Its 5am Monday morning and Im sorting through tracks for the latest recording project at ‘Braymont’ just out of Gulgong. I have Kerry Ellen here, she played yesterday at the Gulgong RSL, to do a 5 track EP of material which I am doing all the backing for as well. She is also projects officer for Orana Arts and has been instrumental in helping me access grants for the Gulgong Folk Festival and in starting up drumming workshops with Kings of Congo Congo…nice to give something back.
The recording side of the business has taken an upturn since the release of Rainbows End and word seems to be getting out that I also record other people , not just myself. My last job was star student Brooke Colley in her first ever venture into the studio and I have another local girl Katie Gilbert lined up for Wednesday this week.
The week that was after the Blue Mountains Music festival was spent mostly here in the studio and at the Paragon for 2 gigs; one on Thursday for the monthly Mudgee Music Jam where I took onstage 3 of my vocal students for their compulsory performance “update” and here is where this little gem by Brooke Colley was filmed by Elizabeth Walton. She’s a great talent and only 15 and really is quite an exciting prospect.
The other event at the Paragon was for a benefit for a local Mudgee lad in his twenties with brain cancer. Turns out I used to work with him and his brother at Eltons, a local eatery , when I was cheffing round. The place was jam packed and “Fig Jam’ really turned on a searing performance for our first ever Mudgee appearance [we’ve been playing everywhere else for almost 6 months now]. Refreshing to see so many old faces and musical cohorts coming out of the woodwork and I know I surprised the hell out of a few of them. It was also Elizabeth Waltons first outing on keyboards with the band and she lent some keyboard finery to Lovely/My time/Valentines Day.. all recently recorded at Pirate Studios.
I attended ‘The song and the sigh’ an exhibition by Sam Paine, my great friend and media champion from the Mudgee Guardian, at Lyra Burghaus’ ‘My little dress shop’ which is sadly closing now after 2 years of operation in Gulgong. Both these guys have brought a sense of style to the are which transcended rural eegance with a certain 1920s chic . Sam is off to New York this week and Lyra is off tho Europe and Asia. Hopefully both will be back because I find it hard sometimes filling downtown Gulgong with any sense of bohemia!!
About 3 months ago I was asked to volunteer for the Blue Mountains Music Festival and told with my experience I would be put on staging and MC work. I didn’t need a second look as I was keen to learn how a major festival worked in light of the decision to go private with the Mudgee Music Festival and promote it myself.
The time came round and I was rostered on 3 shifts ..the first on the Friday night at the Blues Room in the Katoomba RSL and the second after a whole day off on the Saturday was a big spell in the Mainstage Pavilion from 11am till 7.30pm.
First up I got side of stage and witnessed Liz Stringer’s Blues/Soul intensity first hand. Passion is what seems to drive and make great music and here was a clear example. She is starting to make real headway and her intensity and passion is what seems to be winning it for her, indeed the theme over the weekend was not just musical excellence but driving passion that boils out of every great artist here. Next my good friends from Melbourne and Gulgong Folk Festival times , April Maze, were on and I loved doing their stage set up. They nailed the set in their usual charming fashion and it was a lot of fun having some friends around. Speaking of passion next up on that stage was the Popes,Shane McGowans [Pogues] backing band for a few years in the 90s. By now I had made my presence clear as a stage manager and Tim my cohort was leaving me to it a bit. The Popes were chockful of energy…a bit light on the songwriting side and a bit anthemic for me but there was no denying their infectious energy
The set up for these guys was more intense and it was a full rock band set up and I was doing drums/guitars/bass and all the usual water /leads/string changing requirements. I take my job seriously and I watched the stage like a hawk making sure they were all comfortable…I had to do a lot of running back and forth to frony of house to get foldback changed as well. the drummer was a legend and Dave Allen on fiddle a nicer guy you couldnt meet…he reminded me of Dave Hill from Slade.
I had Saturday off and strolled round and checked out all that makes a larger festival work…lots of volunteer grunt on security and ushering and miles of cable/barricading/lights and festival stalls plus big sound and light rigs…so much to take in before I start my Mudgee Music Festival out at the Showgrounds in May 2014…Gulgong will be nothing on this.
I was impressed with Zoe Keating and her cello loops [very Phillip Glassish] was thrilled to catch Luka Bloom [he even played ‘Diamond Mountain’ first song] but was tempted to an early bed as Id just found out via SMS that I was going to be MC tomorrow on mainstage as well as stage manage Arlo Guthrie/ Kate Miller Heidke and Seth Lakeman. Pretty nervous and thought I should do some youtube research…I didnt even know who Seth Lakeman was…little did I know what a profound experience he would be tomorrow!!
Early onstage and before anyone else was there Id cleaned up the stage from the night before and started setting up for first act which was Mike McClellands guitar circle including Fiona Boyes/Sean Taylor and Chris Smithers. Next up Red Molly were so so but then the action really picked up with Arlo Guthrie arriving backstage…by now Id taken over stage management and was to do the MC for him. I was so friggin nervous having to go out in front of 2000 or so people but it went OK. He was a lovely guy and very approachable and I gotta say a wonderful guitarist/story teller and his singing reminded me of Willie Nelson…the last song ‘Peace be with you’ brought me close to tears as I realised his wife of 30 years had died only last October and how sad he must still at his tender waning age of 66.
Kate Miller Heidke was imperious and swerved from Opera to idiosyncratic pop with utter ease. Id got her album ‘Little Eve’ back in 2007 but she has grown in stature so much in the last few years and 2 albums and I found her voice/songs and presence utterly rivetting. Sarah and Mama were particular standouts chilling!!
