"After spending most of my life on the east coast and enjoying a temperate to sub-tropical climate for much of that time, the need to experience something quite different began gnawing away at me and finally resulted in a decision – I wanted to take our family to the Red Centre and feel a totally contrasting geographical reality. This would be a chance to perform our music to a whole new audience and allow our children to see life from another perspective – ON THE ROAD! From the 5 star luxury of Yulara Resort at Uluru to our campsite at Granite Downs on the Oodnadatta Track we experienced extremes in location and emotion but the overwhelming feeling was, "Wow, what a fabulous adventure!"
Joining Leigh, myself and our three children Jasmine, Ryleigh and Lara was Andrew Clermont, his adorable partner Pauline and the girls, Sunshine, Natasha and Elisma. A musical gypsy, Andrew brings passion and life to the stage with his amazing dexterity on fiddle, mandolin and guitar, not forgetting didgeridoo and castanets!!! Also a singer, the three of us enjoyed the harmonic blend of our voices as we performed our repertoire of everything from classic country to Irish ballads and jigs to our originals, some of which were completed on the journey.
Not only did we share some magical musical moments on our trip: the gastronomic delights would have put many restaurants to shame- home made bread, banana fritters with maple syrup, delicious casseroles and probably the best apple pie I’ve ever had! We were all good cooks and armed with our trusty gas burner we would cook up a storm wherever we went.
The journey kicked off with a Midday Show launch, live from Seaworld on the Gold Coast. Port Macquarie was our first destination and turned out to be one of those ill-fated gigs- booked the same night as the "State of Origin": Whoops! To make matters worse, I copped a hefty fine and points off my license for neglecting to put my seat-belt back on after a fuel stop, just 800 metres from the gig! On the upside, Trish Davis, a wonderful friend who looks after Graeme Connors fan club, arrived with a table full of friends and brightened the evening. We camped the following night west of Wauchope at a place called Swan’s Crossing in the Kerewong State Forest – the adventure had begun!
Kootingal, north of Tamworth was our next stop – staying with Andrew, rehearsing the repertoire, sitting by the fire, and talking about the journey ahead of us. We headed off to Tamworth next day and spent some time with Clelia Adams, a wonderful woman who sings like a bird and makes a damn fine vegetable soup! There was also time to catch up with Graeme Connors who was in town – Graeme has always been a supportive friend in the business. (Honest and down-to-earth, a great songwriter too) – I remember reflecting on the last ‘big trip’ we did in October 97, when our car broke down 70 km north of Mackay at a place called Yalbaroo. Graeme drove the distance picked the kids and I up and deposited us safely on a southbound bus for a memorable 22-hour ride. Leigh remained behind to fix the car and arrived home 3 days later! Yes, it’s the same car on this trip – a 78 Peugeot 504 diesel sedan, this time towing a trailer!
From Tamworth we headed to the coast for a gig at Forster Bowling Club. This is my dad’s home town and he had organised most of the audience in attendance. We adjusted our repertoire to suit the age group (this was dad’s suggestion!) " They like to hear something they know...", so we obliged. At the end of the night however, the general consensus on their favourite song was ‘Ryleigh’s Last Run’ an original we’d recently penned about an XPT train driver enjoying his final journey and reflecting on life on the rails.
South we drove, to Queanbeyan, close to my old stomping ground of Canberra. Bill Stephens runs a School of Arts Cafe in the town and still has photographs of me on the wall from my musical theatre days – talk about memory lane! We also met Dave Peters, a local FM Country presenter...quite a character!
To the town of Mildura where we stayed at Chris and Ineke Rogers place. Chris has been taking care of sound production on tour with Graeme Connors. Caught up with Max Thorburn and the gang at Hot FM – they’ve been very supportive of our album, "Share" and Andrew's "The Longing", and it was great to see people in the audience at The Sandbar that night singing along to the words of our original songs. Thanks to Loretta (manager of The Sandbar) for her ‘Olives in pastry’ recipe!
