Folk On The Road – Fieldsy: A Divine Slice Of Dublin Via WA
This article also appeared in Trad & Now magazine in July 2022.
Back at last behind a typewriter (for Trad & Now) after a break of about six months.
Those months have gone by in something of a blur. Mparntwe, Brisbane, and Perth are all now in the rear view mirror. Darwin seems like a lifetime ago. (It’s been nine months in earth years).
Crash-landed in Fremantle in late May and looking to drop an anchor here for a while, it occurred to me I’d gone the year without any live original music gigs in the calendar. (With the exception of Bushtime at Woodfordia on New Year’s Day.)
Soon after making that realisation, social media chimed in with an alert to say that perennial favourite Daniel Champagne was appearing at Freo.Social in a few days’ time. One quick online transaction and some changed social plans later, and come the first Friday in June, I was plonked in the band room at this wonderful WA venue.
Just before the gig, I noticed the support act was ‘Fieldsy’, and with no other information to go on, I pictured a bald bloke in a blue singlet with three chords, six teeth, and the truth.
The reality was something (and someone) quite different.
Fieldsy comes from Dublin, from a large, rowdy family. A Catholic schoolgirl who went on to become a singer-songwriter recording artist in several guises. Then in the early 2010s when the Celtic Tiger had roared, reared up, and been well and truly tamed, Fieldsy and family decamped to Australia in search of better economic fortunes.
Cut forward to 2022, with even more musical incarnations under her belt, Fieldsy is making a return to performing after a few months off with vocal maladies and a dose of the dreaded corona plague.
Fieldsy wowed the crowd that chilly June Friday night in Freo as a very fitting and welcome warm-up for Daniel Champagne. Her songs speak of origins, challenges, changes. Her strong, resonant voice belies her slight frame.
Let me highly recommend to you this venue and series of gigs – if you’re within striking distance of Fremantle or planning a visit.
Bob Gordon hosts musicians across many genres and, in the band room affectionately known as ‘The Garage’, he intersperses the performances with some laid-back yet extensive interviewing. The audience has a chance (or rather, many chances) to really get to know who’s appearing behind the mics and instruments.
282 South Terrace, South Freo. Thursdays at 8pm, $10. Do yourself a proverbial favour.
BQ: Fieldsy, we’re in Fremantle. I’ve met some people in Perth who don’t even cross the [Swan] river for their holidays, but you don’t mind travelling around for gigs?
Fieldsy: No, I love it, actually. It’s nice. I live up near Joondalup and nothing’s ever happening out there, so it’s either the city or further out, y’know?
BQ: That’s interesting. A few years ago, I interviewed a band in Brisbane and they said it’s almost like the river is the divider line: on one side it’s all originals and on the other it’s cover bands. I’m very new to WA; does Perth have regions for different music?
Fieldsy: Yeah, I think with originals, you do have a very popular place in Scarborough – The Indi Bar – that holds original nights, and that would be the closest to me. But I think the city and Freo is such a vibe, and lots of musicians just live here anyway.
It’s kind of the old school, original scene that I think has always been the Perth way. I’ve only been here 11 years, and it’s been that way since I’ve moved here, and I believe it’s always been that way.
BQ: So, competition: is it a case of getting yourself known and then being asked to come back?
Fieldsy: Yeah, I mean, I do a bit of both. I can offer 45 minutes of covers and 45 minutes of originals, so I can get into a lot more places than musicians who only want to do originals. But the thing to do is to get into groups where musicians may have the same genre as you – and your whole original night can get gigs that way.
And then you can build your connections and your networks that way.
BQ: You said 11 years you’ve been here. What brought you to Australia?
Fieldsy: Work, originally. The economy in Ireland went to pot, and it was sink or swim.
So we flew. To Australia.
And we thought we’d try it for six months and we’re here 11 years later.
BQ: And you came to WA first off?
Fieldsy: Yes, straight away. We had friends here so we were like at least we’ll know somebody.
BQ: What’s your view of the WA scene? In this country, Perth sometimes feels like the not neglected but distant cousin. What’s your feeling on the scene here?
Fieldsy: It’s very incestual; I could probably use a better word! But it’s nice; if you can find your tribe, you can do a lot of things with them. You can tour, you can do whatever. But it’s very… what’s the word?
There’ll be new bands, and then they’ll disappear. Then there’ll be new bands and THEY will disappear. Or these bands will start another band.
