Snowy Mountains of Music Interview: Brendan Gallagher

Brendan Gallagher

Interview by Snowy Mountains of Music Blogger Amber Gardaya
Photo by Mandy Lamont

We all expect the unexpected. I personally didn’t expect to be sitting with the iconic Brendan Gallagher, conducting an interview in the snowfields at Perisher. I had just won a competition to be the Festival Blogger for the Perisher Snowy Mountains of Music, this was my first foray into interviewing and I was still a little shell-shocked. But Brendan was a real pleasure to have a chat with, and despite being one of Australia’s most formidable musicians, he put me at ease straight away.

Brendan is probably best known as singer/guitarist with Karma County who over the last fifteen years has produced five albums and toured extensively. For the past two years Brendan has also been an Ambassador for Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and is proud to have his name alongside other great APRA Ambassadors including the likes of Jimmy Little.

But it was by chance that as a boy home sick with the flu, feeling bored with nothing else to do, that he picked up the guitar. Brendan’s mother was more interested in him pursuing the violin, which he really wasn’t impressed with at all. Brendan says that his family finally got the message when he kept leaving his violin on the train on his way home from lessons. He went about teaching himself the guitar with the aid of a good ear, a great record collection and a classic Coles guitar book. This was just the beginning of his relationship with the guitar, which would take him on a worldwide journey that he is still drawing inspiration from today.

Brendan’s been in the news a lot lately due to his long working relationship with one of Australia’s top Aboriginal Artists, the late Jimmy Little. He remembers Jimmy with a high reverence “Jimmy was a very gentle sweet man, but he was ferociously determined nothing got in his way”. And Brendan would know better than most- he produced many of Jimmy’s albums including his Australian classic “Messenger”.

Another stand-out experience in Brendan’s career was recording with David Bowie. It was in the September of 1999 when Marius De Vries (producer to the likes of Bjork, Neil Finn and Madonna) invited Brendan to play guitar on his remix of David Bowie’s song ‘Survive’ from Bowie’s ‘Hours’ album. He actually didn’t meet Bowie until a year later, which Brendan describes as one of those pinch-yourself moments and one of the highlights of his career.

Another surprise to me is that Brendan is also an author and wrote ‘The Open Tuning Chord Book for the Guitar’. For all those non-players out there, an open chord is tuning your guitar to your key of choice. (By the way, Brendan’s choice of open chords are G and D). The book has been popular with a wide range of artists including the likes of Arlo Guthrie, Peter Buck (REM), Chris Cheney (Living End), and it has even found its way into the guitar case of the Red Wiggle Murray Cook. Within the last five years this book has been published worldwide, which Brendan is very proud of.

As the interview was coming to an end, Brendan was wrapping his jacket around him and contemplating leaving the warm environment of Smiggins Basement to journey out into the snow, something he expressed he wasn’t overly fond of. My last question had to be what’s next for Brendan Gallagher? He is now working ferociously on finishing off his new solo album which will be called Wine Island and is set to be released as a double vinyl album later on this year.

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