Monday
Jul232012

JD Wilkes

 

According to online information Joshua "JD" Wilkes was born in Texas in 1972. He later moved to Paducah, Kentucky a State where he acquired his honoury title of Colonel, something that was bestowed on certain residents associated with the State. Wilkes is a southern renaissance man best known for his musical endeavours but who is also a film maker, his Seven Signs was premiered in 2007 and is available on DVD. He is a cartoonist with his Head Cheese strip appearing in Nashville's Metromix and his work also featuring in other publications. He had a book Grim Hymns that  featured his artwork and his sideshow banners can be viewed at www.jdwilkes.com/banners.htm a site that features his artwork in general. 

He founded the Th Legendary Shack Shakers in the late 1990s in Nashville, playing the honky-tonks on Lower Braodway. He is now the sole original member of the band. Their album Cockadoodledon't was released on BloodShot records in 2003 though a live recording of an earlier line up was featured on Hunkerdown released on Spinout in 1998.

Believe, Pandelirium and Swampblood were released on Yep Roc between 2004 and 2007. Their most recent album Agri-Dustrial came out via their own label Colonel Knowledge in 2010.

The Dirt Daubers, the band formed with his wife Jessica have released two albums. The most recent Wake Up Sinners was also released on Colonel Knowledge in 2011.

JD is a compelling frontman, a formidable harmonica player and musician, a distinctive singer and a rewarding writer and a honest interviewee. On his trip to Dublin with The Dirt Daubers Lonesome Highway presented these questions to him.

As the constant member in both Th’ Legendary ShackShakers and The Dirt Daubers how easy is to maintain a vision of what the both band are?

It’s easy to separate in my mind, since both bands have their own, separate, cerebral hemisphere deep inside my brain. They are separated by a synapse, with the Daubers on the right, the Shakers on the left. 

However, logistically, it can be tricky to “open up for yourself” night after night. And it’s tough keeping people hip to the differences between the bands too. Oh well. They’ll learn one of these days.

The Shack Shakers have had numerous members and you mentioned when we spoke that the band now has a new lead guitarist, can you fill us in on that?

Rod Hamdallah is our new guy.  He stepped in after Duane hopped off to play with Mike Patton’s Tomahawk project (and a new project with Einsterzende Neubauten members).

Rod’s great!  He’s got a bluesy, old soul that fits better with 95% of our material.  So expect to hear a more rockin’, bluesier/swampier sound from us in the future.

It would appear that, although the bands have members in common, the Dirt Daubers are a separate parallel entity rather than a side-project. Is that your intention?

It’s just easier using people you already know who are good.  Finding full time musicians, or “lifers” is a tall order.  LSS and DD have enough common musical roots that we can get away with such a thing.  And yes, the Daubers are a separate-but-equal act.

Have you any intentions to explore southern culture in any formats other than music following the film Seven Signs having done your cartoons as well previously?

Actually, I have more of the same...loaded up and almost ready to fire. New short films on southern musicians/visionaries have already been shot and are in the editing process. And Grim Hymns 2 is ready for printing, once some funds come in. No new media formats, just music, art, and film. Isn’t that enough?!!

Do the Shack Shakers have any intentions to record in the near future as you’ve written a bunch of new songs?

I have a whole record written for LSS. More swampy goodness and southern gothic lyrics. A bit of weirdness thrown in. You know how we are. It’ll be out late this year, early next year.

The Dirt Daubers old-time music still seems to edgy for some traditionalists, is it hard to get past the gate-keepers?

Screw ‘em. Old Time fans have already morphed into being as bad as Bluegrassers.  Funny how they don’t realize that, in Old Time music, it was quite “authentic” to be “wrong”...to play whatever and however the heck you wanted. There were no rules (except maybe those imposed by the limited technology of the day.)  Hell, if it made a noise and there was enough whiskey flowing, it was music, by God!   

“What’s that?  A jaw harp and a pump organ?  Let’s jam!” 

Looking back over the many fine albums and great gigs you have done what stands out for you?

Favorite records: Cockadoodledon’t and Swampblood.

