We flew into Sydney on the second January 2nd (we left London om January 1st!) still vibrating from a very busy 2016. As Dawn wrote on Facebook –
“Well, that was a bit of a crazy year!
In the seven months that we worked in the UK, amongst all the usual band management fun stuff, we clocked up 54 gigs; wrote, recorded, mixed and released an album; did an awesome photo shoot; filmed three music videos; did a fab album launch; wrote & recorded four 30 second songs for two nub country albums & got into the Guinness Book of Records because of them; wrote a few jingles for radio; sat in a Sky music show audience and saw one of our videos played on that show; charted in the Australian Country Top 40! AND made some amazing friends!
Soooooo now we’re off to recharge our batteries and load up on some vitamin D in preparation for whatever 2017 may bring.
Thanks for being part of it.
Sydney here we come …..“
Our first port of call was South Coogee where we had a nice BnB place overlooking the sea. We were obviously very tired as we slept over 32 hours straight off, losing an entire day! we only just got up in time to get a meal at a great Italian restaurant overlooking Coogee beach. We spent a few days looking around, exploring the coastal walk and getting into the right time zone!
Anyone who’s listened to my recordings will know that one of my musical themes is setting Henry Lawson poems to music (also Rudyard Kipling). Check out the WoodworX album ‘Two short planX‘ if you want to listen to some. Anyhow, before headed north I managed to track down Henry’s grave in Waverly Cemetery which is just north of where we were staying. Another Waverley Cemetery coincidence is that Toni Wood’s solo CD cover was a photo of one of the angel’s statues from the place.
Actually, Henry Lawson is a fascinating author / poet whose history was both inspiring and sad. Some of his strongest material was written in England when he was living just north of London in a village called Harpenden which was a short train journey to the metropolis. Like Kipling, his work was influenced heavily by growing up in the British Empire though his work had much more a socialist / union bent than his British colleague (who also was awarded the first Nobel prize for Literature for his novel Kim). I spent quite a bit of time living in that area when I was based in the UK and did a bit of research on the topic. At the time he was there in 1901, Kipling was living in Sussex south of London. It seems that Andrew ‘Banjo’ Patterson spent some of the time living in London between the two. As he was a friend of both, I’ve always wondered if Lawson and Kipling ever met in the city. There’s no record of such, but it would have been an interesting meeting to have been a ‘fly on the wall’.
From Coogee we drove north up the coast to investigate it as a possible places to live. The previous year we had looked at Tathra on the southern NSW coast however it was bit too windy and cool down there, so we decided to head towards a more tropical area. The place we liked most was Port Macquarie which seemed to suit us best of the all places we visited on the Mid North Coast. As well as having a great sunset dinner voyage on a Chinese Junk we saw the evening bat migration across the Hastings from a restaurant balcony overlooking the river.
From there we cut up the coast to Coffs Harbour from where we cut west and headed towards Armidale on the way to the Tamworth Country Music Festival – via a quick visit to the laundromat. I’d been to Tamworth on previous Aussie trips, the first was outside the festival time and, despite being labelled Australia’s Country Music capital, it was pretty quiet and closed at 9pm. This was the second visit during the festival period and this year we managed to stay for the entire period and get accommodation about 20 minutes out of town in Duri, which meant that we could catch more of the music and meet up with new friends in the Aussie country music scene including a great pedal steel player – Jy-Perry Banks (playing with Cruising Deuces), 2RRR country DJ Leonie McClure, Grazy and Ames, Brewn, Craig Woodward and the fabulous Laura and Andrew who are The Weeping Willows.
The first event was a country music cocktail morning which was a preview of the talent who were appearing at the festival. We even got mentioned by journalist Laurie Bullock in The Northern Daily LEADER newspaper! She wrote; “In the audience were Brian Heywood and Dawn Moore who are visiting Australia from the UK, where they play in a country band. After seeing one day of the festival when they were visiting two years ago, this year they planned a trip to take in the entire week of country music. Brian was on hand when 8 Ball Aitken took to the stage and discovered he was short a guitar pick. The visitor grabbed one from his pocket and handed it to the Queensland artist.” Needless to say, 8 Ball didn’t return the pick. I wonder if he needed it for the rest of the festival? Anyway, we had a great time there and it taught us a bit more about the way the Aussie country music scene works as well as showing us some great talent who were performing.
