One of our roving Timber and Steel reporters, Bill Quinn, has 36 000 rules and observations for festivals. An important one this time of year is that if you sit in one place for the whole festival, then eventually the whole festival passes you by.
And so it was on Boxing Day that one of these myriad chance happenings happened.
Sitting in the cool of the Tokyo Bar at Woodford Folk Festival, sipping cool ginger beer on ice, the lovely Chanel Lucas turned to say g’day, and how are you going, and whatcha doing? “I’m becoming a Queenslander for four months, and you?” I’m about to perform a song in a themed concert called The Soldier’s Wife.
(For porpoises of clarification, Bill is the new temporary Queenslander and Chanel is performing in The Soldier’s Wife.)
This led to a meeting with the just as lovely Deborah Suckling, the brains and organisational brawn behind The Soldier’s Wife. Currently an irregularly performed concert, matching female singer-songwriters with “..the partners of Australian servicemen – both past and present – and putting the experience, emotions and lives of those women into song”.
And/or push play on the link below and hear Deborah tell us all about it in a tick over eight minutes:
*** Audio file will be deleted by the end of March 2020 ***
*** Audio file will be deleted by the end of March 2020 ***
Text of the interview with Deborah Suckling:
Bill Quinn: For Overheard Productions, Timber and Steel, and Trad and Now, it is the first day of Woodford Folk Festival. There’s some beautiful ambient noise drifting over from ‘The Duck’ to where we’re sitting at what used to be ‘The Duck and Shovel’, now the ‘Tokyo Bar’.
I’m here talking with Deb, and Deb is going to tell us about something quite amazing called The Soldier’s Wife. Hello, Deb.
Deborah Suckling: Hello, Bill. How are you?
BQ: Very good. Deb, tell us about the concert that you were just involved in.
DS: So, The Soldier’s Wife project that eight songwriters came together at the start of 2014 with a small grant from the Australia Council about working with women basically from World War II through to now – widows and partners of men in conflict.
We’re all female songwriters and basically what we wanted to do was to talk with the women and create the stories and put them into song to share them with a wider audience so we could share their whole experience of being a soldier’s wife.
BQ: Was it a process of you going out to specific songwriters or did they gravitate towards you, or was it a bit of both?
DS: Well, we have a label called Sugarrush Music and so a lot of the women who are involved in the project – because we are very women-focussed on our label – we actually put out their releases. So most of the women we manage our we put out their releases, and then a few friends came on board as well. And we basically all sat down and everyone wanted to be a part of it, so that’s how we got the crew together.
BQ: And you were telling me before about some resonances that some people in the crowd had with what you were doing. Tell us a bit about that.
DS: Oh, we just had this incredible moment. We were sitting outside after the show, having a glass of wine as you do, and we had this gorgeous young woman come up to us and her dad is a Vietnam vet. And she sat the whole show with him, and she just came up and hugged us all and said, “Thank you so much. My dad’s a Vietnam vet and [had] tears in his eyes”.
And that’s what we want to do this whole show for.
BQ: We were talking before about our respective family histories with war. It’s my observation – in the last 15-20 years or so – more family members are finding connections through family members, or they’re just engaging more with things like Anzac Day and Legacy. Is that what you notice?
DS: Look, I think young people… I think they really struggle with the concept of war. And when they know that someone in their family has gone through a conflict or served, they have this really big desire to find out exactly what that entailed.
And it’s much more spoken about now that it used to be. So young people also, I think, have this enormous curiosity about where and what their family went through in these conflicts, yeah.
BQ: So you’ve done the concert here on Saturday, then Sunday night again?
DS: Yeah, Sunday night at eight o’clock at The Duck, we’re doing the show again and yeah, we’re really excited to do an evening show. There’s nine of us in the show, so it’s hard getting us all organised [for a lunch time show].
BQ: Night time tends to be a little more emotional, if I can put it that way.
DS: Definitely, night time is more emotional, and maybe it’s because we’re all a little more tired. And maybe had another one or two glasses of wine! And this is actually the first day she that we’ve done. But it was beautiful today in terms of the reaction from the crowd and their emotive response during the day.
So it is definitely more emotional at night; I think we’ll see a few more tears.
But also, it’s a very uplifting show. There is a lot of inspiration and encouragement, and just amazing stories about amazing women. So it is and emotional show, but at the same time, there is an enormous amount of material to be really inspired by.
BQ: I’m a big believer in ‘flushing’ being a really good thing, and one thing that I’ve noticed from being involved in singing and singing groups is that sometimes people in the audience really do have a good flush out of their tear ducts.
DS: Look I think music is one of those things that you get it out of your system. I’ve cried at every single show that we’ve done with The Soldier’s Wife, and that is because I can relate to these stories as a mother, as a wife, a I can put myself in the position of the women that we talk to. And I can feel that, and I think most people actually can, when you explain what they’ve been through: people connect with that and they have this emotional response.
And it’s good for everyone. Crying is good for us.
It releases really good endorphins too.
Crying is like sex: everyone needs a good cry as much as they need to… you know, do that as well!
BQ: It’s a flushing thing, and for those of you who are into tantric stuff, you’re catered for in other pursuits!
Deb, there’s an album, yes?
DS: There is. We have a CD out; it’s at the festival shop at the moment.
All our proceeds for The Soldier’s Wife get donated to Legacy. If you’re not aware of Legacy, it’s the organisation that’s looked after wives and families of people that have served for the last hundred years. There’s 100 000 families in Australia that they look after, so all the money gets donated to them.
Next year, we’re teaming up with MGM Distribution, which is going to be fantastic. I’ve got a grant in at the moment to record a full album, and we’re really hoping to get that out next year or over the next couple of years, while the centenary’s going on and while it’s in people’s minds, so that we can raise some really good money for Legacy.
Legacy now look after not only widows but they look after families whose husbands come home with mental illnesses and all those sorts of things, so it’s an amazing project to be able to donate those funds to such a great cause.
BQ: Before the full album comes out, if there are people outside of Woodford that want to get their hands on a copy of that CD?
DS: Yep, we’ll include a Soundcloud link so that people can listen and get involved with the project: https://soundcloud.com/sugarrushmusic/sets/the-soldiers-wife and hopefully people down the track love it and invest in buying a CD.
So [for now] we’ll put it up for free, and if you listen to the songs, if you want some more information about the songs as well, we’ll have a web-site link up there as well.
[The dedicated website for the project: http://www.soldierswife.com.au/ ]
BQ: Deb, thanks so much for spending time with us, and good luck with the concert tomorrow night.
DS: Thank you so much, Bill, for listening and being a part of this amazing project with us.
The one and only extra concert is on tonight (Sunday 28 December 2014) at 8pm AEST at The Duck (concert venue just across the crick from the Tokyo Bar).
The book and double CD are available now from Sugarrush Music: https://www.sugarrushmusic.com.au/products-page/cds/
The Soldier’s Wife Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheSoldiersWife/