Evergreen musical trailblazers Hussy Hicks are an act that need little introduction for passionate supporters of the Gold Coast music scene. The dynamic duo, singer/song-writer Leesa Gentz and guitar virtuoso Julz Parker, possess an appeal both broad ranging and global – with only the ravages of COVID-19 putting their 16th international tour on-hold. The dynamic duo are on the cusp of dropping a new studio album, ‘Gather Up The People’ (which we’ll review upon its release on 24 July).
With the album’s lead-off singles, ‘Get Ready’ and ‘Mountain Peak’ having already made waves on Double J, and the band recently being announced to perform at Bluesfest 2021, the momentum that the band has built across their musical journey continues to blossom. And to top things off, Julz was bestowed with the honour of ‘Musician of the Year’ at this year’s Gold Coast Music Awards.
We recently had a chat with Julz and Leesa to discuss the new album, Julz’s role in producing it and their upcoming return to the live realm here on the Coast.
Congrats on the new album! Can you put us in the picture on how it came together? And what are some of the themes that the album touches on?
The album was written over the past two years all around the world and was supposed to be released at Bluesfest 2020 before our sixteenth international tour, but then COVID hit and changed everything. We never could have realised how relevant this album would end up being in relation to these crazy times!
The common theme throughout the album is togetherness, which is best summed up by a line in the title track Gather up the People: “The things we share are greater than the things that keep us divided.” We’ve seen such polarisation in society these past years, people picking sides and beliefs. So that theme is consistent, but is weaved through songs about facing fear, questioning norms, love, hope, floods, fires, climbing mountains and making love while the planet sleeps.
I understand that this is the first Hussy Hicks album with Julz solely at the production helm. Was it a challenge to separate yourself from the artistic side of things (as a musician) and effectively wear two hats, as both artist and producer? And is production a sideline you’ve been developing for awhile now, having recently produced the most recent Beccy Cole album.
We’ve always played a big role in the production of our albums but have generally leaned on one of our many talented friends to take on the main technical ‘producer’ role (Bill Chambers, Ando Van Andony, Schrav, Rich Hirsch and Raphael White – in order of albums). I’ve been making albums for other people for years in different capacities but have never really taken the full plunge on a Hussy Hicks album until this one.
I was totally honoured, and a little daunted when Beccy Cole asked me to produce the Lioness album because she is so well respected and established in the Australian country music scene and could have chosen anyone. Having put her faith in me and then seeing the success of the album certainly helped give me the confidence to take the reins on Gather Up The People.
I really wanted to honour the sound of Hussy Hicks as a full band and take the time to develop the songs together. Pretty much every song on the album is written by the whole band. We were lucky enough to have a few extended sessions in Lovestreet Studios while Scotty French was away, so we got to really explore where the songs could go.
We also had some time in November in our river cabin studio while Raphael White (producer of our last album, On the Boundaries) was over here in November (and then stuck here in lock-down, but that’s another story!). That really helped me finish a few of the songs I sing. Essentially, I don’t think I ever really separate my roles as artist and producer, but it was really nice to have the time to make this album in such a natural way.
In these challenging COVID times it’s great to see to (gradual) return of live music. You’ve officially sold out your album launch gig at Mo’s Desert Clubhouse quick smart! What sort of performance are you planning on the night, in light of the social distancing restrictions in place?
YES!! Performing live is where it’s at for us. We play 150 – 200 shows and tour nine months of the year, so the past few months have been really tough. So honestly, we’re just going to be so pumped to play a great show, showcase the new album and feel that lovely musical connection between the band and the live audience. We’ll leave working out all the safe and correct venue management stuff to our very capable friends at Mo’s.
Despite all the craziness 2020 has still been a big year for you, including Julz taking out the ‘musician of the year’ award at the GCMA’s. What was your reaction when you discovered you’d won it? And how did you find this year’s ‘virtual’ version of the awards?
I was actually pretty emotional when they announced I’d won and I saw Tommy Emmanuel make a speech. I think the GCMA team did an amazing job putting it all together under the circumstances and the number of members from the industry and wider community that tuned in was awesome.
How do you see the rest of the year playing out for Hussy Hicks?
Well, that’s the big question! We’re supposed to be in Canada right now and still have two European tours booked this year, though it’s not looking like we’ll be able to do them. We’ll hopefully get away with this run of intimate shows down the East Coast in August without restrictions changing, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s not to count our chickens haha. In the mean time we’ve been concentrating on extending our little river cabin studio space in case we have to return to lock-down.
Hussy Hicks will be releasing their killer new record, ‘Gather Up The People’, on 24 July. To pre-save it on your favourite streaming service, go here.
They’ll also be busting out the jams at their sold-out return to gigging on 2 August at Mo’s Desert Clubhouse. And in breaking news, they’ve just announced an extra Gold Coast show, at Miami Marketta on 22 August!