Tasmanian band the Wolfe Brothers probably couldn’t have had a bigger 2013 if they’d tried. They released their debut album, It’s On, and not only did they join Lee Kernaghan on tour as his support act but they were also his band for his own set. Then they ended the year with four Golden Guitar nominations. In advance of their headlining show at Blazes at West Tamworth Leagues Club on 23 January 2013, I spoke to guitarist Brodie Rainbird. The band will also play some New South Wales shows before Tamworth -details at the end of the piece.
Congratulations on the four Golden Guitar nominations. I would think that even though you guys have been having a lot of success, that must always come as a bit of a surprise.
Oh, absolutely. The good things always do. When they reeled off the nominations when we were there at the presentation morning, they just kept reeling them off and we kept adding them up, one, two, three, four. It was like, are you sure it’s us? Are you sure we deserve this? We’re so honoured and thankful to be a part of the Golden Guitars this year. It’s our first year so – to get four noms, yeah, absolutely stoked.
And so I presume you’ll be playing at the show as well?
At the Golden Guitar Awards? I don’t think so.
Oh, really? I would have thought – – –
I don’t think they’ll let us play this year. I’m not sure if it’s set in stone yet but it looks like a no so far.
One of your nominations is for APRA Song of the Year – is it a surprise to you that that’s the song that was nominated, because there are several great songs on the album?
Mmm, ‘The Girl With All the Memories’, was that the one?
Yes, yes, that’s the one.
I don’t know, we’re just surprised to get anything at all, so [laughs] – so, I guess, ‘yes’ is the answer to that question. I was over the moon, I’m speechless.
The next question is what are you going to wear? Everyone wants to know what people want to wear [laughs].
[Laughs] I haven’t even thought about that. Actually, it’s good that you brought that up. I haven’t thought about it.
The good thing with blokes is that you can kind of get away with wearing either a suit or whatever. At Tamworth everyone seems to mix it up and it’s bloody hot, apart from anything else.
Yeah, that’s true. I reckon – well, the only thing I know we’ll be wearing is boots.
Right [laughs]. You played a couple of shows in Tasmania in December to thank your home-town fans. How much does that support mean to you?
Oh, it’s everything. It’s the home-town support is what got us where we are now. I think when we were on Australia’s Got Talent, most of the people who live in Tasmania were voting and helping us out there and look where they got us now, we got to play with Lee Kernaghan and we’ve gone on tour with him and the Golden Guitars are everything. We owe it all to the people who voted on that show, and most of that would have been Tasmania, I think.
Tasmania must also have given you an opportunity do a lot of playing live; do you think having that having the support of Tasmanians at your shows as you were developing as a band made you better performers?
Absolutely. We cut our teeth here in Tassie. Each of us would finish work on Friday afternoon and we’d drive to the venue and we’d set up all the gear and we’d go and have a shower and then come back and do a gig, pack up the gig, get up the next day, go and do another gig at North Tasmania somewhere; it would be two or three gigs a weekend – for years we did that. And that’s really where we honed what we do and how we do it.
How did you keep up the momentum all those years doing that? Because that’s pretty relentless when you’re working full time, and I know you all did have full-time jobs before this took off the way it has. It’s a huge commitment and it takes a lot of belief and dedication to end your working week and do what you’ve just described over the weekend.
Yeah, it does, but it’s really fun [laughs]. So it was easy. You just – I can’t wait to do gigs. Gigs are … we all feel the same, it’s the best thing – best part of your life, it’s the fun bit. It’s the bit where you go and spread joy and you see smiles on people’s faces, and everything from the pub gigs to the rowdy B&Ss and the bull rides we used to do, they were the highlight of our year. We had one called the Bull Light Dash, which is no longer there, and that was like our biggest gig of the year. We looked forward to that. Months out we were getting ready for that and, “Oh, should learn this song. We’ll take it to Bull Light”, and we get there and [it was a] raucous event where everyone’s drinking Bundy and throwing the food dye around – that’s the highlight of our lives, these gigs. So I guess in that respect it wasn’t hard, but Tom [Wolfe] used to manage us on his own and he’d be on his phone 24/7 just running this band in Tasmania, so I could see the work in that is quite a lot. But only one person can do that otherwise it gets confusing, so none of us could really help him but – yeah, like I said, gigs are where it’s at for us. We love it.
Because you still love it, obviously the dynamic amongst the band must still really strong, but I’m actually really curious about what it’s like for you playing in the band with brothers, whether there’s a sense that sometimes the brothers get to win if there’s a disagreement?
Oh, disagreements, oh, hell, yeah [laughs]. Yeah. Absolutely. Oh, we’ve got them in spades. But we’re all close enough and – they can be having an argument, 10 minutes later we’ll all be laughing about it. It’s fine. We’ve done a lot of that over the years and we’ve worked through a lot of stuff and at the end of the day, like I said, we’ve all got a common goal and even if we weren’t in the band we’d all be hanging out as mates anyway, so it’s a pretty strong bond, and I think we’re really lucky to have that. And it gets us through just about anything that happens.
