Tamworth 2015, the road and the Wagon.

Last week a friend said I hadn’t added anything to the blog on the website since the 2013 tour. I thought shit, that would be right. Two Tamworth’s ago as I made that long drive home I didn’t feel to clear on the path forward regarding the band, music, song writing, the lot.

The last show at the Albert in 2013 had left a darkness in me that resulted in what was the end of The Wagon as I knew it. I don’t tell stories after the fact although I had to field my fair share of rumours and concerns from people I had never met, and certainly never had the front to approach me. That time has passed. As George Strait sings, Fool me once shame on you, Fool my twice, shame on me.Last years Tamworth went along way to wiping the memory with Scotty Dogg and Den Hanrahan joining the Hitman and me into relaunching the Wagon the way it should be played.

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Only The Hitman and myself remained as permanent members, and with a new drummer and Den Hanrahan offering to fill in I kept doing some shows even some Outlaws of Country shows, Had the pleasure of playing with Jeff Mercer, of which a finer country feel on guitar you might never find. My heart was not fully in it, but I have never been a quitter. Playing with Den Hanrahan was like a cool breeze on a hot day. Hadn’t had that much fun since playing with Kinnon Holt, the greatest Outlaw Guitar slinger in this great southern land. Hanrahan punches his way through a song, just tears solos to pieces, all with a Larakin grin, infectious love of a song that just carries you along with it.I love this guy.

I was asked after my fathers funeral, by Greg Hirst who is the Brotherhood President, and a biker minister if my old three piece Blues Rock Band, Warning could reform to play the 20th anniversary of the Silverwater Bike Show. It forced me to start back on the lead guitar, and as the show approached, my confidence grew. It was fun playing the old songs, and being with my old band was great. The stories, good laughs with old friends. It was the songs though, Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter, ZZ Top. BB King, BTO, SRV,George Thorougood, down home rocking blues. The show was fun, and when I got offered a BVH show which was a blow out, I took it and did it as a three piece. I was so use to the extra players in Chucks Wagon I doubted I could do it, but I did it anyway. It was better than I thought,, not as good as I wanted, but the good feeling stayed with me. I did a few that way this year, started even liking the space in the song, it could breathe, the song did the talking.

So, when Tamworth rolled around this year, three of the shows I did three piece, I knew it could work, and it was fun. We once again didn’t have a drummer, Simon Wale , had been playing back with us, but had Festival commitments, so Grunter Bedford lined up Ronny Rhindo, local Tamworth sticks man. I cant tell you the amount of times me and the Hitman have driven towards shows with drummers we hadn’t played with, meeting them at the show, it goes with the territory inbands that dont make good coin. There have been some awesome win’s . Scotty Dogg last year, Jacob Cook to name a couple, but  Ronny Rhindo though , bloody hell, he was simply a delight. Great bloke, great feel, all class. I wanted to bottle him. The shows were fun. The first night we headed to the Crabpot to relax, the craziness was soothing. The second show was better than the first and then me and Harding headed back to Sydney.My Family, my other passion, had to be served. Part of me laying low has been I have had to pay back the money on albums, film clips. my choice. my responsibility. I shook a few hands, my hand shake is good.

We had planned to only do four shows this year , on both weekends. I headed back to Sydney though with a lot of joy in my heart, knowing Ronny would be there the following week and Den at the first show.

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When we hit town again on the Friday, it was with a good vibe. Headed to Nundle to catch the Remains. The anti Tamworth Festival. at Nundle I was able to breath, listen to Mick Daly weave his dishevelled magic Country Rock and Roll with Bones and Scotty Dogg driving the bed the Leigh swaggers all around in. Hanrahan filled in the last set like a glove. He and Daley are brothers from another mother. Chewing the fat with Matt Nightingale, Pete Fidler, Gibbo floating, the adorable Adam Young, effervescent Sarah Carroll, Glenny Rae and Dougie Ball passing through to the show down at the hall. Standing underneath the verandah of pure Australian heritage. I knew i was being rejuvenated with all that was good about Rock and Roll, the real Rock and Roll.

