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article imageSongwriter Fiona Kernaghan marks 20 years since her first album Special

By Adrian Peel     Oct 28, 2015 in Music
To celebrate the above-mentioned milestone, the sassy Australian singer/songwriter is re-releasing her very first album. She's also been working on a new one and collaborating with other artists. Digital Journal was on hand to find out more.
The youngest of the Kernaghan siblings (brother Lee is probably Australia's biggest country star, sister Tania is a highly respected country singer and brother Greg is also involved in music), Fiona Kernaghan was until recently living and working in Los Angeles as a constantly in-demand songwriter.
Before that the daughter of another singing Kernaghan, the family patriarch Ray, was resident in Nashville where one of her songs ("Take Me Apart") was recorded by the late Mindy McCready, popping up on her 1999 album I'm Not So Tough. Now Fiona is once again based in Australia.
"It's so exciting to think that with the advances in technology, I can do what I do as a writer and as an artist from anywhere," she explains, reflecting on her decision to move back home.
"I travelled the world the last 20 years and saw a lot of places, but realised that not many places compare to Australia. Now that I'm free to work anywhere I want, I thought 'Let's get back to the land of The Lucky Country' - and I'm loving it."
Recalling the Mindy McCready cut, the outgoing 42 year old, a long-time friend of fellow Aussie Keith Urban, states, "That's right; that's what got me started with Warner Chappell Nashville and my staff songwriting deal with them. Mindy was an amazing artist who had a colourful, but unfortunately tragic life. I was in touch with her at a happier time around the peak of her career."
Released in 1995, Cypress Grove was Ms. Kernaghan's debut album. It was an immediate success, leading critic Bernard Zuel to enthusiastically proclaim: "Fiona is one of Australia’s best new singer songwriters, with more potential than ten Lisa Loebs or Sheryl Crows."
On October 31, the album will be re-released. "I'm so excited about that," enthuses the artist who during her career has penned 11 number ones, many of which have been for her sister Tania (the pair are currently hard at work on Tania's next solo project).
"It's 20 years since it first came out and because over the years a lot of people have asked what happened to that record - it wasn't in print for a long time back in the day - we thought, 'Let's make it available digitally for the first time' because there was no iTunes in '95!"
"I think as a creative person, there are few things as special as your first album," muses the prolific writer, who has always drawn inspiration from a variety of musical genres, when asked why she thinks Cypress Grove has stood the test of time, "but a lot of amazing things came together to make this a magical recording.
"The support and the team I had around me was extraordinary... I was in the hands of a great producer, Mark Punch, who's worked with a lot of blues legends in Sydney.
"Buzz Bidstrup from The Angels, Chris Bailey from The Saints, Mark Williams from Dragon and Michael Spiby from The Badloves, they all joined their talents together with some other great musicians to make these tracks what they are."
Last week one of the album's 10 tracks "Has Anyone Ever Loved You?" was put out as a single and I wondered which of the other songs particularly stand out for the artist. Fiona chuckles pensively. "Well I love the title track because I have such fond memories of playing that in the dark with some candles going...
"I was playing guitar, sipping a Jack Daniels and singing this song with Mark Williams doing amazing background vocals over in the corner. It was almost like we were channelling the spirit of Tony Joe White and people like that.
"Something happened. We walked out into the light and said, 'Woah, I think we got it' and it was one take. The other track I love the most on the album might be "Good Night For Dreaming," which has another tone altogether. It's the sweeter side of the album and has a touch of spiritual values that I hold dear."
Fiona Kernaghan
Fiona Kernaghan
Karen Waters
This year Fiona also duetted on a song called "Bones" with her old friend James Blundell, which appeared on the latter's new album Come on In, and at present is busy with a new CD of her own, tentatively titled Quantum Love.
"I am," she confirms. "I'm starting to go through that process of lying awake at night with my iPhone typing in lyrics and being plagued by the muse! But I wouldn't change a thing. I feel very lucky to have the ideas coming through and it's gonna be a little bit different again from Cypress Grove.
"I'll probably record it between Byron Bay, with some local musicians here, and Bratislava... There are some fantastic string and orchestral players over there that I'd like to use, so you can imagine the textures might be somewhat different to Cypress Grove."
More than 100 different singers have tackled Fiona's material over the last two decades (she cites Tina Arena's version of "Take Me Apart" as a special highlight) and last year one of her tunes "Doorbell, Baby" was featured in the award-winning film American Sniper.
"Interesting, hey?" she laughs. "I was quite surprised, but it's the power of your friendships and your network, isn't it? The man who did that wonderful score to American Sniper is actually a good friend of mine, Joseph DeBeasi, the film score composer and music editor.
"He was working on the movie and realised there was a spot where there was music, supposedly, in Brad Cooper's headphones and they had no track. He asked me if I had a high-energy rock track, or something like that, that would be appropriate for the spot.
"I sent him a couple of things, next thing you know 'Doorbell, Baby' is in Brad Cooper's headphones! The film made a huge impact and I'm thrilled to have been just a tiny part of that greater creative process and vision."
The 20th anniversary reissue of Cypress Grove will be available to buy or download from October 31.
Fiona's new solo album will hopefully be out in the first half of 2016.
For more information on the very talented Fiona Kernaghan, visit her official website.
More about fiona kernaghan, tania kernaghan, Lee Kernaghan, Australian music, Mindy McCready
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