It’s a common bond but it’s also a common focus and I guess that would carry through a lot of things. You all love what you’re doing and you want to keep doing it.
Absolutely. We want to be doing this 40 years later [laughs]. We want to be old and grey and still be able to do gigs.
Well, as The Rolling Stones have proved, you definitely can.
Yeah, exactly, exactly.
So your background as a guitarist – have you been playing since you were a child?
I think I picked up the guitar in about grade 5. Because my next-door neighbour played guitar and I thought, wow, that looks pretty cool – I reckon I’ll get some attention from some girls. So I picked it up in grade 5 and just really enjoyed it and sort of stuck with it, and, of course ,being mates with the Wolfe brothers, they were out doing gigs before I was and I used to go to gigs with them and help pack up the gear and stuff like that, and just go and support, and eventually I managed to get myself in the band [laughs] and away we went.
How did you manage to get yourself in the band?
There’s been a number of different line-ups and different names for this band, but I think Nick and Tom [Wolfe] had always been there and it’s just been different drummers and then I’ve come in, we had a different drummer and then we got Casey and then the whole line-up formed. But I don’t know, I think they decided they wanted another guitarist and I was there [laughs], so …
[Laughs] Right place, right time.
Yes. Good mates. You know, I wasn’t the best player back then and still not am now, but I think the fact that we all got along really well and we’re all mates already, like that already meant more than anything else. So that meant it would work.
Do you all get involved in songwriting?
Yeah, in some form or another. Nick’s our main songwriter. He’s the main genius behind it all. But I’ve co-written a couple of songs with him and so has Tom, and so has Casey, and anyone who sits next to him becomes a good songwriter, so it’s pretty easy once you get in there with him. And then we all get together and we talk about the song that’s just been written and we talk about what feel we want to put with it and what little things we want to do with it, where we want to take it. So I guess we all have input in some form or another, especially when it comes to pre-production of it, if they’re deciding which direction that someone wants to be in, we’re all there, so it’s definitely a group effort towards the end.
Listening to you talk just about the various aspects of the band, it is no mystery to me why you’ve had such success because it sounds like you’ve all got incredibly professional attitudes to what you’re doing, you enjoy it and you also all really work well together. But I tend to think a lot of artists make their own luck. To an extent, there is luck involved, it’s getting on Australia’s Got Talent, but it’s no mystery to me now listening to you why Lee Kernaghan would want to tour with you.
Oh, thanks [laughs].
[Laughs] That’s all right.
That was really good. I really enjoyed that.
[Laughs] But he’s a professional as well, he can obviously spot it.
The thing we had going with Lee, the chemistry there in that band and when we do those gigs, you know, Lee really enjoys playing with us and we love playing Lee’s songs, we love doing Lee’s gigs. That’s another thing that we couldn’t believe was actually happening as well – we went to our first rehearsal with Lee and we’d never met the guy in person, really, and he came in and said g’day to all of us, shook our hands, and then we played one song and he said, “Well, boys, I like what I hear. You’ve got the job.” From just one song. And ever since then it’s been a fantastic rollercoaster ride with Lee. He helps us out any way he possibly can and he’s just a great bloke. He’s one of our best mates now and, yeah, we love touring with him.
And guys are not only playing the support slot on the tour but you’re also – you’re also Lee’s band. That’s quite a long night.
Oh, no, it’s fine. It’s all good. When we used to do the other gigs, we’d play for three hours anyway. So it’s all good. We love it.
I think it happens in country music more than other genres where the artists just really love what they’re doing – everyone just seems to be so happy to get up in the morning and play their music. It’s beautiful.
I don’t think you can be sad and play country music. I don’t know, it’s just – it’s a really good thing. I discovered country music through Brad Paisley and I’ve been happy ever since [laughs].
Well, I hope you get the opportunity to meet Brad Paisley and tell him that.
Oh, I would just – I would die [laughs].
I would think that playing with Lee sets you up really well to get spots for touring international artists. A promoter might be thinking, Oh, well, those guys certainly know what they’re doing. Get them on Brad Paisley’s bill.
Well we’re going to head over to America [in 2014] and do a bit more in Nashville, hopefully. And we’re going to record the new album in March and probably take that over there as well and see how we go. We did have a close encounter with Paisley last time we were there. We were hanging out with our mate, Luke Wootten, who’s a Nashville producer. He said he’s going to come over and produce our next album but we actually went to a gun range with Luke, and his phone rang while we were in the range and it came up and Tom was looking over his shoulder, being a bit of a stickybeak, and it came up, the number was Brad Paisley. And he said, “Oh guys, I’ve got to take this, it’s Brad,” and he walks outside [laughs]. He walked outside and he was on the phone to Brad Paisley. I couldn’t believe I was that close to that happening. And Brad – he said he was at the gun range with an Australian band called the Wolfe Brothers. Brad said to just watch out and make sure we don’t shoot each other’s eyes out or something like that [laughs]. So that was the closest I’ve ever got to him, and I was really happy with that.
