Image Courtesy of Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson
Following an impressive tour of the Northern Hemisphere Australian-Irish duo Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson have returned back to our shores with a new album, Wiley Ways, and a massive tour of the East Coast this October. Our very own Gareth Hugh Evans managed to pin both Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson down for a chat last week to chat about the album and tour as well as all things related to their unique brand of roots music.
Gareth Hugh Evans: You guys have just returned from a tour through Europe and Northern America right?
Cara Robinson: Yeah, we did three and a half months.
GHE: I read a lot of folk and roots music blogs from the UK and US and it seems to me that you guys have been getting a lot of attention while you’ve been in the Northern Hemisphere.
Hat Fitz: Yeah, it’s getting bigger over there. We sort of hit the folk scene more. I think the folk scene [there] is a lot different than over here – they’re very quiet and sit down and listen to what you’re talking about between songs. It was quite overwhleming how we’ve sort of taken two steps forward instead of one this year.
GHE: It feels like you guys were everywhere. It’s great that you’re getting that much exposure.
CR: We had really good guys on board with the PR and they seemed to really like the album. When we went over there we were pretty overwhelmed with a lot of magazines from different genres of music, not just straight blues, really welcoming the album with open arms. I hope Australia’s ready and will welcome it with just as open arms!
GHE: Let’s talk about your music for a second. Hat Fitz, you’re obviously deep into blues while Cara, you have more of a folk background – is that right?
CR: Well I have a more eclectic background I guess as opposed to Fitzy.
GHE: How does that all come together? What kind of music do you class yourselves as playing?
CR: It’s hard to put a label on anything of course. With our music, where it is today, it would have to be originals made with an old time flavour. And it’s bluesy and folk combined as well. There’s a lot of old timey sounds in there.
GHE: That old timey sound and the mingling of genres seems to be really popular at the moment. It’s great in the folk scene, both here and overseas, they’re really embracing all sounds. There’s less hardcore traditionalists than there used to be and now the scene is embracing anyone who’s got roots in, well, roots music. And audiences are really responding to it.
CR: That’s true. If you were to say Bob Dylan say is in the folk world a lot of purists would disagree because he ventured into the blues side of things. And I guess with music that’s based in folk it’s becoming a lot larger and really really growing.
HF: You look at the way that blues festivals used to be – they were all pretty well full on pure blues. Now there’s everything at a blues festival and everything at a folk festival. Country as well. The [Gympie] Muster and Tamworth have got rock and blues, they have certain venues for that genre of music. It never used to be like that. It used to be pure country or pure folk or pure blues.
GHE: I grew up in the folk scene in Australia and my wife grew up in the blues scene and now it doesn’t really matter which festival we go to both our tastes will be satisfied.
CR: They’re all at the same festivals.
GHE: Which makes Easter a hard time for us because we have to decide between Bluesfest and The National.
CR: At least you have to choice. You could be married to a trad-jazz head!
GHE: That’s true! Lucky there’s as much crossover as there is.
CR: I embrace it. I think it’s a really good thing because it’s opening up a lot of other people’s ears to different styles and genres of music at the one festival. We get a lot of people coming up going “we’ve just seen you for the first time, we would never have come to see you if we hadn’t have just heard you by walking past”. That’s a great thing because without the visual they’re hearing the music.
GHE: You have your new album Wiley Ways coming out in Australia on the 1st October. You recorded the album with Jeff Lang right?
HF: Yeah mate he was just an absolute treasure to have on board. Me and Langy have been pretty good mates for a good 20 years now. It was good to have someone who actually cared about the music that we play. He sort of knows it inside out because he’s known me for so long so he had a lot of input on it.
GHE: Having that sort of relationship with Jeff Lang was it sometimes hard to hear criticism from him?
HF: Not at all mate because I know what his ears are like. He knows exactly what I do inside out – I don’t take it like that. I’d try anything he threw at me and nine times out of ten what he pulled out of the hat worked.
GHE: How do you feel about how it’s turned out? Are you proud of the Wiley Ways end product?
