One of the most impressive emerging country music artists in the Southern Hemisphere is New Zealand singer-songwriter Jenny Mitchell. She recently released a new album, Wildfires, and before that the title single. She’ll be appearing at the Tamworth Country Music Festival and is currently on tour in Australia; if you need a reason to see her perform, simply watch the video below. I spoke to Jenny recently and found a clear-eyed artist and performer who is passionate about music and working hard to bring it to audiences on both sides of the Tasman.
You’re nineteen years old and you’re already about to release your second album, incredibly. When did your musical life start?
My dad is like a real traditional Hank Williams, Johnny Cash man. So when I was growing up my life soundtrack was the Dixie Chicks and stuff like that. My first on-stage performance with Dad was when I was four. So it has always been something that we’ve been involved in. In 2013 I did New Zealand’s Got Talent, so that kind of started a whole new sort of chapter … I think it’s a really hard transition from being sixteen and having it as a hobby to fulfilling it and saying, ‘Actually, I am going to try to do this.’ So it’s been an interesting time.
At four years of age you were probably too young to be nervous, but at thirteen, what was that like going on a national TV show?
I think it was really good. I think probably if it was a few years later, I would have been really stressed about the big picture and worried about all that stuff, but at the time I remember some of my biggest concerns was things like the different outfits that I didn’t like, and my friends at school will think I’m such a loser and stuff like that. So, I think it was almost good that it was so young, because it one, prepared me for those nerves, [which] were quite horrific. You don’t know what the judges are going to say, so I think it was quite good because it kind of put me through the boot camp of learning how to deal with stress and now I’m like, okay, nothing is as bad as that.
Continue reading “Interview: Jenny Mitchell”
New South Welshman Jack Tully and his band, The Seers, recently released their album Harkness Lane, which has influences as diverse as alt-country and psychedelic rock. Tully’s first, solo album was The Keeping, released three years ago and with a more stripped-back sound. Tully has said of the new album: ‘A lot of life can happen in three years and these songs reflect some of this transformation: growth, change, making peace with our stories, psychotherapy journeying, fatherhood. I’m trying to cut away the stuff that doesn’t matter and make space for what does. Some of the album does touch on the darker parts of life but overall I think there is definitely more light this time around.’
The latest single from the album is the atmospheric ‘The Great Tragedy’, and it is an honour to premiere the video here.
Harkness Lane is available now.
Apple Music | Bandcamp | iTunes | Soundcloud
Newcastle singer-songwriter Suz Dorahy has a released a compelling new single, ‘Margharita’. The song was inspired by the hardships of men returned from World War II and the women who shared their lives. While shell shock was named it wasn’t always identified in these returned soldiers who found it hard to adjust to domestic life and sometimes turned to the bottle for solace.
The song acknowledges the difficulties of maintaining relationships under those circumstances, and how love that once existed may be impossible to sustain. Dorahy is clear-eyed and unsentimental in this thought-provoking song.
Listen to ‘Margharita’ on Soundcloud.
Find Suz Dorahy’s music on:
Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify
Canadian-Australian Tracy McNeil and her band, The Goodlife, perform a certain kind of West Coast country-rock that has a particular ability: to induce happiness. It was evident on their last album, Thieves, and it’s there again on their new single, ‘Stars’, from their upcoming album, You Be the Lightning, set for release in 2019. ‘Stars’ has a lovely pep to it, and McNeil’s vocals that immediately carry you along into a dreamlike groove.
Pre-order ‘Stars’ here: https://TracyMcNeil.lnk.to/Stars
‘STARS’ LAUNCH DATES
Wed November 7 & Thursday November 8
Australian Music Week
Fri November 9
Grand Junction Hotel – The Junkyard
88 Church St, Maitland NSW
8pm, free entry.
Sun November 11
Northcote Social Club
With special guest Jim Lawrie
301 High St, Northcote VIC
Country music has a strong lineage of drinking songs. There are the bro-country songs that seem to encourage rampant alcohol consumption, but they’re of a piece and don’t offer much of a story compared with the songs that are about the singer’s relationship with alcohol and usually extend to ruminations on life in general, through the prism of that relationship.
Alabaman J.P. Harris is in the latter category with his single ‘When I Quit Drinking’, from his new album Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing. As the chorus goes, ‘When I quit drinking I start thinking about starting up again’ – but that’s actually the least sophisticated line amongst the highly entertaining lyrics that are married with a clean honkytonk sound.
For over a decade, Harris travelled the US, often alone, hitchhiking and hopping freight trains while making his living as a farm labourer, shepherd, woodsman, and carpenter. These days, apparently, he doesn’t call himself a musician so much as a carpenter who writes country songs. Carpentry seems an apt trade for a songwriter whose songs have a structure that is not only solid and strong but made so neatly that the listener detects only the art wrapped around them. ‘When I Quit Drinking’ is a very good song, and there are more on his album.
Listen to ‘When I Quit Drinking:
Apple Music | Soundcloud | Spotify
Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing is out now on Free Dirt Records.
Newcastle singer-songwriter Melody Moko released her debut album, The Wreckage, last year and in recent weeks released its second single, ‘Secondhand Heart’. Moko’s pop-inflected country has the right balance of sweetness and seriousness, in her voice as well as the lyrics and music. Given this combination, it’s not surprising that she chose Catherine Britt to produce the album alongside her husband, Michael Muchow (a member of Britt’s band as well as a solo artist).
Moko has said ‘Secondhand Heart’ is unashamedly a love song, and an acknowledgement that everyone brings history to a relationship: your heart may be secondhand but that doesn’t mean it can’t be new. It’s a knowing and hopeful song – with a lovely video to match, as you can see below.
Apple Music | iTunes | Sanity | Spotify
Melbourne singer-songwriter Paul McManus has released the single ‘Blowout’ from his forthcoming second album, Postcodes. McManus cites his influences as Ryan Adams, Justin Townes Earle, Augie March, The Kinks and Ron Sexsmith, which suggests an alt-rock/Americana lineage via Australian independent pop/rock (Augie March) – but it doesn’t account for how gloriously Australian this song is, in a way that recalls the best of You Am I (and that band’s main songwriter, Tim Rogers, has since revealed his country credentials by forming the Hillbilly Killers with Catherine Britt and Bill Chambers). McManus allows his strong singing voice to have an Australian inflection in this tale of suburbia and finding identity.
‘Written in a time of high house prices and disposable incomes,’ as the press release says, ‘the song finds comfort in living in the present.’ It’s also hard to be anything other than present with it: it’s a tightly written song that is also rambunctious and infectious.
Listen to ‘Blowout’ on:
Apple Music | Spotify