Favorite gigs: Robert Plant tour, Bla Rock in Tromso, Unit D in Tulsa.

What would you rather forget?

Certain “former members”, if you know what I mean.

Agri-dustrial suggested a weary eye on the way rural/urban divide was heading. Do you still keep abreast of the political undercurrents in the US?

Yes, but Jessica helps remind me to not pay too close attention. What can I do about it anyway? I’m just waiting for the Big Meteor to hit.

Both your bands have developed a strong set of fans but how difficult is it for either band to reach a wider audience?

It’s difficult getting the right management. Seems like we’ve had a few duds in our days. Thank God the strength of the live show is what it is.  That is what continues to propel both bands, frankly. 

Despite the problems do you find your creative energies still need the music to express or exercise yourself?

Yes, but I have other outlets. Old Timey banjo playing is what consumes me now. Sometimes it distracts from my other interests and I’m sure I’m driving everyone nuts in the van.

You have built up a loyal following in Europe is that something you want to expand on?

Heck yeah. Especially England, Ireland and Holland. Those places are crackin’ for us, I tell you what.

An early champion was Robert Plant who had you support him on tour. Do you keep in touch now that he lives in Austin?

Not really, but his oldest friend and sound man is a very good pal of the band. They all have places in Nashville too, I think. 

How do you feel that the hillbilly underground is developing, there seems to be a lot of bands out there now?

It’s great as long as the song writing is literate. The whole point is too embrace what’s fun and wild about southern/Appalachian culture while still upholding its spiritual, lyrical and artistic integrity. Otherwise it’s just a belligerent parody that confirms the worst of those “Deliverance” stereotypes.

It’s about being a “wise fool”. Don’t forget about the “wise” part, though.

Any you have seen that have taken your fancy?

Ummm, how many times have I mentioned “Pine Hill Haints” over the years? Am I allowed to mention them again? Oh yeah, and I love “Serious” Sam Barrett, the English ballad singer from Leeds. The two tour together frequently.  

Do you like the direction that Hank3 is taking his music? In some ways his two sides are already reconciled in the Shack Shakers.

I like that he’s pushing the envelope in an experimental direction.  It’s not too terribly listenable to most folks (although I love auctioneering, I worked at an auction house for a year and it’s music to my ears) But, to most it’s challenging so, as a result, he’s got my respect.

What are your hopes for the future of both bands and given that you are doing joint gigs is that an ideal package, or is it hard to do both on the same evening?

As I said, it’s tough. We might need to put more distance between the two. Dirt Daubers should be seen as a parallel band, not a “side project.”

When can your fans expect to see you in person or on record next, or is that too early to say at this point?

Soon enough. Hopefully we’ll have a new record when we return this April. I think you’ll love this new guitarist’s take on things. Personally, it gives me goose bumps.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

Thank you!

Interview by Stephen Rapid. Photograph by Ronnie Norton

Saturday
Jun232012

Glenn Frey Interview by Ronnie Norton

 

So here I am, Bluegrass Radio presenter, eZine contributor, and eternal  “Eagles” fan sitting, waiting for the phone to ring from Glenn Frey to chat about his upcoming solo album release. With “Desperado” on my mind and every “Eagles” CD on my shelves how do I approach an album called “After Hours “, which includes 14 late night piano songs that would do any of the white shirt and tux, boys proud.

It was very simple, I just listened to all the tracks, settled down on a very comfortable cloud nine and said “Tell me how this magic project came about”, when a very relaxed and wildly enthusiastic Country Rock Legend started chatting as though we had been pals since “Take It Easy” totally altered my musical direction in 1972. He loves to come to Ireland to play Eagle Concerts and even sneaks back to take low level helicopter rides to admire the wonderful Irish countryside, grab a game or two of golf and catch up on whatever Irish Trad he can get to listen to.

