Melbourne Country – Issue 82

I remember my first Gympie Muster well. It’s six years ago now, and my band The Wildes were quite surprised when we got invited to play. Earlier that year, we’d made our first pilgrimage to Tamworth and, in our own estimation at least, we were yet to make an impression on any country music fans let alone the bookers of such a major festival.

And of course we accepted the invitation, boarded the plane and a few hours later found ourselves setting up camp at one of the most picturesque festival sites we could imagine. Our first show was a 9am spot and we were amazed to find a marquee full of country music fans willing to get up early to check out an unknown ‘alt-country’ band from Melbourne. I’m thankful that the festival organisers were willing to take a risk on us – and they’ve had us back a couple of times since so it mustn’t have gone too badly!

With us on that adventure were Andy Wrigglesworth and Laura Coates, lead guitarist and backing vocalist in The Wildes respectively. It was one of Andy and Laura’s first ‘tour-camping’ experiences and, while I’m not altogether sure that they were comfortable with the arrangements, they’ve certainly gotten used to the ‘glamour’ of the festival circuit in the years that have followed.

In case you haven’t worked it out, Andy and Laura are the pair now known as ‘The Weeping Willows’. They’ve been doing great things since those formative years with The Wildes – scoring support spots for international artists, playing festivals and recording a new record with a Grammy-winning producer in LA. I’m more than a bit proud of their achievements, and I am thrilled that they will be making their Muster debut as The Weeping Willows this year – look out for them in the blues and roots tent – they’ll be one of the few acts flying the Melbourne flag this year, but we’re all behind them in spirit!

After Gympie, The Willows head to Nashville, where they will be joined by a whole bunch of other Melbourne acts, including Sarah Carroll, Sean McMahon, Jemma Rowlands, Jordie Lane, Ayleen O’Hanlon, Jemma Nicole and Tobias Hengelveld. They’re all descending upon the annual Americana Festival and Conference – an event that continues to attract artists from all over the world to not only perform, but also watch their heroes live on stage all in one place. Centrepiece of the festival is The Americana Music Awards at the world famous Ryman Auditorium. Nobody remembers (or cares) who wins the awards themselves, but the performances (usually from artists the ilk of Robert Plant, Gillian Welch, Steve Earle or Richard Thompson) are always unforgettable. Last time I was there I saw Guy Clark almost break down whilst performing ‘My Favourite Picture of You’, the song he wrote for wife Susanna (who had just recently passed). This year we lost Guy himself, and I can only imagine how emotionally charged the awards presentation will be when the association pays tribute to his legacy.

Read the rest in Issue 82…