‘Round here we get high on that Cascade blue – start throwin’ ‘em back when there ain’t much to do,’ sings Nick Wolfe at the outset of soaring anthem ‘Ain’t Seen It Yet’ – the first track and lead single lifted from the Wolfe Brothers’ towering fourth studio album, Country Heart. In case there was ever any doubt, the album’s opening line all but shouts the band’s enduring love of their Tasmanian home-ground from the rooftops.
“That Cascade line’s going to cause a lot of problems for the bitter north and south rivalry in Tasmania,” Nick jokes. “Every time we play north of Campbelltown, I think we’re just going to have to change the words to ‘Boags Red’ or something!”
Despite opening with idle hands cradling a Tassie amber ale, Country Heart finds the Wolfe Brothers building on their boisterous core sound, expanding the band’s sonic horizons into thrilling new territory. Perhaps surprisingly for an act of the Wolfe Brothers’ pedigree – they’ve long been well established as Lee Kernaghan’s live backing band, and counted Brad Paisley among the guest players featured on 2016’s tearaway This Crazy Life – Country Heart also found the band ditching the distraction of big-name cameos.
“No – this one’s more about us!” Nick explains. “There’s been an impression of the band that we’re just rowdy. But I guess we wanted to show a bit of maturity – I think we’ve got a lot better as writers and musicians over the years. We’ve tried to just stick clear of songs about beer and stuff like that on this album. Time to grow up a bit, I think!”
The result is the Wolfe Brothers’ most rounded and expansive release to date. But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing since This Crazy Life landed 18 months ago. In the wake of profound personal loss, recent years have seen Nick and brother Tom juggling their touring, songwriting and recording commitments with the responsibility of running the family small-fruit farm at Neika, on the outskirts of Hobart.
“Tom and I, through sad circumstances, are doing the farm a bit earlier than we would have liked to,” Nick relates. “Our Dad passed away fairly suddenly at the end of 2016. It’s been a bit of a wild ride, we’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to make it all work with all of our travel. But it’s going okay at the moment. We just wrapped up a season for this year, so it’s all going pretty good. It’s seasonal with the fruit, so in the summer, when everything’s being picked and sold, that’s when we’re the busiest. It usually falls right around Tamworth time, which is pretty inconvenient! But my uncle Tony and my mum, they just go above and beyond, and to be honest, they’ve done a lot of it. We couldn’t do it without them, the support of our family is very important.”
Keen-eyed observers may already have enjoyed a privileged glimpse into the workings of Wolfe Brothers’ farm in the film clip for ‘Ain’t Seen It Yet’.
“We shot the whole thing on our place, except for the last scene,” Nick relates. “It’s been in the family since the 1870s. We’ve always grown fruit and played music, all the way back to our great grandfather. They had a thing back in the old days called the Wolfe Family Orchestra, and they’d go around the old country halls and perform vaudeville shows, as they used to be. They’d do their act and play various things.”
Fittingly, for the ancestor of musical siblings whose live show is perhaps best described by terms including ‘explosive’, ‘dynamite’, and ‘supercharged’, Nick and Tom’s great grandparents George and Ruth purchased the family farm with the proceeds of George’s unusually risky occupation as an explosives technician (powder monkey) in 19th Century Tasmania.
“Yeah, he worked on the west coast, in Queenstown, at the mines over there,” Nick explains. “And I believe he bought the farm with the ‘danger money’ he would have got. It would’ve been a pretty risky job back in the day, I’d say!”
…read the rest of the story in Issue 88.