Tag: Interviews

Interview: John Williamson on Cruisin’ Country

Cruisin.pngAcclaimed as one of Australian country music’s most highly anticipated events, the music festival on the high seas Cruisin’ Country returns in 2018, celebrating a massive eight consecutive years. Departing from Sydney in October, Cruisin’ Country 8 brings together more than 40 of Australia’s most respected country musicians for a seven-night cruise aboard the luxury liner Radiance Of The Seas to idyllic holiday ports Noumea and the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia. Embracing the theme of Looking Forward, Looking Back, Cruisin’ Country 8 presents a journey through song of Australian country music’s past, present and future. 

The 2018 line-up includes John Williamson, Troy Cassar-Daley, Graeme Connors, Gina Jeffreys, Sara Storer, Tania Kernaghan, Anne Kirkpatrick, James Blundell and Amber Lawrence – and it was my privilege to talk to country music legend John Williamson about the cruise, and his illustrious career.

This will be your fourth time on Cruisin’ Country – do you remember your first time?

The first time I didn’t do the whole cruise – I flew to Vanuatu and jumped on board there. I was a bit worried about being on a cruise full of punters, but after that I realised that everyone’s pretty cool and you make a lot of friends. From then on I’ve done the whole thing. What I like about it now – the last cruise I think we had the best of country musicians that exist, all on a boat, and all the jam sessions that went on after all the shows were probably as much fun as doing the shows themselves.

Performance takes a lot of energy, and you have to gear up for a performance and wind down afterwards. So you do need to preserve yourself.

Oh yes. Any day I have a show I have a sleep in the afternoon. You do need a lot of energy. It’s not just about physical energy – it’s about having your head very clear. My show normally I do thirty songs. 

And just back to your point about the jam sessions – that’s a feature of Tamworth as well. There are so many great musicians in one place, and these wonderful spontaneous collaborations happen, so I can imagine in a closed environment like a ship that’s heightened to the nth degree.

It’s quite a big family. Obviously there’s disappointments at awards because people think they should have got something they didn’t, but in the long run the country music fraternity is quite a big family, and t’s a lot of fun really, working together. I think generally the whole standard of musicians in the last twenty, thirty years has grown. It’s incredible. We have world-class players now.

I completely agree. Tamworth has a bit to do with it – everyone in the same place.

Tamworth’s done a lot to promote it, because that’s where a lot of young ones have been encouraged to start. I had nothing like that when I started. I went down to Melbourne and New Faces. If I hadn’t done well there I probably would have given the whole game away [laughs]. But at Tamworth you can go every year as a youngster and you can get [exposure] and eventually there will be room for you if you’re good enough. And you’ve got to have that dexterity and believe in yourself.

And the level of competition is so high.

And that’s good.

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Interview: Brooke McClymont and Adam Eckersley

Adam-and-Brooke-WB1.jpgWell established in their separate bands, The McClymonts and The Adam Eckersley Band,  Brooke McClymont and her husband, Adam Eckersley, took a recent detour to create an album together, with spectacular results. It is was my great pleasure to talk to them both recently about the decision making behind the project and the experience of making it.

I’m a longtime fan of The McClymonts and, Adam, I love your band – I had a little bit of nervousness before listening to your album, wondering if it would be as good as both of those bands, but of course it was.

A: We certainly felt that a little bit too. Not that it worried us, but we didn’t know stylistically what to make – we [just] knew it had to be reasonable [laughs].

Because you both have fans. Part of your work as musicians, and country musicians, is having access to your fans and them having access to you. That does more pressure on a situation.

B: Definitely.

A: We’ve been stoked with how it’s been received. You never know when you release anything how it’s going to be received – you just hope that people like it. We just wanted to make sure we were proud of what we’d done.

B: We trusted each other too, didn’t we.

A: Yes. And we’ve been blown away with the response so far.

It’s because you put out something fantastic and if you do the work, people tend to recognise it. Given that you both have your separate schedules and separate bands, when did you first discuss the idea of creating an album together?

