Tag: Interviews

Jenny Mitchell sets the world ablaze

JENNYMITCHELL-7.JPGI interviewed New Zealand singer-songwriter Jenny Mitchell late last year, but waited to post the interview until after I saw her perform at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, where, it’s safe to say, she had audiences spellbound. Her voice, her presence, her songs, her everything captivated everyone who saw her. She’s a fairly regular visitor to Australian shores, so make sure you catch a gig if you can. In the meantime, here’s Jenny talking about her new album, Wildfires.

What a wonderful album. You must be very proud of it.

I am very proud of it, I feel like a proud mum. It’s awesome to be on that side of it. The pressure and stress beforehand is quite colossal, so I’m happy to be celebrating it now rather than worrying about it.

I guess it’s that nerve-wracking thing where you know you’ve done good work but then you don’t know how people are going to receive it.

Yes. You want to have everything as well organised as you possibly can. You want to do as good as you can for your product when you know that you’re really proud of it. So I did feel worried about having all the right things in place and how are people going to hear it and all that stuff. But I’ve been really lucky. I’ve had a great team and I think we’ve done a good job.

You’ve done a very good job! I didn’t actually notice whether you’re with a record company or not.

No, I’m not. I’ve opted for this one to stay independent because I just feel that right now where I am in my career, it’s not possibly the best time to sign up with a label, but I don’t know what will happen in the future. It’s really my label, which is called Little Acorn Records.

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Interview: Riley Catherall

image003.jpgRiley Catherall has already appeared on this site because of his outstanding singles, ‘Watered Down Man’ and ‘Robin’. He’s an emerging artist who is already a very well-developed musician and songwriter – when we spoke recently I asked about his long musical history and about his introduction to country music. Riley is appearing at the 2019 Tamworth Country Music Festival – dates after the interview.

You started playing guitar at the age of four – did your parents encourage you to start, or was it your own decision?

Dad taught himself guitar. Some of my earliest memories involve him playing guitar for me. Mum was a piano teacher. So I think there was a combination of influences there. Much like a lot of kids get thrown into guitar lessons – and myself being a teacher as well – you see kids who get guitar lessons where their parents have sort of forced them into it, and once they get a little bit of independence they stop doing it. But I was hooked on it enough to continue it. There was definitely good encouragement there with my family, which was fantastic.

Was there a reason why you weren’t put on a piano?

Not really. Because I was the first child I think Dad was super stoked to have a son – ‘This one’s mine, we’re gonna do guitar’ [laughs]. My younger sister plays piano. Maybe Mum got her turn [laughs].

Did you enjoy playing guitar as a child or were there times when you thought, I don’t want to do this – I want to go outside!

From a young age I’d go into show and tell at school and sing a song. I was that kid [laughs]. I always had this entertaining mindset. I went through the stage of learning classical guitar – that’s how I started. Then you discover rock ’n’ roll – you want to be a rock star – and Mum’s getting really worried because I’m playing ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ in my bedroom at eleven years of age. I’m always inspired by new things, with the change of the seasons, so it’s good that [guitar] is such a vast thing that you can be introduced to new things. Nothing really gets stale; nothing really gets repeated. There’s just so many different versions of it.

Can you remember which songs you used to play for show and tell?

I used to play a lot of bush ballads. ‘Tenterfield Saddler’, ‘Redback on the Toilet Seat’. There was a couple of Australian Classics CDs that we’d have in the car on repeat that I’d then go into school and sing. My nana loved Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ so I used to go in and sing all thirty verses of that [laughs].

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The Wolfe Brothers headline at The Albert Hotel during TCMF 2019

unnamedThere’s a fair bit of coverage of Tasmanian band the Wolfe Brothers on this site, and there’s a reason for that: they’re great. Complete professionals who put on amazing live shows and continue to evolve because they want to make the best music they can. It is always a pleasure to interview them, and this time I chatted Tom Wolfe about their headline show at The Albert on 23 January during the 2019 Tamworth Country Music Festival, and about yet another big year during 2018.

 

It’s been yet another year of underachievement for the Wolfe Brothers: five Golden Guitar nominations, an ARIA nomination and national tours. When are you guys going to start putting in some work?

That’s a great question! One of the things we’ve been really good at is a great work ethic and I don’t know whether that comes from our parents but we’ve always kept gigging, kept working, kept writing … and it’s really cool. It’s really nice to see all this hard work starting to pay off a bit, with these nominations – especially at the ARIAs, it was so nice to be there and be a part of that. It was really gratifying. It felt like we were doing the right things.

 

The ARIA nominations in that country music category were a good representation of Australian country music. I was really pleased to see Fanny Lumsden in there with you guys and the others.

Absolutely. One of my favourite country music albums of the year has been Fanny’s album [Real Class Act]. It’s a fantastic album. But you’re right: we’ve really grown in Australian country music and we’re now recognising that diversity is the key. And the key is also picking each other up instead of putting other people down. That’s how we really feel, and I feel like we’ve had a lot of support this year, so that’s been really, really nice.

 
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Interview: Brooke Lambert

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Queensland-based singer-songwriter Brooke Lambert has recently released the single ‘I Don’t Wanna Hate You’, after an EP last year and ahead of a new release in 2019. As I found when I spoke to her, she is passionate about country music, constantly creative and diversely talented. Brooke will appearing at the 2019 Tamworth Country Music Festival – dates below, after the interview.

You live on the Gold Coast and I’ve noticed that a few country music artists are moving there – there are a few on the Central Coast of New South Wales as well, but you come from the Central Coast originally and you’ve moved to Queensland.

