CMC and Golden Guitar winner Fanny Lumsden and Queensland singer-songwriter Tobias are soon to undertake a four-show tour of central west Queensland. Audiences are in for a huge treat, as both are luminaries in Australian country and folk music – and I chatted to them recently.
How long have you two known each other and have you ever shared a stage before?
F: We met at Gympie [Music Muster] last year. And this will be the first time [to share a stage].
So you obviously got on, as you’ve volunteered to tour part of Queensland together.
T: Yes, and we were on the same bill at Woodford Folk Festival this year and got to talk about doing these shows together – that’s how that cameabout.
Fanny, obviously you tour country areas a lot with your Country Halls tours – but obviously this specific kind of tour, you’re going to a very particular area, so when you were initially talking did you think it would just be nice to tour together or did you have a specific area in mind.
F: We were talking about western central Queensland specifically and getting out there.
Why western central Queensland in particular?
T: The story goes that I played a house concert. There was a Rotary member there, and she had some people doing some things out in Longreach. This guy had been doing a lot of fundraising – small community events to bring the people together – and he was really interested in doing some music. So we talked about doing some gigs together – he also runs a thing called the Western Queensland Drought Appeal, but his main thing was that he just wanted to create some awareness around it, and put on some music events, really just so people could come out and have a good time. I think that’s what the main thing was. And Fanny and I were talking and she really wanted to go to Queensland and these shows came up. So it was just a really perfect fit, and they’re really excited too that these are happening.
In terms of Rotary’s involvement, have they helped you organise it or they’re just making sure
that people get out on the day?
T: It’s kind of been a joint effort, but really they’re the machine behind it.
It seems like such a good fit that I’m wondering why it doesn’t happen more, that they get involved with organising tours because they obviously are in a lot of country towns and they know what their communities need, and bringing storytellers – which is what you are – to those towns would be hugely valuable.
F: I think it’s about finding a motivated person and then also finding people that often maybe they’d think it would cost too much money. I think there’s just a bit of a barrier there – a communication barrier. It should happen more.
So perhaps this is the start of a long and beautiful association between you two and them.
T: Could be good.
F: We’ll do this tour first and then we’ll let you know. [Laughs] Just kidding – no, it’ll be awesome.
T: Yeah, that’s right.
Fanny, I’m thinking this will be slightly different to your Country Halls tours because you’re not just hopping in your caravan and taking off – except I know you organise your tours ahead. I know you’re from western New South Wales but I’m wondering why you make it a priority to play in country towns?
F: Why not? Basically. They’re just a town like any other town, and you could go to the city and get that. I grew up in the country and I know that people really appreciate it when you bring something to their town. If you live in the country people will travel. They have to drive hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Ks just to go to live music. If you go there, I’ve found – or we’ve found with the Country Halls tours – they’re so supportive. I’m writing music about that world anyway so I thought why not share it with the people who are inspiring me.
And Tobias, for you, how do you feel about going out into country towns and making music, because it takes an effort to organise that too.
T: I’m really excited. I’ve spent a bit of time playing in rural areas. I’ve never been out to Longreach so I’ll be a real tourist, I think, but I’m really looking forward to it because I know that when you get out, off the beaten track, there’s much more of an appreciation for music and connection as well. That’s what I get excited about. Just meeting new people.
And I suppose also it’s that you’re storytellers going into these towns – there is that sense of an exchange, almost, and who knows what comes out of it for either one of you in terms of songs you might want to write or experiences you might want to document.
T: Yeah. It ticks all the boxes for me, I’m really excited.
Fanny, have you ever been to these towns before?
F: Yes. My dad’s idea of a holiday when we were young was to put the bags in the car and all of us kids and then drive northwest, and pull over to the side of the road and camp. So we would go up to Queensland a lot because he had lots of friends on different stations, so we would go to their stations and help them work as our holiday – which we were thrilled about as kids. So I did spend a fair bit of time there and I had some family who lived up there too. I haven’t been up there for a long time, too – maybe since I was in my teens. It’ll be nice to get back out there.
How did you choose these towns? Some of them are really small – one of them has just over a hundred people. Was it Rotary that suggested these particular towns?
T: Yes – David Phelps, who has helped put all this together, these are the communities that are really close to his heart, and he knows them out there, so he’s chosen those venues.
F: I don’t think that size really reflects how something will be supported, because we’ve found in the Country Halls tours – the Country Halls tours are separate to our caravanning tours. Country Halls are full band, all the halls apply – it’s a really different thing. We’ve found that the halls that we go to that are literally a hall in the middle of a paddock and a hundred Ks or more to another town, they’re the ones that sell out every time. Those are the ones that are way more supported than anything you would put on in the middle of the city, for sure. Because people don’t have choice – they think, ‘Oh my god, something’s happening – let’s go!’ It’s not, ‘I might go to that but I might go to this or I might not like them.’
T: [Laughs] That’s awesome.
F: People will drive hundreds of Ks to those kinds of shows, so when I’m choosing halls – and I’m sure that this will be reflected in the tour – I’ll choose the tiniest, tiniest places over the big places every time.
I’m just wondering at the things you’ve seen in the last couple of years alone. You’ve been to so many different places, it’s amazing.
F: [Laughs] Yeah. What are you wondering, though? [Laughs]
It’s more a comment than anything – it’s a range of experience that a lot of artists don’t have because it is a big commitment to go out to all those destinations.
