Essie Thomas is no newcomer to Australia’s popular folk festivals, having played at Heywood, Victoria’s Wine and Rose Festival, Far North Queensland’s Bush Week and Kuranda Roots Festivals. In February Essie will be welcomed back to Ivory Rock’s massive outdoor cultural gathering – Earth Frequency Festival. Blank’s Tiffany Mitchell spoke to Essie on the eve of her famous folk gigs, about her festival experiences, her music inspirations, and her ‘mixed tape’ selection encapsulating her life so far.
This summer you will be playing at Australia’s premier folk festivals, and you are no stranger to Woodford – tell us about your experiences there.
I’ve volunteered with Woodford Folk Festival for many years and then worked in a few of their other departments; in operations, gates, and their emergency communications office one year. Each year that I worked there they had a volunteer talent night, so I’m no stranger to a Woodford stage – I had a couple gigs here and there, but now I’m in the program, so I’m so grateful to be going. They have asked me to perform in one of my favourite venues – at the volunteer’s party on the last day. Not only am I’m playing the shows, I’m playing at the after party – to have the extra act is a bonus!
You have also been invited back to Ivory Rock’s Earth Frequency Festival this February, what ‘star struck’ moments did you have last year?
It is a festival I have applied to a countless number of times before. To be on the line-up last year was a real treat and then to be on the program this year – it should be a great show. I was star struck the whole time. Being on the line-up with artists like Felicity Lawless who is one of my biggest motivators and inspirations, in just knowing her personally, but then watching her music grow, and how she conducts herself as a musician. To be on the bill alongside Felicity Lawless that was really special for me. Acts like SpacegeishA and Formidable Vegetable Sound System – there are countless musicians I respect so highly in this industry, and it is nice when you open that page in the program and see all your favourite musicians – and I’m there too, it’s a great feeling.
You’ve been singing and performing since you were eleven. Being a musician has been a big part of your life, what concert can you remember attending where you realised music was going to be your thing?
Well early days it was mainly the Wiggles and the touring Spice Girls! I was a nineties child! But I started performing at eleven writing my own music and there was a little gap where I didn’t do a lot of performing. I didn’t think too seriously about it, other than I play music and write songs. Then I went to Falls Festival when I was thirteen. John Butler was on the line-up and I was in the mosh pit, thirteen years old, all day, and I got so sun burnt! I made friends with the security guards and I waited from the start of the program at that main stage, ‘til John Butler Trio played. And being in that situation as a young person, being a punter at a festival like that and watching how people react to music, made me almost ache for that. It pushed me to start getting a little more serious about sharing my music and growing the product. It was something worthy of sharing and something that will hopefully touch people and can affect them the way music has affected me.
If you had to create a ‘mixed tape’ of ten influential songs that tell a story from your life what would they be – and please add some of your own songs!
Let’s see … Brushfire Fairy Tales – Jack Johnson, Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette, Special Two – Missy Higgins, Letting the telephone ring – Ani Difranco, What he wrote – Laura Marling, Kaki King’s Cargo Cult, Pushing for change the title track off my first album and Don’t look down, from my Hearts on the table album. Blue by Joni Mitchell … and Special Ones by George. That last song got me through my teen years, my sixteen-year-old-self had that on repeat! I’m actually a big fan of the ‘mixed tape,’ I’m often making little playlists for events. You want to have something nice to listen to for dinner – you’ve got your little ‘making dinner’ mix!