New Year’s Day 2013 – have been hanging around with my family, avoiding the heat of summer outside. ‘Lil’ Marshal jumping around all over me, Jen looking all of the eight months pregnant that she is – just got to get past Tamworth, then baby number two…come on down!
No doubt having a family has changed me as a musician; I’m more conscious of family, how things are at home when you’re on the road – and making sure I earn enough from the band to keep justifying the tours, the albums and the film clips.
I wouldn’t change it for the world though; having love to come home to…well nothing gets any better than that!
Chatted today with “Dodge Dave” about last night’s show and this Sunday’s trip to Dubbo for our Western Plains album launch with Den Hanrahan and Grand Banks – then the Melbourne album launch and Tamworth 2013.
Just spent some time going over the photos of the last 12 months, trying to piece together a blog; something to make sense of the past year and gives us some momentum for the future.
Starting with Tamworth 2012 in January – it was a great festival.
We had just come off a five week tour of The States; the Texas film clip was on the CMC and we had recorded the beginning of what would become “I Play Country” whilst over there…so Tamworth was fun.
Tex Austin on drums and my brother, Buzz Talay on guitar…Micky Riff sat in on pedal steel and it was a great bunch of shows. Always good coming back from the US and playing with “Dodge Dave” on bass…staying at Grunters in Tamworth and getting up in the morning to jam with Den Harahan and the guys from The Re-mains was just what the doctor ordered.
The significant event of the year though…was having returned to Sydney, we played a show at the Botany View with Jason Walker sitting in on guitar. At that time, I was looking for a permanent lead guitarist and Jason brought along a buddy, John Wardle.
Jason said it would be good to let him get up and play, which is something I usually try and avoid especially when the band was not that tight, but I agreed and the rest as they say is now history. John sat in on some Merle Haggard songs, just ripped it up and from that moment on became an important part of Chuck’s Wagon and Oh man, didn’t the bar lift immediately.
John bought that Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins guitar picking sound to the band, which is exactly what I’d been looking for and he’s a consummate professional and a true gentleman.
The timing was perfect, as I was then to travel to Texas to mix the new record and do some shows at the SXSW festival in Austin. John was able to utilize his pro-tools recording skills and when we needed tracks, John was able to send me some riffs; some solo’s and even some bass! It was just great to get his sound on the album.
Being in Austin for SXSW is an experience and one I had deliberately avoided having toured Texas annually for the past 6 years. I usually go to Texas and work every night; then listen to Texas country music by day. SXSW is an eclectic festival and all the shows just get sucked up for weeks either side of this event, so we tour away from SXSW and till now I’ve tended to keep it that way.
It was still worth it because I got to play with a band full of Texan’s that introduced me to John Duer, who then toured with me in November and this too has been a match played in heaven!
Mr Duer is an amazingly bass player and another great bloke, so being on the road and on stage with him was a pleasure. He brought with him, friend and drummer Kevin Wright who also did a great job. Stephen James played the four shows and since he was also on the album, it was great to have him back on board again.
Mixing the record in Texas with Producer and Engineer, Tommy Detamore was also a fantastic experience. Tommy has extraordinary skills in production, pedal steel, lap steel and guitar playing. His pedal playing on the album is golden and his work on the album is everything I could have hoped for in making a record in Texas.
It was one of the great weeks of my life…watching a master work and hearing my songs come alive, Texas style!
On this trip I got to see some great music at night whilst we mixed throughout the day. I saw Robert Earl Keen at Floores Country Store and Gary P. Nunn at the Broken Spoke where I got to hang with Texan songwriter Chris Wall, owner James E. White and Crystola Roadhouse owner and Texas music aficionado Daryl Magg.
The 10 days just flew by with “no sleep til Hammersmith” style and before I knew it, I was back on home soil getting my own band back together.
