Canada and it will be great, it will be fun.

Continue reading “Gord Bamford joins the Wolfe pack”

This Crazy Life tour: Jody Direen

I knew very little about New Zealand artist Jody Direen before interviewing her ahead of the start of the This Crazy Life tour with the Wolfe Brothers and others, which is now under way. It took me about a minute to be incredibly impressed by her spirit, professionalism and inspiring attitude to life. Dates for the remainder of the tour are below the interview – Jody is a fantastic addition to the line-up. And you can watch the video for Jody’s new single at the bottom too.

Your grandmother introduced you to country music when you were quite young – what country music did you listen to at that age?
It was a lot of Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn – I think the first song she taught me on guitar was ‘Pistol Packin’ Mother’ [laughs] which is pretty old school. Johnny Cash was foremost, I think, in my childhood, then it kind of morphed into the Dixie Chicks when I was about sixteen – and it keeps evolving from there.
So she not only introduced you to music but she taught you to play guitar?
She did. She was my inspiration. I found my love of music through her, I think. Just having her around in my life from such a young age – she would play us songs on guitar and I just remember being so inspired by it. When she first taught me three chords on guitar, which is enough to sing a song, that sensation of singing and playing guitar at the same time, I realised how much I loved that, loved the feeling it gave me. So that’s where it all started.
Had she been a performer, or did she play for her own enjoyment?
She had been but she didn’t make a career out of it. She played in her local bars and that kind of thing. But my life whole life I’ve been told that she should have done more with it, but just her personality – she was quite a humble lady, I think she was quite content with where she took it, it was just a hobby for her. But she could have gone places, is what I’m trying to say [laughs].
Being told that she should have done more with it – was that a spur to you to think, I’m going to do more with what I have?
I think subconsciously yes and I think it probably still drives me now. She passed away a couple of years ago but I am still really driven by the presence she had in my life, and I feel like she would be really proud of me.
It’s sad that she can’t be here to see where you are now – but she would have seen you when you started out. You essentially gave yourself your own start – you were organising shows and you funded your album. Are you glad that you did it that way?
I am. To be honest, I had no choice – the whole fairytale of record companies with people coming along and picking you up is pretty few and far between these days, so I feel like any artist, any musician, who wants to pave their way in a career in music, you have to have that drive to do the hard graft yourself. You have to be careful because it is really draining. I got quite burnt out a couple of years ago because I was just going so hard. I think that for so many it is the only path to take. But I’m really thankful for my journey so far. I have learnt so much – so many life lessons that I feel that I had the chance to learn earlier than I might if I’d worked nine to five, if you know what I mean. I’m really thankful for that, I feel like it’s really helped me and I’m in a stronger position in my twenties, right now, to take on life in general.
Because you’ve had to be so self-reliant, and make some pretty grown-up decisions, and if you’d had a record company they’d have made those decisions for you.
Exactly. And it really toughens you up and you have to be really thick-skinned in this industry because every time you stand up on stage you’re putting yourself out there to be judged. It’s definitely helped me doing it that way. The feeling of satisfaction after putting on my own tour in New Zealand – it is so much work. Just getting up and performing is one thing, but I would literally turn up the morning of the show, set everything up, put out tables and chairs. I would have put up all the posters around the town and organised all the staff, and I’d have an hour to go shower and get ready then I had to  switch into my ‘Okay, I’m an artist now’, and get out there and put on the best show that I could. And at the end of the night I’d finished, I’d do my meet-and-greets, my signings, then I’m on the end of a mop wiping up the floor. But the feeling afterwards if it was an amazing night, a sell-out crowd and everyone was loving my music and having a good time – that makes it all worth it for me. That is why I do what I do: I love to make people happy through my music.
What you’ve just described reminds me of Slim Dusty and Joy McKean’s tours around Australia where there would pull up the caravan, they’d go into the hall – not many people do it and it is a lot of work. Kudos to you for making it through.
[Laughs] Thanks. I always share my stories of that kind of thing. I’m not ashamed of how hard I’ve worked. If I can share that and it might inspire somebody else, that makes it worth it for me.
Also, doing it that way probably brings you a lot closer to your fans than if someone else was organising that tour. If you have a record company there can be a gatekeeper between you and your fans. I tend to find that people who are like you – self-funding and organising things themselves – they can really feel that relationship with their fans a lot more strongly.