Over the 7 years I have been playing Tamworth I have seen my favourite Blues, Boogie and Country Rock and Rollers run out of town. I have been lucky I suppose. My songs are probably a straighter country than the bands I love, and I write singer songwriter type lyrics. Not good enough to break the big end of town, and not cool enough to brake the Alternative end of town. I know who I am. I am grateful for the work. For the folks that come to my shows , regulars, not many, but they all count to me. You know who you are. I know you to. Thank you

Seeing 8 Ball and Doug Bruce  get Nominated  for Golden Guitars I felt envy and hope.Seeing Luke O’Shea win three years running after winning last year, I felt joy.

I haven’t got an idea right now how to get even close, but I was glad to see their success.

The Saturday show at The Albert Hotel was a good moment in the history of the Wagon. Den was just pumped, new amp, new guitar,  full of love and power. Ronny was  in his groove from the weekend past, and then there was Harding, The Hitman. He is my last man standing, loyal to the cause, a man of few words, plenty of road stories, but few words. He however has told me clearly he believes in the songs.This he has voted with his feet . We go back a long way, and the strength of that connection has been underestimated at times.10915151_999604133387826_3284349863194656921_n

With this behind me I strapped the guitar on, and hit out. Let the songs do the talking. It felt good and right, but what meant the most to me was looking to the back of the room and seeing David Major beaming one of his beautiful smiles at me. I am to sensitive as a man, makes me hard to get on with, hard to get to know.Easy to hurt and anger. A need to be understood, I wrote it out in Wreckless on the first album.. Having people I admire tell me what we are doing counts means an enormous amount to me. I know it should not. I see others that seem to shun it completely. Its a candour I cant muster. That Saturday was what Rock and Rolls about to me. By the time I played Family Man, it moved a room. I’ve been in those rooms, It is the reason Music is my compass, my light, my access to the spirit. It was good to be the co-creator on this occasion. The rest of the day after a gig like that is a breeze, nothing else matters. I’ve seen my surfer friends like that once they are surfed out. Giving and being given to all at once. After a feed , letting the Hipshooters do their thing right in front on my, was amazing, Anton and Billy, crackerjacks, and Ronny literally carried his kit across the street and did another three sets with them. Digging deep, doing exceptional!.

By the Sunday, the last show was a pleasure, lunchtime, , great crowd, singing original songs and some Merle Haggard and others. I was grateful for the shows, thanks Dallas Vee and the Albert Hotel for having us, giving original country music ago. Every year I head back there, new albums to sell, make some new friends, see some old ones. It’s a privilege really, to be able to play. I have fantasies of grandeur, they are elusive, but Tamworth , The Albert, well that is real. The people that make there way there every year , to have fun , hear music, that is real. Thank you for pulling up a stool, and tipping your hat in our direction. I hope we gave you something in return.10929930_1003576229657283_74814406788482607_n 10933838_999603643387875_9187512169680213791_n

Heading back from Tamworth sun going down, Jason Boland and the Stranglers, Randy Rogers Band on the stereo, and then some early Richard Clapton, Mi-Sex, Rose Tattoo , George Strait to get me home. All good, all part of my mixed up musical Aussie DNA.

2015 is just starting, two trips to the USA planned for this year, some cool connections made with Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers on their Aussie tour. Might just take up their offer to back me in Austin, make some more magic. As REK says, The road goes on forever,,,, I pray I am that lucky.

