EP Release and Tour Dates for Co-cheòl

Co Cheol
Image Courtesy of Co-cheòl

Article originally published on Overheard Productions

Victorian Celtic quartet Co-cheòl launched their debut EP (Co-cheòl) at the Boite World Music Café in North Fitzroy on Saturday 11 October 2014.

Boasting a wealth of instrumental skill and experience, a real strength of the group is in their vocal harmonising which comes to the fore in their EP. The group was also recognised with a runner-up award in the recent AUS-ACA A Capella Championships, plus awards for ‘Best Band’ and ‘Best Comedy Song’.

Co-cheòl made their festival debut in January 2014 at the ever-popular Cygnet Folk Festival in Tasmania to rapturous responses from audiences.

Co-cheòl comprises Claire Patti (vocals/harp), Georgina Walton (vocals/ukulele), and twins Merrily Hansen (vocals/flute) and Ginger Hansen (vocals/accordion).The group started singing together in October 2013 and this self-titled EP is their first recording.

Claire Patti was recently awarded the 2014 Female Vocalist of the year in the Australian Celtic Music Awards.

Ginger Hansen provided a little more background on where the band originated and what makes them hum (no pun intended):

“Claire, Merrily and I have all sung together in the past at one point or another in a community choir. Claire has her own solo career as well as singing with Taliska. She was doing a solo album and obviously can’t do harmonies with herself while performing! So she asked Merrily and I if we could give her a hand with concerts. We did the backing tracks on her album and thought this is a good thing; we’ll keep doing this. Claire works at a school where Georgina works, and one day Claire was singing to herself at work and then this other voice, Georgina, joined in with a great harmony line – and that was it! We want to do more original material. We have one or two original numbers, as well as some lyrics that are ready to be put to music. Aside from this, we do all our own arrangements of a mix of traditional and more modern stuff.”

Co-cheòl is pronounced ‘Co-shaal ‘ and appropriately means ‘harmony’ in Scots Gaelic. Ginger spoke briefly about the origins of the band’s chosen music.

The National A Capella Championships were great. The event was incredibly well-organised, really well-attended, and it was just amazing to get in contact and make friends with a lot of other musicians and groups.‘We have a family connection with Celtic music to varying degrees. We’ve all just had different amounts of exposure to it.

Quite of lot of groups from New South Wales and South Australia as well. When we go to Adelaide we’ll be meeting up with those people.

It was great to be in the company of a lot of other music nerds who enjoy singing as much as we do!

A capella is definitely a buzzword at the moment, so people are focussing on that aspect which is fine. They don’t necessarily have a picture of our music when they think of our singing, so that’s a nice surprise for them when they come to see and hear us.’

Victorians and South Australians have several chances to seeCo-cheòl perform starting with the EP launch:

Saturday 18th October — Darebin Music Feast, Wesley Anne, Northcote, VIC
Friday 21st to Saturday 22nd November — Carnival of Music, Clare Valley, SA
Sunday 23rd November — Creatively Celtic, Church of Christ, Aldgate, SA

More details on these dates are on Co-cheòl’s gig page.

You can see and hear more of Co-cheòl on their Youtube channel, Facebook page and Soundcloud site.

The EP is available from 11 October 2014 and pre-sale details are at Bandcamp.

Interview: Michael Johnathon of Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour

Image courtesy of Woodsongs dot com and Michael Johnathon, Photo by Larry Neuzel

Interview originally published on Overheard Productions

From humble beginnings in 1998, in a small venue that sat 20 in the audience, Michael Johnathon has built the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour into a public broadcasting colossus, heard and seen around the globe each week from its current home in the Lyric Theatre, Lexington KY.

The program, showcases bands, performers and troupes from across the broad spectrum of bluegrass, Americana, roots, acoustic and alt-country, and a few others around the blurred edges of folk. It’s a 100% community and volunteeer-run operation, making its longevity and sustainability all the more remarkable. And laudable.

It gets even better than that — but you’ll have to listen to the interview for the part that rocked me back on my heels. And upturned kayak.

