The Gum Ball Interview: Kim Churchill

Photo by Lester Jones

Today is the day that Kim Churchill’s latest single, Breakneck Speed, is released and the start of his Australian Tour. We’re looking forward to catching Kim at The Gum Ball next weekend for the official unveiling of his new live show.

So, we thought we’d catch up with Kim in the lead up to his tour.

Your music journey has certainly been epic – from living out of your van and gigging around Australia to now travelling the world most of the year. What’s the biggest difference for you between the early days for you and your lifestyle now? 

Honestly not a lot. I still spend a lot of time in the back of my van. I still surf everyday. I still play music everyday. It’s rad and it works. I am probably a bit more focussed and I dunno what you’d call it – ‘professional’ perhaps. I mean I guess that equates to ‘I drink less beer now’ haha. 

You’ve been a regular at so many Australian festivals like BluesFest and The Gum Ball – what kind of festival do you prefer – the big festivals with international guests, or the small, predominantly local act festivals, and why?

Well this is a cop-out answer but both. Big international festivals are exciting and inspiring and you get to see large scale bands play enormous shows. Smaller festivals have all your friends and they play just as brilliantly and are just as inspiring. I couldn’t do without either. 

Where is home now? Where do you find yourself longing to return to and spend most of your time?

Newcastle. The junkyard. Between the two I’m pretty much at home. I love that crew and I love the beach in Newy. If I’m away I really so find myself longing to get back. One day I might live there. 

What’s your biggest dream for your music? Where are you hoping your journey to take you?

Everywhere! Coffee houses In Turkey, stadiums in South America, beach bars in French Polynesia. I dunno I wanna see it all and be the soundtrack to a million different scenes. 

You’ve performed at The Gum Ball a few times now, how have you seen the festival grow and change? And what advice would you give to a first time Gum Ball attendee?

It’s one of my favourite festivals because it has maintained its integrity as it has grown. It’s still got all the beautiful vibes, people, trees, tents, beers and loving connection that it had back when I first went. I know it’s getting bigger and bigger but they really have their heads screwed on and I think it will be something I want to go to for most of my life 🙂 

Kim Churchill plays on Saturday 22nd April at The Gum Ball (Dashville, Belford, Hunter Valley NSW).

Tickets are still available to buy online.

Kim Churchill’s remaining tour dates are:

Thursday 20th April – Astor Hotel, Goulburn NSW
Friday 21st April – Shoalhaven Heads Bowling Club, Shoalhaven Heads NSW
Thursday 18th May – Old Museum, Brisbane QLD
Friday 19th May – Meat Market, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 20th May – Verbruggen Hall, Sydney NSW
Saturday 3rd June – Fremantle Town Hall, Perth WA

National Folk Festival Interview: Aoife Scott

Aoife Scott
Image Courtesy of Aoife Scott

Irish folk singer Aoife Scott and her band have spent the last month touring Australia and wowing audiences everywhere they go. They finish up their tour this weekend with a performance at The National Folk Festival so we sat down with Aoife Scott to get the low down on her first visit to our shores.

Gareth Hugh Evans: You’ve been in Australia over the last month or so, at peak folk festival time. How have you enjoyed your first tour here?

Aoife Scott: It’s been incredible. We landed the first week in March, and have been on the road since. Our first stop was Adelaide and we made it all along the coast as far north up to Mooloolaba in QLD. We’re just returning from a week in Byron Bay. What a place! The whole trip was incredible – we don’t want to go home! We’ve made some incredible friends, and were treated like family everywhere we went.

GHE: What can audiences expect from your sets are The National Folk Festival?

AS: Well I guess I’m a folk/traditional singer and songwriter but we also play traditional tunes – I ask people to dance if they want to, and get a dance competition going! The best dancer wins the grand prize of our CD! You’d be surprised how competitive the Australians have been getting [laughs] – they are incredible dancers! But I tell a lot of stories with the songs, I explain why they were written or why I sing them which gives a bit of a background to the songs, I feel like the audience understand where I’m coming from and can connect more with the songs.

GHE: How do you find festivals compared with gigs you’re headlining yourself? Are the audiences different? Is there a different atmosphere?

AS: Festivals are brilliant! People are less inhibited and are there to listen, but also to enjoy themselves. They are not afraid to get up and dance and hopefully at The National Folk Festival it will be the same! You get a chance to perform for people who may not ever hear about you, or see you, so the opportunity to meet all the lovely audience members is incredible. The atmosphere is definitely more sparkly – like a fizz in the air. It’s my favourite place to play.

GHE: It’s been a year since you released your debut album Carry the Day. How are you feeling one year on? Are you still in love with the album or are you ready to get back into the studio?

AS: I am just about still in love with my songs – if I didn’t love them, I wouldn’t sing them! It’s like a relationship, if you don’t have the love you have to leave it behind! I have a lot of love for my songs (I’m not sure how my lovely band members feel about them though after touring for a year with them!) – Although I am itching to get back. I find writing on tour difficult, it needs some time and space, but being on tour just doesn’t give me the chance to write. So I’m looking forward to getting home and getting new songs.

GHE: I’m always fascinated to know, when talking to artists who play and sing traditional music, is how you choose what songs and tunes to bring to the stage or record and what to leave at the sessions? What is it about a song or tune that inspires you to polish it up and perform it in a concert setting?

AS: Gosh, that’s a hard one! I can only give you what way I do when I pick traditional songs. I guess they have to speak to me somehow. When I hear a song, and I know and read it’s background and history and meaning, and if it sings to my heart then I need to sing it. So the rule is: If i hear a song, and I’m still singing it 4 days later then I need to sing it. Thats a general rule I have! If my heart is still in it and if I’m thinking of it days later then that’s the connection made. I also like the songs to have background stories, as I’m such a storyteller. Ones that connect with my life in some way. Thats really important. One of the songs I do is a song that my gran taught me so I like to tell that story to the audience, hoping they don’t get bored!