Our next stop was Frankston which is on the Southern edge of Melbourne via Parkes – home of The Dish – and Wagga Wagga where we had an excellent lunch. As well as visiting friends and my eldest brother, we were still considering making the southern metropolis our base in Australia for a few years before heading north to a more tropical climate. So, we were looking at the south eastern suburbs near Port Phillip bay as possible location since it has more of a seaside aspect but still with easy access to the CBD where most of the theatres and other entertainment facilities were (and gigs for us of course!). We also had more in the way of music contacts in the area and Melbourne had a really good music scene at the time due to some great policies by the city’s administration.
We spent about three weeks down south with some shows and get togethers with our friends such as at Liam Davis’s fantastic Irish session at the Quiet Man and with Grazy& Ames and Andrew & Laura (Weeping Willows) plus some great concerts. We headed back to Sydney via Canberra where we checked out NASA’s Deep Space Network on the edge of the Australian capitol city. We stayed in Sydney about a week where I got a chance to show Dawn – and reacquaint myself – with various parts of the city I grew up in including Taronga Park Zoo, various cruises around the harbour and walks along the shore as well as a great Americana concert in Newtown.
Next Stop England.
This time in England was the last year that we worked there as fulltime performers / band and in the next seven months we did 48 gigs which included festivals, Holiday camps, military bases, weddings, parties, and a couple of record release promo gigs. We even did a prison which I guess puts us in the same category as Johnny Cash!
We kicked off with a gig in East London which was also the area that our drummer Mike Vishnick grew up in. Mike is an interesting bloke who I first met when we were both in the London based art rock band called The Quirky. If you look back through the blog, you’ll see a number of entries about the band and the gigs we did around London. The band was led by Tim Devine and had one album released (Fresh Lies) and played some of the classic London venues such as The Dublin Castle, the Round House and a quite a few others. Anyway, as drummer Mike channels Keith Moon (The Who) and is a fantastic performer. Apparently, he grew up in the same area as Mr Moon and once visited Keith’s mum who gave him a pair of Peter’s gym boots which Mike used to drum in.
Getting back to March 2017, we had a single released by Nub Records which was a track that appeared on our album (Goodbye Yesterday) called “Everybody’s country now!” The story behind this was that we had had a fairly relaxed arrangement with Nub Records after we contributed a number of tracks to their release 100×30 CD. The album was made up of 100 tracks of (around) 30 seconds length. It was kind of a protest release to highlight the fact that when Spotify streamed a track, they paid out the tiny fee (0.05 cents) when the playback reached 30 seconds. So, the question was “Why make any track longer than 30 seconds since the payout is the same?”
The CD got a lot of coverage in the press from Billboard, Forbes, Wall St Journal, ITV News as well as worldwide radio play including BBC 6 Music recommended album of the month by renowned indie DJ Steve Lamacq. It even made it into the Guinness Book of Records – next to the Justin Beeber entry! It was an interesting project to produce songs that short, and it’s worth having a listen to see how the different artists / composers approached it. You can hear (or buy!) the CD or individual tracks on Amazon Music.
Anyhow, the original version of “Everybody’s country now” was only 32 seconds long but it actually got us quite a bit of positive feedback. We even got interviewed and showcased by Peter Cook at the Virgin Centre in central London. So, when we did the album I did a ‘progressive rock’ version of the song which was over two minutes long!
April was a quiet month with only four gigs – though one was an interesting old Music Hall in Shepherds Bush with Liz and John Scholey calling. Having a couple of weeks free I took a road trip with my son Alex in my BMW Z3 soft top around our ancestral bits of Lancashire in the north of England. Needless to say it rained pretty well constantly but we managed to see a few places that my parents and grandparents had lived and caught up with relatives who are still based on the Wirral. I also showed Alex the street named after my dad by a grateful council following his service in the RAF during the Second World War.