And then the bonanza. “After Hours” is the reward for two and a half years of dedicated fun, recording and nourishing the type of music that he listened to on the radio while helping his Mom with the ironing at home in his Grandma’s kitchen. He has dedicated this album to his folks who brought him up on a musical diet of Ella Fitzgerald, Teresa Brewer , Dinah Washington and all the white shirt and tux boys that I mentioned earlier. With fellow Eagles touring band mates  Richard F.W. Davis and Michael Thompson he has put together an album that is going to win him a lot of new fans and surprise all of his dedicated Eagles legions of die hards.

It started with providing a pal with eight hours of background music for a cool restaurant hangout in Aspen Colorado called “Andiamo” and then ten years later getting a request from none other than Clint Eastwood who was music organiser for the Wednesday nights at the AT&T ProAm Golf Tournament at Pebble Beach to sing one of his own songs and something from the 40’s for the volunteer party at the club. He remembered all his research CDs for the Andiamo project, discovered that he could sing Tony Bennett songs in Tony’s key and that lead to a regular gig every February with Jack Shelton’s band at Pebble Beach singing Tony Bennett classics. Apart from blowing the audiences away he found himself getting more comfortable and really enjoying this newfound musical outlet.

A few nights after one of these gigs his long time buddy Michael Bolton came over to him and said “Hey Glenn you sounded great doing that type of music. Have you ever thought of doing a record. “ So emboldened by this compliment and having already had the germ of an idea, when he got back to LA he hooked up with Richard and Michael as co-producers and did some trial recordings of “The Good Life”, I Wanna Be Around “ and “The Look of Love”.  He says “It sounded good and we would know, if it was good. So we went on and on and cut the records for real and two and a half years later with 14 track in the bag “After Hours “was born. And “It was fun doing it”.

When I remarked that I was impressed by the feeling that each track had an individual treatment, he  responded that putting the project together was like doing a thousand piece jig saw puzzle. You don’t do it in one sitting. You need to work on it for a while and then step away.  And because they were all working with the Eagles, they would do a few weeks in studio, tour for three or four weeks and come back with fresh ears. There was something nice about working on it over time, because “Distance brings clarity” “We worked on it very carefully and something that I learned from working with the Eagles and from the Beatles was that each one of these songs is like one of your kids. They need to be treated like an individual. Because I didn’t write any of the songs we were just caretakers and interpreters so we had to get it right and not do anything that is disrespectful to the material. It was so much fun working and finalising the record but in fact the “Journey was the reward”. This is a piano song album , it’s not a guitar song album so with musical arrangements from acclaimed New Zealander Alan Broadbent we’ve done a piano and voice album that has style, real style. And we’re really proud of it and looking forward to touring it.”

He hopes to play Ireland and other European countries in late June so it will be a pleasure to catch the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer in mellow mode with an album that I reckon will do for Glenn Frey what “Stardust” did for Willie Nelson.

Stand out tracks for me are the steel and guitar tinged “Route 66” and the very country flavoured “Worried Mind” but I think I’m going to have to battle with a certain red headed lady at home here for who gets ownership rights on this one.  And there will be many late night, head phones on , lights out  and totally chillin’ sessions for a long time to come. This album came to me out of the blue and I have no problem shifting loyalty from some of the finest new Bluegrass bands that are filling my airtime these days to listen to a potential classic from an Eagle who is really soaring to surprising new heights in this well chosen new direction.

Move over Vince Gill, there’s a new  “Voice” in town. 

Saturday
Jun092012

Billy Yates Interview

 

Billy Yates is a gentleman in country music (though he should not to be confused with one namesake from bluegrass band Country Gentlemen) who has been through the major label wringer and emerged stronger to run his independent record company M.O.D. - My Own Damn Label. Through which channel he has released eight albums. Just Be You being the latest. He has toured in Europe and the UK and has now made the decision to tour and promote his work in Ireland. Billy did a series of gigs including one where he opened for Robert Mizzell and used his Country Kings band to back him up. Yates declared that he was "too country and proud of it" and his easy manner won him new fans. His set mixed his own material that included Flowers and songs that had a strong element of humour in titles like Daddy Had A Cardiac And Mama's Got A Cadillac as well as his song of tolerance American Voices and his George Jones co-write I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair along side well received covers of songs from Merle Haggard, Gene Watson and George Strait. The audience immediately related to these choices and made sure his live set hit home. Yates will hopefully bring his own band on future gigs that will add an additional layer of energy and authenticity that comes from the experience of playing together over a period of time. On his gig and promotional tour Lonesome Highway took the opportunity to have a conversation with Billy.

