Barry Skipsey – Singer, Songwriter, Photographer

Image courtesy of Barry Skipsey

Overheard On The Road
Observations, interviews, and stories from the backroads, main roads, and city streets of Terra Australis and the world
– This article appeared in Trad & Now magazine in early 2021.

Barry Skipsey – Photographer, Singer-songwriter, Northern Territorian
by Bill Quinn with Madison Collier

In June 2021, the Central Australian Folk Society (CAFS) and Top End Folk Club (TEFC) held their slightly delayed 50th Top Half Folk Festival at Mary River, NT.

You can read all about it in Trad & Now edition 143, September 2021. Mentioned in dispatches is Barry Skipsey, a man of many talents, with a story to tell that’s in many ways a common tale: come to Australia’s Northern Territory for a few weeks; stay for decades.

But in the most important way, it’s unique to Barry Skipsey.

A man who just yesterday (as I type in late 2021) appeared on stage in Alice Springs with no less than Scotty Balfour, Ross Muir, and David Evans in the ‘Living Histories’ show: stories and songs from the legendary band Bloodwood, plus their solo adventures outside the band.

On a Sunday afternoon in June, The Shavings had finished their singing workshop and the afternoon concert was kicking in, we had a chat with Barry, dressed in his territory rig and leaning against his territory rig. (First rig is a clothes reference, the second is a mighty automobile that ploughs the Stuart Highway and beyond).

Image courtesy of Barry Skipsey

Bill Quinn: Barry, you’ve been doing folk for about 145 years?

Barry Skipsey: (Laughs) Seems like it. I’m only 64 but yeah, we’ve all got aches and pains. I’ve got a couple of brand new knees in recent years.

BQ: But you’re not originally from the Northern Territory?

BS:  No, I was actually born on King Island. I’m a Tasmanian, technically.

I left there when I was about six years old. My father was over there building soldier settler homes. My brother and I were born there, and I left there when I was six. And I often say that we came to Australia. We came to Melbourne.

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Fieldsy – A Divine Slice Of Dublin via WA

Image courtesy of Fieldsy

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.

Image courtesy of Fieldsy
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Top Half Folk Festival Turns 50

Top Half Folk Festival celebrated its 50th in time-honoured tradition: with cake.

This article also appeared in Trad & Now magazine in August 2021.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and almost three hundred hearts were filled with music, song, poetry, and good cheer in June as the Top Half Folk Festival (THFF) returned – after a year on sick leave – to celebrate their milestone 50th annual event.

Covid19 had cancelled the festival in 2020, and conditions were still dicey in the lead-up (meaning some interstate visitors could not make the trek north). But it all kicked off in brilliant conditions and sublime surroundings at the Mary River Wilderness Retreat on the June long weekend.

While I’m not on commission for the venue, I highly recommend you add this little accommodation gem to your itinerary if you’re headed to the top end.

Situated just over 100kms east of Darwin along the Arnhem Highway, the cabins and sprawling campgrounds are tailor-made for a folk festival or a stopover. And the management have been generous and constant supporters of THFF since it moved to that locality in 2000.

Well, half of it moved there. Let’s go back a step.

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Folk On The Road: Jeremiah Johnson (Qld) Talks About Indie Music In The Time Of Pandemic

Image courtesy of Jeremiah Johnson

In late June 2020, Jeremiah Johnson and I tried to do what I term a ‘guerrilla interview’: an off-the-cuff chat, no interminable plans to talk at some point in the future which may get moved up to 36 times, just a wham-bam, thank you, man for the good talk.

We got snookered twice. The first time by a dodgy connection from Coconut Grove, NT (me) and somewhere near Mareeba, Qld (Jeremiah), and we gave up after two or three minutes.

The second time worked a charm a few days later, this time from Bellamack, NT (me) and Cairns, Qld (Jeremiah). Most of that went out as a live Facebook video which you can view now at www.facebook.com/OverheardProductions, but you’ll have to scroll down or use the search function, or just click on the hyperlink earlier on this sentence. I’m all over WordPress like a cheap suit. Not so much. :-/

The process of getting the interview onto the website – www.OverheardProductions.com – took a little longer. Let’s just leave the ‘guerrilla’ title for Facebook and call this version: Jeremiah Johnson Talks About Indie Music In The Time Of Pandemic. Fun Fact: I just went to Facebook to check the actual broadcast date, and Facebook helpfully reports it was: ‘About two weeks ago’. Great.

Bill Quinn: It is Wednesday the 20-somethingth of June. It doesn’t really matter that much since it will be in the text.

I’m speaking with Jeremiah Johnson in Cairns. G’day Jeremiah.

Jeremiah Johnson: G’day Bill, how’re you going?

BQ: Very good. Now despite pandemic, you’ve been a fairly busy boy lately. Tell us about that.

JJ: Well, I’ve just been consolidating probably about 40 songs in the music catalogue, trying to navigate the rest of the year as far as bookings go, and I have just taken a booking for my first live show in Cairns on the 24th of July, so that’s very exciting.