GHE: What’s next on your plate after you wrap up in Australia?

Ah, we don’t want to go home! Well after The National Folk Festival we head to to New Zealand for two weeks so that will be amazing! We’re threatening to do a band skydive, band bungee, or get a band tattoo (I think the tattoo is not going to happen!). After then we have shows in Dublin, Sligo and all around Ireland for the next few months. I’m hoping to get into the studio and see if I can make an EP (Although if it takes as long as the last album, it won’t be released until 2019). And then in the summer, we go to the USA for two months! So a busy time coming next, we’re really looking forward to it, but we can’t wait to come back to Oz!

The Aoife Scott Band are performing at The National Folk Festival this weekend. Check out their dates below:

Thursday 13th to Monday 17th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
– Friday 8:00pm – Marquee
– Saturday 5:40pm – Buddawang
– Sunday 11:00pm – Buddawang

National Folk Festival Interview: Charm of Finches

Charm of Finches
Image Courtesy of Charm of Finches

Melbourne based dream-folk sister duo Charm of Finches have had a massive year so far, launching their album Staring at the Starry Ceiling and picking up some high profile support slots around the country. We sat down with one half of the band, Mabel Windred-Wornes, before they head to Canberra this weekend for The National Folk Festival.

Gareth Hugh Evans: You describe your music as “dream folk” – what can audiences at The National expect from your shows?

Mabel Windred-Wornes: Well, it’s dreamy sounding music I guess – it’s full of harmonies. My sister Ivy creates beautiful and sometimes surprising vocal harmonies. We’ve been told our voices together sound like one voice singing two notes, yet our voices individually are quite different. Also, our album has a lot of cello and violin, which we played ourselves, which gives it a bit of a chamber sound. We are bringing Alice Hurwood up to The National with us to play cello. She’s 14 and she’s an amazing cellist.

GHE: You’ve been playing a lot of shows lately – how do festival audiences differ from audiences at a regular gig ?

MW-W: We love festival audiences. Really, they are there for the music and respect musicians. They are there to listen, and they pay attention to the lyrics and love hearing the stories about the songs. Also, a festival audience is usually really relaxed – why wouldn’t they be. They are spending a whole weekend listening to music.

GHE: To those outside of the folk scene, folk music is not considered a “young persons” genre. What is it about this music that’s attracted you at such a young age?

MW-W: It’s common for people to wonder why we are attracted to folk music in the traditional sense, but we know heaps of young bands and singer songwriters you would classify as folk – like The Mae Trio, who we have always loved a lot, and Rowena Wise. They are writing songs about their lives, playing instruments usually associated with folk music like guitar, uke, banjo and fiddle. The definition of folk music as you would hear it at a folk festival today is very very broad. Our influences definitely include traditional folk music, old-time Appalachian songs, Old English and Celtic folk songs and Celtic fiddle music (we love going to Celtic fiddle camps) as well as classical music which we have been playing on our cello and violin since we were little. Our Dad filled our home with Bob Dylan from an early age, but we are also influenced by Americana artists like Gillian Welch and we love Sufjan Stevens so much, who is essentially a folk artist who uses unconventional instruments (even electronic sounds) on his albums.

GHE: You released your debut album Staring at the Starry Ceiling in the middle of last year. How was the reception when it first came out? And are you feeling about it six months on?

MW-W: We were thrilled people really loved our album when it was released last year. People were contacting us after hearing a song on Radio National. Words like “unique” and “beguiling harmonies” were used, which of course made us feel very pleased. We had an amazing experience working with producer Nick Huggins. It was quite a magical experience and being by the ocean in Point Lonsdale (Victoria) really influenced the album. We felt expansive, a bit spellbound and open to ideas. We couldn’t listen to it after we finished it for a while- we needed some distance after recording. Not long ago we were driving home from Port Fairy Folk Festival listening to the new albums we had gathered from the various artists we had seen. We got curious to listen to our own album, and we felt really proud and kind of amazing at what we had created. It felt really good.

GHE: What’s next for Charm of Finches after The National?

MW-W: Well, to be honest, I’m quite keen to take some time to get some homework done! I’m in Year 11 now and love the subjects I’ve chosen – theatre, music, art and sound production! Of course, we will be playing shows in and around Melbourne, as well as house concerts, which we love as much as playing festivals. We also have a whole bunch of half-finished songs that are begging to be finished. We love writing new songs so we’ll be making time for that! And then, I guess we’ll record a new album some time!

Charm of Finches are performing at The National Folk Festival this weekend. Check out their dates below:

Thursday 13th to Monday 17th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
– Friday 1:30pm – Central Park
– Saturday 12:40pm – Flute ‘n’ Fiddle
– Sunday 10:00am – Borderland
– Monday 12:40pm – Flute ‘n’ Fiddle

National Folk Festival Interview: Sally Balfour

Sally Balfour
Image Courtesy of Sally Balfour

Sally Balfour is singer-songwriter who grew up immersed in the Alice Springs folk scene before heading north to settle in steamy Darwin. 2017 see’s Balfour’s official debut on The National Folk Festival program having wowed crowds with her blackboard sets last year.

We sat down with Sally Balfour to talk about growing up in the NT and what we can look forward to from her shows at The National.

Gareth Hugh Evans: I caught your blackboard set at The National Folk Festival last year. How does it feel to be officially on the bill this time around, especially with the NT as one of the feature states?