BQ: So they get to a certain level and think, well I’m not going to make it around here [and need to move away].
BQ: [I drew a comparison with Canberra which has a well-worn migration path of talented musicians to Melbourne.]
Fieldsy: That’s right. They’ll leave WA and go over to Sydney or Victoria or whatever, and try to make it over there. OR there’s a very short life span on bands and there’s always the next indie little group.
I was in a band years ago when we first started off. We tried really hard to figure it out and we ended up taking it on our own scene because we didn’t quite fit with the genres – that change constantly anyway.
BQ: How do you go with media here? Do you get much attention from the street press?
Fielsy: You have to really network yourself and reach out if you’ve got a release or something. You can go to a distributor who can do all that stuff for you, and they’ll send you all the online magazine and media stuff.
I’ve done all that. I tend to not really do it anymore. Because there’re so many platforms to promote my own stuff that I’m always on my socials anyway.
BQ: I notice your social media is very conservative. [Note: use of sarcasm font.]
Fieldsy: [Laughs] Are you sure you’re on the right Fieldsy page?
BQ: You have a bit of fun with it, don’t you?
Fieldsy: I do. It’s like I love black humour and comedy, and I combine the two, so it’s like a perfect balance for me.
BQ: And I see you’re going back to Ireland to play back there. Is this the first time since Covid hit?
Fieldsy: Yes. It’ll be three years since I’ve gone back in July. I go back there usually in July/August – their summer.
BQ: So you get to see family, play gigs, and tax deduct it all?
Fieldsy: Absolutely! It’s so exciting. It kinda doesn’t feel real yet. I haven’t booked tickets yet, I’m still waiting for my passport to come. I’m always ‘Last-Minute Lisa’ – that’s what they call me.
It’ll happen, it’ll happen. We’ve got all the shows booked and yeah, it’ll be great.
BQ: When you get back do they notice the Australian accent?
Fieldsy: Well, no, my friends say – here – that when I get with the Irish people to talk, [my accent]’s just SO thick. I think I’ve neutralised my accent a little bit here because people didn’t understand me in the beginning. So I’ve had to tone it down a bit.
BQ: Funny you should say that. When I saw you for the first time on Friday night, it took me a good little while to work out the accent.
Fieldsy: People get confused if maybe I’m from Canada. Some people will get the Irish thing, but I’ve just neutralised it. Even my kids have got mad accents – I don’t know what it is. It’s like American/British/Irish!
BQ: So you do perform solo and with a band.
Fieldsy: A trio, yes, which is ‘Fieldsy and the Divine Trinity’. Madeleine is here with us tonight, and she plays violin, and then Nikki does keyboard and accordion. So it’s quite unusual. They’re Australian and they play Irish traditional instruments. It’s just amazing. It works perfectly.
BQ: Do you get asked for a lot of the diddly diddly Irish music?
Fieldsy: It depends on where I play. If I’m playing in Irish pubs, people will expect it from me. They just expect I’m a cover artist and will know every single song in the Irish catalogue.
And I’m the worst! I don’t know any, usually.
BQ: I try not to ask predictable questions, but your stage name. I was expecting an Australian bloke.
Fieldsy: It’s so funny; a lot of people say that because it’s a really typical Australian nickname. But my surname is ‘Caulfield’. So that’s where it comes from.
It was Fields originally, but noone could find me on Spotify because there’s heaps of other Fields. So I thought, just stick a Y on the end. And I’m the only one.
BQ: [We talked about recorded music, and Fieldsy mentioned her latest release.]
Fieldsy: My last one was actually an ACDC cover that noone was expecting. Yeah, I covered ‘Big Balls‘.
I always get requests for ACDC so I was like, let’s just do it.
BQ: And if people want to find out about you and your music, where’s the best source?
Fieldsy: Facebook. Instagram. They’re my two main forms every single day. TikTok is the extra one, but the other two are the main ones. Instagram more so, for the stories throughout the day. Which I post all of my life on!
And I’ll tell you where I’m playing and all other things.
BQ: Thanks very much for all of that.
Fieldsy: Thanks, Bill.
Fieldsy is off from WA shores in July (if she can get those tickets and passport sorted) and will be performing gigs in Ireland and Spain. If you’re in the area or know others who are, get your good selves along or kindly suggest to your kin and mates that they do.