One hundred per cent. I feel such a huge connection with my fans because I share the hard reality of what I do. I try not to put on a front as an artist and be, like, ‘My life’s amazing’ [laughs]. I’m just like everybody else: I have a dream, I have a passion and nothing comes easy, you have to work hard at it. I feel like I would be letting my fans down if I didn’t share my stories with them, because it would put across a false [front] and I don’t think that’s very inspiring at all.
And there is no substitute for hard work, really – you could have all the talent in the world but what tends to separate people who have careers in the arts, in particular, is hard work. You just keep at it and you don’t give up.
You do, exactly, and I think that it’s constantly testing you with how bad you actually want it, as well. Obviously if it gets too hard and you give up, that’s as much as you wanted it. But I think if you can keep battling through – it’s not just music, it’s anything in life, any passion or dream anybody might have – that’s what I keep telling myself if I feel weight down with my workload, I think, No, I want this and I’m going to keep pushing through. [laughs]
I actually feel inspired talking to you – I can go off and conquer the world now! [Laughs]
[Laughs] That’s good! Some people call me crazy. My friends think I’m crazy.
And I suppose the other thing about success is that it does breed more work because you have to maintain that level of commitment. You’ve been working, working, working the last few years. There will come a time, though, when you can think, I can cruise on this for a while.
‘I can have a break now,’ yeah [laughs]. I’m hoping. I think it’ll happen. I’ll know when the time is right. I think the problem is that the more I climb the ladder, the more I want to keep climbing [laughs]. I’ll probably just keep going and going and going. But I do try to give myself some time off. I learnt that the hard way when I burnt out – my body got to the point where it was, like, ‘You have to stop.’ And ever since then I’ve tried to learn to have a little bit more balance in my life. I think that’s something everybody has to go through, to find that balance between work and play.
And it is hard because performing takes a certain amount of energy and it’s not like you can put it in a bucket and say, ‘Well, that’s how much energy I’ve used up’. It’s just one of those things you feel and some nights are harder than others.
So, so true. It’s definitely been one of my biggest challenges.
Before I move on to talking about the This Crazy Life tour, I’m curious about the New Zealand country music scene. Is there a lot of media support? Is there any way to get the word out? Is there much of a country music scene?
It’s not as big as Australia but it is heading in a positive direction, and I feel like what’s going on in Australia is really influencing and helping the industry from New Zealand as well, which is really cool. There’s quite a connection between the two now. So many artists are coming out and playing in New Zealand and a handful of Kiwi artists are coming over here as well and performing. The media has been a really huge challenge for me to get the support of mainstream media in New  Zealand. There is quite a mentality – a lot of the media are really good but the mainstream radio over there are really traditional and old school [with country], like still stuck in the Johnny Cash days. And I love Johnny Cash, he’s an absolute legend, but you and I both know that country music has evolved so much in terms of its sound, and the rock/pop influence as well. So it’s just cottoning on in New Zealand now – I feel like Australia is a little bit ahead. You have massive festivals here which you can play, which is amazing, and a lot of American headliners coming out to perform here. In December, for the first time, Carrie [Underwood] and Keith [Urban] are doing a show in New Zealand, which is amazing. But in terms of selling my own shows in New Zealand, honestly I have relied purely on social media and posters and fliers, and that seems to have worked. I haven’t really needed any more than that. I guess I’ve learnt not to rely on other media aspect so much. But there’s a really awesome group of talented artists in New Zealand that are starting to make waves. I’m actually involved in a New Year’s Eve festival called Top Paddock Festival, which is really showcasing that new country, and that’s really successful so far.
We have Tamworth, too, and I don’t know what Australian country music would look like without Tamworth because it’s a focal point every year and it’s a way of bringing people together every year. I don’t know if every country needs a festival like that, but certainly here it’s been very useful.
That festival vibe and the bringing together of a group of fans, it’s definitely an awesome vehicle to help drive the industry forward and that’s something that I’d love to see happen in New Zealand. I can really see an awesome connection now between the two countries in terms of the country music industry, which I think is a really exciting thing, and hopefully it will help each country in different ways.
Now in 2011 you were offered an Australian deal but you went to the United States instead – was that a difficult decision?
I tend to go a lot by my gut feeling. I think I was nineteen. It was a difficult decision; I was feeling a little bit confused about what to do, but my gut feeling was just screaming, ‘Don’t tie yourself to a contract yet! The first offer that’s come along, don’t.’ I just felt really strongly that I needed to explore a little more and I had my sights set on getting to America and just seeing what the scene was like over there, because my whole life I’ve been influenced by American country music – those artists have been my inspiration. Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain – although she’s not American, she’s Canadian. But they were massive [for me]. So I felt a real pull to go to America. And it was amazing. I had some awesome opportunities over there. I had an American management company for a while and that really helped me, and I’ve made some amazing connections over there. If I could turn back time I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Then your gut was right.
