The Tamworth Country Music Festival 2012 is now in full swing and Warren H Williams is there – here, there and everywhere, that is! Warren has a huge line-up of shows during the festival and if you’re interested in seeing him, you can find his gigs on www.tamworthcountrymusic.com.au.
Your new album has been described as harking back to the 1970s and 1980s. Is that your favourite era of country music?
Well, that’s when I was growing up. I was becoming an adult at that time and that was the music that I was listening to and I really enjoyed that stuff, because I was learning how to play my music sort of in that style back then. So I wanted to bring out what I learned, what sort of music makes me happy, what style makes me happy.
Do you have a band you regularly play with?
Yes. The fellas who played on this album come from Toowoomba – most of them are Toowomba men.
There’s a good, solid beat on this album which makes me think line dancers are going to love it.
[Laughs] I love that. That tempo, it’s a beat. For me, it’s like the Aboriginal beat – you hear beat. There’s always a beat in all the music that we do, it’s cultural – it’s the beat that makes it happen. It’s in the heart, it’s a beat.
But you could take the beat away and just have your voice and that would stand alone – so do you ever play these songs acoustically, just with you and a guitar?
I do. I do. And that stuff, I wrote it like that to make it easy if I was just by myself, I could sing those songs.
Do you like performing that way?
I used to hate it but now I like it because it sort of makes me sing better if I’m by myself because I don’t have to worry about the guitars and drums covering me up, and you learn how to sing better too.
And you grew up playing rock music as well?
I played everything. I played heavy metal, I played rock ’n’ roll, I played all sorts of music, and I loved it, through the 1980s.
So why did you choose country music to record? Why aren’t you playing heavy metal?
[laughs] Do you know what, this will sound funny – I found all the other music easy. It’s easy to do. For country, it seems like you have to do it properly. Like, not muck it up. With the other stuff, you can muck it up and it doesn’t really matter.
Is that because country music means more to you, or because it means more to the audience?
I reckon it means both ways, probably it means more to me and it will mean more to the people who are listening to me.
Country audiences really listen and they listen to lyrics, and they’re quite discerning about music – sometimes with rock audiences it’s just noise.
Mmm, yeah. That’s it. That’s it … You take a rock gig, for instance – at the end you have to do a really rock song to make people feel good. At a country show, you do them a love song right at the end, people will go back feeling happy. It’s the opposite, I think. [both laugh]
That’s true. You can end on a minor chord and they won’t mind.
They won’t mind, they’ll go, ‘Yeaaaah, that’s what I want’.
What’s your favourite venue to play in Tamworth?
So many. So many. When I first started with my band we just played – I always used to love playing in the street, busking … A couple of years ago I wanted to busk and someone said to me, ‘You don’t have to do it – you’re a star’. I said, ‘I’m not a star. I just want to do it.’ They said, ‘Look, listen – you don’t have to do it. You don’t have to do that any more.’ It seemed to me, because I’d been doing it for a long, and it was one of my dreams not to do it any more, but when it came to the point that I didn’t have to do it any more I just thought it was part of coming to Tamworth in the first place, to do the busking, but also for me it was part of coming to Tamworth to be a country star and winning a Golden Guitar. And I’ve done that. All my dreams have come true.
Well, you can retire now, Warren!
I know. [laughs] But it’s like … The first time you come to Tamworth, you have a dream of owning a Golden Guitar and singing at the Country Music Awards and walking up the red carpet. And I’ve done that. I still have to pinch myself. I come from a place that is 120 ks west of Alice Springs – it’s out in the scrub – and I’m signed to a major record label here in Australia. I’m signed to ABC. Which is, like, huh? I have to pinch myself! [laughs]
I have to say, it never happens by accident, that stuff – I really think –
It’s hard work, too.
It really is. And when it’s going well, when people are really good at it, they do make it look easy. So it can be hard for other people to understand how much work it is. But when one thinks about the logistics of you actually even getting to Tamworth in the first place …
It’s a long way.
It’s funny – when I talk to people and tell them that I’m signed to ABC, they go, ‘What? When did this happen?’ and I say, ‘Oh, a few years ago.’ Like you say, I probably make it look easy for people because I’m not pulling out my hair, I’m just going low. And then things happen to me. People ring me up and say, ‘Do you want a gig? We’ll fly you.’ And it’s amazing when that happens.
Again, I don’t think it’s by accident. But as you’ve raised the record label I’m going to ask you about it. You used to be an independent artist but I’m guessing things are a little easier now that someone else can take care of the distribution and the marketing and all that stuff.
That’s it, that’s it. I still have to ring them up and talk to them, but it’s a big weight off my shoulders, y’know.
It’s a lot of work purely to get your albums into people’s hands when you’re an independent artist.
Well, yeah. For me, I used to just get frightened taking music to anybody. Over the years you get to know the right people, you give them things and they take them, and it’s just how it happens. I just started to know the right people in the music industry and I just gave them my copies and they went, ‘Yeah, okay, I’ll pass it on to someone’. And that’s how I ended up with ABC Music, because I gave it to a friend of mine and he passed it on to someone and they passed it on to someone and it became that.
You’re on ABC Music, you’ve just got a new record out – is there now a feeling that you have to produce a new album within a year or 18 months?
The amazing thing about it is I’ve got two albums ready to come out with ABC – the one that’s already come out, which is Urna Marra, and next year’s a different one. It’s different to what I’m doing right now.
A different style of country or different subject matter in the songs?
Different subject matter. Altogether it’s different.
I started off by mentioning your radio show – can you tell us about it?
I do my radio show on CAAMA – Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association – if you just go onto CAAMA Radio, onto the web, caama.com.au – I do my shows from 8 till 12 [Central Australian time] from Mondays to Thursdays.
And do you enjoy doing that?
I love it because it’s part of music. This is what I do in life. I do music and I sit here and create my own world through music. It’s so good.
Does it feel like your whole life has been music? I know your father was a musician as well.
It’s everything. I reckon from the moment I was born. Because at Hermansburg, the old mission, we used to have music all the time. And I grew up born into music and I’ll probably go out with music. This is it. My life is music.
Which is a beautiful way to live.
Oh yeah. Oh yeah.