In this second part of the Warren H Williams interview, Warren discusses his upcoming shows at the Tamworth Country Music Festival 2012, why he writes love songs and why all country music stars should play in Alice Springs.
You have a few shows coming up at the festival. You’re playing with The Wolverines.
That’s going to be madness, that one. I’m really looking forward to that show – it’s going to be mad.
Are you supporting them for all of their shows?
Yes, I’m doing thirteen of their shows.
Those shows are usually really late at night, aren’t they?
There’s one in the afternoon, from 2 to 4, and then one from 9 till 12 or something.
Well, you’d better have an afternoon nap!
[laughs] I know! And in between that I have to a couple of shows with Ted Egan. That’ll be really soft compared to The Wolverines …
You’re not going to have time to go and sit in on anyone else’s shows – because I know at Tamworth what tends to happen is that musicians who are between shows might go to someone else’s gig and get up for a few songs or something
Well, Troy Cassar-Daley usually invites me to go and do a song with him. I’m thinking I probably won’t be able to do that.
No, I think you’ll be far too busy! Which is great. Back to this idea of ten people being your ideal number of audience members – when I was listening to it, it seemed like it was … I don’t know if intimate is the right word, but it sounds as if you’re singing just to the listener. A lot of it is quite romantic, and revealing. It feels like a personal album,
Well, that’s what I wanted to do. Someone pointed out to me – this writer – he said that if you write something on the romantic side, people will stop and listen or look at it, like a flower on the wall. They won’t look at a picture that’s big and things. If you paint one flower, people will stop and look at it. It’s simple – make it simple, so people can understand it.
That’s a very nice idea. I think that’s true. When I had your album on, there was the odd romantic song and I pricked up my ears because it really sounded like it was coming from the heart. It’s one thing to write those songs – it’s another thing to deliver them and mean it.
Those songwriters carry their hearts on their sleeves. Those sorts of songs sometimes come out without you knowing it. Like love songs. Because everyone’s a romantic. Every single person in this world is a romantic. [both laugh] They are! I sometimes stop and think, ‘My god, I’m from the bush, I’m a traditional person – how do I write these sorts of songs that are, you know … [whispers] romantic. When I’m a bush man.’ [laughs]
But you have, so clearly you’re right – yes, you’re a romantic too.
Oh yeah, everyone is. For Aboriginal songs – culture songs – there are a lot of romantic traditional songs. So many. There are so many traditional love songs.
Maybe one of the things you can do when you’re performing is introduce those to a broader audience, if it’s appropriate.
Well, yeah – I have bigger plans – I have big dreams. I want to do this, I want to do that. I want to be the most famous black man in Australia, y’know? I want to do all this sort of stuff.
Well, why not?
Yeah. I have dreams. I just want to make Australia a better place. For me, that’s my dream. I love this country. I love the people that live in it. I love this place. It’s my country, you know?
One of the things I’m interested in is that country music is very popular in indigenous communities – has that come about because of Australian country music or all country music that’s popular?
All country music. The American country music out here in the bush is so big. It’s huge. I met this fella called Tracy Burns years ago and he was having a hard time doing a tour in the cities, and I said, ‘Look, the mistake they make is that when they bring the big stars to Australia, they just try to keep them in the cities. You bring them out bush – you put them in Alice Springs or something – people from all over the place will turn up and Alice Springs will be full.’ I told Kenny Rogers the same thing.
Did he listen to you?
Yes, he did. He said, ‘I can’t help it. The people who look after our gigs take me to the places.’ I said, ‘Come out to the bush. You have a gig somewhere, people will turn up from all over the place.’
Why do you think it is that country music’s so popular in indigenous communities?
Country music like old Slim Dusty, he used to sing about the stockmen … A lot of the people out here – well, I was on one of the biggest cattle stations in Australia and we grew up that way. My dad was a bit of a stockman, another of my uncles and my cousins, they work on the stations. And we know what old Slim was singing about. And what the new country artists, the Americans, sing about, like driving the truck and going to the pub, that’s what people do out here, and it’s so easy to associate with them. Like old love songs – it’s a part of our lives, we live that.
Country music is also a storytelling genre, more than, say, rock or pop, and also a lot of those stories are about the land. You get a lot of songs that describe the land in a meaningful way – they actually describe how people feel about the land. I find that when Australian country songwriters write about the land, I can completely relate to it, because that’s how I feel about it. Do you feel that, that it’s a storytelling culture?
Oh, it is. For me, if I write a song about my place, I do – I write about my place. Albert Namatjira did it when he painted, but nobody believed the colours that he painted, they said, ‘No, you’re making them up.’ But, no, he wasn’t making them up – it’s for real, because we live out here and we see it every day. We can see the harshness of the country and we know how hard it is, but we know how beautiful it is at the same time.
For Part I of this interview, please click here.
For Part III, please click here.
Warren H Williams’s official website: www.warrenhwilliams.com
Warren’s gigs in Tamworth: www.tamworthcountrymusic.com.au