Yes, I honestly think it was. [laughs]
So now we come to the present day where you are joining the Wolfe Brothers and others on tour. When you were invited was it put to you as a mini-festival?
It was definitely pitched to me as a mini-festival. There was going to be six or seven acts, Australian tour. That’s all they had to tell me and I said, ‘Yep, I’m in!’ It’s come around so fast and I’m so excited. I think it’s going to be such a great tour. I don’t know everybody on the tour – there’s a couple of acts I haven’t met. But I’ve listened to their music and we’re all really on the same page in terms of the new wave of country pop, country rock. I think it’s just going to be a party [laughs]. It’s going to be so danceable and high energy. The Wolfe Brothers are just so amazing. I’m really excited to be a part of it. It will be a really good feel show.
And a different kind of show for you because you won’t be playing a full set – you’ll have a handful of songs that won’t change. When you’re used to changing your own set list if you want, is it hard to not be able to?
I’m actually a shocker – I just pick my songs and I don’t think about it, I just throw myself into the deep end. [laughs] I’m pretty happy with the songs I’ve chosen, though. I guess it’s a bit of a scary prospect because I’m performing with a band I’ve never performed with before as well, and a couple of the songs I haven’t even performed live myself because they’re new and they haven’t even been released yet – the single is being released this Friday [7 October].
It is a great idea to release a single, ‘Gimme the Beat’ just as the tour is starting – are you feeling happy about it?
I am feeling so happy. It’s very pop influenced. I’m a rural girl – all my music is always going to stay true to my country roots. But, as we discussed before, there’s a lot of pop coming into country music and I’m all about remaining really competitive with what’s happening in the international market because I think it reflects what’s going to happen here, and it’s what I love as well. So I worked with a producer who’s actually a pop producer with a secret love for country music. We made an amazing team and I’m so excited about this song. The difference with performing this one live is that there’s a lot more going on in the song than your typical country song, so translating it in a live environment can be a little more challenging. But I’m really excited to see how it sounds playing live.
Jody Direen
Your grandmother introduced you to country music when you were quite young – what country music did you listen to at that age?
It was a lot of Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn – I think the first song she taught me on guitar was ‘Pistol Packin’ Mother’ [laughs] which is pretty old school. Johnny Cash was foremost, I think, in my childhood, then it kind of morphed into the Dixie Chicks when I was about sixteen – and it keeps evolving from there.
So she not only introduced you to music but she taught you to play guitar?
She did. She was my inspiration. I found my love of music through her, I think. Just having her around in my life from such a young age – she would play us songs on guitar and I just remember being so inspired by it. When she first taught me three chords on guitar, which is enough to sing a song, that sensation of singing and playing guitar at the same time, I realised how much I loved that, loved the feeling it gave me. So that’s where it all started.
Had she been a performer, or did she play for her own enjoyment?
She had been but she didn’t make a career out of it. She played in her local bars and that kind of thing. But my life whole life I’ve been told that she should have done more with it, but just her personality – she was quite a humble lady, I think she was quite content with where she took it, it was just a hobby for her. But she could have gone places, is what I’m trying to say [laughs].
Being told that she should have done more with it – was that a spur to you to think, I’m going to do more with what I have?
I think subconsciously yes and I think it probably still drives me now. She passed away a couple of years ago but I am still really driven by the presence she had in my life, and I feel like she would be really proud of me.
It’s sad that she can’t be here to see where you are now – but she would have seen you when you started out. You essentially gave yourself your own start – you were organising shows and you funded your album. Are you glad that you did it that way?
I am. To be honest, I had no choice – the whole fairytale of record companies with people coming along and picking you up is pretty few and far between these days, so I feel like any artist, any musician, who wants to pave their way in a career in music, you have to have that drive to do the hard graft yourself. You have to be careful because it is really draining. I got quite burnt out a couple of years ago because I was just going so hard. I think that for so many it is the only path to take. But I’m really thankful for my journey so far. I have learnt so much – so many life lessons that I feel that I had the chance to learn earlier than I might if I’d worked nine to five, if you know what I mean. I’m really thankful for that, I feel like it’s really helped me and I’m in a stronger position in my twenties, right now, to take on life in general.
