I first heard of Jayne Denham when I was watching CMC at someone else’s house and her clip for ‘A Farmer’s Wife’ came on. I loved the song, her way of telling a story and also the story she told. Now her new album, Renegade, is out and I was delighted to have a chance to talk to her about it – and I discovered that the performer I responded to in that video is just as terrific in real life.
So, Jayne, you play renegade country and I was wondering how you define renegade
country and whether you have the genre to yourself?
Well, yeah, I definitely think so, seeing I’ve got the old album coming out called Renegade.It was kind of funny because with the album –I came up with a title search, that was how I started the whole mixed stage of what I wanted to say as a country music artist and, yeah, I just thought that’d be cool, because a friend of mine said that in her career she’s always been a little bit renegade. So, yeah, so I thought, well, I’m kind of renegading my style of country, so I ended up aiming all the song writing in that direction to match – you know, to go under the umbrella of renegade. So, well, it’s country so, yeah, that’s where I came up with the old renegade country and it is a little bit different, so I think that I’ve definitely hit the nail on the head when it comes to being a bit different in country music.
Yeah, and I think it’s – you’ve really managed to balance a feminine style of doing things, if I can say that, with some subject matter in your songs that a lot of female songwriters wouldn’t write about, and that’s one of the things I really like about you.When I first saw the video for “A Farmer’s Wife”, I thought, who is this great chick, basically, and then you got into a truck at the end.So I guess I was—
Yeah, I was trying to have that tough thing going on as well as I’m very girly at the same time and, yeah, it is, it’s kinda funny because people say, you’re kind of different to all the girls, and I’m not taking on the girls, I’m going to take on the boys.
I haven’t seen you play live but does that mean you tend to rock out when you play live?
Yeah, I’m kind of – well, that was part of the other reason why I knew the direction of the new album because I’m doing high energy on stage when I do my shows and some of the songs off the first two albums I just couldn’t do live because I was getting booked more and more for shows – type of shows where I needed to do what I do best, I suppose, so, yeah, that’s how it all came about.
You have a – I guess what would be called a big voice, except that on “Shelter” I found lots of nuances in your voice and so I was wondering what your singingbackground is, whether you’ve had some training in any direction in particular, or you just have always sung country?
No, look, I grew up on country and I’ve always been a singer but I was a dancer actually when I was at school; I was more into dancing than anything else, but I always wanted to be in a band, I thought that was kind of a cool thing to do when you’re 13, and so my mum was an opera singer and a gospel singer and then my grandfather was in musicals. So we had a very eclectic kind of thing.I mean, I was doing the whole rock scene for a while but I have had training.So since I left school I’ve been in bands and I’ve travelled and touring with different artists singing backing, and had years and years of training actually after I left school. So it’s sort of weird, because I think when you’re employed to do different things, okay, right, we want to sing on a swift album so then you sing in that tone. Okay, we want you to sing on a rock album, okay, singing that direction or a gospel, yeah, okay, go gospel. So I think in the end all those years of doing that, when I started doing my own music, which was country, I kind of realised I could draw on all those, sort of, pools, I suppose, I learnt over the years.
And that also means, I guess, that you can apply what’s best for the song, that you can make a decision.Even singing live, it may not have been the way you recorded it, that when you’re singing you can choose the best way to interpret the song?
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely, and I think that’s the fun thing about recording, I don’t have to – I mean I have got a fairly big range in this album. I kind of wanted to push that a little bit more; “Addicted to the Diesel” you can hear a lot more of what my voice can actually do, which was fun and it’s fun to do live too.
So on the content of the album, on the song “Grew Up ‘Round Trucks” you sing about your childhood riding in trucks with your father and you obviously still maintain your connection with trucks, especially as you get into one in one of your videos, so I was wondering what it is that you love about trucks and how often do you drive yourself?
Well, I don’t actually drive trucks. I have driven a truck but I don’t have my licence.I drove it on a friend’s property but, yeah, I mean, look, as a songwriter, I’m one of these people: I love writing from an observer’s point of view and I’m one of those people – like the “Farmer’s Wife” song, I love to cheer people on, I like just – if you’re a truckie –and I think that truckies are awesome and in our country we certainly can’t do without our truckies – so up here I just keep going, I’m going to cheer you on, here’s some songs that hopefully you can play in your truck and keep you going on the road.Or whether it’s “Too Cute”, which was my first song I ever wrote for country.I didn’t drive a ute, my husband drove a ute, but I just thought that girls that drove utes were so bloomin’ cool and I wish I was that cool. So that’s kind of where it all came from.But my husband was a truckie when we first met, so I kind of had that little bit of affiliation.And it all started when I wrote the song “Cousin Jude”,which is about a girl that I heard about who drove trucks in Tamworth and how beautiful she was and she ended up being more than what I had envisioned when I wrote the song and she’s in the video clip [for] “Cousin Jude” and it’s hilarious. I’m like,Jude, you’re the last person I thought would be a truckie. So that’s kind of where it came from and now I’m sort of known as the girl who likes to cheer on the truckies. And actually the song, “Grew Up ‘Round Trucks”, my husband actually wrote and then gave it to Garth Porter and Colin Buchanan to craft it even better and make sure it fitted the album and it’s one of my favourite songs.
