Tag: Interviews

Interview: Jed Zarb

_DSC4151.jpgJed Zarb has had a long, successful career in music – but he’s only just started to release his original work. His latest single is the infectious ‘Hillbilly Cider’, and recently asked Zarb about the song, its video and that long career.

A note: this interview mentions Glen Hannah and was conducted before Glen died recently. Glen was an essential part of the fabric of Australian country music and it is undeniable that without him the shape of that music and the industry will change.

So you’re in the Blue Mountains.

Yes, I’m in Bilpin.

That’s hard to take!

[Laughs] I was just talking about that with a mate this morning. It was just such a beautiful, crisp morning with a beautiful breeze and a few birds singing – could you be anywhere else?

Particularly from the look of your video for ‘Hillbilly Cider’, it just looks beautiful. You had a great location next to home, but also you didn’t have to go very far so it must’ve been quite a convenient video to make.

Yes, and everybody was a local, apart from Pixie Jenkins coming down from Tamworth at that time and Dani Young coming in – so apart from the guys in the band coming from everywhere. But all the extras and the director and the cameraman were all locals.

And it looked like they were having a good time

It was just organically a good time. We turned up, we had an idea of what we wanted it to look like and then we made a few phone calls and got a few people and then, about lunchtime, we didn’t really have enough people to make it look like a party. So one of the camera fellows put out a thing on the Bilpin group – ‘free apple cider’, I think’s what got them there. Next thing we ended up with 50 or 60 people and actually it was just an organic party. People turned up, the bar was set up, the bar was flowing, the music was going and people were just dancing and drinking and jumping off a Tarzan swing into the dam and having a grand old time. I think they forgot there were cameras there.

It does show in the video, that people were relaxed, and it matches the tone of the song, which is of course a lovely upbeat, celebratory song in many ways.

Thank you. Well, that’s what it’s meant to be. It’s meant to be a snapshot of the local farms here and the local people, that’s really what the song is about. I moved into the area and just made observations and, and wrote about them in a romantic sort of way, as you do.

Of course, the song has gone further than your local area. It got the number one spot on debut on the iTunes country chart, it’s popped up all over the place. Have you been pleased with the reception?

Blown away – I can’t believe it, really. I put out ‘Mountain Man’ in October last year and that didn’t have a video clip, and that went really well and I thought, That was far beyond expectations. Then ‘Hillybilly Cider’ has come out and absolutely eclipsed it. So I’m just going with it and very excited that people like it. I’ll just go with that and be happy about it.

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Lee Kernaghan on tour for Backroad Nation

Lee-Kernaghan-Backroad-Nation-tour.jpgEach time I interview Lee Kernaghan it is both a pleasure and very interesting. Kernaghan has been at the apex of Australian country music for so long that his popularity could be taken for granted, but each conversation reminds me that he’s there because he is passionate about his music, the stories he’s telling and about connecting with his audience, and he’s really, really good at all of those. His new album, Backroad Nation, will be released on 10 May and Kernaghan will be playing so many places that instead of listing them here I’ll send you to his website. It was wonderful to speak to him once more and find out about his album and his forthcoming tour.

With so many hit songs and albums and tours behind you, it seems as though you keep looking to up the ante. I was reading that you’re going to have different design, a few different elements in this show. How do you keep that momentum going through your career?

I love making music, touring and performing and singing about my country and my people and it’s what drives me.

It seems to me in observing your career, listening to your music, that you keep your audience in mind. You’re really aware of that connection with them. Does it feel to you like you have a relationship with them?

I hate the word ‘fans’ because I then think of them as fans – they’re my mates – and I want to give them music that will be a soundtrack for the parties, for barbecues, for road trips, all kinds of different occasions. And a lot of time goes into it creating those songs. A couple of years of songwriting. I travelled Australia a couple of times over collecting ideas for the album. And then I travelled halfway around the world to Nashville. Some of the greatest writers on the planet are over there and I just wanted to make sure that no stone was left unturned. I wanted to make this record a real good one.

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Interview: Ingrid Mae

AA4O2410.jpgThe music of singer-songwriter Ingrid Mae has been described as ‘Dolly Parton meets Melissa Etheridge’ and that’s an apt description for an artist who marries the pop and country sides of rock and produces something that is distinctively hers. Mae is also fundamentally an entertainer and the songs on her latest album, Holy Smoke, sound like they were born to be played live, with their big personalities and hint of swing and swagger. It was great fun to talk to Mae and discover that the humour and inherent musicality of her album comes straight from her personality.