There was a five year gap between your debut album on ALMO and your next release what has happening with your career during that time?

I was wasting my time trying to get another record deal (laughs). But actually when I was leaving ALMO Flowers was doing well. They were having a lot of problems with the label at the time as they had struggled for a long time to get the label off the ground in the Nashville division. I think that there was a lot of frustration in the promotion department. They were about to close their doors but they didn't really know it. But I knew it. I saw it coming. I had a call from Alan Butler, who was running Sony, and he had said "Billy can you get out of that deal?". I said I didn't know if I could get out of the deal or not but he told me "If you can get out of the deal I'll sign you here at Sony". So basically the time spent after leaving ALMO was the time spent trying to make something happen at Sony. That happens a lot of times, it's so not uncommon. A lot of people spend time with a label that doesn't work out. I have a lot of records in the can. I have one at RCA, one at Curb, one at Sony. So that's what I was doing at that time.

Is any of the unreleased material available to you?

I can re-record stuff of course, but as regards to those actual tracks I have no rights. But in all honesty I have evolved some and there were a lot of compromises forced upon me. So some of those works are things that I'm not that excited about. They're good. It's real country stuff because I fought for that. It's music I believed in but it was also a little watered down simply because you had committees that chose the material. 

When had you decided that being a singer and songwriter was your career path?

I grew up on a small farm in Missouri and I knew early on it was something I wanted to do. I didn't know how to dream as big as it actually got, even though it's not been hugh, I still didn't know how to dream that big being in a small town. I knew that the sky was the limit. But I was oblivious as to what was beyond the clouds. As a kid I knew it was something I wanted to do. I thought that that meant singing in some band locally. 

Was country your music of choice growing up or where there other influences?

That's kinda interesting as before I was born my parents house had burned down and they had loved country music and they had played it. So they had been given a gift from the radio station of a whole stack of records. It was Buck Owens, it was Jim Reeves, Carl Smith, Webb Pierce, George Jones, Lefty Frizzell. So you are what you eat so as kids we ate a lot of traditional country music. I always loved that. As I got older even when I was in high school country music was not cool. Not the think to do, you know, but I still loved it. I never lost my appetite for it. When I had my buddies in the car and I was driving round I would be listening to the local pop station just to keep everyone happy, but that didn't mean I liked it. When they weren't in the car I'd go to the highest point in the city and from there I could pick up the Grand Ole Opry. I would sit alone and listen to it a lot of nights and weekends when my friends were out partying. I had such a strong desire to hear that music and that never left. It's still there. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music but there's still only one type of music that gives me goosebumps. 

You wrote some songs with some great traditionally orientated writers including Paul Overstreet, Irene Kelley, Melba Montgomery, Shannon Lawson and Leslie Shatcher. Many of whom seemed to have fallen off the radar now, is it hard to find your self out of favour?

Yeah, one thing that Nashville is a little bit guilty of is that sometimes you're 'flavour of the month' and your lucky if you get to be that guy for awhile. For those guys, and obviously I'm not speaking for them, but I would guess that they would love to be back there. I'm sure they're still writing songs. I was recently at a songwriter's festival in Key West because I like to know what's going on and there were a lot of people there who have had a lot of success and I would love to be able to write with them. I've gone through a phase for the last two or three years were I've not been co-writing at all but have been writing by myself. Now I'm going back to a phase were I'm starting to co-write again. So I went to that Key West songwriters festival because I want to see who's happening. If you're going to co-write you might as well see if you can write with people who are having hits. 

Do you do that to learn something from their process?

I do, If you want to stay current you have to know what's going on. I don't want to live in a bubble. I try to do what I do best and as a artist I'm always going to be country. But I'm also a lyricist and when you write lyrics the way I do I love to hear a big pop melody and I consider how it would sound under one of my lyrics. I'm really broadminded that way. That's one thing that maybe sets me apart a little bit from most of the more traditional people that I know. Again, I know that it gives me goosebumps when I hear great music, 'cause I know it when I do hear it. So I really try to keep an open mind. 