The show has reached an eye-watering 750+ episodes, many of which are freely available from the Woodsongs website in audio and video formats. Apart from its legion of individual listeners, Woodsongs has spawned an array of coffeehouse groups which meet to experience the show as a community.

And it’s not like Michael has anything else to do with his spare time. Like being a singer-songwriter of many years standing. Or touring. Or arranging other concerts. Or building a log cabin and surrounding structures plus landscaping and bridges etc. bare-handed. Or being a father of two (and two on the way in one hit).

No, I lied. He’s all of that and more. Just get a load of where he got his folk beginnings from.

On a chilly autumnal morning in Sydney last month, I stepped off the Manly* Ferry and found a suitable place to record an interview over the shaky airwaves from Australia to Lexington, Kentucky. A picture of my luxurious chair in the ‘recording studio’ appears below. *

For international audiences, ‘Manly’ refers to a location on the north side of Sydney Harbour named ‘Manly’. We don’t believe in forcing gender stereotypes onto our aquatic transport vessels. Actually…. if anything, we refer to them as ‘her‘ for the most part.

The interview appears here in two parts as the facilities of the international multi-media conglomerate that is Overheard Productions does not currently run to a recording studio to pretty the sound files up. Also, my international phone card very inconveniently ran out towards the end so please pardon the slight administrative glitch — I was just too tuned into the discussion to hear the telltale beeps.

A full listing of where you can listen in each week to Woodsongs is available on the web-site or you can pick and choose from the extensive archives.

Some other links:

Woodsongs Old Time Music Hour on Facebook

Michael Johnathon’s page on Facebook

Michael Johnathon’s Facebook alternative: FolkBook

Interview: Lucie Thorne On Tour

Lucie Thorne
Image Courtesy of Lucie Thorne

Interview originally published on Overhead Productions

Lucie Thorne is doing one of the things that she does best — touring around Australia, making her way into major centres but also a few places off the beaten track as well.

After two successful runs in Australia in recent times with Pieta Brown, showcasing the Love Over Gold album, Lucie is back on the road solo, albeit with long time collaborator percussionist Hamish Stuart, and teaming up for a double bill in Bacchus Marsh with Liz Stringer.

I should stop mentioning that the locations for doing these interviews are a little weird because I can’t remember the last time I did a straight face to face interview in a studio. For this brief chat, I was located in the salubrious surrounds of the Brisbane City Youth Hostels Association dormitory room, finishing the interview just a tick before house-keeping arrived with the industrial leaf blower, while Lucie was relaxing on a friend’s property in South Australia complete with 3D cattle.

Details of Lucie Thorne’s upcoming gigs:

Wednesday 4th June – Melbourne Folk Club, Bella Union, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 14th June – Baby Black Cafe, Bacchus Marsh, VIC
Wednesday 18th June – Smiths Alternative Bookshop, Canberra, ACT
Thursday 19th June – The Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland, NSW
Friday 20th June – 5 Church Street, Bellingen, NSW
Saturday 21st June – St Martin’s Hall, Mullumbimby, NSW
Thursday 26th June – House Concert, Blue Mountains, NSW
Friday 27th June – House Concert, Kangaroo Valley, NSW
Sunday 29th June – Mudbrick Pavillion, Mallacoota, VIC

It’s an oldie but an absolute fave:

Interview: Taliska On Tour in Victoria

Image Courtesy of Taliska

Article originally published on Overheard Productions

Taliska brought a taste of Scotland parts of New South Wales and the ACT earlier this month and are now plying their Celtic trade closer to home in Ringwood and Portarlington (Victoria) and many steps beyond.

Hopefully they’ll be near you, and if they’re not, well, that’s just all the more reason to start loving their music and get them to your town next time they’re back this way.

Definitely like them on Facebook and follow the trails, talents and travails of Taliska.

Who are Taliska?

