The inaugural Murwillumbah Country Roots Festival takes place this long weekend on the New South Wales north coast. Organised by local country music artist Lou Bradley, the festival is headlined by Kasey Chambers, Sara Storer, The Audreys and Archie Roach, with over 60 all-Australian acts taking part across four stages. Late last week I had the chance to chat to Sara Storer about the festival – which also features her brother Greg. For the full line-up and other details, visit www.MCRFest.com.
When did you sign on to the festival?
Last year I remember [organiser] Lou [Bradley] talking about whether I’d be keen to be a part of it and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ And I said, ‘Why don’t I bring my brother Greg Storer as well?’ We’re sort of like a package, which is great, because Greg’s heading up with his family, I’m heading up with mine, and it’s sort of turned into a family gig with all the kids, and everything’s going to be so much fun.
Often I head off and say goodbye and they’ve sort of got no idea – because they’re still so young – what I do. But they’re at a great age now – well, two of them – where they can come and watch and see what Mum does. My brother’s got four kids and I’ve got four. They’ll probably watch for about five seconds and then want to go and play in the dirt [laughs] and I don’t care anyway because I’m not looking after them – my husband has to do that.
Are you still living in the Territory?
No, we’ve moved. We’re down just out of Albury.
That makes a bit more sense, because I thought coming from the Territory would be a big commitment for the festival.
No, we’re not coming from Darwin any more. Too hard. And as much as the lifestyle’s pretty unique, living up there, it’s too far. We love Albury. Great people and it’s so central to both Sydney and Melbourne.
Quite a bit colder, though.
Yes. The blood hasn’t really thickened up yet either. It was freezing. We’re in this little farmhouse – there’s no insulation, the kids all whinging. I said, ‘This is what it was like in the olden days, kids, so just zip it’ [laughs].
Hopefully it will be a bit warmer in the north of New South Wales over the October long weekend. It might be wet though – it can sometimes rain a bit up that way.
Okay, there might be a bit of rain – thanks for that little tip, because I am hopeless at what to pack. We’re going to need a trailer, that’s the worrying thing. To put the kids in the trailer [laughs].
So you’re obviously planning to stay the length of the festival.
We’re going to try. I’m going to try to be there on the Saturday – my brother’s on the main stage that day. Then we’ve got Sunday off and of course we’ll do the festival thing. And then I’m not performing until the Monday night. So it’s really great. Normally you fly in and you fly out and you just don’t have time to see anything. So this has worked kind of as ‘I’m going to a festival’ – it’s a bit of both, so it’ll be great.
Does it mean – I’m just thinking from a technical point of view – that if you’re not singing until the Monday night and you’ve been seeing friends, talking to people at shows, so you’ve been shouting a bit, do you have to really think about how to save your voice?
I don’t have that problem. Because I write my own songs and sing, my voice is never pushed too hard because I sing naturally where my voice takes me. Whereas if I sing a cover, I get off stage and my throat really hurts – it’s a different melody and it probably pushes me a bit. But with my own stuff I’m pretty right – it’s not that hard on my throat. I’m not like a Jimmy Barnes – I’d love to [be], though. It would take a fair bit out of me. I do probably have to watch I don’t have late nights. Catching up with everyone, you have one too many and then you’ve got to do a pretty good job the next day, so you have to be careful of that one. Socialising.
Is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to seeing perform?
Well, Kasey [Chambers] – I do love her music. We’re friends, but put that aside – I’ve got all her albums. I’m a bit of a fan. So I’m looking forward to Kasey. And I love Mustered Courage. They’re just constantly on in the car, so I’ll be able to sing along. Not where they could see me – because that would be quite embarrassing.
They might be quite pleased, though, if you wanted to join them for a number.
[Laughs] Maybe. Or maybe they might tell me to get off! I have jumped up with [them] at Tamworth. It was after the [Golden Guitar] awards – it was on the Sunday. The last Sunday in Tamworth is the day I go and just have a great time – catch up with people. So I jumped up and sang a couple of songs with them. They’re just awesome.
You’ve also just given a tip for anyone heading to Tamworth, to hang around for the Sunday in case there are any interesting collaborations going on.
Oh, absolutely. And Shane Howard – he’s just an unbelievable songwriter – can’t wait to see him [at Murwillumbah]. Archie Roach is on. It’s going to be terrific.
I noted that the festival is being MC’d by Ben Sorensen but also by Buddy Goode – and I have to say that makes me a little afraid for all of you!
[laughs] You don’t sit down in the front row, maybe.
Yes. But I do think it will be highly entertaining.
Oh, he’s hilarious. For ages I didn’t know who he was and then I worked out how it was and I was kind of embarrassed that I didn’t know.
I still don’t know who he is.
Oh, okay. Well, that’s what happens, I guess, when you’re having a family – you sort of get left behind a bit and you don’t catch up on all this stuff. It’ll be good. It’ll be an awesome festival. Can’t wait.
And the festival is all Australian – how important is that to you?
I guess that is a great thing. Music’s music – it doesn’t matter where it comes from – but it’s kinda cool in that it showcases our talents here in Australia and I think that’s a great idea. I love that stance – all Aussie. Great. Bring it on.
I should have said this at the top when you mentioned Lou, but Lou is one of these quiet figures who seems to know everyone, so you must have known her for quite a while.
Lou came on the country music scene – I was sort of new as well. She was probably a couple of years after me. And there was talk in the town of this Lou Bradley. And it’s always great – we always need some new talent in country music world. So I went and had a look and she’s just a brilliant songwriter and entertainer, and we became mates. We’ve done many gigs together and last year she rang me and asked if I wanted to be a part of [the festival] and I said, ‘Yes! Make sure I’m counted.’ So I think she’s gone through and picked all the music she likes – it’s pretty much who she’d have in her back yard. And I was just so lucky I was picked – otherwise I’d be ringing her saying, ‘Hey, where’s my name?’
Talking of festivals: what are your Tamworth plans and are you working on a new album?
Well, I am. I’m recording it within the next few months, so it will be completed by the end of the year to release my first single and video clip at Tamworth next year. And I’ve got two shows at Tamworth – one is my own show at Blazes and the second gig is the gig that I absolutely love, where I pair up with my brother, Greg Storer. We call it the Kitchen Sessions and we’re doing that at the pub on the Saturday.