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article imageInterview with Australian country icon James Blundell Special

By Adrian Peel     Jan 13, 2015 in Music
Ahead of what will surely be a triumphant return to Tamworth, the veteran musician spoke to Digital Journal about what the festival means to him, the new song he'll be unveiling there and his ambitious new album.
James Blundell has successfully been doing what he does best for over 25 years, and his new song "Hills of Brisbane" is set to be included on a forthcoming album - that has the working title of Come on In - his first long-playing CD in four years.
Like a number of Australia's most beloved country stars, the outgoing 50 year old is busily preparing for the biggest date in the Aussie country music calendar: The Tamworth Festival that takes place every year in January.
"2014 was a very complicated and difficult year in many ways," muses the star who has been a major influence on artists such as Lee Kernaghan and Catherine Britt, as well as countless others, "but during that process, two things were happening: I was re-engaging in touring and live performance and at the same time compiling this album.
"I started working with a bloke called Theo Posthumus and he's over in Montreal, so we're doing it all via live file and that's been a real experience too. So 2014 was busy and it will all start to become apparent and be visible in 2015."
So "Hills of Brisbane" will be making its live debut at Tamworth?
"That's right," confirms the seasoned singer-songwriter, who has also dabbled in politics. "The festival and I have had a long relationship up to and including a period of time that I didn't go for about 10 years, partly because I was away a lot, but also because I felt that the younger artists weren't being supported enough.
"But then I got over myself and took my oldest children, who are now 16 and 13, down there four or five years ago and remembered how much fun the festival is. It's an important part of the year and it's like the Royal Exhibition for all our wares, and to do a new song at the festival is my idea of a good time."
On the subject of "Hills of Brisbane," the winner of Best New Talent at the Country Music Awards of Australia in 1987, remarks, "I'm a passionate Queenslander and for many years, that was a point of derision from a lot of my supposedly far more educated and sophisticated friends...
"Brisbane is a great city and you can have all the fun there before you get into trouble - they're fairly easygoing. I was driving to the airport and that always takes me through a particular part of Brisbane, down past the Castlemaine Brewery and around the bypass.
"The sun was coming up behind this incredible mass of Queensland weatherboard houses and it was absolutely amazing - that was the start of it. Brisbane has grown up a great deal and I think it's been voted The Most Liveable City in the Southern Hemisphere twice in the last decade, so it can't be all bad..."
James Blundell's best-known hits include "Way Out West" (with James Reyne), "Cloncurry Cattle Song," "The Blue Heeler," "This Road" and "Postcards from Saigon," and his last album, Woolshed Creek, was released in 2011.
"It's the absolute product with contemporary technology," he explains, referring to the new record. "This is my 11th studio album and it's the first one where I haven't sat down with the band and rehearsed for 10 days and then gone into the studio.
"This one is being done track-by-track. As I was saying to you before, I'm sending files to and fro from my property in Queensland to Montreal and then down to Sydney, so we're really taking advantage of the fact that it's possible to do that now.
"I was unsure at the start whether it would yield the same result, but I'm very happy with the way it's going."
What themes does the album address?
"One of the themes that I keep coming across is making peace with yourself, to a large degree. I think one of the beautiful things about maturing is that you can look back and go: 'What was I so angry about?'
"Not even angry as in violent angry, but just really a righteous push to shift the world slightly on its axis - and those urges still exist, but they're far more realistic."
Interestingly, Blundell was the very first Australian country artist to sign a major record deal in Nashville, long before the likes of Keith Urban and Jedd Hughes. "Yes I was, and in hindsight I appreciate it even more now...
"I was under the umbrella of Capitol Records, which is a classic old label and my label head was a bloke called Jim Bowen, who was a remarkable man and I really got along well with him.
"He gave me the freedom to be who I was and at the end of the 18-month experiment, he said, 'Look, it's not going to work here because what you do is not American country music' and I said, 'That probably has a great deal to do with the fact that I'm from Australia.'
"He was gracious enough to see the humour in that and not regard it as a waste of time, but it was a great time to be there because the old guard had started to slow down and my contemporaries were Steve Earle and Kevin Welch and Kelly Willis...
"There was some really good music going on at that stage of the game and I was a little sad to see that some of it got buried, but that period in Nashville was a wonderful time."
James Blundell will be appearing at the Courthouse Hotel in Tamworth on Wednesday 21st January.
For more information, visit his official website.
More about james blundell, australian country music, tamworth festival, Queensland, Lee Kernaghan
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