Sally Balfour: It really is a mixture of emotion – it is so daunting but also so exciting! I feel so honoured to be representing the NT alongside such amazing musicians. I am really looking forward to the weekend, I had such a blast last year and I can’t wait to see what new music I discover at the festival this year.

GHE: You’ve described your music as “deeply personal, acoustic guitar driven songs”. What can festival goers expect from your appearance at The National?

SB: I am fortunate to know a couple of really great musicians who will be joining me on stage. They have an amazing ability to know what sound I want to create without me having to ask, and because of this they compliment my style and create space and depth to my writing. We will be performing my own material with traditional and contemporary folk music, giving the audience a glimpse into who I am and what influences me. For something a little different we are also doing a kids set on the Friday morning, which is for the big kids as well as the little and sure to get you up and dancing!

GHE: You grew up in the folk scene in Alice Springs – what was it like to be part of folk clubs and festivals so far away from the east coast “hub”?

SB: I feel really lucky to have grown up in Alice Springs. I love the isolation of the place and the beauty it brings out in people as well as the amazing opportunities. The community is a very supportive one, and I felt that early on. Mum and Dad were heavily involved in the folk club and we were always encouraged to be a part of the music. Some of my favourite childhood memories are of nights out watching/listening to live music. I spent many folk nights falling asleep under the mixing desk at my mums feet.

GHE: How would you rate the folk and general music scene in the NT now? Are there any festivals or events that music lovers should be making the trip for?

SB: There is a really diverse music scene in the Territory – and I think every year it is growing stronger and stronger. There are lots of small and unique festivals in the NT – The Top End Folk Festival (in Mary River and Glen Helen) and The Mandorah Ukulele Folk Festival (MUFF) are probably the two main folk festivals. There are also other really amazing festivals that encompass folk music like Barunga, Nightliffe Seabreeze Festival and Darwin Festival. All of these are worth the trip!!!

GHE: It’s been a while since you released your gorgeous single and video “Through the Night”. Are there any plans to record and release more music? What’s next for Sally Balfour?

SB: I am always writing, and so I am on my way to making an album. I would like to say I will have something out by the end of 2017 but 2018 is much more realistic!

Sally Balfour is performing in Sydney at FolkSwagon on Wednesday night before heading to The National Folk Festival. Check out her dates below:

Wednesday 12th April – FolkSwagon, Cafe Lounge, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 13th to Monday 17th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
– Friday 11:30am – Carnival (Kidsfest)
– Friday 5:00pm – Flute and Fiddle
– Saturday 12:40pm – Scrumpy
– Sunday 10:00pm – Spiegel

The Gum Ball Interview: Irish Mythen

Photo by Stuart Bucknell, taken for Timber and Steel at Bluesfest 2016

We fell in love and got all fan-girly over Irish Mythen when we met her at Bluesfest last year (and we’ll see her again at Bluesfest this year), so we’re really looking forward to seeing Irish at one of the most intimate festivals in Australia, The Gum Ball!

We caught up with Irish to see what she loves and what she’s looking forward too.

When did you first visit Australia and how did it make you feel? How do Australian audiences respond to your style of music? 

I actually first arrived in Australia in 2000! Went to Perth and never left until 2005. Had a ball and met the most amazing people. Never came to the east though so when I first started touring the east in 2015 it felt like the first time. It’s just such a bloody amazing country. The Australian audience is unlike any other. They get behind a new artist like their one of their own and I’ve been shown incredible support. They learn the songs, buy the merch, follow you to all the shows. Incredible stuff

How do Festivals like BluesFest compare to your experiences back home and overseas?

The calibre of artists at a festival like Bluesfest speaks for itself so that and Woodford are unlike any other in the world. You just have to go because words don’t do them justice. The other Aussie festivals I’ve played are a little different from the rest in that people feel a real connection with the festival…they take over the space and it’s their home for the day, weekend or week. They are all so well run and so many volunteers. You turn around and there’s someone there asking if you need anything. I love the way every artist at any level is treated like the headliner. On ya Straya!

 What’s your favourite kind of show to play, venue gigs or festivals?

Well they’re completely different animals but I think festivals would sneak it but only because I get to see so much music myself at festivals so I get to also GEEK OUT!

What’s your favourite thing about your previous visits to Australia and what are you looking forward to most this trip?

Food, people, wine, weather (even the rain), crowds. Answer number two see first answer 😉

Do you find there are customs, jokes or themes that don’t translate for Australian audiences? Or perhaps that really do resonate more than expected?

I think due to the amount of world travel that goes on there’s not much of a difference BUT I surprise some Aussie audiences when I throw in a Kath and Kim reference or The Twelfth Man …hahaha can’t get enough of his Richie Benaud

What are you looking forward to about performing at The Gum Ball?

Ah look just getting back there. I was there for their other festival, Dashville Skyline, and I mean ye can’t get a more beautiful setting truly. And the people who run it, volunteers etc well they are brilliant. I also met some real characters in the crowd who’ve promised they’re all coming back so hope to see them all!

Irish Mythen plays on Friday 21st April at The Gum Ball (Dashville, Belford, Hunter Valley NSW).

Tickets are available to buy online.

Irish Mythen’s remaining tour dates are below:

Friday 7th April – The Heritage, Bulli, NSW
Saturday 8th April – Revamp The Amp, Kuranda, QLD
Thursday 13th to Monday 17th April – Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW
Friday 21st April – The Gum Ball Festival, Dashville, NSW

The Gum Ball Interview: Felix Riebl

Photo by Stuart Bucknell

We’re getting ready for a big Easter period full of exciting festivals and we’re really looking forward to heading back to The Gum Ball! We chatted with Felix Riebl about his solo work, how the Cat Empire has paved the way for his song writing and, of course, The Gum Ball!