Because you’ve had to be so self-reliant, and make some pretty grown-up decisions, and if you’d had a record company they’d have made those decisions for you.
Exactly. And it really toughens you up and you have to be really thick-skinned in this industry because every time you stand up on stage you’re putting yourself out there to be judged. It’s definitely helped me doing it that way. The feeling of satisfaction after putting on my own tour in New Zealand – it is so much work. Just getting up and performing is one thing, but I would literally turn up the morning of the show, set everything up, put out tables and chairs. I would have put up all the posters around the town and organised all the staff, and I’d have an hour to go shower and get ready then I had to  switch into my ‘Okay, I’m an artist now’, and get out there and put on the best show that I could. And at the end of the night I’d finished, I’d do my meet-and-greets, my signings, then I’m on the end of a mop wiping up the floor. But the feeling afterwards if it was an amazing night, a sell-out crowd and everyone was loving my music and having a good time – that makes it all worth it for me. That is why I do what I do: I love to make people happy through my music.
What you’ve just described reminds me of Slim Dusty and Joy McKean’s tours around Australia where there would pull up the caravan, they’d go into the hall – not many people do it and it is a lot of work. Kudos to you for making it through.
[Laughs] Thanks. I always share my stories of that kind of thing. I’m not ashamed of how hard I’ve worked. If I can share that and it might inspire somebody else, that makes it worth it for me.
Also, doing it that way probably brings you a lot closer to your fans than if someone else was organising that tour. If you have a record company there can be a gatekeeper between you and your fans. I tend to find that people who are like you – self-funding and organising things themselves – they can really feel that relationship with their fans a lot more strongly.
One hundred per cent. I feel such a huge connection with my fans because I share the hard reality of what I do. I try not to put on a front as an artist and be, like, ‘My life’s amazing’ [laughs]. I’m just like everybody else: I have a dream, I have a passion and nothing comes easy, you have to work hard at it. I feel like I would be letting my fans down if I didn’t share my stories with them, because it would put across a false [front] and I don’t think that’s very inspiring at all.
And there is no substitute for hard work, really – you could have all the talent in the world but what tends to separate people who have careers in the arts, in particular, is hard work. You just keep at it and you don’t give up.
You do, exactly, and I think that it’s constantly testing you with how bad you actually want it, as well. Obviously if it gets too hard and you give up, that’s as much as you wanted it. But I think if you can keep battling through – it’s not just music, it’s anything in life, any passion or dream anybody might have – that’s what I keep telling myself if I feel weight down with my workload, I think, No, I want this and I’m going to keep pushing through. [laughs]
I actually feel inspired talking to you – I can go off and conquer the world now! [Laughs]
[Laughs] That’s good! Some people call me crazy. My friends think I’m crazy.
And I suppose the other thing about success is that it does breed more work because you have to maintain that level of commitment. You’ve been working, working, working the last few years. There will come a time, though, when you can think, I can cruise on this for a while.
‘I can have a break now,’ yeah [laughs]. I’m hoping. I think it’ll happen. I’ll know when the time is right. I think the problem is that the more I climb the ladder, the more I want to keep climbing [laughs]. I’ll probably just keep going and going and going. But I do try to give myself some time off. I learnt that the hard way when I burnt out – my body got to the point where it was, like, ‘You have to stop.’ And ever since then I’ve tried to learn to have a little bit more balance in my life. I think that’s something everybody has to go through, to find that balance between work and play.
And it is hard because performing takes a certain amount of energy and it’s not like you can put it in a bucket and say, ‘Well, that’s how much energy I’ve used up’. It’s just one of those things you feel and some nights are harder than others.
So, so true. It’s definitely been one of my biggest challenges.
Before I move on to talking about the This Crazy Life tour, I’m curious about the New Zealand country music scene. Is there a lot of media support? Is there any way to get the word out? Is there much of a country music scene?