It’s only one degree of separation now. I think you should lean on Luke to set up an introduction.
Oh, absolutely, yeah. Yeah, I’ll be leaning a lot for that [laughs].
Luke is coming out here to produce your album when you record it. How did you first come across him as a producer?
I think he’s done a lot of work with Lee and we have the same management, Stephen White Management, so Steve hooked us up with Luke. [He was] doing a lot of work with Lee Kernaghan and he’s just one of the best blokes you’ll ever meet. When we went to Nashville he took a week off for us and just showed us around Nashville and took us to his favourite drinking holes and we did heaps of stuff with him. Like I said, we went shooting together and he’s a great bloke. Definitely want to meet him, you know, he’s good.
Back to the touring: I guess now you’re at the point in your lives where you’re more on the road than off it. So does it feel a bit strange to just be home?
Oh, no – we’re all getting used to the whole lifestyle now. I think the most time we’ve spent at home in a straight run is about three or four weeks this whole year, is the longest time [laughs]. But it’s good, we’ve all adjusted to the being on the road lifestyle pretty well I think and we’re all taking it easy. And personally I don’t have a problem living out of a suitcase in a hotel. I think it’s great.
You’ve living the rock ‘n’ roll dream, or the country music dream.
[Laughs] Yeah, yeah. That’s all any of us ever really wanted to do.
And that’s fantastic, because it’s relatively early in your recording career but it’s actually not early in terms of how long you’ve all been playing, so it sounds like you’ve definitely done your time preparing for this lifestyle.
Absolutely. All the little weekends we’ve done in Tassie and road trips and sleeping on a swag somewhere in a paddock, you know, all that sort of prepared us for this, I think, and now we kind of look at it as if we’ve got it pretty easy. I mean, we kind of do really. Like I said, we used to sleep on swags just on the back of a truck somewhere after a gig and now we get a hotel with a comfy bed [laughs].
So you’re not feeling nostalgic for the old days where you were sleeping in a swag?
Oh, I kind of do to be honest. I do get a bit nostalgic.
And now I’ll ask you about your Tamworth show, because of course Tamworth is not that far away. You’re playing at Blazes which is, of course, the venue to play at and you’re headlining. How did you pick your support band, Lawson Shire?
Well, we heard about them. I think this is their debut gig and we heard about them and heard a bit about what they do and just thought, yeah, I reckon they’d be right for us.
Well, that’s quite generous of you and perhaps a little bit of a risk giving someone giving someone a debut gig.
Oh, yeah, well that’s the sort of thing that Lee has done for us, so I guess we’re paying it forward. Yeah, giving someone else a shot.
It’s quite unusual for bands around the time of their first album to get that kind of headlining spot in Blazes because it is often the preserve of artists who have been around quite a bit longer. In a way it kind of means like you’re moving into the – not older generation, but more established generation of Australian country music. Does it feel to you guys like you’ve kind of moved on from being newcomers?
Not quite yet, now, I don’t think. Maybe when we get past this first Golden Guitar round. If we get one I would quite happily say maybe we’ve moved up a level [laughs] but … maybe, I guess you’re right though looking at it that way, we are moving up, which is kind of scary. I never thought of it that way.
Well, look, there are many, many acts who would never get to play at Blazes. That’s all I’m saying [laughs]. It’s a big – I think it’s a big honour.
Oh, absolutely. I can’t wait – yeah, looking forward to that gig. It’s going to be different at Tamworth for us. Last year we had an album coming out and we did interviews all day every day, we went from one interview to the next, all – constantly all day. So I don’t think we’ve got too much going on this time, and this is are only show, this Blazes one on Thursday the 23rd. That’s our only gig apart from the one in the park with Lee. So we’re going to have a good time. We’re going to get out and see some bands and check the scene out for ourselves this year.
Which is always one of the best things about Tamworth – well, there are many great things about it but there is just so much music on offer, so I would think for you guys or for any band really to just have that opportunity to see who’s around and who you might want to put on as your next support act, would be great.
That’s something to think about too, absolutely. Check out the talent and see who’s up and coming and say hello to them.
Then you’ve got a couple of jobs in Tamworth. You’ve got to find something to wear to the awards and then check out and see who your new support act might be [laughs].
Absolutely. I’m glad you reminded me about that actually. I’ll have to go shopping now.
The Wolfe Brothers play:
17 January 2014 – Lizottes Kincumber
18 January 2014 – Lizottes Newcastle
23 January 2014 – West Tamworth Leagues Club