B: We’ve always spoken about wanting to do an album together eventually, but honestly we thought we would not get to it until ten years or more down the track. But then the opportunity just presented itself because the girls [sisters Sam and Molly] were having babies, and that was leaving me really … I wasn’t going to be doing much. The girls and I have been gigging but it hasn’t been a lot – which has been fine, but I get itchy feet. I wanted to do something. Adam was doing his third album with The Adam Eckersley Band and kind of put that on hold, because we thought, Why don’t we do our thing now? We’ve got this time, we might as well jump on it and go with it. And I’m so glad we did, because I feel like everyone’s really responding to this album. People are getting the lyrics and they’re really listening. This album has been a real game-changer for me. It’s been fun, too, and fresh but the lyrics and what we’re doing is really touching people, and that’s a great thing as a musician and singer-songwriter to have that happen.

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Interview: Grayson

image003.jpgGrayson is the stage name for Australian singer-songwriter Michael Edser – it’s a reference to his childhood street in the NSW city of Newcastle. He relocated to Nashville in 2011, which followed on from a stint in Europe where he toured with some of the biggest names in Ireland including Aslan, Bagatelle and John Spillane.  He has also performed with Aussie legends Jimmy Barnes, The Whitlams and Vanessa Amorosi (amongst others) back home in Australia. These days Grayson writes and produces music for other people, as well as himself. He recently released a new single, ‘Margarita’, and brought it to the Tamworth Country Music Festival. We spoke a few weeks after that.

‘Margarita’ invokes beaches and summer, but Nashville is a long way from a beach – where  does a Newcastle boy get his waves in Tennessee?

I feel landlocked all the time. It’s one of the worst things about living in Nashville – it’s a long way from the ocean – and when I first came to America I lived on Venice Beach [in Los Angeles] so I always felt I wasn’t too far away from home. Obviously when I moved to Nashville it was a whole different kettle of fish. We get down to Florabama once a year, which is on the border of Florida and Alabama.

Culturally it would be quite different for you. I do think Australians can get culture shock in the United States. But that Newcastle lifestyle … It’s a burgeoning city, in the last few years there’s been a lot of change there, but it is a surf town in so many ways.

Definitely. Everyone has a surfboard, everyone has a guitar. It’s a cool city. If I didn’t have to make a living I would never have left Newcastle – it’s God’s country. My dad used to tell me it had the best beaches in the world and it was a really cool place, and I just thought it was my dad being a proud Novocastrian, but honestly every time I go back it’s harder to leave.

While you were growing up in Newcastle, what did you listen to and when did you start playing?

I’ve answered this question a lot doing radio tours over the years – especially the country radio stations, they ask me what I grew up listening to, and I piss them off because I tell them that I listened to the Backstreet Boys, Googoo Dolls – everything that was on mainstream radio in Newcastle, which was three radio stations: KO FM, NEW FM and NX FM. And it’s still like that. And that’s one of the reasons why country music still isn’t as big as it is here, because if you want to be in Newcastle listening to country music, driving to the beach, you have to be streaming something – there’s no mainstream country radio station – and that’s were Australia is so limited. So I grew up with whatever was on radio, which was ‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua, Backstreet Boys, because that’s all I knew – there was no internet to stream music. It was, literally, these are the biggest people in the world, this is what’s on NX FM, this is what I’m istening to.

And, of course, silverchair – one has to mention silverchair when talking to a Novocastrian.

As I got older I grew to love silverchair and what they achieved, especially in that time, was phenomenal. But when I was 15 or 16 I thought they were too heavy – I was driven to that more melodic, ballady kind of stuff. So I never was a huge silverchair fan, but as I’ve grown older I’ve fallen in love with their stuff.