I’d been looking forward to Adelaide, as we had been invited to stay with songwriting friend and Radio National presenter, Richard Porteous. Richard came to both our gigs in Adelaide and we even managed to get him up to sing on one of his songs at the "Governor Hindmarsh". I’ve recently recorded two songs that will be coming out on September 4 on the ABC CD ‘Open Road’ vol. 2 and one of these was penned by Richard called ‘Sometimes Saying Ain’t Enough’. At our gig at the Adelaide Festival Theatre, as part of their Sunday Salon shows, we had around 700 people in the audience. It reminded me how nice it is not to have to compete with poker machines and loud chatter. As a performer you can really tell the story and take the people on a musical journey. Congratulations to my old friend, Christopher Naylor, who puts these concerts together.
The three day journey to Alice was broken by two stops – the first at Pimba Roadhouse where we bartered a one-hour set of music for a night's accommodation for the ten of us. The crowd was full of big-hearted rough diamonds – a couple of the guys came over to us after the gig and told us how moved they were by some of our songs. The second night was spent camping on the Oodnadatta Track near Granite Downs in the Pitjantjatjara country – our east coast mentality began to slip away waking up to a brilliant sunrise out there in the wide open spaces. What an amazing sense of peace I had being so far away from civilization as I knew it. This ancient land of ours was seeping into my veins and appealed to my quest to connect with my Aboriginal brothers and sisters, the oldest known human culture...
Nightfall saw us arrive at Heavitree Gap Resort where a gig and a night’s accommodation turned into 5 night’s work and a friendship I feel will stand the test of time. Scott Dawson, a singer/songwriter lives in the Alice and works at ‘Heavitree’. His is the classic story of someone that arrived out there on a holiday and forgot to leave! He and his brother Darren are big John Williamson fans and perform a repertoire of great songs from ballads that really tug on the heartstrings, to the hilariously funny, when they’re not doing damper demos! (My son attended the reptile show every night!)
Alice Springs and its surrounding countryside, is some of the most beautiful I’ve seen anywhere: Trephina Gorge Nature Reserve, West MacDonnell Ranges including Ormiston Gorge, the colours of the ochres, these images will live in my heart and mind for a long time. Thanks to the friendly folk at Heavitree we ended up with a booking at the Yulara resident’s club, which gave us the opportunity to witness the intense beauty of Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) – true wonders of the world. The Anangu people, traditional Aboriginal owners of Uluru , ask visitors not to climb the rock so we chose to walk around it and respect it for the great spiritual monument that it is.
Back to Alice for some busking in the mall with the kids and our grand finale performance at the Alice Springs Show just ahead of the spectacular fireworks. We said goodbye to Alice Springs with an evening campfire and songs into the wee small hours. One woman at a nearby campsite enjoyed the music so much she kept bringing over another log for the fire just so we wouldn’t stop playing.
Our journey home included Tennant Creek, Cloncurry, and Barcaldine, but the destination was Carnarvon Gorge National Park near Emerald.
The Family Tour crew with Andrew (glasses), Pauline,
Elizabeth Lord, Leigh James and the touring families.
Photo taken at Carnarvon Gorge.
As the campground was booked out (being NSW school hols) we camped for 2 nights on the outskirts – absolutely gorgeous. Leigh and Andrew walked the entire length of the gorge – in a natural amphitheatre at the end of the gorge, Leigh sang ‘Nature Boy’ and was blown away by the acoustics – he swears he will return with a DAT walkman to capture the experience!
Our final moment was a performance at the Redland Bay Bluegrass Convention, near Brisbane. Andrew played a well loved set and was joined by Rod McCormack, Donna Reynolds, Leigh and yours truly. The whole thing was captured on video – what a night ! Those McCormack brothers are something else; the highlight would have to have been Mick Albeck, Jeff and Rod McCormack in the headlining performance with Andrew jamming along – sensational!