What’s your favourite thing about embarking on your solo work and touring?

The atmosphere in both the studio and on stage for Paper Doors has been new and exciting. The Cat Empire generates a lot of its energy from the contrasts within the band, both stylistically and in terms of the personalities, whereas working on this album has more of a flow to it. It’s not to say one is better than the other, it’s just a different more intimate space.

How has your Cat Empire time influenced your new solo works?

The Cat Empire has offered me bright stages, vast audiences, and near delirious moments of exuberance. That’s a great place to write from – those recollections have a lot of power for me – and it’s been interesting writing music with more room in terms of the notes, but with that incendiary spirit still in there.

Do your Cat Empire mates come to your shows and heckle you? (kidding about the heckling) How does your solo career fit in to your grand musical plan?

I wouldn’t put heckling past them… but really, we’re all musicians at the end of the day, and we’ve all got our various projects. I don’t have a grand plan at the moment, maybe it’ll come to me soon… or maybe plans are better recognised in hindsight. I think I’m trying to let the songs lead the way, and hopefully to be surprised occasionally. I try not to get too concerned about the categories of my career (solo vs tce), if the experience is genuine – writing, in the studio, or on stage – then I’m able to keep the hounds at bay.

How do you see yourself now compared to back in the early 2000s when The Cat Empire was first rising to prominence?

I’m still chasing the same illusive thing, whatever it is that keeps me awake at an instrument. When I was starting out I relied more on boundless energy, now days I tend to rely on experience a bit more, which is probably to say I’m not as blindly convinced about every idea I have anymore. In terms of song writing, I used to try and explain things more than I should, and now I think I’m trying to create a genuine echo in things I don’t understand so much.

You’ve played festivals all around the world, of all sizes and shapes. What’s your favourite thing about playing at festivals? What’s your favourite overseas festival? (and do we dare ask what your favourite Australian festival is?) And what advice would you give to a first time festival goer?

My favourite thing about festivals, aside from the colour and chaos, is that people go to discover music, which is a fantastic space for musicians to be in. This is going to sound strange, but I don’t have a favourite festival here or overseas, just as I don’t have a favourite venue, theatre or stage… When a show’s going well, you’re on every stage you’ve ever played and the audience is part of that collective moment, at least it’s something like that, and I enjoy that placeless sensation a lot. Advice for festivals… go with a group of your best friends, make an adventure of getting there if you can.

What are you most looking forward to about The Gum Ball?

I’ve never played there! I can’t wait. The line up looks fantastic. Everyone I’ve spoken to about it says it’s a really special one. I’ll have a chance to check it out and immerse myself in it, and hopefully have a great show.

Felix Riebl plays on Friday 21st April at The Gum Ball (Dashville, Belford, Hunter Valley NSW)

Tickets are still available to buy online.

National Folk Festival Interview: Andrew Winton

Andrew Winton
Image Courtesy of Andrew Winton

It’s been ten years since I first walked into a random tent at The National Folk Festival and became mesmerised by WA based singer and lap guitarist Andrew Winton so it’s amazing to see him returning again this year. We sat down with Winton to chat about The National, his unique guitar and his brand new album Glorybox Mechanics.

Gareth Hugh Evans: I first saw you at The National about ten years ago. I was wandering into one of your shows knowing nothing about you and was blown away by this amazing performance. It was all slide guitars and knee slapping – just amazing. Is The National a special festival for you?

Andrew Winton: It has been. The first time might have been 2006. We were on one of my first national tours and it was just an experience. We had a caravan and an 18 month old – it was a real whirlwind. It was one of the first bigger festivals where we thought “oh, this is very interesting”. We were put in a bit last minute but we had such a response and we’ve been back a few times.

GHE: I remember you in 2006 well.

AW: Yeah, I had dreadlocks and the whole thing. That was at that point where to play that music you had to have a uniform.

GHE: You were the “other” dude from WA with the dreadlocks and the lap guitar.

AW: Yes! Mr Butler, is that the man?

GHE: And I distinctly remember your 18 month old son with Karen Winton holding him. In fact she may have gotten up on stage to sing with you while still holding him.

AW: Yeah – she’s very strong. I think we’ve been at most of the festivals either pregnant or with a young child. We’ve stopped breeding now but there was a period when we were ready to have a kid it was mid festival. It was a real lifestyle for a while.

GHE: Has having a young family informed your playing folk festivals as opposed to the big blues or rock festivals? They’re a bit more family friendly.

AW: Yeah. It’s interesting, that year or the year after we did that circuit and then got invited to SXSW which is the big rock and roll festival in Austin, Texas. And that’s when we felt like “wow this is a bit different”. At [folk] festivals people will actually listen, it’s not all about drinking. And you don’t have to go to number ten on the energy – people will listen to quieter songs, a range of material. People are actually interested in the instrument, in the playing. On the whole the folk festivals have a diverse audience interested in different things., not just stomping and drinking and hollering.

GHE: Speaking of being interested in the instrument – your guitar is called The Beast right?

AW: Now when you saw me I had a thing called the Winton Beast which was made by a Victorian luthier. Then several years after a small American company saw me and said “we want to endorse you and make weird instruments for you” and that’s still happening these days. What they make is these instruments out of the roots of cyprus trees in Alabama. So the Winton Beast morphed into this instrument that is two in one. The Winton Beast was a seven string and I introduced a six string so it’s a 13 string tree root that I play.

GHE: Do you go to the luthiers and say “this is what I want? Or do they come to you and say “what do you think of this crazy idea”?