Claire Patti has a voice that has to be heard to be believed and she plays the harp (the stringed one), french horn and piano accordion. Claire sings harmonies with the guitar-playing band leader Marcus de Rijk (note the strong Scottish influence in that name — mmm, maybe not so much), while Geoff Jones plays pipes, whistles and bodhran. Angus Downing makes the whole thing fly with his wonderful fiddle playing. Taliska’s traditional Ceilidh will have your feet pounding the tiles.

Billy Quinn from Overheard Productions and Ducks Crossing Publications spoke with Marcus de Rijk early this week, and here’s what Marcus had to say about the band and the coming performances.

Gig dates for Taliska on their mini-tour of NSW and ACT plus upcoming Victorian gigs:

Friday 6th to Monday 9th June — National Celtic Festival, Port Arlington, VIC
Tuesday 10th June — Vic Folk Music Club, Ringwood, VIC
Saturday 21st June — Battle of Bannockburn Promo Event, VIC
Sunday 22nd June — Battle of Bannockburn, VIC
Friday 27th to Sunday 29th June — Camperdown Burns Festival, VIC
Thursday 21st August — Mamma Vittoria, Fitzroy, VIC
Friday 29th August — Conservatory Café, Wyreena, VIC

Full details of Taliska gigs is at their website.

Interview: Owen Campbell, Remember to Breathe Tour

Owen Campbell
Image Courtesy of Owen Campbell

Interview Originally Published on Overheard Productions

Australian blues man Owen Campbell has been busy promoting his latest album The Pilgrim and will be taking the show back to his old stomping ground of Canberra at The Abbey on Friday 2nd May 2014 to kick off his Remember to Breathe Tour.

Show only tickets are available for just $20 or dinner and show is $65. Booking fees apply to both and the details are available at The Abbey.

Owen took some time out to talk with Bill Quinn who was cooling his heels at Central Railway Station, and the foyer of the local Gaelic club proved to provide the best acoustics.

Tour dates for Owen Campbell are as follows:

Saturday 3rd May — Camelot Lounge, Marrickville, NSW
Sunday 4th May — Lizotte’s, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 9th May — Mudgee Brewing Company, Mudgee, NSW
Saturday 10th May — TAB Garden Hotel, Dubbo, NSW
Sunday 11th May — Towradgi Beach Hotel, NSW
Thursday 15th May — The Armidale Club, Armidale, NSW
Friday 16th May — Goondiwindi River Jam, Goondiwindi, QLD
Saturday 17th May — Queensland Hotel, Goondiwindi, QLD
Sunday 18th May — Royal Mail, Goodna, QLD
Wednesday 21st May — The Joynt, South Brisbane, QLD
Thursday 22nd May — Blues on Broadbeach Festival, QLD

Interview: Kavisha Mazzella, Sydney Launch of Riturnella at Django Bar, Marrickville

Image courtesy of Kavisha Mazzella

Interview Originally Published on Overheard Productions

Kavisha Mazzella is an accomplished singer-songwriter from Melbourne with a substantial body of work behind her and a long career of touring solo and with bands of various composition (no pun intended).

Were that the end of the story, it would be laudable enough, but it literally crests just the tip of the iceburg of this remarkable woman. Leader of community choirs in Australia and Italy, flexible and adaptive musician who lends her talents to a litany of projects including providing backing to a silent film from the 1920s — live!

It’s any wonder that when Billy Quinn caught up with Kavisha earlier this week he kept the chat time down to under 20 minutes. There are just too many things to talk about!

Kavisha Mazzella launches her Riturnella album of centuries-old Italian songs on Sunday 4 May at the Django Bar in Marrickville, Sydney. Tickets available here.

Interview: Eleanor McEvoy On Tour In Australia

Eleanor McEvoy
Image Courtesy of Eleanor McEvoy

Interview reprinted with permission from Overheard Productions

Eleanor McEvoy landed in Australia this week on tour from now until … well, until Ireland warms up again in roughly six weeks’ time.