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Interview: Gord Bamford

a40978211_s400Canadian country music star Gord Bamford was last in Australia when he joined the Wolfe Brothers’ This Crazy Life tour in 2016. It certainly wasn’t his first time here: Bamford was born in Australia and lived here until he was five. But that visit saw his fan base here start to grow, and he’s now back in the country for a few dates after playing at the CMC Rocks festival. I spoke with him not long before he departed cold Canadian shores for our summer heat.

How’s Edmonton?

It’s pretty good. I’m actually in British Columbia right now – we’re wrapping up our Canadian tour. We’ve got two shows tonight and tomorrow then we’re done. We had 29 shows in 35 days so we’re looking forward to it coming an end, then a little time off and we’re over to Aussie, so we’re looking forward to that.

Thinking of the name of your single, ‘Livin’ on Summertime’, are you coming here to escape the end of the Canadian winter?

[laughs] I’ll be honest with you, I’m looking forward to that. It’s been quite a winter here. We’ve had a pile of snow in Alberta, where I live. It’s been cold. So it will be a nice change.

Are there any logistical issues, touring Canada in the winter? I would imagine sometimes now causes flights to be cancelled and things like that.

For sure – we’ve had a few issues with our bus because it gets so cold and it freezes up. But, knock on wood, we’ve been pretty lucky on this tour and we’ve been coast to coast. It gets a little bit dicey up in the mountains during the wintertime, that’s for sure.

Do you find that audiences change as you go across the country? In the Maritimes there’s a strong Celtic music influence and every second person seems to have a fiddle but as you go westwards is there a more natural audience for country music?

You’ve obviously done your research – that’s kind of how it is. But I’ve got a fiddle player in the band – I’m one of the rare [performers] in country music these days to carry a fiddle. My fan base is pretty passionate – it’s been growing here in Canada for 20 years. This has been our best tour ever. All the shows have sold out. There definitely is a difference in how the audience reacts as you come from the east coast back to the west. But it’s good.

You mentioned growing that audience – country music in Canada obviously doesn’t have the prominence that it has in the United States, but when I was there in the mid 1990s I don’t remember much country music being around at all, and I went to see a lot of bands. So it seems like it is relatively new to come to prominence.

Yes. America’s a different beast on its own. It’s tough down there. We’ve got such an opportunity. Being from Canada and having markets like Canada and Australia gives a better opportunity than anything. You can build yourself a career. There’s not as much politics involved. I’m more excited to get into the Australian market than any place, outside of where we’re playing now. We play in Europe a bit. Obviously being born in Australia and my dad being there, and some of my family’s still there, it’s been pretty great to reconnect with them. It’s been a bonus to be able to play music there. It’s really starting to build for me – I can feel that the Aussie fans are liking my stuff and I want to make sure I dedicate as much time to being there and building that market as I did Canada. It’s exciting for us. This is the first time the whole band’s come over; it will be a change for everybody to see that whole show. I’ve appreciated everything the Wolfe Brothers have done for me – I’ve been able to play with them and it’s been great – but there’s going to be a big difference when everybody sees our full show and our band. My band and crew have been with me, most of them, for ten years. It’s pretty comfortable up there and it’s going to be fun.

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Interview: Lachlan Bryan

238629-L-LOSince I saw Lachlan Bryan play for the first time, several years ago in Tamworth, and then listened to his solo album Shadow of the Gun, I’ve been a fan. Bryan has a way with words, and a way with music, and he combines the two to tremendous effect. The latest release from him and The Wildes, Some Girls (Quite) Like Country Music, provides more evidence of that effect, and I was very pleased to have an opportunity to talk to Lachlan about the album.

It’s release day and it’s a fantastic album – but how are you feeling? Are you relieved it’s out? Nervous about people’s reactions? Are you excited?

