This is the third and last part of an interview with Katie O’Donnell. Parts I and II are here.
Katie is an inspiring young woman, not just because she is pursuing her musical dreams. Read on and you’ll find out more …
I would imagine the country music, or even the music scene, in Perth is probably quite different to what we have on the east coast. Given that it’s more remote and you probably really depend on the artists who are right there – I imagine there wouldn’t be a lot of movement of people coming in from Melbourne, say, to Perth to join the scene – I was wondering if you can just talk a little bit about the music scene, or the country music scene in Perth?
There definitely is a country music scene in Perth and I think there’s a lot of great fans and supporters out there. As you say, with Perth and WA we’ve got a lot more ground, so it is quite regional and so a lot of the festivals and everything are spread out through the regional areas, so that can present some challenges with travelling. But, yeah, definitely really active and quite strong. Obviously maybe not quite so much compared to over the east, yeah, and we still get some of the names coming through, like Beccy Cole. So we still get people coming through, it’s just probably not quite on the same scale. But I think it’s building year after year.
Which country music artists do you – I’m not going to say would you emulate, because I think, you know, it’s all part of the big pot of influences – but which country music artist, either Australian or foreign, do you really like at the moment?
Especially through my teens, I listened to a lot of Martina McBride and I still love her; I think she’s an amazing vocalist and similarly, Melinda Schneider as well – love, love, love her voice and her songs. So they’re probably the two top country names that I could name, but I’m a huge fan of Tina Arena and lots of acts, like a really wide range of music as well. This [country] is where I gravitated towards, but initially I wasn’t deliberately planning for the EP to be specifically country. It was just where it felt comfortable and it ended up – that’s where I felt it should be.
And I also think the country music scene is really welcoming of new artists and – I was thinking this when I was in Tamworth this year – it’s really welcoming of female artists. The way a lot of other genres aren’t.
Yeah. Absolutely. Definitely. And yeah. That’s what I love about it, obviously.
This is completely off topic, but is your hair naturally curly?
It is, yeah. It’s quite thick as well, I will use anything to have it straightened – it’s quite a long process. You always want what you don’t have.
The only reason I’m asking about hair is because mine is curly too and I’m always desperately curious when people with curly hair straighten their hair.
You’ve got to get some GHDs; they will change your life.
Your hair looks really long, I can’t imagine how long it takes to straighten it using those irons.
Well, I’m fortunate – it’s not me – I don’t have the arm strength to do it, so someone else is the poor thing that’s got to stand there and do it. So I can just sit there and read a book or watch TV and it’s done for me. That’s the way to do it.
Well, that’s pretty good! I think you said you’ve been in a wheelchair for quite a few years now, so I was wondering about the practicalities of doing gigs for you and touring. I suppose you’re quite used to moving around and making adjustments, but is it a hindrance to you doing a lot of things you’d like to do musically?
Look, I try for it not to be. And I am a firm believer in that, you know, where there’s a will there’s a way, but you also have to be realistic, so there are a few things that are physical barriers, so if there’s not physical access to a venue or physical access to a stage or if it’s, you know, if it is a festival or something and it’s particularly regional, there might not be any accessible accommodation to the level that I need. So things like that you can’t really avoid. You can kind of work within certain parameters, but yes, if there’s no access there’s no access. But you can’t put extra challenges in there when I travel; I can’t just jump on a plane and bring my guitar and travel with it – a one-man band. I have to travel with my mum or someone to help me, and then obviously use other backing tracks or have a musician with me, so things like that. But as I say, there’s usually always a way to work around it and it’s not often that you come to a complete roadblock, it’s every now and then and you just kind of have to go with it.
And is Perth an accessible city? The reason why I ask that is Sydney’s not – I think one of the reason’s, it’s very hilly and you don’t often see people in wheelchairs in the city, but in Adelaide for example, you do, because it’s a lot more flat and easy to navigate. So is Perth accessible?
Yeah, it is. We’re quite flat and really good public transport systems and things like that. The venues in particular are really good. I’ve probably performed in every major venue, hotel, whatever, that we’ve got here with the choir and I think, with the exception of a handful, they’ve all been fantastic, and in that respect actually, I think we’re probably in a little bit better position than some of the other capital cities, that’s for sure.
Good. Everyone should be like that.
It must be really frustrating to get to regional centres and – as you said – if the accommodation’s not that accessible – you would think that that alone would go right, but obviously not.
Well, it just comes down to doing your research beforehand, so there’s a lot of phone calls and sometimes you’ve got to get people to go in and take a photo of the room, so that you’ve got the peace of mind, because the thing is you don’t want to travel all the way there, hours and hours, and then find out, oh hold on, this is not what I was told that it was. So by the time we’re on the road and we get there, we’re, you know, a hundred per cent certain that when we get there it is going to be right on the other end. So it comes down to planning.
And it sounds like you’ve got it down to a fine art, I’ve got to say.
There’s no other way. That’s just how it is. So, yeah – it’s a good practice, so, yeah.
If you do go to Tamworth, will you be taking – hopefully I suppose – you’ll be hoping to take the musicians who played on the EP.
Yeah. I would love to, Tim and Travis are absolutely brilliant and it’s as much a credit to them as is it for me the way the finished product ended up. I couldn’t have done it without them, so yeah, I’d love for them to be able to come over as well.
And they’re both Perth boys, I think, from – from what I read somewhere, so that would make rehearsal easier.
Absolutely. Yeah, one thing in our favour.
Do you have any more songs loitering around in your brain that you want to commit to CD?
Yes. Now that I’ve started I’m really keen not to stop and really conscious of the fact that it is, you know, a learning process and hopefully I will get better with every song, so definitely just keeping that boiling along in the background. I don’t know when I’ll get the opportunity to record them or what I’ll do with them, but you know what’s in the brain until you pull it out and I’ll just see what I get.
Fireproof by Katie O’Donnell is out now.