On St Patrick’s night, Monday 17 March 2014, Eleanor was a very special guest of Riogh and the Illawarra Folk Club at what’s starting to look a lot like a Paddy tradition in this south coast of New South Wales town centre. Accessible from anywhere and a short walk from the train station ;-)

(Our correspondent Bill Quinn later that night ventured down the road to another raucous Irish venue, and couldn’t help but notice that, despite the number of prone young bodies decked out in over-sized corporate green Irish hats, the music on the tannoy was Canadian Scots.)

But before that, and after one or three very large jars of piping cold very special St Patrick’s Day tea, Bill spoke a little with Eleanor about the tour:

Eleanor McEvoy’s tour is in the country up to and including Fairbridge Folk Festival in late April. The full list of remaining tour dates are below:

Friday 21st March – Albert Park Yacht Club, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 22nd March – Harvester Moon, Bellarine, VIC
Sunday 23rd March – St Cuthbert’s Chapel at Menzies Creek, Dandenong Ranges, VIC
Sunday 23rd March – Northcote Social Club, Northcote, VIC
Friday 28th March – Illawarra Folk Club, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday 29th March – Petersham Bowling Club, Petersham, NSW
Sunday 30th March – St David’s Church, Dee Why, NSW
Thursday 3rd April – South Coast Folk Club, Port Noarlunga, SA
Friday 4th April – HATS-Courthouse Cultural Centre, Auburn, SA
Saturday 5th April – The Song Room, Tanunda, SA
Sunday 6th April – Singing Gallery, McLaren Vale, SA
Thursday 10th April – Carrington Bowling Club, Newcastle, NSW
Sunday 13th April – Quarterdeck, Narooma, NSW
Thursday 17th to Monday 21st April – National Folk Festival, Canberra
Wednesday 23rd April – Rosie O’Grady’s, Perth, WA
Thursday 24th to Sunday 27th April – Fairbridge Folk Festival, Pinjarra, WA

Interview: Ann Vriend (Canada), 2014 Australian Tour

Ann Vriend
Image Courtesy of Ann Vriend

Interview originally published on Overheard Productions.

Not too many summers go by in Australia these days without a tour by Canadian singer-songwriter-keyboardian Ann Vriend.

2014 continues that rich tradition.

Ann has already started this year’s tour on the Gold Coast and she’s heading south to Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales before winding things up in Brisbane later this month.

In between dips in the pool on a Saturday afternoon (and no doubt a stack of photos on social media back home to envious and shivering Albertans), Ann talked to Bill Quinn about this year’s Australian tour.

Bill Quinn: Ann, from memory this is your ninth tour of Australia. Does it get easier, or harder or different?

Ann Vriend: I definitely think it’s getting easier. I have more and more people coming on board to help me out, and the fan base is slowly growing. And also different because I’m getting more and more used to being here!

Every tour I have different shows and different itineraries, so it doesn’t get boring.

BQ: Do you have someone who helps, like an agent here in Australia?

AV: I’ve had a couple of tries with a couple of different people. I’ve kind of gone back to doing it myself which is a lot of work. And I definitely don’t have the time to be a proper agent , of course.

BQ: So how difficult is it to line up dates from half a world away?

AV: Well, I do a lot on email, so it doesn’t really matter that it’s so far away. Agents that have a roster with a whole bunch of artists on their roster that are at different levels of fame can wheel and deal and trade, whereas I don’t have anything except, “Please give me a gig!”

There are certain festivals and certain venues that only take acts from certain agents they work with, otherwise it’s closed doors to others, or so I’ve been realising. You can get into small things, but not into anything that gives you some real money and lots of attendance in bigger places.

But I’m lucky I have a company helping me out down here now. They’re starting up their own production company where they want to sponsor artists to help them with their careers.

I’m the very first artist that they’re helping. The company’s called David Hand Productions. They’re basically helping me out with logistics and some promotion stuff.

And then next year we’re going to do a full-on tour that they’re helping me plan. So this year is basically laying the groundwork for the big one next year.

Ann VriendBQ: And for this year, have you got venues that want you back and have become regulars for you?

AV: Yeah. Sometimes — especially this one — I didn’t get around to booking it very much in advance, because I was so busy working on finishing my CD, and I was on tour in Europe, so I didn’t really get enough time to properly sit down and do the booking. So a lot of the places wanted to have me back, but it didn’t work with their schedules.