I was born in Gosford but my mum and dad were driving up, literally moving from Sydney to the Gold Coast, so I didn’t have a choice. She pretty much popped me out on the way up. But in terms of everyone else, I know with Queensland and the Gold Coast, especially with the Groundwater Festival being so successful, country music is getting really big in Queensland now, which is why I think everyone’s heading up here. And, let’s face it, it’s a great place to live!

Are you finding that more venues are opening? Or are the venues that are there friendly to country music?

More in Brisbane, I’d say, than the Gold Coast. Everywhere I play people are pretty open, but I think in terms of a Saturday night out, people on the Gold Coast don’t really want to hear country music [laughs].

Groundwater seems to get bigger and bigger every year.

I think there are a lot of country music fans on the Gold Coast and there’s nowhere for them to go and see it, so when that festival’s here, because it’s a once-a-year thing, everyone really comes together.

I’ll now backtrack to when you were growing up – what did you grow up listening to and what had the most impact on you?

We got the Country Music Channel on Foxtel when I was a kid, and I always wanted to be on that channel. I don’t know what it was but country music, I just love it. I remember ‘I Hope You Dance’ by Leann Womack – I used to watch that video over and over again, so that was a huge influence. I listened to a lot of Keith Urban and Adam Brand, the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain – I just love it.

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Interview: Fanny Lumsden

Fanny Lumsden_RMDC Promo-2[1].jpgOver the past few years there has emerged a singular artist in Australian country music, and her name is Fanny Lumsden. Fanny is a singer-songwriter from New South Wales but she’s also a connector of communities across our wide brown land, a conjurer of audiences in small outback towns and a multi-armed goddess holding her guitar in one hand, a record label in another, a microphone, a baby, award nominations, a production company and a multitude of other things. That is not to say that other artists aren’t doing this – Catherine Britt springs immediately to mind – but there’s only one Fanny Lumsden. As an observer and a fan, it is always fascinating to watch her work. And, as Fanny makes it clear in this interview, it’s not just her behind it all – but that doesn’t make her any less inspiring or interesting. That’s quite apart from the fact that she writes some of the best songs you’ll ever hear, available on her two albums Small Town Big Shot and Real Class Act. We spoke on the occasion of the release of her latest single, ‘Real Men Don’t Cry (War on Pride)’, and the extraordinary video that accompanies it, which you can watch below.

You are such an intrepid artist, you seemed to be on a plane to the US within a fortnight of having a baby – so how was your first tour with a plus one?

Well, it was way more complicated than I’d originally anticipated. I was a bit naïve, I think, and I’d booked all this stuff in before I had him, and then I thought, This is so hard![laughs]

I remember seeing you getting on a plane to Adelaide to play a show when he was very, very little.

He was three weeks at that point. It’s all been quite a steep learning curve – I take my hat off to all the parents out there because it’s way harder than I thought. But when you don’t have a choice you just do what you have to do.

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Interview: Jenny Mitchell

JENNYMITCHELL-6.JPGOne 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.

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Interview: Lyn Bowtell of BBU

7E2D6F5D-372D-497D-B058-324CB1F98A41.jpegElsewhere on this site I have written about the extraordinary Lyn Bowtell, who is one of our finest solo artists and one of my favourite country music artists. When, in 2015, I read that she would be playing at the Tamworth Country Music Festival with another of my favourite artists, Felicity Urquhart, and with Kevin Bennett from renowned band The Flood, I thought it might have been a dream: how, in reality, could these three wonderful singers have decided to join together? That show, ‘Country Heart and Soul’, was the beginning of the group that became Bennett Bowtell & Urquhart, or BBU. In 2016 BBU released their debut eponymous album and in 2017 won two Golden Guitars for it. This September they  released their second album, Weeds. The band doesn’t play many shows, given the schedules of its members individual careers (Urquhart also hosts ABC Radio’s ‘Saturday Night Country‘), so if you have the chance to see them, you must. It is, without fail, an evening of world-class music from three of our best singers and performers.

Recently I had the privilege of speaking to Lyn Bowtell about the formation of BBU and their latest album.

Congratulations on the new album because it’s just wonderful, as I knew it would be, and as the last album was too. And, so when did you individually or the three of you start writing for it?

Well, I was trying to work this out before, and I think I told a furphy, and I said it was March but that’s not true. We actually started writing end of last year. We really wanted to have a go at writing it all ourselves this time. The first album, we were incredibly proud of that, but it was kind of one of those things, we said we’re going to do this now and we made the decision and it happened incredibly fast, and there were some great tracks on there but they weren’t our own that we just adore singing and love doing, and exactly the same thing happened this time. We looked for other material outside of our own writing pool, because I think sometimes artists miss the point, and they’re always trying to record their own songs, but they’re not always the right choice. So we were looking outside of that, outside of ourselves, but we did start writing early on together.

The way that works is, one of us will bring an idea to the table. So when we get together, we plan to write three songs within the space of a day. We bring an idea each. And it doesn’t always end up that way. Sometimes we’ll have two and a half songs or one song, you just don’t know. Songs don’t always stick to a schedule, but the idea is we bring a song each, an idea each that we could, as KB [Kevin Bennett] puts it, we could have easily finished at home but when we write it together, it definitely ends up having its own life. Because of iPhones being so incredible these days, with your voice memos on them, I was going through voice memos the other day and listening to the way I had originally written these songs, some of the tunes that I’d brought the ideas for, and some of it is exactly as I first wrote it – like, one verse is exactly the same – and then the chorus just goes completely opposite direction and has an amazing life to it now that it would never have had I been writing that by myself.

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