Gavin Doniger, either in solo blues troubadour mode or as part of his ‘guns for hire’ band collective, Mescalito Blues, has been blazing a righteous trail of authentically crafted, real-deal blues across the local and international musical landscapes for over 20 years now.
The man with “more foreign stamps in his passport than many bona fide diplomats”’ is getting busy with the pending release of his brand new record ‘Tall, Tails, True’ just in time for his appearance at the upcoming Blues On Broadbeach festival, across 18 – 20 May, where he’ll no doubt be one of the highlights.
Here’s what Gavin had to say to us about his pending new album;
“I’m about to drop a new album just before Blues on Broadbeach. It’s called ‘Tall, Tails, True’. It was produced by local boy George Carpenter, who now resides in Melbourne. We recorded it over two sessions at Woodstock Studios in Balaclava, Melbourne. Richard Stoltz was the engineer. Liam Bowditch, a young up and coming guitar guru, plays most of the lead guitar on this album.
“All the songs on the new album I wrote, except one very special song called ‘Oh Lord’, that I wrote with my 88 year old Great Uncle Jefferey, who lives up in the middle of bloody nowhere- Halls Creek W.A. It was a mission to visit the old bloke, he’s a classic old bushy complete with outback tales when he was a young boy living in the Tweed and the droves he did thru NSW, NT and WA. He is the face on my new album cover artwork and a lot of the songs were inspired by his stories.
“I’m looking forward to performing at the Blues on Broadbeach in May this year. If you see the Mescalito Blues come up and say g’day, we are a friendly bunch of blokes!”
How did you start out on your musical odyssey? And where would you like to take things in the future?
I started my music career as a drummer when I was only 12. When I was 26 I decided to take up guitar. The reason for this was I couldn’t keep a band together as a drummer so I thought I might as well learn how to play guitar and sing, that way I can play music whenever I want without having to rely on other people. As far as the future goes: I strive to write better songs, record quality albums and to play better shows on bigger stages and one day get some of my music published.
You’ve been plying your musical trade now for over 20 years. You’ve also played extensively overseas across your journey. Do you have a favourite place in the world that you always love going back to when you’re touring? And how do these worldly touring opportunities generally come about?
I love to travel and have been lucky enough to have performed in over 15 countries around the world. One of my favourite places to go back to is Hollywood, California. This place oozes Rock n Roll. Dirty dive bars with real music, real musicians playing instruments. Performing overseas always inspires me to get home and play better music!!
How touring overseas came about was back in 1999, a friend of mine Tim Spence-Thomas, who was living in London, had one of my demo CDs and wrote to me and said I should come live on his floor and look for gigs in and around London. I lived there for 18 months and cut my teeth playing dirty bars and pubs. Fast forward to 2007 and again after 5 years of gigging heavily up and down the East Coast of Australia, I headed off for 12 months and lived in the USA. I met many other like-minded musicians in this time on the East and West Coasts of America. One main guy, Noah Engh, who I still perform and record with today, I met back in this time. He is an amazing talent with a very unique guitar style. At the start of 2007, I was in and out of Hollywood, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon and Eugene for the first four months playing shows and jamming with local musicians. Then a month performing in Vancouver, before I headed to the big smoke of Nashville. This was a total eye opener for me and the experience helped me become a better songwriter. Needless to say the 12 months I spent traveling around the USA playing gigs, open mic nights living in hostels, drinking in all night bars, jamming on roof tops, busking on the street and eating at homeless shelters, shaped the sound I have today.
Can you tell us a bit about your band project, The Mescalito Blues, and how it compares to what you do when you play in solo or duo format?
My band Mescalito Blues has been around for over 12 years now. We have mostly played as a Unique Duo with a sound much bigger than its parts. This year is exciting because Mescalito will be performing as a band at this year’s Blues on Broadbeach.
The difference between Solo and Duo is you get a bit more flavour with the Duo, as I always have a hot guitarist like Glen Heffernan or Liam Bowditch complimenting my songs. Then you get the band (which consists of Joey McPhail on drums, Carlton Wulf on bass, Liam Bowditch on lead guitar and me on guitar and vocals) it becomes a lot more defined, a much bigger sound and I get to run around the stage and get my “Keith” on. I love to play all 3 kinds of shows. I don’t have a favourite, I just have favourite venues where I like to either do solo, duo or band. Some of my favorite venues to play in Australia are: The RAILS in Byron and Sonny’s House of Blues in Brisbane for Duo shows, The Cambus Wallace in Nobby’s Beach, The Cardigan bar in Sandgate and Sheoak Shack in Fingal for Solo. The Northern Hotel in Byron and Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall in Brisbane for Band shows. Some of my favorite venues to play overseas are The Piano Bar, Hollywood ( unfortunately its not there anymore), Silverlake Lounge in L.A, Arlenes Grocery New York City, Mojo’s in Copenhagen, Denmark and Color in Goteborg, Sweden.
You’re about to embark on a solid run of gigs around the Gold Coast and Northern NSW regions, including the Blues On Broadbeach festival, as well as a whole heap of intimate club shows. What’s the biggest show/audience you’ve performed in front of? And do you have a preference when it comes to playing either bigger festival shows or sweaty pub type gigs?
The biggest crowed I’ve played in front of would be in 2010, when I played the main stage at The Saltash Music festival in the UK, with around 5000 people there on that amazing Sunday afternoon! I like to play festivals because the sound is always massive and you get a Sound Tech to make sure you are sounding mint. But I also do like those dirty dingy dive bar/pub shows, because they are so up close and personal. I just love to play live, that’s where it’s at for me. I’m not much of an internet fan. Anyone can sound good on the internet!
Are there any artists on the Blues on Broadbeach line up this year that you’re particularly looking forward to seeing?
The acts I’m looking forward to seeing at Blues on Broadbeach this year are; Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds- this guy was in a legendary LA band called The Gun Club, which I never got to see, so I’m looking forward to that show. Also Dave Hole is always amazing and P.C and the Biffs are great, I have done a few shows with them up in Brisbane and they are red hot!
You can catch Gavin Doniger and his Mescalito Blues when they play at Blues On Broadbeach on Friday, 18 May between 1:25pm and 2:25pm at Kurrawa Park , and on Sunday, 20 May between 4pm and 6pm at the Broadbeach Tavern. As an added treat, he’ll also be playing a sideline festival show live in-store at that rad vinyl hang-out, Beatniks Records, in the Niecon Plaza in Broadbeach, on Sunday, 20 May. For all the latest on the man himself, head on over to his website.
IMAGE (c) Claudio Kirac, Artwork Agency