So I took what I could get for this tour, but people have been pretty good about helping me out where they can, for sure.

The big thing about this tour is promoting the single from my new album, and getting the new album [For The People In The Mean Time] out there, so that for next year it’s already been played and people know the songs.

For the People in the Mean Time
For the People in the Mean Time

BQ: And tell us about the album; it’s been a while in the pipeline, hasn’t it?

AV: Oh, that’s an understatement. Yes!

It’s kind of for a good reason. My producer (Tino Zolfo) just got busy with other artists because he started getting a lot of recognition. Suddenly his phone’s ringing and everybody wanted him to produce their record.

Some of those were artists who had big labels behind them who could pay more than Ann Vriend could!

But he says it’s one of the best records he’s ever made and he’s super-proud of it, He put 130% effort into it. He said, “I don’t want to rush to get it done and not do the best job that we can do”. He was committed to it, but he had to pay the bills as well!

BQ: When people listen to the new album, are they going to say, “This is what we expect from Ann Vriend”, or is it taking you in a new direction?

AV: I think both.

It’s a retro-soul record, in a sort of an indie way. It’s full of beats and loops and that kind of thing. Someone from Germany told me he got his copy in the mail and called it an ‘old/new soul record with a Motown feel’. And that’s pretty much what it is.

In that way, people who expect me just to be playing folkie songs, it’s going to be different than that. But if you’ve listened to my records from the beginning (like someone like you!) you know there’s always some soul and blues on every album, and I always sing in a bluesy way. And that’s been a big influence on my music.

So that’s coming through very loud and clear, and we try to be very consistent about the sound of this whole record, that they’re all in that kind of vein.

BQ: And on the tour is it just Ann plus keyboard or do you have support players as well?

AV: Some of the shows I’ll be doing solo, but more than half of them I’ll have a rhythm section, the same rhythm section that I had in Sydney last year. They’re guys from the band Peregrine that’s based in Sydney. So drums and bass and me. It should be fun.

This sort of music really needs a rhythm section; it’s all groove-oriented stuff. Old school soul.

BQ: And after you leave our shores, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?

AV: I’m going to be touring the hell out of this record. So I get home and then I have a week or two before we do a mini Canada tour to promote the album and release it. The official release date is March 11.

And then from there we go straight to Europe and do a five week tour of Europe. Then we come back and do some shows in Canada, festivals and more touring.

And then in 2015, I’ll be back in Australia! So I won’t be bored in 2014!

BQ: We’ll look forward to seeing you!

Ann Vriend’s remaining Australian tour dates:

Thursday 6th February — The Musicman Megastore, Bendigo, VIC
Friday 7th February — Albert Park Yacht Club, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 8th February — The Rumpus Room, Maribyrnong, VIC
Sunday 9th February — On The Green at Gumly Gumly, Wagga Wagga, NSW
Wednesday 12th February — Django Bar, Marrickville, NSW
Friday 14th February — The Homestead, North Hobart, TAS
Saturday 15th to Sunday 16th February — MONA, Hobart, TAS
Thursday 20th February — Sunset Studio, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday 22nd February — Tree House, Byron Bay, NSW
Sunday 23rd February — Black Bear Lodge, Fortitude Valley, QLD

Glover and Sorensen: the (not so) Serious Side of Folk Festivals

Glover and Sorensen
Image Courtesy of Glover and Sorensen

WARNING: The following interview contains multiple gratuitous references to Morris Dancers.

Folk festivals are a serious business. Well, they can be.

Or not, if Alan Glover and S Sorensen are on the program. The comic duo turn up like bad pennies at festivals around the country, and they’re back this weekend at one of their regular haunts, the Illawarra Folk Festival.

Bill Quinn spoke with Alan and S last year about the blend of comedy and folk, after a momentarily passing fascination with the interviewer’s MP3 recorder.