I see people posting about their release days, because I’m Facebook friends with other musicians, and I know everyone tries to make it look exciting, but I think it’s more nerve-wracking than exciting. It’s not so much that I’m nervous about people’s reactions – we really love this record. We feel very close to it – so obviously people’s reactions are important – but it’s more that, I guess, the goalposts keep changing when you release music. Once upon a time people probably wanted millions of record sales, and then at other times people wanted reviews and things, and everything has changed. There’s not really many music magazines now and newspapers don’t run stories about music very often. So it’s almost as though release day isn’t as important – it’s when we go out and start playing shows and actually playing songs to people and giving them a chance to take it home with them. That’s probably what I look forward to more than actual release day.

Do you think there’s now a more direct relationship with your audience because there aren’t those gatekeepers – well, they’re gatekeepers in a way – but especially with the genre you’re in, do you feel like that connection is stronger with the listener?

Yes, I do. I think the relationship with the audience is more important than ever. And I have to admit that for me the best way to have that has always been live performance, and maybe even more than ever now. I’m not the best at getting on Facebook and thanking everybody all the time, and being nice and friendly. I try and do those kinds of things but it doesn’t come naturally to me. But it does come naturally to me to get up on stage and play the songs. So the two aspects of music that I love are playing, and writing and recording are one process for us these days. All the other stuff is weird. But I do love the close connection with the audience. I do feel it more at live shows than I do during social media experiences. And I remember when we first put out albums, we’d worry about reviews coming in and all that sort of stuff – ‘What’s this writer or that writer going to say about us’ – and it’s a real shame in a way that a lot of those writers don’t have their jobs at the Sydney Morning Herald or wherever any more. So while I do love the close relationship with the public, I do lament the lack of gatekeepers in some ways as well.

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Interview: Kristy Cox on her new album, Ricochet

KristyCoxPromo1.jpgAustralian bluegrass artist Kristy Cox makes her home in Nashville for most of the year, but she always returns for the Tamworth Country Music Festival. I had a chance to talk to her while she was home, and even though she was quite under the weather she told me all about her new album, Ricochet, and other things.

The album feels like it’s a progression – like it’s more emotional and heartfelt. Not that your previous work wasn’t! But it did sound like a progression. I’m curious why you chose that song title, ‘Ricochet’, to be the title of the album?

I don’t really know. When I first heard the title of the song I thought, That would make a really good album title. I just kind of stuck with it. I didn’t even look at any of the other songs or any other titles. It just felt right – it felt like the album needed to be called Ricochet. [I thought,] this song is great, the title is great, and it feels like it’s going to be the title track of the album. I just never moved off it. I guess it was just a gut feeling that it would be a good album title.

And it’s memorable. One-word titles are great because there’s less likelihood of anyone forgetting it.

And I’ve never had a one-word title before. I’ve also never called an album after a song – it’s always been a line in a song or something like that.

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Ben Ransom 101

Ben 101 Cover 3000x3000 300dpiSydney singer-songwriter Ben Ransom has been part of the Australian country music scene for several years – yet he’s called his new album 101. But that’s not because it’s basic, as I found out when I listened to it and also when we spoke recently. Ransom was the first artist signed to the new Country Rocks label and is on the bill for the Country Rocks festival in Sydney on 3 March.

Congratulations on the album, you must be very pleased with it.

Thank you so much. It’s been a long time coming. Eighteen months it’s been in the works and it’s all coming to a crescendo now.

 

I saw something saying it’s been the longest pre-production for any of your albums – what was the reason for that?

The real reason was purely financial. Being independent you have to finance these things yourself and it’s an expensive business. But on the plus side, that allows time for a lot more attention to detail, scrutinising things, backwards and forwards between myself and the producer with the pre-production and ideas. I’ve been working on songs since the debut album. I whittled it down from about 50 songs to the 10 that are on the album now, so it’s pretty much the cream of the crop in terms of the work that I’ve been doing. This is leading into why the album’s called 101. Initially it was called Dog Days and Highways, because I’ve seen plenty of those in my day. But everything I’ve been doing and working towards and taking in from music over the last eighteen months – actually between the first studio album and this one – has been consolidated and focused in this one release. So if you want to know about myself and my music, this is where you start. So, 101.

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