AW: In both instances they’ve said they’ll make me anything I want. And I’ve gone a) I don’t know what I want and I don’t know much and b) I just used my limited strange creativeness to invent something and they made it happen. And with the guys in Alabama it was all over Skype. I’m a non-practical person, I can’t hammer and nail – I just said “can we try having this many strings with this type of tuning”. I didn’t know if it was going to work and it’s all very experimental. And it’s mostly paid off and I guess in my own little world I’m known as this person that plays weird instruments.

GHE: I think I saw you play at a guitarist showcase at The National and everybody was just fascinated by your instrument.

AW: That’s right! People are more intrigued by that than me. On stage everyone was looking at my groin! Some could consider that a gimmick but in a landscape where everyone plays the same instrument with the same sort of tunings it’s just something different. And as a soloist it allows you to occupy the bass area, the chordal area and the melody at the same time.

GHE: You’ve been pretty prolific over the years and you’ve just recently released your album Glorybox Mechanics. Did you self produce that album?

AW: I have a friend here who has done a lot of recording for me. I chose to go down the path of not wanting any of the gear in my house – I didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole of recording. But very close to me is a very good engineer and basically I just did it on my iPhone and then went and replicated with him. In some ways it’s self produced but with someone who knows the buttons and the screens and the boring bits.

GHE: It’s always tempting as a musician to become a gear junkie.

AW: I’m anti that [laughs]. Because those guys end up becoming computer engineers and their musical skills fade into the distance.

GHE: You’ve been Glorybox Mechanics quite a bit recently – how’s the reception been so far?

AW: Quite nice actually. It’s tricky because the last album Happy won a bunch of awards and was a whole different level, so there was a little bit of pressure with this one. So it’s nice that ABC Radio National and a lot of community stations, and even one or two of the bigger ones, are playing a couple of songs. It doesn’t change the universe but I was just worried if these were going to work – it’s just my nature. And I’ve been pretty pleased. Especially in a landscape where people don’t buy CDs.

GHE: Except at festivals!

AW: Exactly! It’s the last arena where you go to see an act and straight away go and talk to the person who’s just played and take a bit home with you. It’s that kind of instant performance energy. That’s why these festivals are still trucking along well. As a musician it’s a privilege to play at them because people face your way and they might buy something and you get to talk to everyone.

GHE: At The National Folk Festival this year is it just you solo? Is Karen coming?

AW: Because I’m coming over for a couple of festivals it’s just me – we’ve got too many children now. And I think we’ve got some nice spots there – we’re going to be doing a filming in The Buddawang.

GHE: The National always ends up being quite a collaborative festival anyway so I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up spotting you playing with someone like Liz Frencham.

AW: That’s already been arranged! Liz and I live a long way from each other but whenever we get to the same suburb we do something.

GHE: It wouldn’t be a National Folk Festival if Liz Frencham didn’t play with every single act at some point.

AW: Exactly. I stir her about that [laughs].

GHE: Where else are you playing while you’re on the east coast.

AW: I’ve got gigs at the Django Bar in Sydney and the Union Bar in Melbourne.

GHE: Oh lovely – I’ll have to try and get down to one of those shows.

AW: Great! I haven’t been over there for a while.

GHE: Thank you so much for chatting with me. Looking forward to seeing you play again.

AW: Fantastic – thank you!

All of Andrew Winton’s upcoming dates, including his shows at The National Folk Festival, are below:

Wednesday 23rd March – House Concert, Temora, NSW.
Thursday 24th to Monday 28th March – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
– Friday 4:30pm – Budawang
– Saturday 3:15pm – Marquee (Infinite Song Contest)
– Saturday 7pm – Flute ‘n’ Fiddle
– Saturday 9:30pm – Flute ‘n’ Fiddle (Liz Frencham Album Launch)
– Sunday 10am – The Terrace (Lap Slide Guitar Workshop)
– Sunday 9pm – Marquee
Thursday 31st March – Django Bar, Sydney, NSW
Friday 1st April – Selby Folk Club, Selby, VIC
Saturday 2nd April – Union Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 3rd April – House Concert, Mount Franklin, VIC
Friday 8th April – The Herdsman Lake Tavern, Wembley, WA
Saturday 9th April – Caves House Hotel, Yallingup, WA
Sunday 10th April – Settlers Tavern, Margaret River, WA
Friday 15th to Sunday 17th April – Fairbridge Folk Festival, Pinjarra, WA
Sunday 24th April – The Vic Hotel, Perth, WA

National Folk Festival Interview: Burrows

Burrows
Image Courtesy of Burrows

You may recognise the members of Canberra nu-folk four piece Burrows as being from bands like The Ellis Collective, Mr Fibby, Fun Machine, Pocket Fox and more. But Burrows is more than the sum of its parts, with music that draws you in and captivates you. With a new album on the way Burrows will be playing a series of shows at this week’s National Folk Festival. We sat down with front man and songwriter Sam King to talk through the evolution of the band.

Gareth Hugh Evans: Back in 2013 you were on The National Folk Festival lineup credited as Sam King. Was that the beginning of the project that has become Burrows?

Sam King: Yeah, it actually was! I applied to the festival solo because I’d not really done much solo before, I’d always played in bands. I had a solid hour of songs at that point so I thought I’d give it a shot. Then very kind of close to the festival I decided that it’s definitely much more fun playing with other people so I invited three people to come and play with me. We were still credited as “Sam King” in the festival program. It was only meant to be a one off thing, a nice excuse to play with some friends. But we ended up being quite taken by it and continued doing it.

GHE: I was at The National that year and called you out as an artist to watch in a Timber and Steel feature. And then every now and then I’d check in online to see what was going to happen to “Sam King” project but nothing had ever eventuated. I thought maybe that was it – I didn’t realise it had evolved into what has now become Burrows.