It’s not as big as Australia but it is heading in a positive direction, and I feel like what’s going on in Australia is really influencing and helping the industry from New Zealand as well, which is really cool. There’s quite a connection between the two now. So many artists are coming out and playing in New Zealand and a handful of Kiwi artists are coming over here as well and performing. The media has been a really huge challenge for me to get the support of mainstream media in New  Zealand. There is quite a mentality – a lot of the media are really good but the mainstream radio over there are really traditional and old school [with country], like still stuck in the Johnny Cash days. And I love Johnny Cash, he’s an absolute legend, but you and I both know that country music has evolved so much in terms of its sound, and the rock/pop influence as well. So it’s just cottoning on in New Zealand now – I feel like Australia is a little bit ahead. You have massive festivals here which you can play, which is amazing, and a lot of American headliners coming out to perform here. In December, for the first time, Carrie [Underwood] and Keith [Urban] are doing a show in New Zealand, which is amazing. But in terms of selling my own shows in New Zealand, honestly I have relied purely on social media and posters and fliers, and that seems to have worked. I haven’t really needed any more than that. I guess I’ve learnt not to rely on other media aspect so much. But there’s a really awesome group of talented artists in New Zealand that are starting to make waves. I’m actually involved in a New Year’s Eve festival called Top Paddock Festival, which is really showcasing that new country, and that’s really successful so far.
We have Tamworth, too, and I don’t know what Australian country music would look like without Tamworth because it’s a focal point every year and it’s a way of bringing people together every year. I don’t know if every country needs a festival like that, but certainly here it’s been very useful.
That festival vibe and the bringing together of a group of fans, it’s definitely an awesome vehicle to help drive the industry forward and that’s something that I’d love to see happen in New Zealand. I can really see an awesome connection now between the two countries in terms of the country music industry, which I think is a really exciting thing, and hopefully it will help each country in different ways.
Now in 2011 you were offered an Australian deal but you went to the United States instead – was that a difficult decision?
I tend to go a lot by my gut feeling. I think I was nineteen. It was a difficult decision; I was feeling a little bit confused about what to do, but my gut feeling was just screaming, ‘Don’t tie yourself to a contract yet! The first offer that’s come along, don’t.’ I just felt really strongly that I needed to explore a little more and I had my sights set on getting to America and just seeing what the scene was like over there, because my whole life I’ve been influenced by American country music – those artists have been my inspiration. Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain – although she’s not American, she’s Canadian. But they were massive [for me]. So I felt a real pull to go to America. And it was amazing. I had some awesome opportunities over there. I had an American management company for a while and that really helped me, and I’ve made some amazing connections over there. If I could turn back time I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Then your gut was right.
Yes, I honestly think it was. [laughs]
So now we come to the present day where you are joining the Wolfe Brothers and others on tour. When you were invited was it put to you as a mini-festival?
It was definitely pitched to me as a mini-festival. There was going to be six or seven acts, Australian tour. That’s all they had to tell me and I said, ‘Yep, I’m in!’ It’s come around so fast and I’m so excited. I think it’s going to be such a great tour. I don’t know everybody on the tour – there’s a couple of acts I haven’t met. But I’ve listened to their music and we’re all really on the same page in terms of the new wave of country pop, country rock. I think it’s just going to be a party [laughs]. It’s going to be so danceable and high energy. The Wolfe Brothers are just so amazing. I’m really excited to be a part of it. It will be a really good feel show.
And a different kind of show for you because you won’t be playing a full set – you’ll have a handful of songs that won’t change. When you’re used to changing your own set list if you want, is it hard to not be able to?
I’m actually a shocker – I just pick my songs and I don’t think about it, I just throw myself into the deep end. [laughs] I’m pretty happy with the songs I’ve chosen, though. I guess it’s a bit of a scary prospect because I’m performing with a band I’ve never performed with before as well, and a couple of the songs I haven’t even performed live myself because they’re new and they haven’t even been released yet – the single is being released this Friday [7 October].
It is a great idea to release a single, ‘Gimme the Beat’ just as the tour is starting – are you feeling happy about it?
I am feeling so happy. It’s very pop influenced. I’m a rural girl – all my music is always going to stay true to my country roots. But, as we discussed before, there’s a lot of pop coming into country music and I’m all about remaining really competitive with what’s happening in the international market because I think it reflects what’s going to happen here, and it’s what I love as well. So I worked with a producer who’s actually a pop producer with a secret love for country music. We made an amazing team and I’m so excited about this song. The difference with performing this one live is that there’s a lot more going on in the song than your typical country song, so translating it in a live environment can be a little more challenging. But I’m really excited to see how it sounds playing live.

www.jodydireen.com

THIS CRAZY LIFE TOUR 
Saturday 15 October 2016 | 7.30pm
The Palms at Crown, MELBOURNE VIC

Friday 21 October 2016 | 8pm
Evan Theatre, Penrith Panthers, PENRITH NSW
(02) 4720 5555 | www.penrith.panthers.com.au

Saturday 22 October 2016 | 8.30pm
Wests New Lambton, NEWCASTLE NSW
(02) 4935 1200 | www.westsnewcastle.com.au

Friday 28 October 2016 | 8pm
Twin Towns Services Club, TWEED HEADS NSW
1800 014 014 | www.twintowns.com.au

Saturday 29 October 2016 | 8pm
Empire Theatre, TOOWOOMBA QLD
1300 655 299 | www.empiretheatre.com.au