In the 90s country seemed to have a way to particular edgy sound, a blend twang with the better aspects of rock. The way that artists like Dwight Yoakam and Bob Woodruff did for a time. Has that kind of innovation been purged from the mainstream?

That's was a really innovative time. It seems right now we're going through a phase where a lot of the writers are maybe trying too hard to get something on the radio. They're trying too much to get that rather than being innovators. I was writing at a big company and the president of the company came in and said "we have to talk about the songs we're writing and our direction. I'm talking to people at the record labels and they're saying that radio is want this and this and this". I raised my hand  and I said "well this is a promotion guy whose talking to some guy at the radio station and our job is to innovate. We shouldn't worry about what just got cut as when your chasing something you're behind it. If you're going to be a songwriter you need to be ahead and to innovate. I have to write today what's going to hit a year from now. 

In the way that Bill Anderson has been able to write songs that have worked through several decades. Country, but adapted to current trends.

Exactly. It's honest music. I think that's the key. What Jamey's doing is very honest. To me good music is honest. It doesn't matter what type it is if it has that quality. So I don't want to sit here and sound like I'm this big naysayer of what's happening in Nashville because it is what it is. You accept it if you're going to do business in that town. If I just sit and moan about it what good does that really do me? 

The Industry is changing a lot, what has the effect of that been in Nashville?

I think that some of the major labels have to be nervous, if they're being truthful, because the way the world works today is so much smaller with the internet and they way some artists are thriving. Independent artists are kicking ass. I want to be one of those I don't want to be the guy who has to fit in some mould. I sometimes explain it this way -there are acts and there are artists. If you're an act you need those people to tell you how to dress, how to sing and what songs to sing. If your an artist you don't need that. So with the independent world the way it is an artist can thrive and they find their audience and that audience can find them and that makes it honest music. All of a sudden you have a lot of great music out there. But you have to go and find it.  

Producing your music on your own label means that you are the one making those decisions. How does that effect you?

I haven't made any compromises. I don't have to apologize. If you don't like something then I take full responsibility. It was not something that was forced on me. As I get older (laughs), that's going to sound even older in print but I want to be doing this when I'm seventy and doing it my way - whatever that is. Whatever I feel compelled to do. 

You have made several inroads to Europe. This is your first visit to Ireland isn't it?

Yes, I've never come to Ireland before. This is my first tour here so I'm excited to be here. I've tried to be strategic about touring in Europe and Ireland is different as there is a big following for country and if you're going to do it I think you need to try and do it right. There are full time country stations here, you don't have that anywhere else in Europe. I see the future for country music in Europe as something really bright in Ireland and I want to be a part of it if the people will accept me. 

You have had covers from George Jones and George Strait but also by David Allen Coe and Dallas Wayne. Both ends of the scale, that must be satisfying?

You know the David Allen Coe thing is a funny story. He was in the studio working on this record and a buddy of mine was producing it, a guy named Danny Mayo. He called me as I knew Coe from the past as I used to promote shows and I had him on one, and that's another story, but  he's a character and he can be very intimidating. So Danny had called and said can you come to the studio as I'm cutting this record on Coe. So I went to the studio and they had already cut the tracks and Coe was doing his vocals and Danny walked out of the studio and said to me "I'll be right back" but he went out and never came back. There had been some sort of row and so Danny had just left. Coe comes out of the vocal booth and says " where did Danny go" and I said "I don't know" and it was just me and the engineer and he was being real quiet so I didn't know what had happened earlier and Coe says "Hell, do you want to produce this record?" (laughs). I told him I could help home get vocals. So I ended up producing his vocals. He asked me then to sing harmony so I did all the background vocals. I love that fringe stuff. That outlaw thing. There's a little bit of that in me too. I am the nice guy but I'm a rebel at heart. When it comes to my music I'm very rebellious, sometimes to my own demise. Dallas Wayne, that's a cool guy. 

