Interview: Henry Wagons

Henry Wagons of WagonsPhoto courtesy of Wagons

To celebrate the start of the Wagons & Joe Pug East Coast Tour kicking off today, Timber and Steel’s KT Bell nabbed leading man Henry Wagons fresh of an international flight to ask him about the last year in the life of Wagons.

KT Bell: It’s been one hell of a year for touring for Wagons with some amazing stories from the road, a terrific album winning all kinds of praise and accolades, but tell me, has there been any quiet, out of the public eye moments this year that have helped you achieve it all and keep your head?
Henry Wagons: Having to sing Suspicious Minds and See See Rider at a family 60th birthday through a PA the size of a shoebox, only a couple of days after returning from a long US tour kept me pleasantly grounded. On top of that, the party finger food of dim sims and party pies was a refreshing change from a month of burgers and fries.

Another constant behind the scenes source joy for me is the ongoing development of my dogs Peeps and Gordon. They are always a welcome distraction from the hectic music stuff going on at the moment. Peeps continues on his path as a neurotic nerd and Gordon remains a carefree, yet kind hearted, village idiot. I love them both and miss them when I’m away.

KT: Rumble, Shake and Tumble has been really well received so far, what has been your favorite fan response to the album and are you expecting any crazy antics from fans on your upcoming tour?
HW: I always have time for audience members telling me they like the record after a show, but my favourite moments are when I hear about the record slipping into people’s everyday lives. I occasionally get people tweeting that they were enjoying the record in the car on the way to work that morning. I love the idea of being the soundtrack to someone’s day, slowly brainwashing them.

In terms of the upcoming tour, I’m hopeful of some surprises from fans. These days I seem to be getting known for having a passion for weird
foods. Someone in Tasmania gave me some blueberry, bacon and egg breakfast biscuits. They were surprisingly amazing! Some more gifts like that would be appreciated!!

KT: The last time we spoke, I was happily hijacking Rhythm Magazine’s Q&A with you at Bluesfest, what’s been the silliest interview question you’ve had since then? (or before!) I do remember reading something about Elvis wigs recently
HW: Someone recently asked me if I favoured Peeps or Gordon. The very idea I’d like one dog more than the other is outright silly and highly offensive!! (Peeps is a little better)

KT: Your East Coast tour has stellar support act choices, how did you come to line up those ducks?
HW: I first heard Joe Pug‘s name come out of Justin Townes Earle‘s mouth when I was on tour with him in Washington State. He was talking about Joe in the most glowing terms. So much so that I checked him out online and liked what I saw. Since then Joe and I met when we both played the same festival in Seattle earlier this year. He seemed like a really nice guy. Now, I can’t wait to spend some more time with the man touring together here in Oz.

Jordie Lane is also playing many of the shows. He is one of Australia’s finest songwriters at present in my opinion. I’m really glad he is on the bill too.

We actually plan to all play some songs together at the shows. There will definitely be enough songwriters in the one room to do so…we could do an amazing Kumbaya session if nothing else.

KT: You’re playing a couple of solo sets in some out of the way venues and you’re playing one of my all time favorite Sydney venues, The Vanguard. Do you have venues you believe fit Wagons more than others and what venue and what venues are you just dying to play?
HW: I’m looking forward to the Vanguard. Its a great place to both see and play music. There is something about it that is kinda spooky in a good way. If you squint, it could be taken out of a David Lynch movie.

I am not fussy when it comes to venues. I like interacting with whatever space I’m in. I’ve played the full gamut of venues, from being shoved in the corner of a room at a bar to big theatres, to the centre of a football ground. I generally love each and every one, provided there are a few faces pointed my way.

KT: Timber and Steel are excited to be co-presenting the Sydney leg of your tour, but we’d love to know where you think the folk scene is heading in the future?
HW: With the huge indie folk movement sweeping the world, folk music as a whole seems to have some very solid foundations. I think its up there with rock n roll as a kind of music that will remain powerful and present for a long time. It’s not like there is an overhanging threat that in a few weeks it’ll be back to Big Band.

KT: And finally, are there any upcoming acts you think Timber and Steel should check out?
HW: I am currently soaked in the US Americana scene having just returned from the Americana Music Awards in Nashville. I’d say I know a little more about the scene there than I do about local stuff at the minute. I loved a band called New Country Rehab from Canada. Jessica Lea Mayfield is currently exploding over there. She is great…haunting, naïve and wise at once. The Dirt Daubers are a really good time ye olde type band who killed it too. The Civil Wars are a phenomena. I hope you’ve got plenty of download space in your internet plan this month, cause if you don’t know these bands, you may have some work to do looking those guys up!

iFolk 2.0 Part 1: Blogs and Web Sites

Folk Computer

While the music we listen to and rave about here at Timber and Steel may have its roots in a tradition that stretches bakes decades if not hundreds of years the way we consume that music in today is vastly different to even five years ago. High internet speeds, portable music devices and music on demand have shaped the way we discover music, share music, value music even think about music. In this series of articles we look at and recommend the best in folk music in the new media space.

Part 1: Blogs and Web Sites

While we’re sure you’re getting all the folk news, reviews and opinion you need right here on Timber and Steel we don’t mind if you occasionally have a look over the fence and see what else is out there in the online folk world. We can’t cover everything after all – just as long as you come back once in a while. So here’s a list of our favourite folk-related blogs and sites on the web:

Folk Radio UK

Striking a balance between indie, nu-folk, traditional and contemporary, Folk Radio UK is a not for profit Internet radio station broadcast out of, obviously, the UK. Surviving on donations from its supporters (similar to community radio stations in Australia) and a handful of advertisers, FRUK operates twenty four hours a day. It also is a great source of folk news, specialty mixes and reviews (plus the occasional free MP3).