SK: Yeah – it’s a slightly less Google-able name

GHE: All of you guys play in different bands in and around the Canberra folk and indie scene like The Ellis Collective and Mr Fibby. What makes Burrows different from those other projects?

SK: Yeah, a lot of those bands have the same people in them. We definitely stick pretty close to each other project to project. I mean Grahame [Thompson] is definitely my go to cello guy. They all kind of evolved out of different things. For The Ellis Collective Matty Ellis is a huge part of that. The name we were never really stoked with but it kind of came about because early on there was a lot of us playing in the band and we were all quite busy. It was more just an idea that Matty could be at the centre and whoever he was playing with could be The Ellis Collective. As it turned out we pretty much all made it to all gigs so it wasn’t really necessary. For [Burrows] I’m sort of at the centre of it. I’m slightly uncomfortable with that idea but I like to think of it as a more collaborative process than just a single singer-songwriter. I feel like we’re much more than the sum of our parts from that point of view. So I guess what makes it different from the other projects is really that I’m playing less of a supportive role – usually the catalyst for all the songs comes from me and then it evolves from there pretty quickly.

GHE: And it’s not just you doing the songwriting right? I got the feeling other members of the band were contributing.

SK: Yeah. And that’s a great deal for me. Usually the way those songs come about is often I’ll get a third of a way through a song – I might have a melody and the chords – and I sort of take it as far as I can then flick it to them. Whether they totally finish it from there or they flick it back to me, that process can go on for a little bit – but in most cases I’ll get it part of the way and they’ll write the lyrics, then maybe as a band we’ll change things structurally. I’d really love in the future for it to be much more collaborative. After a while you get sick of the sound of yourself.

GHE: So you’re just about done on the Burrows album right? You’re pretty close to releasing that?

SK: Yeah, it’s being pressed and printed now. It will be available at The National Folk Festival but we’re not officially launching it – it’s just a little sneaky prelaunch. I think we’ll be officially launching it and touring it mid year. Our initial plan was to launch it at the festival and then tour it around that time but it had to get pushed back a little bit – I was al little bit too picky with the masters. It came back the first time and I wasn’t thrilled with the mix, I had to change one or two things.

GHE: I caught you guys at the Summer Hills Folk Festival in Sydney and from what I gather you pretty much played the album from start to finish in your set there.

SK: Yeah, that’s right.

GHE: It’s sounding gorgeous live. I guess the way I would describe Burrows’ sound is “lean in music”. The kind of music you want to listen intently to.

SK: That’s a very good description – that’s definitely what we’re aiming for. We’re trying to be miles away from the play-louder-than-the-pub kind of band, which I’ve definitely done in the past but it gets kind of exhausting. These days we hope to invite people in rather than try to compete with them.

GHE: Are you playing more intimate stages at The National Folk Festival?

SK: Generally The National’s pretty great for [that type of music]. We’re playing Scrumpy, Majestic and The Lyric – we’ve just got the three gigs. Intimate is what we’ll be aiming for and we’ll cross our fingers that there won’t be some sort of dance band in the next tent.

GHE: Just as you’re launching into a sweet folk tune the Brass Knuckle Brass Band will march past.

SK: Those guys would do that just to spite me, even if they weren’t scheduled to play at that point they’d hop up on stage [laughs]. The festival tends to evolve every year with where venues are and the size of them. Scrumpy and Majestic have been pretty consistent over the last few years.

GHE: I feel like The Majestic is your spiritual home. That’s always traditionally been the “youth” tent at the festival.

SK: Yeah. There’s a very funny story behind The Majestic. The two years before The Majestic came about and was on the oval Mr Fibby was there. We didn’t get in [to the program] but we were all there with The Ellis Collective and I think [Adam] Hadley was there with something. – we just put up some posters in toilets saying “Mr Fibby. The Oval. 10pm”. So there was a tradition for a couple of years where we would play acoustically on the oval and sometimes more people than could really hear us would show up, which is awesome. And then the Majestic was kind of put there based on those performances. I think the festival director had been invited to come down and look at these scallywags playing on the oval and then they put Hadley in charge of the venue for three years. Then hilariously we couldn’t get a gig there anymore [laughs]. But yeah, definitely our spiritual homeland based on that. It was brought about by Mr Fibby in an indirect way – and it also coincided with the fringe festival’s funding getting diverted to The National. It was nice to see all that stuff in one place – it was often hard to get a seat in there.

GHE: Definitely – when The Majestic was on the oval I could never get in. People would just come and park themselves there all day.

SK: Yeah – it was funny wasn’t it? I would always just sneak backstage and watch from there.

GHE: As a Canberra based band how important is The National Folk Festival for you guys?

SK: It’s definitely a great opportunity to play in Canberra to a lot of people who are from interstate. I think it’s a good stepping-stone – it’s a nice gateway for other festivals around the place. A lot of the other festival directors come to The National and they see you and that has some nice flow on effects. And I guess as a Canberran, I’ve not done anything else for Easter since I was 17. I’m sure other stuff goes on but I wouldn’t know about it. It’s a very special time of year and it’s always very nice when they get you along to play – particularly when I was younger. The first few breaks they gave me in bands like One Night Jam – they were hugely supportive. For younger performers it’s a great stepping-stone to all of a sudden be playing to 200 people who are hanging on your every word. There’s not really any opportunities in Canberra – or anywhere to for that matter – to do that outside of the festivals. I cannot praise it highly enough.

GHE: Well thank you so much for chatting with me today. I can’t wait to see Burrows again!

SK: Thanks very much mate.