I was stoked to come home to a band that had lead guitarist John Wardle and we went to work immediately. His first official show was AutumnFest in the Manning Valley
and we had Dave Rumbler fill in on bass and also Tattoo me while I was there! John did a great job and from that moment on…we have constantly worked at improving the songs and the shows.
I then did some gigs up in Brisbane supporting 8 Ball Aitken while the Corn Liquor boys backed me and that was a lot of fun – 8 Ball always puts on a terrific show and Buzz Talay from Corn Liquor had his own band on the bill, where I was introduced to Mike Errol Jnr who runs Midnight Son and the Crime Scene…and is a real talent as well.
Chuck’s Wagon also got to support Nick Barker and the Reptiles on their 20 Year Reunion Tour and these shows were amazing. After all the years, Nick and the boys still produce the goods and it made us really want to play well.
We were proud to take place in the Save the Sando Rally! The Sandringham Hotel had been a favourite venue for Chucks Wagon , so going out for the cause was an Honour. We had just support Roland K Smith and the Sinners in their month long album launch residence y so it meant a lot!
We had the pleasure of playing at the Labor Loves Live Music, and none other than Minister and ex Midnight Oil Man Peter Garrett introduced us!
It then took some time to get the album mastered and the artwork all sorted but eventually I was happy and Don Bartley came through…did a great job and the album went into production in Sydney and Texas in preparation for tours in both countries.
We then had a film clip for our first single “I Play Country” to make…and in an act of divine providence this also happened in a process that I will always be grateful for. We started the preparations for the shoot with cameraman Cameron Glendinning, who did some amazing work and provided inspiration for the initial vision…then two nights before the shoot a mutual country music associate suggested I contact film and television director, Tony Leach.
Long story short, Tony signed on with moments to spare, directing the project and combining with Cameron, they created a clip I’m very proud of.
We had a successful Sydney album launch at the Botany View Hotel and I was able to convince John Wardle to tour Texas and Colorado to release the album there, and it was fantastic he made the trip because he wowed them ‘smoking gun’ style…and has certainly lifted the bands profile. We really hit Texas hard, playing shows in Dallas, Ft Worth, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, The Hill Country and Midland on the way to Colorado. Doing that many miles in the Hickiods Freak Van you can get abit crazy. It didn’t help that Jeff Smith gave us the Hickiods Blow Up Doll . He said they use it to sell T-Shirts. You just have to take a man’s word on things like that. She made it around Texas ok, but there was a night heading back from Colorado when she met a fender Stratocastor neck in a back alley, and what happens on the road, well it stays on the road. In the USA , playing with a tips jar out front is standard. I learnt years ago, the more interesting the tips jar, the better the tips. Well this year, it got real interesting when I got another Bulls Ball Bag,tanned of course! Yes , I said another, so this was old hat for me, but this year, as I would introduce it, I had a vision, and realised that it was , Valerie’s, the only transgendered Texan Bull in History, “Post op” of course, and come right up folks, and check it out! Well that got it stuffed with bills on several occasions. It helped to when I said that if you kiss it, it brings you luck! Things went downhill from there…
It was a hard tour covering a lot of miles and when we returned, drummer Simon Wale exited.
When Simon joined, he really helped Chuck’s Wagon out and he did a great job for us, but the band is heading in a more traditional country direction especially with “I Play Country” being recorded in Texas! We bid Simon goodbye and since then have had Dave Sleishman, legendary Australian drummer and part of the Sleishman Drum Company come on board and do some shows, as well as Tex Austin sitting in on the QLD album launch and last night’s New Year’s Eve party.
With Tamworth 2013 just around the corner, we have secured the talents of Al Fisk on drums from The Re-mains and The Den Hanrahan Band, while the very much in demand Dave Sleishman will also be sitting in at times, so the drumming situation for now is again solid.
