Darwin Muso Series: Crystal Robins

Darwin Muso Series is a string of an indeterminate number of mini to medium to mega interviews with Darwin-based musicians and performing artists. Starting in September 2019, and we’ll see how many we can cover over the next weeks/months/years.

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Image courtesy of Crystal Robins

Crystal Robins

The Darwin Railway Club played host to the Darwin regional final of the Passport To Airlie competition in mid-September 2019.

Airlie Beach Festival of Music is held in November, however, in the lead-up, the organisers stage what is arguably* Australia’s biggest battle of the bands competition.

* If you laid out all the competitors from 13 regional heats from Darwin to Adelaide end to end… they’d likely be very annoyed and would probably resent the dry-cleaning bill.

Crystal Robins is a very popular multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, and a regular fixture at events and venues around Darwin. Crystal’s strong passion for music and the performing arts saw her play in a variety of jazz, rock and folk-punk bands in Sydney, but she now makes Darwin her home.

I had a brief chat with Crystal after she performed the penultimate set in the Passport To Airlie heat.

Bill Quinn: So, tell me the Crystal story!

Crystal Robins: Wow! I have to turn my brain on again!

I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Sydney, I played in quite a few bands there. I studied music at uni…

BQ: Where was uni?

CR: The Australian Institute of Music. I studied jazz and contemporary music there, playing flute.

But I’ve always loved playing guitar, and writing songs and singing.

CrystalRobins

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[Audio Interview] Harry Manx – 2016 Australian Tour

harrymanx-header
Image courtesy of Harry Manx

This is the audio file wrapped up in a bit of Overheard FM nonsense. The full written version will be here on Monday 17 October 2016 at midday AEST, 10pm Sunday Kentucky, US and 3am Monday UK time.

To tell the story of Harry Manx would take several lifetimes, and hopefully a progression of life-forms 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…

I believe the expression you’re looking for is, “Ain’t nobody got time for dat!”

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 that can safely kick 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. You got it! Continue reading

Interview: Lucie Thorne on tour

Image courtesy of Lucie Thorne
Image courtesy of Lucie Thorne

Lucie Thorne is doing one of the things that she does best — touring around Australia, making her way into major centres but also a few places off the beaten track as well.

After two successful runs in Australia in recent times with Pieta Brown, showcasing the ‘Love Over Gold‘ album, Lucie is back on the road solo, albeit with long time collaborator percussionist Hamish Stuart, and teaming up for a double bill in Bacchus Marsh with Liz Stringer.

I should stop mentioning that the locations for doing these interviews are a little weird because I can’t remember the last time I did a straight face to face interview in a studio. For this brief chat, I was located in the salubrious surrounds of the Brisbane City Youth Hostels Association dormitory room, finishing the interview just a tick before house-keeping arrived with the industrial leaf blower, while Lucie was relaxing on a friend’s property in South Australia complete with 3D cattle.

If you’re reading this on the day of publication (Tuesday 3 June 2014) you can tune in and hear Lucie live on air on ABC 774 Melbourne with Lindy Burns from around about 9pm AEST. You can listen online.

Details of Lucie Thorne’s upcoming gigs:

Wednesday 4 June – Melbourne Folk Club (Bella Union at Trades Hall), Vic
Saturday 14 June – Baby Black Cafe, Bacchus Marsh, Vic
Wednesday 18 June – Smiths Alternative Bookshop, ACT
Thursday 19 June – The Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland, NSW
Friday 20 June – 5 Church Street, Bellingen, NSW*
Saturday 21 June – St Martin’s Hall, Mullumbimby, NSW
Thursday 26 June – house concert, Blue Mountains, NSW*
Friday 27 June – house concert, Kangaroo Valley, NSW*
Sunday 29 June – Mudbrick Pavillion, Mallacoota, Vic

* See Lucie’s gig listing for booking details.

It’s an oldie but an absolute fave:

Lucie Thorne interview recording studio: Room 205 at Brisbane City YHA
Lucie Thorne interview recording studio: Room 205 at Brisbane City YHA

Interview: Taj Ralph, The Corso at Manly

Image courtesy of Taj Ralph
Image courtesy of Taj Ralph

Taj Ralph

The Corso is a great place to harvest interviews and I have another couple to decant over the next few weeks of catch-up.

But today as I took a few minutes in a favourite perch high above the Corso at the New Brighton Hotel, I heard a young singer-songwriter setting up in the prime position at the eastern end of the Corso with his back to a fairly choppy swell.

Taj Ralph just did the one bracket, a mixture of covers and his originals. The voice announcing the songs was powerful but undeniably young. And as I made my way down there, I heard him answer sheepishly to what must be a common question: “I’m 12”.

There’s something highly engaging about the way a 12 year old says casually: “I wrote this one a couple of years ago”. And he had a couple of those.

In my bar-side perch, I thought I heard Taj say that he had been selling CDs the last time he was busking but the rain came and he couldn’t sell them anymore. But down on the street level I got the real story: the “ranger” had come along to tell him he wasn’t allowed to sell his CDs.

