Interview: Jess Moskaluke

500x500.jpgOne of the great things about the recent Country2Country festivals in Sydney and Brisbane was the opportunity to see artists who haven’t yet toured Australia, and that includes Canadian Jess Moskaluke, who wowed the audience from the very minute she started. Moskaluke is an outstanding performer who’s had what would once have been considered an unconventional path to a music career (were it not shared by her countrymen Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber). I had the chance to speak to Moskaluke when she was in Sydney.

What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is that I get to travel to beautiful places like Australia. No doubt. And also the people. I get to meet a lot of incredible people, whether they’re artists or fans or bloggers or whoever. I’m really fortunate to go a lot of places and meet a lot of people that I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to.

And what’s been the most difficult thing about it – if there has been anything difficult?

I would actually say that part of it is the same thing, although it’s one of the best parts about my job. The travel is also one of the most difficult parts. I often leave my husband and my dogs at home and, and my friends and family behind, and I don’t have a lot of time. I also don’t have a lot of routine in my life due to that. So it’s certainly rewarding and I do enjoy it, but it certainly is a challenge.

I lived in Canada for a year, a while ago, in Vancouver, and I volunteered at CiTR radio station and worked on their magazine. So I had a lot to do with Canadian music. Australia is a big country geographically, but Canada is bigger. So I used to think about the logistics of bands from the Maritimes, trying to come to the west coast. People in the Prairies, where you grew up, trying to get around. So even if you’re touring just within Canada, that must be logistically difficult.

Yes, absolutely. And with the Maritimes, it’s just as hard for us to get over there. I’m very fortunate that I have fantastic support over in the Maritimes, but it’s really tricky to get over there, so we don’t get there as much as we would like to. It’s a massive country. So every time we do a radio tour just to get across the country to get to all the proper radio stations and things like that, it takes us weeks, and you can maybe only can hit a couple of cities a day.

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Album review: The Weir by Michael Waugh

Michael Waugh The Weir 3000x3000px 72dpi.jpgVictorian singer-songwriter Michael Waugh is a Golden Guitar nominee, for his 2016 album What We Might Be, and winner of the 2018 The Age Music Victoria Award for Best Folk and Roots Album. Folk is probably a more apt classification for his music than country, yet Waugh has become a fixture in Australian country music, and that’s because his sublime storytelling and his willingness to open his heart in performance are qualities that mean something to country music audiences.

Examples of those qualities appear throughout his new album, The Weir, but they’ll likely grab you first on track eight, ‘Warragul Police’. This song stands out on a first listen to the album, and it’s because of Waugh’s commitment to writing lyrics that are richly descriptive but not inherently sentimental. Waugh doesn’t try to manipulate the listener’s emotions – he tells the story, he fills it with colour and character, then he leaves it there for the listener to bring their own memories and experiences to it. The second track, ‘Big Things’, will make every listener think of their own childhoods but Waugh also lets you into his – again, without manipulation, but it’s impossible not to wonder what happened next in his story, and that’s the mark of great storytelling: satisfy our need for a convincing tale but always leave us wanting more.

The Weir was produced by Shane Nicholson, who has been at the reins of many fine country albums in recent years. Nicholson excels at bringing out the qualities of an artist that are unique to them and making sure the production supports those qualities. In the case of Waugh, it’s giving him space to tell his stories, so that his lyrics are at the forefront. That’s to encourage the listener to stay close and pay attention, so as not to miss a single detail. That attention is rewarded in each song, and with each listening. A song like ‘Mary Lou’ sounds like one thing if you’re not listening closely enough but becomes something else – something better – entirely if you are.

Waugh does not resile from addressing difficult subjects, whether they’re about his life, his past or present, or about the world he sees around him. Adjoining songs ’50 Words’ and ‘Born Here’ are companion pieces, looking at Australian immigration policy and social attitudes towards migrants. ‘Like I Used To’ sounds at first as if it’s going to be about difficulty but it becomes a different kind of love song instead.

In case it’s not already clear, this is an album that offers much for the listener who spends time with it. There’s a lot there on first listening and much more with each go round. Waugh is a thoughtful, expressive songwriter and as a singer he is prepared to be bare and honest. The result is an album that can be confronting sometimes, because it challenges the listener to be bare and honest in return, and also extremely rewarding.

The Weir is out now on Compass Bros Records through Universal Music Australia.

Apple Music | iTunes | JB Hi-Fi | Sanity | Spotify

www.michaelwaugh.com.au

Single release: ‘Heart of Stone’ by Kirsty Lee Akers

unnamed-5.jpgKirsty Lee Akers released her fifth album, Under My Skin, in 2018. This impressive collection of country rock and pop was produced by Akers; it debuted at #3 on the iTunes Country and ARIA Australian Country Albums chart upon release (as well as #5 ARIA Country Album and #8 ARIA Australian Album).

The latest single from the album is ‘Heart of Stone’, and for it Akers has released a video with a story – that of the Goree Girls.

The Goree Girls were a band of female prisoners of the Goree Unit in Huntsville, Texas, in the 1940s, and they were the first documented all-female country and western band. After teaching themselves to play instruments they started performing on the local radio programme broadcast from the prison, gaining a following all over the country. The video deviates a little from the real Goree Girls story, though, as Akers explains.