S Sorensen: You’re pointing what looks like… it looks like an electric shaver, doesn’t it? And I’m a bit stubbly, being at the festival for a few days without shaving.

And I believe alcohol makes your beard grow faster.

Bill Quinn: Indeed. Now, we’re at a folk festival. How does it go with comedy at a folk festival?

Alan Glover: It goes pretty well, as long as there are things happening at the festival that are going to make us funny. Now we’ve had a lot of trouble with Morris Dancers this festival. First up, we wondered why they were called ‘daaaaahhncers’. We called them ‘dancers’ and they said, “No, we’re daaaaahhhncers”.

It turns out they’re waaaaahhhnkers.

And they’ve been dancing – or daaaaaahhncing – their way up and down the street. And I think they should be banned and I think something should be sprayed to get rid of them.

SS: Well, they really annoy me. We had a few jokes at their expense, and then we walked out of the show on Friday night and we came down here, and there was a whole bunch of Morris Dancers waiting for us, and they attacked us with their sticks and their hankies.

I got a really bad hanky burn on my neck.

AG: That’s really bad.

SS: I’ve had to rub stuff on it because of this hanky burn from those nasty, aggressive, unattractive jingle-janglers.

BQ: To borrow a phrase from musician John Thompson, is it artistic expression or a cry for help?

AG: I don’t think it’s either. I think these people are deluded. I think they’re pre-Alzheimer’s; I think that’s what’s going on. Someone’s dressed them up and said it will be fun. They don’t know what fun is. They’re just easily pushed-along people.

It’s just typical of the voters in this county. And I don’t want to make a tenuous segue from Morris Dancing to the [then] forthcoming federal election, but I’ve gotta say, if a Morris Daaaaahhncer stood for prime minister of this country, they’d probably get in – that’s how stupid things are at the moment!

SS: That’s right, and the thing about the Morris Dancers is that I, like any sensible person, don’t believe in evolution. I believe that God created the world on six working days and had Sunday off. And I believe that when he was creating stuff, he didn’t create the Morris Dancers. Somehow they were created by accident when he was having Sunday off, going to church. Because on Friday I think it was he created churches as well as planets and all living things.

But then somehow he created Morris Dancers, and they’re a deviant life-form that doesn’t even belong on the planet. So we just avoid them.

BQ: I feel like I’ve learnt so much in two minutes and fifty-six seconds. Getting back to you. I’ve only seen you at festivals from Woodford and south. What’s the life of S and Alan like when you’re not on the circuit?

AG: We basically go into stasis, don’t we?

SS: Yes, we rest a lot and read dictionaries, learn words that we can use to confuse our audience.

AG: And basically do everything we can to undermine ourselves, to white ant ourselves.

SS: Yeah, and when he’s in stasis, I’m usually in the next room reading the books, and I tell him later because he doesn’t like to read. I’m telling him later what Mickey did and what Donald did.

And after a couple of weeks it’s time to do another festival. Stasis isn’t allowed round because she’s a bit ugly.

But that’s generally what we do, and we don’t have any other life. We love coming to festivals because here people are real. They’re turning off the telly, they’re turning off the internet, and that’s what we want. We want people to realise that there’s a real life. There’s a reality. And it needs their help.

AG: It’s not real bad. You know I’ve come to the conclusion that the only people you can really trust to tell you the truth are comedians.

SS: That’s right. People reckon they talk the truth, like politicians, but it’s all bullshit. We talk bullshit but it’s all honest and it’s the truth.

BQ: So while you’re in stasis (or Stasis) and the rest of the world is turning, where can people go to find out more about Glover and Sorensen?

AG: Well, they can Google ‘Glover and Sorensen’ and they’ll get a Youtube clip of us pretending to be at a festival. Well, we are. It looks like we’re in someone’s back room but we’re not; we’re actually at a live festival, aren’t we?

SS: Yes, and you can go to our website which we went to once — it’s lovely — if you ever want to hire us for anything, like you’ve got a big empty space in your life and you want someone to really connect. Because we are against everything, except the stuff we’re not.