HF: Absolutely. It’s my eleventh album on a personal level and it’s the proudest I’ve been of an album I’ve ever done by a long shot.
CR: Yeah me too. I’m not just copying him!
GHE: It’s great to have someone like Jeff Lang on board because he’s got such a great reputation.
GHE: Having his name on the record might open you up to new fans.
CR: He’s definitely helped us. Whatever bit of magic he’s worked in the studio, engineering and producing wise, it seems to have had a real positive effect
GHE: Following the release of the album you have a giant tour coming up. It seems like you’re performing everywhere on the East Coast
HF: For the October run we’re just going from our home base in South-East Queensland through to Sydney, through to Melbourne, around and then back up again. That’s the October run.
GHE: And then this is all before the festival season really kicks in.
HF: We finish off with the Sydney Blues Festival in October.
GHE: Are you going anywhere that you haven’t taken your music before?
HF: We’re doing new venues we haven’t done before, definitely.
GHE: Is there anywhere you’re excited to play? You’ll be at The Workers Club in Melbourne as part of the Timber and Steel Sunday Matinee shows for instance.
HF: There’s a few towns I’ve never heard of that I’m looking forward to.
GHE: Obviously you’ve been touring a lot recently so you must find yourselves constantly reinventing your songs. Have the current batch of songs changed much since the album was recorded?
HF: The actual songs, you twist them around a little bit, it depends on the night. You might have a rowdy crowd so you beef it up a bit or you have a nice listening crowd so you’ll pull it back a bit. Each song does vary and you always throw new ones in or ones from years ago that you throw in just to spice it up for yourself a bit.
GHE: Is it just the two of you playing this time around or are you bringing a band on tour?
CR: Just the two of us on the stage. I think the two of us is enough on the road – we’re quite a handful Gareth.
HF: No room to argue with anyone else.
CR: They’d just get in the way dear [laughs]. We were toying with the idea of having a video on the road. A friend of hours works for the BBC and we thought it would be a great idea to have a bit of a “Reality on the Road with Hat and Cara”. But we’re still toying with the ide.
GHE: There might be things that you just don’t want to expose to your fans.
CR: It would be within reason of course. No smuttiness now.
GHE: I was more thinking about how documenting the reality of the road might take of the shine and polish off the rock and roll lifestyle.
CR: [laughs] Never! There’s still glamour.
GHE: And you probably can’t say but I imagine that after the tour’s over you do have plans to hit up a few of the festivals over the summer.
HF: Definitely. Our manager Sinksy takes care of that stuff in Oz and he’s pumping it out there.
GHE: Well guys I really appreciate you both having a chat with me. Good luck on the tour and I’ll speak to you soon.
CR: It’s been a pleasure Gareth, thanks very much.
Wiley Ways will be released on the 1st October. The full list of dates for Hat Fiz and Cara Robinson’s East Coast tour are below:
Thursday 4th October – The Joynt, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 5th October – Byron Bay Brewery, Byron Bay, NSW
Saturday 6th October – Seaview Tavern, Woolgoolga, NSW
Sunday 7th October – Oddfellows Hot Club, West Kempsey, NSW
Wednesday 10th October – The Armidale Club, Armidale, NSW
Thursday 11th October – Lizotte’s, Dee Why, NSW
Friday 12th October – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 13th October – Katoomba RSL, Katoomba, NSW
Sunday 14th October – Lizotte’s, Lambton, NSW
Thursday 18th October – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine, VIC
Friday 19th October – The Harvester Moon, Bellarine, VIC
Saturday 20th October – Baha Taco Joint, Rye, VIC
Sunday 21st October – The Worker’s Club, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 25th October – The Keller, Harmonie German Club, Canberra, ACT
Friday 26th October – Kidgeeridge Festival, Lake Conjola, NSW
Saturday 27th October – Illawarra Builder’s Club, Wollongong, NSW
Sunday 28th October – Sydney Blues Festival
Sunday 28th October – Lizotte’s, Kincumber NSW