All of Burrows’ shows at The National Folk Festival are below:

Thursday 24th to Monday 28th March – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
– Saturday 5pm – Scrumpy
– Sunday 10:30pm – The Lyric
– Monday 4pm – Majestic

National Folk Festival Interview: Sian Evans

Sian Evans
Image Courtesy of Sian Evans

Brisbane based singer-songwriter Sian Evans hits The National Folk Festival for the first time this weekend as part of her current east coast tour. We caught up with Sian Evans to discuss her new sound, the stresses of being a touring artist and what we can expect from her performances at The National.

Gareth Hugh Evans: You’ve just released your new single “Cold Feet”. I love it – there’s a pop sensibility about it while still maintaining your folk and country roots. It feels like you’ve written a pop song.

Sian Evans: I did write a pop song. I wanted it to be accessible to a wider audience. I wrote three songs last year and that was one of them – they all kind of have this pop sensibility. At the moment my head is in a space of wanting to write singles and then maybe put out an album full of singles. I really want to work on something that’s really bloody awesome and that I’m really really proud of. I feel like I’ve got the maturity to actually deliver something like that whereas when I did an album years and years ago I just so wasn’t there as a song writer yet.

GHE: Is part of it to separate the solo work from your work with The Rusty Datsuns?

SE: I guess so, yeah. A lot of people didn’t really know who any of the The Rusty Datsuns were individually anyway so I’ve started from scratch. The stuff that we wrote is different to where I’m at at the moment. My last record was more traditionally focused – it had one song on it that was mine and a bit pop. And I guess after you’ve been slogging at it for ten years you want stuff that’s going to be favoured by radio stations [laughs]. It’s not all about the financial side of things, it’s not all about money or anything like that. Anyone who comes into the the music industry with the idea of making money, unless they’re doing pub covers, then they’re absolute idiots. But to just have it sailing its own ship at some point, or maybe getting the closest that I’ve ever been, would be really nice.

GHE: And I guess if you’re performing under your own name it’s music that represents you as an individual.

SE: Yeah, totally. I’ve never been very good at themed writing – I’m pretty authentic to the cause and whatever mood I may be in. To some extent I’m probably a bit of a sad person [laughs] – it reflects in my music.

GHE: I really like the production on “Cold Feet” as well. I think that might contribute to why I think it’s a pop song – it’s really tight.

SE: [Producer] Josh Shuberth used to drum for Josh Pyke and I love Josh Pyke, I’ve been listening to him since I was in high school. I’ve been rolling around with my stampy box and jingles which is basically my broken down drum kit that I play with my feet while I play at the same time because I can’t afford a drummer and because I don’t want to have to deal with another personality. My last record we slapped on our hands and our knees and stamped my boots on the ground – I really like natural sounds. So this time we set my mate Mike in the studio with whatever we could find and there was a hundred different tambourines in the studio and a wine bottle with a spoon – so we just tapped on heaps of shit and again I got into the studio and tapped on my thighs and my stomach and my hands.

GHE: You’ve already played a couple of shows around Brisbane to support “Cold Feet” and you’re about to head out on some east coast dates – are you looking forward to those?

SE: Hell yeah. I’d be playing everywhere if I could afford to but I just decided to stick within my means for this tour which meant not going back to my home town of Cairns and it also meant not going to Melbourne. I had such a great time in WA last year – Perth and Fremantle were just amazing. So that’s kind of sad but I figure maybe I’ll pick up a bit of momentum for the single and I’ll pick up those places for the next tour. But I’m really looking forward to heading down to Canberra – I’ve never actually spent any time in and around Canberra before. And I’ve never been to The National Folk Festival before and it’s the 50th anniversary so if that’s not some kind of sign, I’m not sure what is.

GHE: I think you’re going to absolutely love The National. It’s one of my favourites – it’s a community coming together.

SE: Is that not the nature of these types of festivals? Except it won’t be so hot that you want to keel over and die [laughs].

GHE: Is it just going to be you and your fiddle player at The National?

SE: Yeah! Unless if a friend happens to be going or we happen to meet someone at a jam – by the end of a festival everyone is just like family. If you make special, chemical connections with people you want to share that on stage. If I happen to jam with a bass player or someone else and it works I have no issues with having guests on my stage ever.

GHE: As well as The National you have shows around Queensland and Northern New South Wales as well…

SE: Like Nimbin Mardi Grass!

GHE: I’m not familiar with Nimbin Mardi Grass at all.

SE: I was meant to play there last year but I was supposed to do Urban Country Festival as well. Urban ended up getting cancelled and I made the call not to try to drive to Mardi Grass because it was too sketchy with the weather, as to whether everyone was going to get flooded in or not. I didn’t really need that. But I love Nimbin, and I love the area. It’s just really beautiful – that appeals to me a lot. I’m not a really massive pot smoker so that side of it doesn’t necessarily appeal to me, but if that’s people’s thing that’s fine. But it’s a nice place to go for a couple of nights – it’s nice and cool and there’s generally some really bloody good music.

GHE: You had a pretty massive 2015 in terms of touring. Is 2016 shaping up the same way?

SE: No. Last year I basically just fell apart. It was too much for me – too much back and forth, too much travelling. By the end of it I couldn’t fly without being sedated on valium because I started having panic attacks on aeroplanes.

GHE: That’s not ok!