F: Yes. I just think they’re the best shows ever. They’re just funnest and, like Toby said, you get to meet so many other people and it’s like this conversation rather than being a one-way delivery of something. It’s a two-way beneficial kind of thing that happens. It’s a risk, and that’s fun too.
Tobias, how are you going to organise the sets – who gets to go on first, are you going to play any songs together?
T: I think there’s going to be a few local kids in each town who are going to play a little bit first, then I’ll be playing then Fanny, and Dan [Fanny’s partner] will be wowing everyone with their set. And we might have a jam at the end – I’ll bring my banjo and we’ll see how it goes [laughs].
F: I reckon we should definitely have a jam, do some songs together.
T: I think it will be great fun.
You could add to the fun for everyone by springing songs on each other.
F: Haha! I don’t know the words to any songs, I would be so bad at that game.
Shane Nicholson is known for doing Song Bingo, where he hands out tickets and if your number is called you can request a song. He said that sometimes he thinks people giving him the most obscure songs, and sometimes it goes badly and that’s part of the fun too.
T: For sure. I saw him do that at Tamworth – it was great. It was an awesome way to get everyone involved in the set.
You mentioned those local kids who will be playing – is Rotary organising that or are you going to do a stunt audition on the day?
T: It’s funny – putting this together, a lot of people have hopped on board, and there’s a group of people in Longreach called The Music Makers, and they do music workshops with people who want to play music, and they take it out to different and smaller communities. So they’ve really jumped at the chance to help out with that. We’ll be mingling with them a little bit before the shows and then their star pupils will get up and do a number or two.
Fanny, I also wanted to ask you about Broadbeach Country Music Festival and Gympie, because clearly Queensland is going to become a second home for you. What are you looking forward to for each of those festivals?
F: It’ll be the first time we’ve had our band together for a long time. We’ll have the full Thrillseeker line-up, so that will be amazing. And I’ve never played Broadbeach before, so that will be great. Gympie we played for the first time last year and had such a ball, such a fun festival. We’re going to be bringing some new stuff to the set, which is really exciting. It’s going to be really fun. We’re really going to work on our set and hopefully bring our best show. And I’m excited about the other artists, obviously.
And Tobias, you’ve played Gympie, obviously, because that’s where you two met, but have you ever played Broadbeach?
T: No, I haven’t. But I was at the Blues on Broadbeach, and I have to say it’s a fantastic event – the energy there is amazing. There are so many people and the great weather and all these outdoor stages. It’s really great.
The Country Music Festival should ask you, too – you don’t live that far away. You could drive down on the morning!
T: [Laughs] For sure. Maybe.
F: You should call them up and heckle them about it.
Or maybe stand there during Fanny’s set and heckle.
F: Either or. Come on the same and heckle.
Now, Fanny you mentioned putting new stuff in your set, so I imagine there may be a new album in the works – is that the case?
Yes, we just successfully crowdfunded the second album.
I actually was part of that – I should remember! [Laughs]
F: [Laughs] Awesome – thanks! We have announcements about that coming soon. We definitely will be incorporating the new music into the sets. We have some stuff in the works.
At a festival you’re not necessarily playing for your fans – because that’s the nature of festivals. It’s probably a really good opportunity to play some new stuff and see how it goes acros.
F: Exactly. We’ll play some of the old stuff as well, obviously, but I’m all for playing new stuff. It’s just fun for us, mostly. [Laughs] But there are fans who come and they get really excited about the new things as well, and if you’re telling a story around it and you give people context, they’re usually pretty receptive to new stuff, which is great.
And Tobias, I think you’ve always got something creative on the boil, but do you have a new definitive project, like an album in mind?
T: I’ve just recorded a new EP with a very dear friend who’s a music producer. We actually played in our first band together when we were thirteen, when we busked at the markets, Actually, we were in grade four – we used to do AC/DC covers. Singing things like ‘She’s got the jack’ – we had no idea what we were talking about. So that’s been a really great experience. And I’m the process of writing a new album, too – the third album – which has been really great fun.
Have you considered recording these Queensland gigs?
F: No, we haven’t.
T: Good idea.
F: We’ll see how they go. We have all our stuff with us, all our recording stuff, so we can if we feel like it at the time. I’ll definitely document as we go, film things as we go. We definitely won’t be livestreaming because there’s definitely not enough service out there.
The requirements sometimes with social media for artists, I sometimes wonder if they’re too much – you just want to get up and do your jobs.
F: Yes, it is sometimes too much. Especially when there’s lots of other elements or other organisations that are requiring something of you. But I wouldn’t want to take away from the actual event because we were filming it. We want to be focused on having a good time.
Well, I am curious to see what comes out of this – I have visions of different types of collaborations between the two of you. No pressure.
T: [Laughs] We’ll keep you posted.
Thursday 20th July – Longreach Civic Centre – Longreach, QLD
Friday 21st July – Ilfracombe Hall – Ilfracombe, QLD
Saturday 22nd July – Isisford Hall – Isisford, QLD
Sunday 23rd July– Yaraka Hall – Yaraka, QLD
Concerts in Ilfracombe, Isisford and Yaraka are free entry. Please arrive early to guarantee your seat.
Tickets to the Longreach concert are FREE – registrations are essential. Click here to register.