So a new year…with another new line up. Well “this wagon keeps on rolling” is a chorus off one of my songs on “I Play Country” titled “Road Trip” and it sums us up. I cannot help but think though that with Al coming on board, Dave Harding holding down the bottom end, John Wardle ripping it up high and me in the middle telling the story – we just might finally be onto something!
The video single “I Play Country” has been sent into the Country Music Channel and heading into Tamworth and beyond, I just want to let country music fans know Chuck’s Wagon has something new and really big going on!
Music is a heart breaking business – the ups and downs, the break ups and make ups. The only thing that keeps me believing is that the songs keep coming, and it’s when I feel the best inside my own skin. It’s not just playing live that’s great and I am a preacher for the power of music and the belief a great show can and does change people lives…but it’s more than that. It’s the belief that just maybe, the next song, the next film clip, the next album – might just open a door to a new opportunity.
Getting to Texas has proven that and I’m grateful for all the doors that have opened up. There are memories that will stay with me forever…all are blessings of love that re-energise me on the road and help me get up and make the next show and the friends I have made that helped us in big and little ways.
It’s hard to describe the gifts I’ve been given – Tommy Detamore mixing and recording such a great record…the annual B.B.Q on the road at Josh and Jenny’s – being put up by Kevin of Lucky 13 in Pueblo…. Billy Milano for being bigger than life itself and Chuck’s Wagons’ biggest fan! Plus the blessings bestowed by Cliff and Rita Leach, our spiritual Grandparents in San Antonio. Your love to me, my family and the band is felt all the way down-under. God Bless you both!
Thanking people is dangerous at a time like this – it’s late here and there is the risk I will forget someone, but here goes.
Thanks to Dallas and Mike Vee – Donna from Axiom for our Tamworth 2012 campaign, let’s hope 2013 is even bigger.
Jeff Smith from Saustex Media, San Antonio and the mighty Hickoids, for organising my SXSW Tour and the “I Play Country” Texas / Colorado Tour…I cannot say enough about the support that this man has given Chuck’s Wagon. He has made the USA and Texas open its heart to me, and gone way above the call of duty to support me.I will always be in his debt!
To all my friends in the US – Stephen James, Tomcat Miller, Tony Gloria, Kevin Wright…my touring buddy John Duer, Stefani and Dawn Duke for all their love and kindness ( and great photos!). Darryl Magg for always looking after us on the road and introducing me to some of the greatest music on earth.
My thanks go out to Kevin Abeyta, for making Pueblo, Colorado such a special place for Chuck’s Wagon….Michael and Julie Aguilera for their constant support and home cook meals when we get there!
To Nick Barker for always hiring us and giving us the chance to share a stage with one of Australia’s great talents. To our friends in Melbourne; The Union Hotel in Brunswick, The Retreat Hotel, The Labour in Vain, The Austin Floyd Boys, Bullet, Trent for sitting in on bass when we need him. Denise from 3RRR Twang program and David Heard from the Acid Country Show on 3PBS, for making alternative country music a priority and getting indie country music to the people and Nu Country for playing our clips! To Mark “Bucky” Collins for playing on Chucks Wagon songs, appearing in clips, always making us sound like a million bucks!
In Sydney; Ronnie Boy from Country Roads on 2RRR, Big Daddy K, Vinney from the 2SER Outpost Program, The Devils Jukebox and all the other D.J’s country wide that played our singles this year. To Wolfman Dan and Rhino from Up and Lacquered Down
To Chickenstones for just Rocking and a great show at Harbord Bowlo, Tiffany Palmer for the Alt Rock and Roll markets!, Rod from Old Man Crow, Jordan and the Original Six for sitting in with us when we needed you, thank you. Roland K Smith and the Sinners, Ros Lindsay, for hiring us for Reg Lindsay’s Rodeo, what a night, and Reg’s version of King of the Road was my Dads favourite!
Thanks to Sue Corbett, who has promoted John Wardle for years for taking us on, and putting an event together at Tomerong and introducing Chucks Wagon to the Beautiful South Coast. Was fun playing with Benn Gunn and Den Hanrahan.