May was the beginning of the festival season for us, kicking off with a slot at the North Finchley Festival. This kind of event is what I call an ‘umbrella’ festival where several venues in a particular area get together under a single programme. Our slot was at The Elephant Inn which is on the intersection of Hutton Grove and Ballards Lane sort of on the edge of the town centre. I remember this gig for two reasons; the first is that I handed my Epiphone Casino electric guitar – which I bought when I joined Rick Christian’s ‘Open Road’ band over to the bloke who had bought it from me online. I really liked this instrument but I didn’t think that I would be able to take it to Australia as it was fragile.
The second reason is that Barry Ainsworth saw us there and booked us for the East Barnet Festival which is the biggest community festival in the Greater London area. We’d met Barry at networking events in London a couple of times, but this was the first time he’d seen us play. You might not recognise the name, but he was the engineer / producer for Otis Reading’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” and the one who suggested putting the whistling at the end of the track. Other festivals we played that tour were in Mill Hill, East Barnet and two in Buckinghamshire – HareFest and SwanFest which raised money for returned veteran’s charities, Portsmouth Festival (on the Express FM stage) and Broadstair’s Folk Festival.
As Dawn wrote on Facebook…
“Heywood Moore Hoedown Band
Whoo hoo! Now that was hot and sweaty. Storming Mill Hill Music Festival gig. They might not like Country Music but they LOVED us!
Much dancing, clapping and smiley faces all around.
Brian Heywood, Dawn Moore, Mike Vishnick and Guy Avern.”
We had a couple of TV connections as well, one being that we were asked to perform as the band a hoedown event for ‘The Only Way Is Essex‘ (#TOWIE) which is a long running English reality programme with an audience of millions. It was interesting to be on set during the production and it really brought home to me what I always suspected that Reality TV is more about TV than Reality! Any way you can watch an edited version of our involvement in the show on Youtube.
The other TV gig was a wedding in the family of Paul Martin, who is a British antiques dealer and professional drummer, and is best known for being the presenter of various BBC television antiques programmes including Flog It! Apparently, Martin worked with Average White Band, The Quireboys and The Dogs D’Amour in the 1990s and, when he heard that we’d be playing, he asked if he could sit in on a couple of songs which Mike was quite happy to allow. The other thing I remember about this gig is that – quite unusually – I broke a string on my PRS CE24 during the gig. Luckily, I always have a spare guitar (a Hohner G3T, which is their version of the Steinberger headless guitar which is very compact and light) which I used for the rest of the gig.
We had a few other interesting gigs such as playing at the headquarters of Greene King – which is one the major brewers in the UK- in Burton-upon-Trent and a load of holiday camps / parks which tended to be around on the coastal parts of the south of England. These tend to be interesting gigs as they are organised by professional showbiz types who tend to be great characters. This year we played Winchelsea (Rye Harbour, Kent), Rochester (Kent), Great Yarmouth (Norfolk), Leysdown-on-Sea (Isle of Sheppy), St Osyth (Essex) and Cosgrove Park (Milton Keynes) where we had them dancing on the tables! We also did a hoedown gig for the Duke of Bedford at his gaff – Woburn Abbey. We’ve done a number of gigs for the British aristocracy (including Charles Spencer, Lady Di’s brother) and they are usually pretty easy to get on with.
Other gigs included one at Feltam Prison and, at the opposite end of the sprectrum, the village of Stanway which has the tallest gravity fed fountain in England, Castle Donnington (the home of heavy metal) and a number of gigs for the Music in Hospitals charity – the name pretty well describes its activities – one of which we got ambushed and ended up playing in one of the hospital’s café playing for a group of patients.
As Dawn wrote on Facebook;
“Feeling a bit blessed.
Just finished our travelling minstrel sessions around Willen Hospice and Milton Keynes Hospital wards.
Lovely patients. Lots of smiley faces and singing.
We were accosted on the way out by a patient from the psyc ward who dragged us back inside for an impromptu song in Costa cafe.
Had baristas, customers plus all patients involved in a singalong. Followed out by a grinning security guard who thanked us and said that they should have us everyday!!
Thanks to Music in Hospitals for sending us along.”
I also launched my second single release – Too late (3am) – at the Alleycat Club in Denmark Street which is most famous as Britain’s “Tin Pan Alley” housing numerous music publishers’ offices. The Alleycat was a basement venue under the location of the studio that the Rolling Stones recorded their first LP – so a pretty historic site!