In The Pines

The companion blog of the fantastic folk, alt-country and Americana show of the same name on Sydney’s FBi Radio written by presenter Emma Swift. Swift only updates In The Pines about once a week (usually a day or two after her show on Tuesday nights) but when she does it’s insightful, funny and full of gorgeous music, both classic and new.

Cover Lay Down

Stemming from the tradition in folk music of covering and reimagining music as a way keeping it alive, Cover Lay Down specialises in exploring folk covers of familiar songs, reimagined versions of folk songs and everything in between. Not only does Cover Lay Down unearth some absolute gems, it’s also so well written it makes us want to try so much harder.

For Folk's Sake

If there’s one blog we aspire to emulate it’s the UK’s For Folk’s Sake with its mix of news, reviews and artist spotlights. For Folk’s Sake leans quite heavily to the nu-folk end of the spectrum and consistently introduces us to new and exciting music from the other side of the world

Spiral Earth

Another UK folk site Spiral Earth is one of the most highly respected resources for traditional and contemporary folk on the web. You won’t find a lot of cross over into the indie scene here (although they occasionally champion Laura Marling and Mumford and Sons) but their knowledge is second to none and if you love your international folk music you’re likely to read about it here first.

A Folk Song A Day

Jon Boden’s epic A Folk Song A Day podcast may have finished (for now) but the website is still a fantastic resource for information on all of the songs performed including a new audio file each day (at the moment Jon Boden is repeating all the folk songs from the very beginning). More new material from A Folk Song A Day is promised soon – we’ll just have to wait and see what exactly that new material is.

An Australian Folk Song A Day

Taking his lead from Jon Boden, John Thompson of Cloudstreet fame is attempting the folk-song-a-day challenge but focusing only on Australian music. The thing we love most about An Australian Folk Song A Day? Every song comes with lyrics.

Rhythms Magazine

Rhythms Magazine is probably the best roots related publication in Australia and they’ve transitioned very well to the online world. They have pretty up to date news articles, blogs, reviews and coverage of most of the major festivals on the roots calendar.

Properganda Magazine

Another magazine that’s made the successful jump to the online world, Properganda is like the UK’s version of Rhythms Magazine. They get access to some of the biggest names in folk so their exclusives are usually very exclusive – well worth a regular visit.

The Johnny Cash Project

The Johnny Cash Project has to be one of the most innovative and artistic uses of the internet we’ve seen to date. Basically artists are asked to take a single frame from Johnny Cash’s final video, for the traditional track “Ain’t No Grave” and then illustrate over the top of it. All of these illustrated frames are then voted on and thrown together to create a unique animated video. As more and more artists illustrate frames and the public continues to vote on their favourites so to does the video evolve. Take a look to see exactly what we mean.

NPR Music

We’ve tried to make this list about folk specialist sites only, which NPR Music clearly isn’t. But we’ve included it just for the sheer volume of folk related content they have available – from streaming full albums to exclusive concert audio to interviews and more. We’ve been lost on NPR Music for days at a time.

Trad and Now

If you don’t manage to get to a gig or festival its quite often impossible to get your hands on an artist’s recorded music – so many folk artists self produce their CDs so they’re not readily available in stores or on iTunes. Luckily Trad & Now have a wide range of hard to get CDs in stock and if it’s not on the web site you can usually reach out to guys and they’ll be able to help you track something down. Now if only we can get them into the download business…

Folk Alliance Australia

Folk Alliance Australia is probably the best resource online for all things folk. We use it mainly for its mailing lists, festival calendar and useful links.

So hopefully we’ve managed to help you discover some corners of the web you’ve yet to explore. Next up on Timber and Steel’s iFolk 2.0 series we look at the best in folk related Phone Apps.

Bluesfest Snapshot: Wagons – Plus New Video and Album!

Photo by KT Bell

Australia’s excited about Wagons, it’s true. Their monster tour of Australia kicks off at the end of the month, KT Bell caught one of their sets and Q&A at Bluesfest, and Thom Owen Miles could not be more excited to finally get along and see an act people have been telling him about for yonks.

Their fifth studio album, Rumble, Shake and Tumble, comes out on today, and days ago they released a sneak peak of the album with the single “I Blew It.”

If their set at Bluesfest is anything to go by, and the rumblings coming from the Wagons camp, the new album will be jam packed with all the usual Wagons mischief, cheeky tales and and their outlaw country rock with some inspiration from the Americana music spectrum. One of the great moments in their set was their performance of “Willie Nelson” – a song which has become a much loved live hit, with audiences always singing along, but has always been elusive to capture on record, but with Rumble, Shake and Tumble, Wagons have managed to do just that. Henry Wagons took great delight in telling thrilled audiences about how “Willie Nelson” was finally recorded well enough to do it justice to it’s live performances.

Another Bluesfest highlight was Henry Wagons’ Q&A with Rhythms Magazine where he told of Wagons‘ Hip Hop, how ‘vauguely retarded’ every other attempt at recording “Willie Nelson” turned out, the ups and downs of touring, recording the new album, Dave Graney’s written portrayal of Henry Wagons and KT Bell even managed to ask for a few tales from their SxSW appearance (where 16 gigs in 18 days was nearly too much for the band) and for details of Those Darlins‘ broken arm incident and hopeful return to Australia later this year.

Take a listen below or head over to the Rhythms Magazine website to hear all of their Bluesfest Q&As.

Henry Wagons Q&A


Rumble, Shake and Tumble is available nationally from today, rush out and buy your copy now! If you’re in Melbourne you can drop in to their instore appearance at Basement Discs (24 Block Pl, Melbourne) from 12.30pm today. For those on Twitter, Henry Wagons is offering 100 of his followers a free download with the precious link being made available between 8am – 9am – get tweeting!

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