AG: And we’re easy to find on the internet. Just type in this: ‘shemuckaruckmuckbeugh dot glergflerk dot comgfhgjkjerr dot au’.

Or www.gloverandsorensen.com.au

BQ: Gentlemen, the last five minutes and twenty eight seconds has been…..something. I thank you.

SS: ‘Have’ been. Because it’s plural. ‘The last five minutes and twenty eight seconds HAVE been…’ But I don’t want to correct your bad English.

But it’s been rather pleasant for us too.

AG: Hey, I told you not to talk to him like that. Now you’re boiling your ‘Billy’! Now leave it alone!

BQ: I’ve just been ‘Quinned’! Thank you, gentlemen.

SS: Thanks, Billy!

Glover and Sorensen’s gigs at the Illawarra Folk Festival:

 Friday 17th January – Miners Camp, 8pm\
Saturday 18th January – La Petite Grande, 9.30pm
Sunday 19th January – Show Pavilion, 10.30am (Funny Concert)
Sunday 19th January – Grandstand Restaurant
Sunday 19th January – Slacky Flat Bar (Finale Concert)

Interview: Rough Red heading to Illawarra Folk Festival

Rough Red
Image Courtesy of Rough Red

Queensland/NSW-based folk-rock band Rough Red have been enjoying success with their album Not Here For A Haircut, and they’re making a very welcome return this weekend to the Illawarra Folk Festival.

Bill Quinn spoke with John Fegan from the band this week ahead of their trip south.

Bill Quinn: John, just for the uninitiated, give us a potted history of Rough Red.

John Fegan: There are five of us and we all used to play together in different bands. Well, they did. I joined these guys in my mid-thirties when I was working in an ad agency and bumped into them. And we ended up playing in this big blues and soul band together.

We got a bit bored with that and decided we wanted to do our own thing, and so we got all my poetry out of wardrobes, and Steve Tyson had some good stuff. And we started playing together once a week – it really started to come together well.

We got ourselves a manager who got us a few gigs, very uninspiring gigs in Brisbane. But the manager had had overseas experience and he knew some contacts and said, “Hey, I can take you guys to Europe!”

We said, “Wow! Really?!”

So he sorted that out and we did a little four/five track album which we took over to the Cannes Music Festival, and we were accepted. Then some people said, “We’d like to see those guys in Ireland”, etc etc.

And next thing you know, we’re heading off for Europe.

It was the early days of the internet – not everyone had it then – and Steve Tyson had gotten on the phone and internet and had been ringing people in Europe. These people in Skagen in the north of Denmark were pretty adept at that sort of thing, and they said to Steve, “Look, if you guys are crazy enough to come all the way from Australia, we’d love to have you play here.”

So we ended up in Skagen – the first Aussie band to play in Skagen – and we had to put together some other gigs, which we did from contacts here and there. We played in a football stadium in England, and all sorts of weird and wonderful things.

Out first tour was an economically dismal failure! But we learned a lot, so we started going back and each time we went back, it got better and better because we got a bit of a reputation. And now we’re old hands at it!

BQ: That’s a bit of a coup, because many bands and artists are knocking on the door of Europe and England for a long time before they establish themselves enough for a tour or repeat tours.

JF: The lucky thing for us was that when we were doing it, we were one of the first Aussie bands. We were the first Aussie band to play at Skagen, we were the first Aussie band to play in Vikedal in Norway, first one in Estonia at Paide. We just lucked in early and made the most of it.

We opened the doors for a lot of other Aussie bands to follow us.

The last time we were in Skagen (July 2013), there was about five Aussie bands there.

BQ: The composition of the band: you’ve got a lot of strong song-writing talent there…

JF: Really good.

BQ: What’s that like when you’ve got five people coming together? How does it influence the make-up of what you perform and record?

JF: In the early days, it was pretty much Steve Tyson, Peter Harvey and me – those two guys are fabulous songwriters. And then Johnny Barr started to put stuff in now Dave Parnell (or ‘Mashie’) our drummer – he’s a brilliant little bloke who can do everything – he’s now coming up with some great stuff too.