BQ: That is exciting.

Up here in Darwin, we’re a little bit spoilt because gigs have been back on for a little while. We try not to chuck it in other people’s faces. But what’s it been like there in Cairns? How have people been feeling about not having live gigs, both as performers and also the punters?

JJ: I can only speak from my point of view and that is that it’s been a really weird feeling to not be able to pursue your work and to not play music in front of people.

I mean, that’s what we like to do the most, so as far as the rest of the community is concerned, I’m not sure but I know that people love live music, they love getting out with their friends, and I’m sure that would be difficult, yeah.

Image courtesy of Jeremiah Johnson
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Bill Quinn – Writer, Advocate, Sponsor, Mentor, Contributor, Stringer, Singer, Gypsy

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Bill Quinn and John Schumann (Redgum, John Schumann & The Vagabond Crew), Concert Stage, Woodford Folk Festival, December 2007

Owner/operator of Overheard Productions, 2003 to present

Proud sponsor of 102.1FM 8CCC Community Radio – Alice Springs & Tennant Creek (Dead Parrots Society and A Little Bit Country), October 2021 onwards.

Contributor
to Trad & Now magazine (folk and anything roughly related), Ducks Crossing Publications, 2006 – present

Contributor
to Central Coast Newspapers, 2014.

Festival and gig MC 2005 onwards

Radio presenter:

2008 to 2012 – Artsound FM 92.7/90.3FM/artsound.fm  (ACT)

2019 to 2020 – 104.1 Territory FM/territoryfm.com (NT)

2020 – Guest presenter via phone, 107.5FM 2EAR-FM/2EARFM.weebly.com Thursdays at 7.15pm AEST on Ian Traynor’s Thursday evening show (6-10pm)

2022 onwards 107.9FM Radio Fremantle, ‘Folking Around’, Mondays 9-11pm AWST and online at: https://radiofremantle.com.au/shows/folking-around 

Trivia quiz host 1992 – 2012. Maybe again…

Peripatetic, interviewer, blatherer Ongoing. Always. Ever-present.

Gypsy. Effectively on the road from Ngunnawal (Canberra) since March 2013, with a 2.5 year stop in Darwin (March 2019 to August 2021).

Currently in residence in Walyalup (Fremantle, Western Australia), on the lands of the Whadjuk people, and I pay respect to the custodians past, present, and emerging. These are lands that are called ‘Australia’ and Terra Australis, a land of many nations, that were never ceded by the traditional owners.

More details at www.OverheardProductions.com/About

Bill The Housesitter
Bill Quinn, Bloke, v2011

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Harry Manx – 2016 Australian Tour

harrymanx-header
Image courtesy of Harry Manx

To tell the story of Harry Manx would take several lifetimes, and hopefully a progression of life-form hierarchies over those lives to tell the story, because the story is so mesmerising and complex that we would not be very present and in the moment of most of those lives, and that could put the telling of the tale at risk as we would not be making gradual and continuous improvement as…

Moving on…

Harry Manx performs at the 2012 National Folk Festival
Harry Manx performs at the 2012 National Folk Festival

Harry Manx has already begun his 2016 Australian tour which will take him from Sydney down to Victoria (where he is on stage tonight, Friday 23 September in Frankston) then around to Queensland, South Australia, Perth and up to Broome and Darwin, ending in the beautiful, lovely, gorgeous, I-may-be-a-little-hereditarily-biased New South Wales locales of Katoomba.

Ah, Katoomba. If there’s a more intimate, special venue than Clarendon Guest House, I want it stuffed, mounted, and hung above my fireplace – or I at least want an invite to your venue if it can go close to kicking the Clarendon into a cocked hat. Or any poultry millinery for that matter.

And finally wrapping it all up at Club Saffire in Merimbula.

So it’s a very eclectic path Harry treads, and look, I’d draw you a picture if I had a free hand, but imagine a much-twisted paper clip that’s been sitting on your desk all day on a slow Friday when you’ve been watching the clock since 9:36am – now you’re in the ballpark.

OR picture a moose that somehow wandered into your yard, found your sippin’ liquor in the shed, and is now making a bedraggled, loquacious, and somewhat winding stagger back to the forest by a circuitous route, two-thirds of it sideways.

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A Punter’s Perspective February 2014: Phone Drones

Put the bloody thing away!
Put the bloody thing away!

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

Phone Drones

First published in Trad and Now magazine, February 2014

A funny thing happened on the way from the Illawarra Folk Festival.

It was Monday morning and I was walking to the Bulli train station in the light drizzle, a damp swag slung o’er the shoulder, a song in my heart and a tune in my pancreas. And as is my wont on a post-festival morn, I was ruminating on the music and song-filled days just passed when it suddenly struck me.

Something had been missing. Something had not been there. There had been a yawning chasm, a gaping void.

I couldn’t recall one single mobile phone sounding in a concert venue.