To the Country Music Channel – thanks for giving our videos a go. Don Bartley for being a Master Masterer! Tony Leach and Cameron Glendinning for the great work on the film clip.
To Catherine Csoke…thanks for being the best Supermodel any band could ask for, you really brought class to “I Play Country”!
My Brisbane friends; Corn Liquor of course, Micky Riff, Tex Austin and Buzz for sitting in with the Wagon. Mike Errol Jnr and Midnight Son and the Crime Scene for a great launch!
To my band and friends that have helped out.
Thanks to Mark Andrews from Cash Only…for sitting in on bass when we really needed it. You have been my partner in crime for over 25 years now. You get less time for murder! To Simon Wale on drums, for two tours of Texas, the album and stepping in when I needed someone solid. I look forward now to Al Fisk, who is preparing to take on Tamworth and beyond with us and Dave Sleishman; for being in the wings when we need you. It’s just ridiculous we can call on this level of talent as backup!
To my old mate “Dodge Dave” for being a Road Warrior with me. We go all the way back to the Toongabbie Hotel on any given Sunday, where we all would converge from our individual bands and weekends of debauchery and rock and roll to get our heads together with some great blues tunes and lots of coffee.
Guitarists; Jason Walker, Jourdan,Buzz Talay and Mickey Riff, for the start of the year and for John Wardle taking over guitar duties and quickly becoming a Mike Campbell to my Tom Petty. Thanks mate for everything. Texas this year was a dream with you gun slinging, can’t wait to watch you wow them in Tamworth!
On a management front…a huge thanks to Brett Fitzsimmons and his wife Helen for bankrolling this animal, and for believing in me. If we could just get George Strait to record “Family Man” off the new album, we would be set mate.
Then there is Dave T…a Jack of all trades. My “brother’s keeper” and someone who works at every level of this organisation to make it the best it can be. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Last but far from least…there is the home front.
I have been a journeyman in more ways than one; have kept moving all my life, but last year we moved into our first house as a family and I have seen my wife Jen become such an amazing mother and Marshal turn into a little cowboy and it is just wonderful to now be able to finally come home to a FAMILY!
I have tried summing this feeling up on the new album in the song “Family Man.” I asked Jen once when she came on a tour to Melbourne with me…before our marriage and before Marshal, if she liked the music I write?
I asked because Jen is a PUNK rock fan. I understand…I grew up with the Sex Pistols, The Clash and was a huge Hitman fan. Jen is younger than me; she loves Rancid and heaps of Ska, like Real Big Fish and The Specials. She looked over at me and simply said…It’s growing on me!
She meant it too…It was a relief really. I’ve always had women that wanted to be involved, got jealous, had to run the merch desk and keep an eye on me. It just creates pressure.
Jen…well she keeps an eye on the home fire and when she does come to a show, she just brings Marshal. Now I look at her and see our second one cooking in the oven, it just reminds me there is something bigger than the dream I started out with. It doesn’t mean music is not in my heart, that will always remain true…but family, well that’s my soul!
So what’s the plan for this year?
Well…the “I Play Country” album launch shows continue into Tamworth 2013 and we do our best to get the film clip supported on the CMC!
There will be two more film clips from the album, another USA tour and we’ll also head on a quest for an Independent Country Music Award at Mildura…then Tamworth 2014.
2013 is a year with a new line up, a new album, a new film clip and renewed enthusiasm that will keep us striding forward. Its great knowing blokes like Den Hanrahan
and Mike Daley have new albums out also and they are both crackers…keeping
the bar high, making every show a winner and those guys are heroes of mine.
As for me…I believe Chuck’s Wagon is near the edge of making a real impact on the Australian country music scene and if I dare to get close enough and peer over…we just might get pulled into something grand!
See you on the back road to Tamworth folks.
Happy New Year….and many happy returns!