At this point Ronnie had a couple of questions he wanted to ask Billy:

Ronnie: My world is more in bluegrass. Where is that in your world?

I said I grew up doing music with my family and bluegrass was our thing. I've always said I wasn't good enough to do bluegrass and started doing country. I was never that great on the guitar. I could never get that down. Bluegrass is another kind of music that gives me goosebumps. I've never had any bluegrass cover and I'd love to. There's starting to be more bluegrass people in Nashville now. Rhonda Vincent is an old friend of mine. That's been on my mind actually. I've even though about doing a bluegrass record myself. I love to sing it. There was a time when Ricky Scaggs took bluegrass into country and put the drums in there. 

Ronnie: Have you ever interacted with the other Bill Yates (Country Gentlemen)?

No, I've never met him and it's funny as a lot of people get us mixed up. I've had e-mails saying "I'm a huge fan", but it's for him. I'm old but I'm not quite that old (laughs).

Interview by Stephen Rapid with Ronnie Norton. Photograph by Ronnie Norton

 

Saturday
Mar172012

Lindi Ortega Interview

A Canadian born singer/songwriter Lindi Ortega has self-released two albums and an ep, this was followed by an EP on Cherry Tree Records. Since then her current album Little Red Boots and a Christmas EP were through Last Gang Records. She spent time touring the US and Europe as a backing singer with the Killers Brandon Flowers behind his Flamingo solo album. She is now concentrating on her own career.

Your Irish/Mexican parentage must have given you a interesting musical heritage. What are your memories of the music around your house growing up?

My mum listened to a lot of old country when I was growing up, lots of Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton. She was who first got me interesting in the genre. My dad was listening to a lot of latino music, I recall hearing Santana and Gypsy Kings in my childhood and I think this may have had an influence on my rhythmic guitar playing.   

You mentioned the guitar on the wall at home as an object of desire. What finally made you take it off the wall?

I was starting to sing at around age 15, I knew if I was going to write songs I would need an instrument and that guitar seemed like the perfect fit.  

There was a self-released album prior to Little Red Boots, I believe, did it feature some of the same songs or a set of older ones? 

They were all older tunes, I didn’t start writing the newer songs till about 2008. 

A new album later in the year, how different will it be from Little Red Boots, given the  Christmas EP took a more acoustic approach?  

I believe with every record there is a bit of an evolution. I don’t anticipate a drastic difference, but I am constantly being inspired by new things which I’m sure will have an impact on my music. As well, I will be working with a new producer and recording in Nashville. I’m really looking forward to seeing what we cook up together! 

You voice seems perfectly suited to the blend of traditional country, rock and the other influences you incorporate. Where do you see your music taking you in the future or is that open to possibilities as you mentioned that you listened to a wide range of acts growing up? 

I feel very connected to country music because the lyrical content of the genre speaks to me. Its a language I understand. So I feel country will always be present. Its a good thing that country embodies a wide range of style and I can draw from those styles for future recordings. I’m sure I will continue to explore.

You obviously love Johnny Cash, including two of his songs in your set, who else would you see as primary influences? 

Leonard Cohen, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Robert Johnson, Janis Joplin, Mazzy Star, and Wanda Jackson. 

Have you ever wanted to do anything else other than be a singer/songwriter? 

Yes, I have always been fascinated with Storms and Tornadoes. I would most definitely be a storm chaser if I wasn’t a singer/songwriter! 

You seem to have found a second base in Europe, is that an important career step? 

I think its wonderful! I love Europe. I have had a wonderful time touring. I didn’t expect to do well in Europe but I was pleasantly surprised at how excepting of my music people were and I’m thrilled that I have opportunity to cross the pond and play my songs for everyone!   

Heartbreak is at the heart of many of you songs and you mentioned a failed on the road relationship. Do you think that building a relationship while you are an active performer is something you have to sacrifice? 

Sometimes I think its a sacrifice, but not one I impose upon myself as I feel very strongly that I could make it work, its just a matter of finding someone who could make it work with me.  That’s the hard part. For as many heartbreaks as I incur, I somehow remain hopeful in possibility.  

