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Bundaberg, Qld in 1967 was where I was born. The family moved to Brisbane after I started school. I still have strong memories of the Lighthouse Hotel at Burnett Heads, where my Dad was the publican - I would spend my tooth-fairy money on the jukebox in the public bar. The whole bar would groan when I'd come in with my 20c piece, they'd be getting a couple more spins of The Min Min Light by Slim Dusty.
Mum had a varied record collection, ranging from The Beatles to Johnny Cash to Doris Day, lots of country compilations, movie soundtracks. She was later a huge Willie Nelson fan, and I remember being taken to see him at Festival Hall in the 70's. His Stardust album was a big one, an early exposure to jazz standards; also the album with Ray Price, which was western-swing related. I saw Roger Miller play (to 500 people in Lang Park) and Jesus Christ Superstar at the old Her Majesty's theatre in Queen Street. I was much taken with the bands at all these shows, and wondered about how they did it, a fascination to this day. No one in the family played at all, but music was very important, with the radio on constantly.
I began guitar lessons when Mum brought home a cheap acoustic from Aspley Kmart. A year in I started with the excellent Rick Purdie, who passed away late last year. Rick was great because he would combine a little formal music study with fun stuff, and was very open-minded. He was also a respected professional jazz musician who was raising a family, and a great role model. I had the usual teenage dreams of success in bands, but really to do what Rick did feels like a great achievement, especially because "professional guitarist" wasn't on the list for my school career counselor.
I moved onto electric guitar, playing in bands and all the fun that goes along with that. At the same time I studied at the Conservatorium, bluffing my way through as a jazz player and then as a classical guitarist. I came into contact with some very good musicians there, and several are colleagues to this day. I was lucky to play sessions on jingles, local album projects and TV, all sorts of regular and unusual playing situations. A band I was in won the Qld Rock Awards and I did a national TV appearance with a project I had "produced" that had a memorable nerve-wracking moment. Nothing came of it all, but very good experience.
After this I spent quite a few years practicing, rehearsing and playing gigs, sometimes
struggling, but learning all the time. I was involved with the early series of Women In Voice,
did theatre music work for La Boite, Toadshow and others; played in bands such as the
El Caminos, and backed a lot of different singers, notably old friends Stacey Broughton,
Pearly Black, Barb Fordham and Annie Peterson. A big difficulty was getting equipment
together; it just seemed impossible financially. I had some help from my folks early on, and saved up
later, but eventually grew tired of the gear thing. I think I try to find something that works and stick
with that. I realized recently that I've had the "new" jazz guitar about ten years.
I also played a lot with Leah Cotterell and Helen Russell in the band 18 Wheels; a blend of old country and wild improv, we had a lot of fun and continue playing together in other projects.
I had always been interested in bluegrass and other tune playing traditions. Mum's record collection had brief glimpses of these things, and I continued to expand upon that. I spent some time playing with Fred Graham and Steve Cook, and learned a lot about how folk music works. Steve gave me some tips early on about flatpicking too.
By around 2000 I was studying recordings by Norman Blake, Clarence White and Doc Watson. I went on with this style, playing duo with Leah Cotterell and making recordings; an album of my own, Blind Contour, and then one with Leah entitled Bottom Of The River. I did some solo playing, enough to realize how demanding it is. Also more theatre work at this time, for composer / violinist John Rodgers and later for he and singer Megan Sarmardin.
I also kept up work in the jazz field, playing jazz-samba with The View From Madeleine's Couch. Good Bait is a band that I worked with a lot years ago, and has been playing trio again more recently. I've been involved in jazz education, and done a lot of arranging for various projects. I floated around the experimental side of all this for a while; I was never much good at it, but was exposed to a lot of creativity and interests that I would never have found otherwise.
In 2012 I joined bluegrass / new acoustic band The Company, and we've made two albums and done a lot of national touring, with many festival appearances. This has been my main focus lately, and we've almost sold out both our albums (The Company and Trouble), which is great for an independent band. We are writing for more recording at the end of this year.
Friends have said that I should be more ambitious, but I'm usually so interested in whatever music I'm working on, listening to or thinking about that I forget about business. I wouldn't advise that as a way to go about it! I have been described as "in-demand" but I'm not sure it's so, more that I show an interest in what people are up to, and work flows from that. I've had the chance to try my hand at a lot of different music and guitar playing and I'm grateful to everyone who's given me a go. I suspect that the musical environment of Brisbane has a lot to do with it, but it's all still a bit of a mystery.
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