When hell breaks loose

Prolific music maker Shane Nicholson, brings full studio band and New Orleans style album to Broadbeach Country Music Festival. Blank GC’s Tiffany Mitchell caught up with him just weeks before the event.

Your last album, Hell Breaks Loose, with its many narratives, reminded me of the lyrics in Dire Straits’ Making Movies song; Skateaway.  That song sums it up… the music makes her wanna be the story/ and the story was whatever was the song.  There is a narrative in every song.

That’s cool. It’s hard to be self-aware enough to draw those comparisons yourself.   That record was full of a lot more narratives than most. It was that time in my life where there was a lot to write about – there was heaps to say and to get out on the page.  It was a very cathartic process I guess, writing that record. It was self-therapy.

That record, I had to get away from the studio and write that.  I ended up right in the Red Centre at a place called Hermannsburg, out near Alice Springs and that’s where it was the catalyst for the songs starting. I didn’t even take a guitar – I wanted to get away from music for a while. I’ve known myself for years, that the only way to kickstart song writing is to get away from the world. The geography plays a big part of it for me.  Like on the Love and Blood album, I hibernated to the Hawkesbury and lay on the floor of a boat, with my guitar, and wrote songs.

Speaking of orchestrate…. we love the use of the brass instrumentals on your last album Hell Breaks Loose. Will those instrumentals appear on your new album Love and Blood?

For this album, we wanted to have fun and thought this New Orleans street style band would be a fun thing to do. The horn section is actually one guy playing all of those horns separately. It sounds like a big band of people walking down the street in New Orleans – that was the vibe, but it is just one really talented guy, James Greening in Sydney, who came in and did one part after the other. It was fantastic. He’s on a third of the album.   I’m certainly playing songs from the record and I will be bringing my whole studio band up for this festival.  They are all producers themselves, with families and a crazy workload. They don’t tour often, so It’s hard to get them on the road at the same time. Being the album launch weekend at the festival, I got them to agree to get on a plane!

What people may not know is that before you created your own collection of songs on Love and Blood, you helped craft albums for other musicians.

I think I made twelve albums last year and three in the last month.  I love it. I kind of couldn’t live without it now. The writing is the reason why I started into music when I was a teenager, and I love playing and performing – but all of it just pales into comparison to being in the studio making music – making it come alive. I make a solo album once every two years or so. Once you tour and write more songs, it takes a while, it’s not enough for me. Working with other people, means that I can almost every day be in the studio.  I can live vicariously through everyone else. I love the feeling of accomplishment – the idea you go to bed having created something that didn’t exist that morning.

Is it true when the Tamworth awards festival is over – there is another show about to start backstage with all the industry artists?

It doesn’t happen all the time – maybe once or twice, but sometimes at the after party, there is a big room with a grand piano and they will sing around it and play songs – that’s pretty cool. It’s a spontaneous thing.  Last year it happened – it was really, fun.  The country industry is pretty nice, no-one is battling for awards, everyone is friends, and if you don’t win an award, one of your friends usually does and it’s no big deal.  It’s really nice to decompress, having a jam like that and swap songs.  The genre thing goes out the window and you realise that even if we all play different country music, when you are all together picking old songs and classics, you realise how much of the music we like is similar. We know and love all the same country classic songs.

One of my favourite moments though, was at one point Kevin Bloody Wilson came up to sing a song and there was this air of fear in the room.  We were like, “What’s he going to sing!” However, he was quite well behaved and picked something that was quite palatable for everybody.

Love and Blood is released through Lost Highway/Universal Music Australia on Friday 28 July and Shane Nicholson plays Broadbeach Country Music Festival which runs 29 – 30 July.

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