On the other hand aren’t failed relationships  a great source of songs? 

Yes, that is the blessing/curse of my fate. But maybe a great love song is yet to be written in my books. So I guess we’ll see! 

You had a great band with you in Dublin, but you also play solo. Do you have a preference for either?

  I actually love both. I find it a great challenge to convince an audience armed with just my guitar that I am worth their attention. I like that challenge. The band is a lot of fun though, and its great to rock out! 

Being Canadian do you have a different perspective on America. Do you have any political interests? 

I don’t really pay mind to politics. One could drive themselves mad with it. Instead I chose to be inspired by beautiful landscapes and history. America has some of the most beautiful and varied landscapes I’ve seen. likewise, Europe has so much to offer in that respect also. 

As it is currently is your music may find it hard to get a place on mainstream country radio, is that something that annoys you? 

No, I’m very happy with what I do and how I get to do it. If I were to ever make mainstream radio I suppose that would be nice to get that kind of exposure. But the underground is a place full of some of the most interesting and unique sounds I’ve ever heard so I’m proud to be there. 

Finally what would you like to be doing in ten years time? 

Ah.. a whole decade. Well if I make it to ten years I would hope to still be singing and creating. I very much live in the moment with my life so I don’t plan too much ahead. My only hope is to continue doing what I love and that it brings me the same great joy that I feel now. 

Interview by Stephen Rapid. Photography by Ronnie Norton

Monday
Feb272012

Audrey Auld Interview

 

Building a reputation in the Australian roots music scene in the 90s was Tasmanian native Audrey Auld's initial goal. After she established Reckless Records in 1998 she released a series of albums beginning with Looking Back To See, a duet album with Bill Chambers, then the ARIA nominated The Fallen in 2000 and the 2003 album Losing Faith. The latter release found critical favour in the US and she made inroads there by extensive touring before moving there on a permanent. She has since married and become an American citizen and continued touring and recording. She currently resides in East Nashville with her husband and pets. There she grows food, writes songs and is recording and touring. Audrey has just released a career overview in Resurrection Moon, it features two new tracks with fellow Australian Anne McCue. It follows her Mark Hallman produced Come Find Me which was recorded in Austin, Texas.

The albums you made in New South Wales in Australia seemed to have their antecedents in a more classic traditional country, since then you have moved the US and have a developed a folkier/rootsy sound, with Losing Faith being a cross-over point. How has location influenced you in your music making?

My first two albums Looking Back To See and The Fallen were influenced by my love of traditional country music. In 2002 I made Losing Faith, hot on the heels of a horrible relationship breakdown. I found the songs I wrote reflected the range of moods I went through. Sometimes rock or punk lends itself to the expression of anger better than country music. I decided long ago to honor the song that came to me, not to confine myself by sticking to one specific genre. I prefer to use a broad musical palette to express the emotions and experiences I want to write about.
Moving to the US later in 2003 created a shift in my perspective. I was less concerned about the state of my heart and very aware of the state of the world, politically and environmentally. The US is such a huge presence influencing the global community. I couldn't help but find different things to write about.  Also, in California there's a very healthy acoustic music scene which I became part of. I'd played with bands in Australia and shifted to solo and duo performances in the US. So, the song selection changes to suit an acoustic setting.
 
What would the other major influences and motivations on your writing be?

I'm always interested in discovering the universal aspect of what I'm feeling. I'm influenced by Buddhist texts, motivational and inspirational books and poetry, nature, human behaviour. I'm honored to receive songs as gifts. My motivation is to stay true to the muse. I meditate sitting and walking in order to keep the channels open, calm my mind, and let the words come through in a truly honest way, so that a song is created, not 'made-up'.
Is living in the US a scary time now with a more liberal outlook, the hopefulness of the Obama presidency seems to have dissipated somewhat with the reality of recession?

The media would have you believe it's a scary time, but as I travel all over I meet friendly, warm people who work to create community, help the needy and stay connected. Extremists are scary, religious maniacs are scary, reality TV shows are scary, the power of the media is scary. But face-to-face contact and connection through music balances it all out for me.