Back to Australia.
So after seven months back in the UK we flew out at the end of September and landed at Mascot Aerodrome and stayed at Bondi which was a familiar patch to get us back into the Aussie time zone. This was the start of a seven month stay down under with the aim of finding a permanent place to live. After a week in the Eastern Suburbs, I collected my first Aussie car for 38 years and we headed up to Port Macquarie for my birthday. After this we headed down to Melbourne to see if we could find a decent place to live in what was undoubtedly Australia’s music capitol – at the time anyway. Oh, and we also caught up with our friends and music colleagues down there including Grazy& Ames, Lloyd Clark, Bruce and Kerry Stephens, Tad and Jimbob, Andrew and Laura (Weeping Willows), Peter Anderson and Craig Lee-Smith.
We found a place in Saint Kilda since we wanted to be based near the water. We used it as a central point to explore the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne looking for a permanent place to live. We did make a brief return to Sydney in November to attend the the nominations party for the Golden Guitar awards at the ABC studios in Ultimo. We were in the running with our Goodbye Yesterday album but sadly missed out getting onto the final list. As Dawn put on Facebook;
“Dawn Moore is with Brian Heywood in Sydney, Australia.
Had the most wonderful day at ABC Studios nibbling canapés (loved the pies!), drinking too much champagne and catching up with Australian Country Music royalty.
Quick ferry trip from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour for dinner and MORE champagne before strolling home eating Italian Baci chocolates.
Could get used to this … ❤ So so lucky.
Great to see Lloyd Clarke, Troy Cassar-Daly, Dobe Newton, Leonie McClure, Luke O’Shea, Allan Caswell, Greta Zilla, Fanny Lumsden, Felicity Urquhart, Davidson Bros, Amber Lawrence, Travis Collins, the boys from Brewn and soooo many others ..”
After this we headed back to Melbourne where I was appearing with Grazy’s Country supporting the amazing Travis Bolin who is a Cigar Box guitarist (CBG) based in Nashville Travis was touring Australia with his mate and fantastic harmonica player. This was the first time I’d spent any time with CBG but it was a forerunner of future involvement. Saw some great concerts down there including Paul McCartney and the Scottish band Texas, who invited us backstage after the gig.
Three months in St Kilda convince us that Melbourne was not the place for us as the weather was very similar to London so why bother moving halfway around the world. Also, the property prices were very high for anywhere that was half decent. St Kilda itself was a strange mix of attractive bits and the absolute pits. For instance, it was the first place I’d ever lived which had regular ‘ladies of the night’ patrolling the streets. Still there were some great bits as well; we adopted the Beach House by the end of the pier as our ‘local’ and the links to the centre of the city were brilliant.
We also did some song writing sessions at a number of locally based rehearsal studios and at Grazy & Ames’ studio at Leongatha for which we were very grateful. As you may imagine, Melbourne has a good professional music infrastructure which was only brought down for us by the traffic congestion and parking difficulties. One of our favourites was Bakehouse Studios in the edge of the CBD, as Dawn wrote on Facebook “Most interesting rehearsal space yesterday. 6 hour minimum time slots. Every room themed differently. To be fair, our’s was a tad distracting …. However, we had a nice spot to sit outdoors, a tuck shop and use of a fabulous vintage kitchen and bathroom just in case the hell fire fresco got a bit much …..”
So, after a Christmas picnic on the shore of Port Phillip, we cut short our accommodation and headed to Sydney via Echuca where we checked out the paddle steamers. The final destination of the year was a New Year’s Eve cruise around Sydney Harbour with my cousin Vicki, her hubby Robb and a bunch of their friends. This evening must be one the highlights of my life (so far) as we had a front row view of the harbour bridge fireworks, a cocktail’s throw from Fort Denison. This was also a bit weird since it was the first NYE in about 20 years where I wasn’t gigging. So after heading back to our accommodation in Cronulla for a day or so – to recover – we headed north to Port Macquarie to see if we could find a place to live.
Next blog will cover our sub-tropical adventures and the trip to the UK to complete my four-decade residence in the UK…
Will just leave you with my parting message from Luton…