What the h e double hockey sticks? What gives, Manly Council?

More of that for another time.

Here’s our brief chat, though as Dad Simon pointed out as he was packing up Taj’s gear, Taj was overdue at the skate park.

Check out Taj’s music and chalk the name down as one to watch in years to come.

Taj Ralph on The Corso, Manly
Taj Ralph on The Corso, Manly

The Miss Chiefs — interview

At the National Folk Festival, 2012. Image courtesy of The Miss Chiefs.
At the National Folk Festival, 2012. Image courtesy of The Miss Chiefs.

The Miss Chiefs talk about upcoming festival performances

The Miss Chiefs are Laura Zarb, Amelia Gibson and Vendulka Wichta from New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

Coming together at the National Folk Festival in 2012, they’re back together to perform at three folk festivals including a return to the National in 2013.

I spoke with the three girls after an informal performance at The Artists’ Shed in Queanbeyan on Sunday 13 January 2013.

The audio file is below and the text will appear this week on the Timber and Steel nu-folk blog.

AND be sure to check out the official video below of The Miss Chiefs performing ‘Hallelujah’ at last year’s National.

Bruce Watson: solo and Unsung Heroes project

Bruce Watson. Picture courtesy of www.brucewatsonmusic.com
Bruce Watson. Picture courtesy of http://www.brucewatsonmusic.com

Bruce Watson

Talks mostly about Unsung Heroes

(But he’s about to do a week or so of solo stuff so make sure you read to the end!)

Tracking back even further through my backlog of recorded material, back a fair few weeks ago now, Bruce Watson was on the road with three of his Victorian compadres (I could have said Mexican, but didn’t) for the Unsung Heroes shows in a few venues. Sadly, this article didn’t get to see the light of day in time for those shows, but as you’ll read, the project has quite the life that will see it around for some time to come. Here Bruce talks about how the concept came about and what the future plans are for the project.

And then, you can start scribbling dates in your diary as Bruce prepares to have a mini-assault on ACT and the southern highlands/Illawarra hinterland/central coast and Hunter region over the next ten days.

Bill Quinn: Tell me about the Unsung Heroes project.

Bruce Watson: It’s a collection of four singer-songwriters – which is sort of unusual for singer-songwriters to all get together. But we all met at a thing called the Darebin Songwriters Guild which is based in our local area in the northern suburbs of Melbourne.

And we got together to do that, and the actual idea for the project came from Moira Tyers, and she was just basically talking to people about it. She formed a band with Wendy [Ealey] and Neil [Robertson]. And I heard about the project and said, ‘This is really good. I’ve got some songs that would fit into that idea, and I’d love to be involved in some way’.

So I was invited into the project.

We actually started with about ten people. And gave the initial concert with a whole lot of local songwriters that did songs on the theme of ‘Unsung Heroes’.

Then we gradually filed it down to a manageable number of people, and to more of a thematic approach, with the organising principle being: time. It’s chronological, going from settlement (and a little bit of a flash-back to pre-settlement Australia) and it goes right through to a few contemporary people – a few people who are still alive and doing amazing things.

So that’s how the show started, and it’s turned into a show that’s got a narrative and a set of songs and the visuals are really important. It’s got a slide show component that’s quite important. Continue reading

Liz Frencham on touring with Gregory Page and Jimmy the Fish

Liz Frencham talks about playing solo

and with Jimmy the Fish and Gregory Page

This is a slightly elongated and fuller version of the interview with Liz Frencham that first appeared in Timber and Steel on 28 September 2012.

Liz Frencham is one of the hardest working women in folk.

Liz’s collaborations, bands and projects are legendary. If you laid out her records end to end, including her solo, band, contribution and bit part playing thereon CDs… my, it would take a long time to pick them all up again.

Liz spent part of winter cocooned away in rural Victoria, but in recent times she’s been on the road with her bluegrass outfit Jimmy the Fish, and with the inspired pairing with Fred Smith as Frencham/Smith.

Sometime in the late 1980s, or so it seems, Liz had an interview with Bill Quinn which included one landline, one mobile phone as conduit, and another mobile phone as recording device. Liz was in picturesque southern Trentham, and Bill by the banks of the Moruya River on the beautiful Eurobodalla Nature Coast in rural, coastal New South Wales.

As Liz prepares to strike out on a tour with US singer-songwriter Gregory Page, I started by asking Liz where her preference for solo or band performing lay.

Liz Frencham: I wouldn’t call it a preference. It’s exactly the same, say, as playing playing with Jimmy the Fish and playing with Fred.

Playing solo is “different” and it requires different skills. Probably one thing it has in its favour at the moment is that it still completely terrifies me.

It’s not something that I’ve mastered. It’s exciting and I haven’t settled into a comfortable groove, which makes the possibilities seem more endless. I wouldn’t say it would be a preference, per se.

I am a bass player, and when you’re fitting into your role the most is when you’re accompanying somebody else.

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