October 9, 2016
I feel like I’ve come full circle.
When I was a teenager, I got really into sixties soul singers, Aretha being my favourite. At twelve years old, my tiny country town in the south west of Australia, Bridgetown, hosted it’s first Blues Festival. What was, on a daily basis, a population of 2,000 people, suddenly became 7,000 for three days on the second weekend in November 1993.
Every café and pub, the town hall, school assembly room, the show ground’s oval all became venues, with Blues music bass lines bouncing down the street and clashing in the air. The following year, my high school suddenly upped its game in the music department, and went from having the option of learning recorder or playing a Casio keyboard, to having a drum kit, a couple of electric guitars, electric basses and vocal microphones. Everyone became a musician. I became a singer. I auditioned for the school’s Year 10 band, and got the role! Being in love with soul and blues, we learned Chuck Berry’s ‘Go Johnny Go!’, Wilson Pickett’s ‘Mustang Sally’, Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’, Koko Taylor’s ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ and many others. I performed at school assemblies and graduation ceremonies and after school I would shut myself in my room and have a Best of Aretha compilation on repeat as I taught myself how to “belt it out” without losing my voice.
So I feel like I’ve come full circle, because the album I have just recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis – the songs, the recording studio, the sound, the musicians, the feel – it all tips its hat and winks back to those last days before I hit my teens, falling in love with singing and falling in love with soul and blues music.
Just being in Memphis felt like one of those moments when you have to pinch yourself and say “this is really happening”, and “wow, look where my life has lead me!” A south-west Aussie country bumpkin kid who used to lose her voice learning to sing in her bedroom, goes to Memphis, Tennessee, to make an album in a studio built by Sam Phillips, the man who forever changed the course of music history by bringing blues and rock ‘n’ roll to the world… without whom, that Bridgetown Blues Festival may never have happened.
I keep thinking of Dusty Springfield. Did you see the documentary Definitely Dusty? We dreamed the same dream.
(Note: Blues at Bridgetown is still going strong and now attracts nearly 20,000 people each year to the otherwise sleepy country town… https://bluesatbridgetown.com.au)