This is very definitely a country album, but your first album sounds like it wasn’t so much. What brought you to country music?

I wasn’t very happy, I guess, with the first album. Can I say that?

Of course! It’s your album. You can say whatever you like.

I think too, as I say, life imitates art because I’ve now found my real home with country music and we’re actually playing shows and we’re on the scene, it really impacts on the music. And even from the musicians I’m playing with and Brad Bergen, who’s doing the guitars, a lot of the themes that I’m writing about, it just feels like it’s more me. And I think what happened with the first one was I got a little bit in my head about what I sounded like. I’d gone to some vocal coaches just before that album and I hated my voice. They wanted to take the twang out. They wanted to take all the country out. You can hear it. Obviously my songwriting’s evolved, but even on some of those songs the way I’m singing, it sounds like I’m a private school girl and I don’t want to step wrong.

Did that whole process teach you to trust your own voice, literally and figuratively?

Yes. In the end I went to a friend who’s a brilliant singer, who’s now in Nashville, and she helped me with a couple of things to give me the confidence. She said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with your voice. I love your voice. I love the timbre. I love the colour. And if you just want to get more out of your top end, this is how you do it. You’re already doing but you don’t know you’re doing it.’

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Interview: Nathan Seeckts

NathanSeecktsHiRes002.jpgWhen Victorian singer-songwriter Nathan Seeckts released the single ‘Old Blood’ from his new album, The Heart of the City, it was clear the album itself would be special – and so it has proved. Seeckts has an incredible voice and an attention to detail in his lyrics that make for a rich listening experience. He’s also incredibly knowledgeable about country music, as the host of ‘Last Night in Town’, a weekly radio program on Victorian community radio station 94.7 The Pulse that focuses on Americana and alt-country. I spoke to him recently.

Congratulations on the album, which is wonderful.

It’s a nice feeling – a feeling I haven’t had before. it’s a bit unexpected. I didn’t know whether I’d be in this position, to be honest. As a solo person you can do the EPs, but I didn’t know when I’d be in a position where I could say, ‘Yeah, I’ve got an album coming out,’ let alone on vinyl and all the rest of it.

And vinyl is a commitment, over and above everything else you need to do to put out an album these days. Why did you make that decision to do a vinyl release as well?

I’m a vinyl junkie, honestly. I probably spend a little bit too much of my money on records. But it’s living in an age where the CD’s on its last legs, maybe. I like the idea of having something in your hand while you’re listening to music and you can read about where it was recorded and who was on that track.

Technically this is a debut album, as mentioned, but you do have those three EPs behind you so it sounds like a really mature work. Did you find there was a lot you learnt through the process, not just of writing those EPs but, I imagine, producing them as well? Since you co-produced this album.

It came down to funds when I first started. I was self-taught on a copy of ProTools on a computer that I’d built. That was part of the writing process and the recording process was trial and error. The third EP, my wife and I went over to the States for a honeymoon in 2016 – that would have turned into an album had we stuck around but I wanted to take something with me. And you do learn a lot by doing it yourself. That’s why I wanted to share the producing role with Roger [Bergodaz] with the album.

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Interview: Bec Willis

s553467643476502673_p4_i1_w640.jpegSouth Australian singer-songwriter Bec Willis has a fantastic new album, Other Side of Town, that quickly becomes a treasured friend. She also has a great story, as I discovered when I spoke to her recently, and it’s her story – and her extensive experience as a musician, singer and songwriter – that has resulted in the fine achievement of her latest long player.



Congratulations on your wonderful album, which I’ve loved listening to and getting to know your songs and your story. And you have such a lovely voice, so it’s very, very easy to slip into it. Reading the bio and the track by track, the album seems to have emerged from what sounds like a tumultuous period in your life. There were a lot of changes and not all of them were welcome. So as a songwriter, did you document things as you went along or did you wait to see what emerge as the stories you wanted to tell?

I didn’t document anything. It was still pretty vivid for me at the time and I was too much in it. It was all happening with my mum passing away and moving us home and all that. I joked, ‘Oh, I should get some good songs out of this’, but I just, I wasn’t in that head space at that time to write. And it wasn’t till things have settled down that I said, ‘Ah, I have a bit of a breather’, and they all just came out. I can’t write when I’m stressed. So I sort of waited until things settled a little bit and then it was just all there waiting for me. I write when I’m driving, so they just popped into my head while I was on one of my long drives.