So it works really well. Five disparate souls have gotten together and it just works. It’s just amazing how it just works.

BQ: As well as disparate in talent you’re now geographically spread. How does that influence the collaboration?

JF: The latest album was a classic example because we recorded it in three separate studios. One in ByronBay and two down on MoretonBay. So we were sending stuff from one studio to another and I’d go and do vocals here, and someone would go and do guitar there.

So it was very different – I’d never done it before – but it seemed to work and we ended up with a really nice product.

BQ: Touring is your strong suit and the crowds really do love you, don’t they?

JF: Yeah, I think it’s the five-part harmonies and that kind of kick-arse Irish-y Australian thing, and the stories about bushrangers and haunted trains and bad women.

I think it’s just a combination of everything and it just works.

And they’re brilliant musicians these guys, and it’s just such a pleasure playing with them. Nothing ever goes wrong and it really is such a joy.

BQ: In the time that you’ve been around and touring and recording, have you noticed a discernible shift in what we loosely call ‘folk’? Are you finding different sorts of bands as you’re going around?

JF: Oh man, ‘folk’ is such a… I find it difficult to describe it as ‘folk’ because so much of it’s not folk. ‘Folk’ is just an easy thing for people to use. You couldn’t really say that what we play is folk.

I remember when we were playing in Ireland we played with Arlo Guthrie in a festival there, and the guy who ran the festival, he said to us: “Well, we t’ought you was an Oirish band. But you’re not an Oirish band. You’re a f—— rock ‘n roll band wid’ a bit of diddly doo!”

Folk is such a broad thing. I think the beauty of it is that when you go to a festival overseas like Skagen, you see dead-set, full-blown folk. And then you see all these other hybrid things that have come from it, and that’s what makes it such a fabulous sort of genre.

You can’t really pin it down to anything. That’s what I love about it. I’m quite happy to be called a folk band, but when they hear us, they go, “Whoa….. ok. A bit different.”

BQ: Speaking of touring, you’re heading to Illawarra Folk Festival, a favourite of yours.

JF: Yeah, mate, yeah, we love it down there. This is our third time and we enjoy it. It’s a lovely place to be. Good venues, nice people running it. It’s always good.

BQ: I remember vividly you being there when Brisbane was flooding and you couldn’t do much but get reports about your house going under.

JF: It was 2011 when we were there last. I was there when my house had been flooded. I was driving out to the airport and my wife rang and said, “Guess where I am? I’m on the steps of the house and it’s gone down.”

We were told it would take at least three days and she said, “Well, you might as well go and have some fun because you won’t be having much fun for the next three months!”

So anyway, I went down to Illawarra and we had a concert there on the Sunday where we raised money for the Queensland Flood Appeal, which was lovely. And I wrote a verse to one of our current songs, and I added it in about the flood. And when I did my latest solo album which I did last June, I wrote the song which was ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ about that horrible thing.

BQ: And finally, the story: the adventures of Rough Red which you’ve been meticulously chronicling over the years.

JF: Ever since we started, I kept a chronicle. I’ve written everywhere we went, every adventure. I’ve made my name on radio over the years as a funny guy and so I wrote it in my style, and everyone who’s read it just loves it and says it’s full of life and textures.

It’s the quintessential ‘Baby boomer living the rock and roll dream’ story, warts and all. I would love to get it published. People say, “Why don’t you put it on a blog?” but I want to see it in a book form. I’m an old fellow, I’m old school – I want to see a book!

BQ: Maybe there’s an opening for a publisher who’s reading to step forward and put it into print!

JF: Well, I don’t think he’d do himself any harm because it’s a fabulous story! I hope so, mate. I hope you’re right.

BQ: John, thanks for your time and see you at Illawarra.

Rough Red’s gigs at the 2014 Illawarra Folk Festival:

Friday 17th January – Grandstand Restaurant, 1045pm
Saturday 18th January – Slacky Flat Bar, 4.45pm
Sunday 19th January – Show Pavilion, 5.30pm

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