SE: It was really full on. I was still running a business in Brisbane and trying to get back to my son in Cairns – it was just too much. And touring solo, being on my own for a lot of the time and doing all the driving and lugging in of gear myself, I just felt the camaraderie wasn’t there. I lost so much money as well – I was just banging my head against a wall going “am I really doing the right thing? I really thought my calling was music but maybe I’m not good enough”. So I had to just step back and go this is going to have to be more of a hobby and I decided that I would prefer to definitely work another job and make that a priority as well as being a mum. I would put less pressure on performing and maybe try to do just two tours a year – make them x amount of time long so I didn’t burn myself out and so that I could give my audience the best of myself. And now I’m working full time and I’m totally a single mum in the city with no family at all – so that’s pretty hectic. I just really have to pace myself. I’m touring this time for the majority over the school holidays and mainly weekends for the time outside of that. So that is just a walk in the park. No aeroplanes for Sian!

GHE: Yeah, I know a number of artists where the relentless touring and travelling has led to burn out.

SE: It’s f**ked! There’s no other way to say it for what is often no monetary return. And it should be about quality of life. The way that I was living was not fun at all – I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t enjoying it, I was questioning everything and I was so f**king poor.

GHE: And it pulls the joy out of the music which is why you started in the first place.

SE: Yeah. It’s for self expression and it’s for connection. I was in such a broken place I just felt like I couldn’t look people in the eye at some points without drinking. I was so exhausted all of the time and because I was drinking I didn’t know whether I was tired or I was shitfaced [laughs]. When you get to that point you’ve kind of hit a point of no return and I really needed to take a break. And I did – I took a break for four months and then of course got itchy feet. I was like “ok, I’m going to book another tour now!”. But I tried to be really organised about this one and I started three or four months prior, booking the gigs, and basically didn’t push very hard. I just went with what came really easily and what had money attached to it.

GHE: It sounds like you’ve found a balance now.

SE: Yeah, totally. And I think that that’s the way forward. Approaching it a bit slower – smashing it out and then having a break.

GHE: Definitely sounds like you’re on the right path. Well that’s about all we have time for – thank you so much for chatting with me today. I’m super excited to see you at The National

SE: I can’t wait. Thanks Gareth.

All of Sian Evans’ upcoming tour dates, including her shows at The National Folk Festival are below:

Thursday 24th to Monday 28th March – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
– Friday 9pm – The Lyric
– Saturday 4:50pm – The Buddawang
– Sunday 7:10pm – Spiegel Zelt
Wednesday 6th April – The Foundry, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 9th April – No.5 Church St, Bellingen, NSW
Saturday 16th April Night Quarter, Gold Coast, QLD
Friday 22nd April – Grounded Festival, Brisbane Valley, QLD
Saturday 30th April – Nimbin Mardigrass, Nimbin, NSW
Sunday 1st May – Brisbane Powerhouse, Brisbane, QLD

National Folk Festival Interview: Nancy Kerr

Nancy Kerr
Image Courtesy of Nancy Kerr

The headliner for this year’s National Folk Festival is the irrepressible Nancy Kerr, who will be performing as Nancy Kerr & the Sweet Visitor Band, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan and as part of The Fagans. We sat down with Kerr ahead of the festival to chat about what we can expect from her performances at The National.

Gareth Hugh Evans: You’ve played The National Folk Festival a number of times – how does it feel to be headlining the 50th anniversary with your various projects?

Nancy Kerr: Obviously I’m absolutely honoured that the festival has made it possible to bring the band and the family out to Australia. I have been away for three years and it’s been a big time for me so I can’t wait to present our new repertoire and sounds, as well as familiar pieces from the duo’s history, to what I know is an incredible audience to play for.

GHE: In terms of folk festivals around the world how does The National rate?

NK: I think what makes The National special for me is the way it homages and appreciates the raw, grass roots qualities of folk and traditional music, presenting it all with great respect on both big and small stages. The level of knowledge, friendliness and depth with which the audience throws itself into proceedings is second to none, at least as far as I’ve experienced at festivals around the world.

GHE: You’ve found “fame” (if there is such a thing in the folk scene) in your native UK but over the years you’ve spent a lot of time in Australia touring and performing at festivals. What is it about Australia that keeps you coming back (apart from the obvious)?

NK: Well it may be obvious but it’s also true! James [Fagan] and I have been together for 20 years now – or do you mean the weather? Australia is a huge part of my history musically, culturally and in terms of family. A British colleague of mine recently returned from her first trip to Aus and said to me “Ah, I understand you now – you’re Australian!” The subjects of many of my songs will be more current and recognizable here than they are at home in the UK. It’ll be so nice not to have to explain what a Jacaranda is.

GHE: You’re well known for involving yourself in numerous projects – is collaboration an important part of your art?

NK: It’s always been central and that’s why it took me until I was nearly 40 to make my debut solo recording – I think collaboration is the source of so much musical learning and strength but I also think it’s important to step into the light on your own terms sometimes – that way the listener gets to experience everything you’re capable of and things stay fresh and creative.

GHE: After The National what’s next for Nancy Kerr?

NK: My album Instar is nearly finished – the follow-up to Sweet Visitor and also self-written – and I’m delighted with how the band sounds on it – it’s released in September. I have tours with all my projects including a trio with Martin Simpson and Andy Cutting [Simpson·Cutting·Kerr], and I will also be recording and performing political songwriting collaboration “Sweet Liberties” which was commissioned by the Houses of Parliament.

The full list of shows for Nancy Kerr at The National Folk Festival are below:

Thursday 24th to Monday 28th March – The National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
Nancy Kerr & the Sweet Visitor Band:
– Friday 7pm – Buddawang
– Sunday 8pm – Marquee
– Monday 4:40pm – Buddawang
Nancy Kerr & James Fagan
– Saturday 8pm – Flute ‘n’ Fiddle
– Sunday 10:50am – Buddawang
The Fagans:
– Saturday 10:40am – Buddawang
– Monday 12pm – Marquee

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