So do you pull over and do a little voice recording or write some notes?

Yes. For any police officers listening, I definitely pull over … [laughs] I do pull over and I get the melody and the words at the same time. So once I’ve got that and I think, This is going to be all right, I’ll pull over and just sing it into my voice memos on my phone. And then just keep coming up with the words and keep singing them. And then when I stop driving and get near a guitar, I put some chords to it. It just comes out of the blue. I can’t actually sit down and write on purpose, you know, it never works out well for me.

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Interview: Felicity Urquhart

FlissThere are several artists in Australian country music who have a range of skills and roles. Felicity Urquhart has more than most: she is an extraordinary singer and songwriter as a solo artist and also as a member of Bennett Bowtell & Urquhart, and she’s the host of Saturday Night Country on ABC Radio – and there’s more besides, as you will find out. Felicity is also an artist who can conjure and convey joy every time you see her play – she is electric and inspiring, no matter which song she’s singing. It’s appropriate, therefore, that the first single from her new album was ‘Chain of Joy’ – and with the album, Frozen Rabbit, about to be released, it’s an honour to have had the chance to talk to her and to learn more about this singular artist and her incredible career.

Congratulations on your new single, ‘Chain of Joy’, which I saw you perform at your Tamworth show. At that show you mentioned that the writing of it was inspired in part by your daughters. What do they think of the song?

It’s just Mum and Dad playing another song and it’s just another one they love to sing and they don’t look at it like we look at things at this point in their little young lives. I suppose it’s just another fun song that they like to sing around the house and they do request their favourites, but at the moment it’s all part of the Mum and Dad pot mix of music.

I hope to one day they realise how lucky they are to have their lullaby singers actually be professionals.

[Laughs] Harmony James was working on her new album with Glen [Hannah], my husband, and she had the sweetest comment to say one night after she heard us singing the kids to sleep. We often play a little ukulele and sing a song to them. And she said, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s the sweetest thing’, and she got all caught up in the moment. She said, ‘That’s the loveliest thing you guys do.’ We said, ‘Well, that’s what we do. We just grab an instrument, sing to them and read a book, and it’s our little ritual.’ But it is whatever is the norm, I suppose. And for the kids, Mum and Dad’s friends play instruments and write songs and they get involved with it too. They’ve written songs already and they get out busking and they’ve done four Tamworth festivals now and there only six and eight. So they don’t know anything different. When other kids don’t play they probably think, Oh, you don’t play?

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Christie Lamb’s hot hot 2019

400x400bb.jpegTowards the end of the Australian summer (which is still going in some parts) singer-songwriter Christie Lamb released ‘Hot Hot Kiss’, the first single from her third album, which will be released later this year. I spoke to Christie about the song, her writing process, and her big tour news for 2019.

The new single, ‘Hot Hot Kiss’, is fantastic, upbeat, catchy. It’s still in my brain after listening to it. It sounds like you had fun recording it.

I did. I think with the new album that’s going to come out – this is just the first single off the third album I’ll be doing – I wanted to mix things up a little bit. So we’ve started working with a new producer. It’s all going to be recorded organically in the room with all the musicians at the same time, which is a different experience to how I’ve recorded my last couple of albums. And I think the further along with songwriting you go the bit more personal you can get as well. So this album’s going to be a bit more heartfelt and not so much about other people’s lives. It’s going to be a bit more about mine and some personal stories to share.

Does it feel confronting or a bit nerve-wracking to write more about yourself? Like you’re about to reveal things to a whole lot of people? I know that’s your job as a songwriter, to an extent, but still I think it takes a bit of courage to do it.

Oh, definitely. I had a little four-track EP out first and then I’ve had two albums, so now I’m at the third album it’s only just feeling like the right time for me to do that now. Because you’ve got to establish yourself – what kind of sound you like, you’re still getting to know your fans at that time as well. So now, third album in, I feel like we’re all a bit more settled, whether it’s me with my sound, whether it’s the fans, they know me a bit more and therefore they want to go onto a deeper level and get to know even more about me. So I feel like now’s the right time, but it’s still daunting.

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