What role can the independent musician have at a time like this?

I feel my small but important purpose in this life is to provide a few hours during a live show where everyone in the room feels connected through music and laughter; that they feel their experiences and emotions are common and shared. Through writing and recording I can hopefully express for others what they feel and want to say, but may not have the tools to do so.
The economy and changing times has a direct effect on a musician's life, from a simple thing like travel right through the methods of delivering music. How have you been affected?

Yes the price of gas affects the bottom line of a tour and the weaker economy affects how many people turn up to a show.  I hope more media and radio people accept mp3 delivery of my music as an alternative to the ever increasing cost of packaging and mailing a disc. The Indie musician's life has always been one of richness of life-style and experiences rather than huge riches in the bank.  So a weak economy for everyone makes me think "welcome to my world!"
You are now a part of a roving band of singer/songwriters delivering their songs to small, but appreciative audiences. Is there a strong affinity between artists like your self and say, Anne McCue or Mary Gauthier whom you dedicated a songs on Come Find Me?

Anne McCue and I are neighbors, friends and we sometimes tour together. She's truly a road warrior. Amelia White is another East Nashville musician with whom we party and jam, when we're all in town at the same time. Nashville is full of indie artists, working alone or with a little help to tour, record and keep the wolf from the door.  Mary Gauthier's a friend too, who's also out touring full-time. She's had the benefit of being on a major label and management so her story would be a little different to those of us who are the Underbelly. People like Anne and I will be playing music, with or without support for the rest of our lives.  We know how to survive no matter what.
Speaking of which are you still feeling gorgeous as you say in that title song?

More than ever! Late last year I went to a 10 day meditation retreat called Vipassanna. It's a silent time of purification, giving time to one's higher self. It has a remarkable effect, like a spring clean of your psyche! I feel the most confident and alive I've ever felt. I've never had a drink or drug addiction problem but now live a sober life.  I spent much of my life 'out of it' and now enjoy being 'in it'.
Forty, is a song about aging how do you come to terms with that in your writing and approach to life?

I love aging. Sure, there are times in front of the mirror where I wish some line would disappear, but I also look with amusement at the same lines. I see my mother's face and my father's face, I see the story of those lines. I love the wisdom I've gained, the certainty of some lessons. I reckon the 4th decade is truly great and really look forward to the revelations of the future. I'm very comfortable with who I am. As an artist and just plain human I strive to be truly me and surround myself with people who dig me.
There's a different, heavier sound, and an almost rap style vocal section on Petals, are you keen to explore new direction and have you ever considered doing a straight country style album again?

I love going with the song as it's being written. I've been taking djembe classes in Nashville so I guess it was natural that a rhythm-based rap song would emerge. It also suited the subject of the song, Jon Dee Graham. I do plan to record a hard-core country album whilst I live in Nashville. I hope that Kenny Vaughan will produce it. He is cool, talented and totally understands genuine country music.
You have just released a career overview album Resurrection Moon how has that encapsulated your feeling about the music you have made to date?

I chose the songs based on those that I continue to perform live and the songs that people request. I felt proud to look at the collection of 18 songs and recognise that they touch and connect with people.  I included two new songs recorded with Anne McCue, which I love for their delicacy and femininity - a new sound for me.
Where will the muse and music (and life) take you next?

I'm working on finishing a bunch of songs for the country record I'd like to make next.  I'm touring as much as possible. Australia in March then all over the US later this year. I've been playing with a band in Nashville, in a bar on Broadway which is great fun. They're the bass player and drummer from Paul Thorn's band and Anne McCue on guitar. It's great to play loud and rock it out a little. But I'm pretty much a country singer, despite my forays into different styles. 

You haven't played in Europe and Ireland in particular in a while, any plans to come this side of the pond?

I'd love to return, but at this moment I don't have an agent or promoter in Europe or the UK to help me with a tour. I hope to tour there again, for sure!
Interview by Stephen Rapid. Photograph by Joseph Anthony Baker