‘When I first came across the story of the Goree Girls, it immediately caught my attention. In this version, the girls actually escape from prison unlike in real life,’ she says. ‘I thought about what I would have done if I was in their shoes and bought out a little of their bad girl side.’

 

Under My Skin is out now through Social Family Records.

Apple Music | iTunes | Sanity | Spotify

www.kirstyleeakers.com

Single release: ‘ Drive Slow’ by Melanie Gray

thumbnail_1_0.jpgMelanie Gray is a singer-songwriter from Darwin, NT, who recently released the single ‘Drive Slow’, which debuted at number 4 on the iTunes Country songs chart. Although Gray has songwriting accolades on her own – with shortlistings in the Australian Songwriting Competition – this country-pop track was written with the ever-popular Gina Jeffreys and newcomer Max Jackson. It was produced by Rod and Jeff McCormack, with Rod playing all the instruments on the track.

The accompanying video was filmed in the Northern Territory. ‘I want to do my bit for Territory Tourism, with the film clip,’ says Gary. ‘I’m a cheerleader for the Territory and I want people to wonder where that place is and to want to come visit.’

While the song is intended to be a great addition to a road-trip playlist, it also has a more serious message: ‘The song is also about taking your relationship slow,’ says Gray. ‘Even just dating people in this day and age comes with certain conventions you’re supposed to follow. We live in a world where everyone wants everything right now and has access to whatever they want over apps. It’s hard enough navigating it all as adult let alone the pressures often felt by teenagers to be liked and accepted. The song is about stepping out of the formalities of best behaviours, dinner dates and hook-ups to taking your time to get to know someone within a healthy comfort zone – why not take off on an amazing adventure together and explore the great outdoors?’

 

Listen on:

Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify

 

www.melaniegrayaustralia.com

Single release: ‘From Down Here’ by Georgia State Line

unnamed-6.jpgGeorgia State Line have established such a presence in Australian country music that it seems as though they should have several albums behind them already. Instead, they are currently working on their first, with producer James Cecil, and it will be released in 2020. A glimpse of the album comes in the form of its first single, ‘From Down Here’.

Lead singer Georgia Delves says of the song: ‘This track is my antidote to life’s more challenging moments. We all, at one point or another, find ourselves on paths that we don’t necessarily want to be walking. It takes a lot of strength to accept the process as it is, and trust the greater plan. A lemons-to-lemonade situation, really.’

The song showcases the band’s great musical pedigree and is yet more proof that their increasing popularity is deserved. While next year seems a long time to wait for the album, there is no doubt the band will make it worth their fans’ while.

Listen on:

Apple Music | BandcampiTunes | Spotify

Single launch show:
Sunday 20 October 2019
Spotted Mallard, Brunswick, Vic.
**DOUBLE LAUNCH WITH KERRYN FIELDS**
Doors open 7.30 p.m.
Special guest tba

www.georgiastateline.com

Single release: ‘The Real Deal’ by Kelly Winning

std_28806When she spent time teaching in remote New South Wales, Sydney singer-songwriter Kelly Winning saw the effects of drugs, mental illness and suicide on young people, especially those in remote Indigenous communities. She was moved to write her new single, ‘The Real Deal’ which encourages people to speak up about how they really feel – to ‘give me the real deal’.

‘It is my hope that “The Real Deal” will bring people together to share their hearts,’ says Winning. She has seen the effect of bottling up emotions and not feeling like they can be expressed for fear of shame. While teaching Winning banned the word ‘shame’ in her classroom; she carries on that work by bringing people together to collaborate, through music and spreading her Real Deal message.

Winning is a graduate of the CMAA Academy of Country Music, and the song was arranged by esteemed country music artist Kevin Bennett. It debuted at number 3 on the iTunes singer-songwriter charts. She aims to take the song, and its message, to rural and remote communities.

Listen on:

Apple Music | iTunes

kellywinningmusic.com

 

 

Single release: ‘We’re Still Here’ by Tom Curtain

Artwork_Were-Still_Tom-CurtainPart of the function of country music is to tell stories about the country – living on the land, working the land, and loving that same land even when it doesn’t seem to love you back. In times of drought – and a lot of Australia is in the worst drought many of the inhabitants can remember – country music acts as a document of what’s going on and a reassurance to those going through the worst that they are not alone.

Singer-songwriter Tom Curtain – a Golden Guitar and Southern Star winner – lives near the town of Katherine, NT, and his latest song, ‘We’re Still Here’, is a moving record of the challenges but also the determination of those who make their life and living on the land, which lately has involved not only drought but catastrophic floods. While the Northern Territory has its own seasonal challenges related to the wet, dry, build-up and build-down, ‘We’re Still Here’ was inspired by Curtain’s tour through central and western Queensland in late 2018 and early 2019. He grew up near Kingaroy in Queensland, and now runs the Katherine Outback Experience, so he has an affinity with rural, regional and remote communities, and this powerful song comes from a place of deep empathy. It’s also the first single from Curtain’s next album, due for release in November.

 

 

Listen on:

Apple Music | iTunesSpotify

 

www.tomcurtain.com.au