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Stories from the Wagon

It’s been a weird time of late. I have not even tried to write, as I have not really know were to start. Post Tamworth,  post Texas, personnel changes leaving me and The Hitman back at the helm, was one thing, a big thing. Got me and Fitzy, our manager back in the pocket again. All this though was put in perspective by the birth of our second child, Maverick. Only parents know the fatigue you get into when that new life burst’s its way in, and when there is already a magnificent two year old filling that space, well that’s a whole different level of tiredness again.With Jen begin home looking after the two boys, I also bring home the bacon. We are a good team. Before the last Texas Tour and album launch, I had to get a full on job, to earn cash to pay for the record, film clip, promotion tours for the East Coast, Tamworth Tour etc, and any time you do that as a musician, you sacrifice the time you actually get to have the instrument in your hand,( Listen to Miss Texas Tonight) but I have seen so many of my more accomplished peers, not be able to record, tour, promote etc, cause of no cash. So there is the trade off I chose to make. The purists would say I sold out. Maybe I did. I am not sure how I am meant to work that one out at this stage in the game. I saw on Facebook recently a female Australian Country artist announced she would be shutting down her band page, and was getting married and going back to school teaching. Cut and dry. I was so taken by her clarity of the decision. She got so many compliments and well wishes by her fans, and then the next day, gone. Her music is her legacy. It was an act of courage. I thought about it often for days after. I still am obviously.The fact is when I started Chucks Wagon I was committed to spend every cent I could get my hands on investing in the dream. To tour, to record, to get video’s on the Country Music Channel etc.   Then Brett Fitzsimmons came on board, and he bought in at every level, eventually managing the band. He and his wife Helen, have supported me, and organised support for me at such a level I would be embarrassed to flesh it out here. I will be forever in their debt, and not just for the financial support, but for the undying belief. They put their money were their mouth was. Thank you will never feel like enough. On top of that my own wife has supported everything I have put into this dream, always encouraging me to see it through. I started Chucks Wagon thinking it was my grumpy old man policy. I truly wanted to have a royal go before I was done, as a songwriter and a performer. I planned to do three studio album and one great live album, releasing video clips for every record, and then see after that what the lay of the land was. Well I’m three studio albums in, and that time of reassessment feels closer than ever, and the fact is, I am worried. The band has not seemed to create any real interest above the small but amazing friends I have met along the way that love and support this band. It has always meant a lot to me to know that I have moved folks with these songs. I was a fan first, always a fan. When I started to write music it just felt amazing, like it happened “to” me. I know I am not the greatest musician, or writer, but I am a passionate one. I was always inspired by the underdogs. Before I went to Texas last, and I had some cash, I bought some Kiss Tickets. I know this will not make sense to my country music loving friends, so let me explain. When I was in High School, I was in that rebellious phase, and I found Kiss. They seemed so far away from my mundane western suburbs life. When you open the cover of Kiss Alive 1, and see that crowd shot, or Kiss Alive 2, with that amazing stage on fire picture, it was just the opposite of my working class family. It was mind blowing. The music was raw, everyone hated them. This was before their Disco single and the Kiss lunch box’s.The first three records were loose and raw. Achievable to garage bands everywhere.

Image So me and Fitzy went, and they reminded me that raw energy, commitment, and just really wanting something to happen, was what was more important than skill. They still had the balls to just play to, unlike Motley Crue who opened for them, and their music was so over manipulated, you were left wondering if anyone was really playing other than old Mick Mars.

ImageKiss are proof if you work hard, and give everything you got, then maybe you will break through. The concert was fun, not their best, that I have seen, and I have seen every Australian tour, right from their first tour where I and two school friends slept out over night to get tickets.

ImageThe thing now for myself, is that I am not sure I couldn’t have worked harder than I have, how do you know for sure, the thought haunts me, did I give it everything? It’s not over, and I will always play in some capacity, but man, I feel as though I am failing at some level, but I have always kept going, and that’s my intention right now, to put out Family Man and then Miss Texas Tonight as Film clips on the CMC, play all year, hit Tamworth and then see.

I did two solo shows last week, just me, my guitar, the songs, I missed the band, but it was a relief at another level, know one to have to rely upon, worry about, it was up to me. The shows were rusty, but ok. at songwriters I was there with two duo’s as well, leaving me really out there on my own, but it felt good.

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