Not one loud blast of ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ at an inopportune time.

No sudden fanfare of Morris Dancing’s greatest hit in inglorious polymorphic tones.

And while others may have suffered in the auditory department from SMS Alertsville, I could not recall one chirp, beep or apocryphal whistling tone* to announce an incoming text message.

(* I’m a liberal with a small ‘l’, but the creation and use of this whistling alert sound for text messages is, in my book, justification enough for the re-introduction of capital punishment. Especially on Sydney trains.) Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective September 2012: Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own Part III

Nobody gonna break-a my stride. Just give me a minute...
Nobody gonna break-a my stride. Just give me a minute…

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own Part III

First published in Trad and Now magazine, September 2013

“Do you have to go on stage? Can’t you just get a radio mic and just let them know it starts in ten minutes off stage?”

The speaker was (and still is) a talented musician and a lovely bloke and what he was to say next was in no way meant to be demeaning. He was in his own pre-game/pre-show warm up and consequently his head was processing a few things and on auto-pilot.

Meanwhile, the MC was fatigued and slightly ill, on the road for 11 days and 3000 kms by road, rail, air, sea, and lots of walking, pack mule style. He…

Ok, let’s leave this third person malarkey alone. I had been on the train down the escarpment to the gig, nodding off slightly as the NSW Trains carriage gently rolled about from side to side within a narrow range of oscillation.

The phone had rung and the gig promoter had asked me to step in at the eleventh hour to MC the big, almost sold out extravaganza that many in the area had been building up to for many weeks.

An MC's pharmacy shelves
An MC’s pharmacy shelves

I’d literally run down Crown Street then back onto the one that runs parallel, stopping off for a bottle of medicine for later after the show. You know the sort of medicine I’m talking about. It comes in 700ml receptacles, this one was blended (many are single malt), and there are fine healers from Scotland who distill and distribute it for its magical, health-giving properties.

(As it happened, the stopper never came out and it stayed parked outside the venue, and I went to bed, un-dosed and with my medicine uncapped.)

Back to the Green Room. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective March 2014: No Such Things As Mistakes

Oops! There are no such things as mistakes.
Oops! There are no such things as mistakes.

A Punter’s Perspective: Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

No Such Things As Mistakes Part I

First published in Trad and Now magazine, March 2014

As has been the case from time to time in the seven years plus of A Punter’s Perspective, ’tis the night before deadline and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a half-decent idea for a folk music magazine article.

Realising my dilemma on the train to work today, I turned to the world’s font of most knowledge (and funny cat videos): Twitter. And I asked publicly to all, and pointedly to three or four music bloggers, what might a good topic be.

Image courtesy of The Dutch Guy
Image courtesy of The Dutch Guy

The answer came from a former radio presenter now blogger/vlogger (a kindred spirit, then) from the Netherlands who goes by the title of ‘The Dutch Guy’ (@DutchGuyOnAir), and he suggested:

“How about talking about some mistakes indie artists might make?”

By curious coincidence, this is a topic I’d considered before and only pulled back from it at the risk of causing offence.

Causing offence is a service I do occassionally provide — usually unintentionally.

I’ve put enough noses out of joint in the music world in the past nine years by commission, omission, or at the very least, blind stupidity, and have no need to add to that tally by more inadvertent misadventure.

I often say that I can have my intelligence insulted without willfully watching certain TV programs or listening to certain radio stations. (And that I didn’t mention them by name is at least a sign that I’m learning — slowly.)

Therefore, some disclaimers.

I am totally in awe of musicians, artists and singer-songwriters.

The concept of playing a three to 20-stringed instrument (or one you blow, slap, or pump) while singing and possibly dancing (or at least a little light duck-walking), and then doing that from 20 minutes at a time, for up to three or four hours, leaves me absolutely breathless.

disclaimer

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Interview: Billy Bragg previews his March 2014 Australian/New Zealand Tooth And Nail tour (text version)

Billy Bragg's Australian Tooth and Nail tour
Billy Bragg’s Australian Tooth and Nail tour, March 2014. Image courtesy of Billy Bragg.

Interview audio version first posted in Timber and Steel in September 2013.
Interview text version first published in January 2014 edition of Trad and Now magazine.

Recorded in the studios of community radio station 2XX-FM, Canberra.

Thanks as always to these three venerable institutions for the very fine work they do in supporting folk and independent music in Australia.

In March 2014, Billy Bragg will be touring Australia with band on his ‘Tooth and Nail’ tour, part of a worldwide expo of his latest studio album. Last year, I interviewed Billy as he made a whirlwind promotional tour to Australia. We revisited some old themes and looked forward to this year’s tour.

[For the time poor, the full audio file of this interview (including outtakes featuring gratuitous underwear references) is at: Timber and Steel.]

Having interviewed Billy a year and four days previously, I started by asking him what the last 369 days had comprised.

Melbourne Recital Hall, Melbourne. 19 October 2012.
Melbourne Recital Hall, Melbourne. 19 October 2012.

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