Interview: Liz Frencham – Touring with Gregory Page (US)

Liz Frencham
Image Courtesy of Liz Frencham

Liz Frencham is one of the hardest working women in folk.

Liz’s collaborations, bands and projects are legendary. If you laid out her records end to end, including her solo, band, contribution and bit part playing thereon CDs… my, it would take a long time to pick them all up again.

Liz spent part of winter cocooned away in rural Victoria, but in recent times she’s been on the road with her bluegrass outfit Jimmy the Fish, and with the inspired pairing with Fred Smith as Frencham/Smith.

Sometime in the late 1980s, or so it seems, Liz had one of the dodgiest, or rather, “kludgiest” interviews with Bill Quinn which included one landline, one mobile phone as conduit, and another mobile phone as recording device. Liz was in picturesque southern Trentham, and Bill by the banks of the Moruya River on the beautiful Eurobodalla Nature Coast in rural, coastal New South Wales.

For reasons of efficacy and brevity (a service the author rarely provides) what follows is merely a tidbit, and the full interview will be available by month’s end on the Overheard Productions blog.

As Liz prepares to strike out on a tour with US singer-songwriter Gregory Page, I started by asking Liz where her preference for solo or band performing lay.

Liz Frencham: The difference between playing in a band and playing solo is totally different to, say, playing with Jimmy the Fish and playing with Fred.

Playing solo is “different” and it requires different skills. Probably one thing it has in its favour at the moment is that it still completely terrifies me.

It’s not something that I’ve mastered. It’s exciting and I haven’t settled into a comfortable groove, which makes the possibilities seem more endless. I wouldn’t say it was a preference, per se.

I am a bass player, and when you’re fitting into your role the most is when you’re accompanying somebody else.

Bill Quinn: How much of the solo stuff have you done to date?

LF: I’ve only ever done two whole shows. One was at The Artists’ Shed in Queanbeyan, and another one I did at Café Church Space. Even then I only did one whole set, and the next one I made sure I had friends I invited up from every song! So I kind of chickened out, you know?!

BQ: I heard someone once describe it that a solo player has “spaces”. Say, for instance, if you’ve got Nancy [Kerr] and James [Fagan] that when you’ve got the guitar playing, some of those “spaces” will be taken up with the fiddle. Do you ever feel like that when you’re playing on your own that there are some “spaces” there?

LF: Oh, definitely. You can imagine, you know, it can be that confronting to be playing guitar and singing. Think about a guitar, it’s at least a chordal instrument and you can strum it, and sure a singer-guitarist might miss having a soloist or a harmony voice. But imagine how obvious those spaces are when you’ve only got a single note instrument. Really, the most you can ever do is play two or three double stops to suggest chords and things.

But it can get very muddy when you try to play more than one string at once. It becomes very challenging to find ways to interpret the songs with a bass. On your own.

BQ: And you’ve got something very exciting coming up later in 2012, haven’t you?

LF: The Gregory Page tour? Yeah, that’s going to be awesome. He’s an incredible song-writer from the US of A, and he was this style that goes between folk and almost crooner-swing.

And that’s my two favourite genres. All you’d have to do is throw in a touch of bluegrass for me!

He’s come to Australia a couple of times before but this is a more extensive tour for him. For most of the tour I’ll be opening for him, doing a completely solo spot. This is my absolute first time doing the bigger venues completely solo.

BQ: Well I might leave it there and talk to you again soon

And that’s where we leave this part of the interview, and if time and wellbeing and pigeons sitting on various towers of mobile phone companies allow, I’ll talk with Liz somewhere on the road and see how things are progressing on her solo opening tour with Gregory Page.

Gregory Page’s tour dates (feat. Liz Frencham solo upright bass plus vox and smile) are:

Thursday 4th October – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW
Friday 5th October – Yours and Owls, Wollongong, NSW
Sunday 7th October – The Clarendon, Katoomba, NSW
Friday 12th October — Royal Exchange Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday 13th October — Humph Hall, Allambie Heights, NSW
Sunday 14th October – Folk in the Foothills Festival, Jamberoo, NSW
Thursday 18th October – The Joynt, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 20th October – Bangalow Bowls Club, Bangalow, NSW
Sunday 21st October — Dingo Creek Jazz Festival, Sunshine Coast, QLD

3 Comments

  1. September 28, 2012 at 16:07

    […] “Playing solo is different and it requires different skills. Probably one thing it has in its favour at the moment is that it still completely terrifies me” – Liz Frencham chats to Bill Quinn. Interview here […]

  2. October 4, 2012 at 05:27

    […] is a slightly elongated and fuller version of the interview with Liz Frencham that first appeared in Timber and Steel on 28 September […]

  3. December 15, 2012 at 16:53

    […] Interview: Liz Frencham […]


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