It’s a lovely song.
And also it’s of your earlier material and because I mentioned “A Farmer’s Wife”, I’ll say that I really like the way you just tell the story straight.A lot of people will try to adorn a story, which often means there’s not really a story there, but you give it to the listener straight and therefore it’s really accessible to the listener, and so I was wondering, for you, as a songwriter, finding those stories to tell, do you find them in unexpected places or do you actually set out to find them?
Look for me, songwriting is one of those necessary evils. I’m not really one of those people that – I just don’t sit down and write a song but I get inspired by people and stories and that’s when I start getting excited. And when I started my country music career, I’d been years of singing other people’s songs and I went, hang on a minute, I’ve got something I want to say and I kind of know what I think is cool and what I like and how I would say it and all that kind of stuff. And so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to work with, what I would say, the cream of country music songwriters for all my albums.Like that was the thing, I was actually able to say, okay, I’ve got this funk and it’s about – you know, like, for instance, “Jam the Jam”, which is about roller derbies, like, I just love that I can – that’s where I get my feel for ideas, it is basically hearing stories or coming up with ideas and then I go to the people that I write with and say, right, let’s go and make this song, and that’s the part of it I really, really love but the more I’m doing it, the more people [are] like, “Oh, it’ll be right with Jayne, she’s got a great song direction.” And writing with Hugh McAlister and Tamara Stewart on two of the songs on the album,”Renegade” and “Outlaw”, they said, “Oh, it’s just so much fun to write with someone who’s got so much direction and you don’t let us go too far down the track if it’s not the direction you want to go.” So, yeah, it’s fun. I’m loving that side now but I have to say, I do really love songwriting when the song’s finished.
You wouldn’t be the first person to say that, I don’t think.
It’s like extracting teeth.
Well, when you are writing that way do you – because you do have a direction for the song, are you partly thinking about how it’s going to be performed? Does that inform the way you choose to go?
Yeah, definitely and that’s why this album has to be a little bit different ’cause I knew what my show, I suppose, was lacking of my own songs, where I’m filling them with a cover because I wanted the show to go in a particular direction and my show is something that’s my baby, that’s my passion. Entertainment is what I love doing the most and I realise, okay, well, I always seem to do that song and that works really well and the fans really enjoy it, okay, I need to have a song like that. So that’s where it all comes from.
And so you’re now signed to ABC Music but you were an independent artist before that, so I was wondering how the transition has been, from running everything completely yourself?
Yeah, look, it’s good, because as an independent artist, it’s great to have the control and I think I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t been independent, I’m so glad I wasn’t signed for my first album, because you kind of grow as an artist and I’m very strong about who I am as an artist, and I suppose the more albums I do, the more I’m becoming – realising what works and what my fans like, but I realised after doing that – and I had a strong direction if I wanted to go the next level – coming alongside a label would be the best result and ABC being all Australian as well, that was the label I was hoping would pick me up and I’m absolutely thrilled and it’s great to now hand the reins over to a label like ABC and Universal.
And you kicked off the year in a big way, playing some rather large shows supporting Keith Urban, so given that you love entertaining, I would imagine those big shows were actually lots of fun for you rather than being scary?
Yeah, oh man, that’s like – exactly, I was like a kid in a lolly shop. It was so much fun, even to the point – I did an interview earlier today and this lady said she saw Keith Urban years ago and I said, that’s what I did at the show. When I was performing I said, all right, everybody – who saw Keith Urban before he was Keith Urban, put your hand up and they’re like, yeah, and I said and I bet you all went, “He’s going to be a star.” I said,”Who thought that?” Yeah, I knew he was going to be a star. So it’s fun to play with the crowd because they’re all very patriotic about their Keith Urban.
You’ve got your own tour coming up. Can you tell us when that might start, that tour?
Look, I’ve got lots of gigs coming up, bits and pieces, but there’s going to be a bunch of tours that are going to be happening this year. One I know definitely is going to be throughout Victoria, all the details aren’t announced yet, but I’m going to be going back to the Territory, which is exciting and so hopefully all of Australia by the end of the year.
Fantastic.Well, it sounds like you’ve got a very busy year ahead and I think the album’s really great.
Thank you. Thank you.
Renegade is out now through ABC/Universal.