Seth Lakeman…Id met up with him and the drummer Simon earlier in the day when they came in to check their set up and hire instruments…lovely guys straight up and down and utterly Irish!! ..[note they were the only artists to do so at whole festival]
What a force of nature , what a show…Id caught one song of theirs at the big top on Saturday [Kitty Jay] but was spellbound and they were fantastic …I found myself running again and really having to take care of Simon on drums…the hire kit was falling apart round him a bit and at one stage I was holding down the hi hat whilst he played…a brilliant set and my pick of the festival.
All in all a fantastic experience and nice to know my staging credentials got me a guernsey on the mainstage…must admit I do love being in the zone with the artist and it only makes me hungrier for my own little pot of success!!
We were invited by Oli Statham to come down and play at the private mini festival ‘Woolstock’ about 6 months ago when I held our little mini festival ‘Farmfresh’ at the farm at Braymont just out of Gulgong. Its held in March at the big organi Rosnay farm just a few kms out of Canowindra and attracts sometimes up to 500 people and hqas been going for almost 20 years.
After a full day doing markets over in Orange I made my way to the farm and arrived not long after 4pm on a hot March day. The tent set up alone was impressive and atopa beautiful rolling hill that afforded a sweeping view of the surrounding countryside and Oli Statham introduced me to Shaun Lawler [Trumpet] and Greg McLaren [Vox] who were heading up the PA side of things. I got a good look around at the wonderful Fig/Olive/Wine property and was blown away by the rustic organic nature of the sprawling 600 acre property that just summed up the real Tuscany in a nutshell. I felt right at home and vowed to come back for a bigger better look and Oli and Sam Statham want to do some business olive wise with me anyway
Back to the music… A few bands and playrs were on before Fig Jam and I had a lot of time to kill before Josh and Erin arrived. At sundown there was a huge percussion jam which all three of us joined in on and soon enough it was our time onstage. I think word must have got around about us because expectations seemed to be high for us and I must admitt we were the best rehearsed band on the night and slammed a tight and punchy set through some seriously loud gear. My guitar never sounded so big. Everyone was effusive in their praise of us and I seemed to be in good voice…by now though I was terrible tired after a 4.30am start and crashed in Olis pad on the property…what a wonderful place.
The Fig Jam Truck rolled into Pirate Studios on Friday March 1…right on the first day of Autumn after a disgustingly hot summer to record ostensibly a 5 track EP. What eventuated was an 8 track recording with a few bits of skittish drum loops chucked in as well.
Erin and Josh had never been in a studio before…for Richard it was his 13th album including Lime Spiders, Krunch, Figtree Renaissance, Blue Valentine and FTR and solo albums.
It didnt take long for the weekly rehearsals to prove their worth as the band locked into a groove late on the first day. Ziggy Stardust was tried out as the only cover and slower numbers like My time and Lovely were left until
Mick Elderfield [Saxophone] and Sharon Lee Twiss [Guest Vocals] were in town on the Sunday.
Erin with studio hounds
Rich playing one of David Sparks prized Gilets
Console to studio?? Come in…
David Sparks , Pirate Studio owner and Lime Spiders guitarist put down some tasty overdubs on Valentines Day and Cover Girl using Rickenbackers and Guild 12 strings before ripping into a dirty distorted guitar attack on Ziggy using an Orville white bodied guit. Richard played a Gilet handmade 6 string acoustic. Erin played a Fender Jazz bass through an Ampeg 8 x 10 cabinet and Josh used Ludwig Kit with Gretsch snare and Zildjian cymbals.
Rich and Erin listen to playback…god knows what song but they dont look impressed??
On the Sunday when Sharon and Mick were to put down their stuff Elizabeth Walton also put down her Electric Piano tracks on the the Fender Rhodes adding a subtle jazz infused colour to the sessions.
Mick Elderfield working Sax magic on Valentines Day
Rich and Josh singing back ups on ‘Its Alright’
Mick and Rich discuss the finer points of Jazz
Sharon put down the vocals on My time and then Mick and Elizabeth went to town on a ‘fantasy’ on Lovely, one of the lead tracks which Richard wrote on coming back from the ill fated In your face tour in May 2012. Indeed a lot of these songs came out of his frustration with the lack of success with that album and tour.
The saxophone suddenly lifted the game of the whole proceedings…Mick Elderfield is a jazz player par excellence and his eerie synthesis with Elizabeth Walton who is also a jazz player of excellence had everyone gasping. The two had never played together before and first take was the only option.
Sharon is happy with the vocal on My Time I think??
Joshs new tit tatt
Next Mick and Elizabeth put overdubs of Sax and Piano onto My Time and Lovely and the icing as put on the cake. Mixing is set for the Easter Weekend on what is shaping up as an amazing little EP…tentatively titled ‘Who the F**K are Fig Jam?’
The Pirate GreenRay mascot under the watchful eye of Hendrix
Much gracious thanks to David Sparks as usual for service, talent and friendship above and beyond the call of duty. The guy is a true genius on the Guitar and his ear is what keeps me coming back…Elizabeth Walton commented on how well the two of us work together.
Thanks to Mick Elderfield for ethereal Saxophone of the hihghest order and Elizabeth Walton for exqisite and delicated keyboard flourishes..it adds a real emotional depth the the tracks she is on…her first time on a recording as well. Sharon Lee Twiss ..what can you say… gorgeous soulful lead vocal on My Time whch seemed to fit her like a glove…thanks all and I know Josh, Erin and Me loved every minute of it