This tour was more than I ever could hope for: We sold out of "Share" CDs, covered over 10,000 kms in the mighty Peugeot, experienced temperatures ranging from - 8*C, with snow, to 38*C above, and best of all, met some truly wonderful people. I have a yearning to return to the centre that is almost tangible. Plans are underway for our next collaborative trip to who knows where? My thanks to all the people along the way who made the trip both possible and enjoyable. The whole thing was an act of faith and reminded me that we are all capable of bringing this wonderful gift of music "to the people". Travel far and wide but wherever you are, sing and play from the heart and you will inspire the same in others.
1) - Pat Drummond and I make our way down from Gympie Country Music Muster (just north of Brisbane) to connect with Karen Lynn (congrats on her marriage to Banjo & other attributes generally nice guy, Martin Louis) directly in from London. We converged at Moree airport (NW NSW) to spend the day at the notorious Bullarah Bush Expo - featuring us naturally, dog high-jump (8ft 'n more!), plus of course, Dog Lotto, where punters bet on the tyre of many, laid out around the edge of the yard. The dog, released in the centre, will always seek to christen such an offering. Good ol' country fun to fundraise for the local school. The tug-o-war between the adults and mass kids was pretty hilarious. For songs of such lives see Pat's 'Laughter like a Shield' CD. The next morning saw two school sessions, the drive back to Tamworth for me and then the Blue Mountains for my companions , 500km later, phew!
2a) - The spring leg brings Pauline & girls to Grafton Arts Festival. A week's intensive workshop - 'Trouble Shooting for Musicians' (for me to run) and painting for the girls to absorb them. 6 days later the group of 8, ages 12 to 55, presented their piece-deresistance complete with behind the head, mandolin solo from the youngest, followed by the not to be out done team, altogether, behind the backs of their heads finale! A good laugh and with such an out-tro, we whisked into the night. A mad dash to Tamworth, final OS air ticket details over the mobile to Adelaide and organise mail pick up at home town, Moonbi (round 11pm!) as we zip passed. The postie Mum is a darling, mmm, better send a postcard.
2b) - So I's re-packed by 12.55am and Alkina, bemused, drops me at the Bus. I'm into Sydney by 7am Friday - fit in some emails at the depot; buzz Canberra coincidentally and realise I can drop a swag of CD product off with friends to arrive at Ballarat a month later for the last touring leg; Adelaide by 7.30am next morning; picked up by Dad; Brekky with Mum; lift 70km to Victor Harbour Folk Festival; start workshop round 11am (but they can't find the key- eventually we break in!)
2c) - A smorgasbord of all kinds of music - Judging the song writing with other partners in music crime; a happiness re-union with Marcia Howard & Rose Bygraves (Goanna) - thanks girls, the queens of vibe! Indian Ragas and a divine trio with John Francis (master interpreter of song) and Margy (the fastest harmony-finding singer in the west, and great friend & safety house to the wandering minstrels). Last gig starts at midnight Monday morning (after a day of much mingling with local friends - happy house-warming Peter & Liz). Brent Miller, another tourer extraordinaire, grants a ride back to Adelaide as our gigs finished close together; Mandolin is secured by another peer for collection that month latter in Ballarat - great coincidence of location. I'm now 30 kilos lighter for the plane - that's the luggage, not me, ahem!
Arrive 3am at the folks place (funny how they've always been there where & when I've needed them - 'Love' is not a big enough word for their part in my lives), pack & re-pack and it's 5am, just in time for Brekky before the 7am flight! I'm hoping this will guarantee sleep on the plane. (Y'all better take a refreshment break).
2d) - Here begins the saga of the little black bag ($1,200 in goodies for stage performance, 5kg and just holding together). It gets left at Mum & Dad's even before the first flight, Dad delivers it just prior to flight lift off. Close but safely on board. We are USA bound with Dya Singh (Indian) World Music Group. Great movies on the plane tease one from sleep obligations but the flight seems short so no doubt there was some sleep. Arrival in LA to an ear to ear grinning Sikh, Simaron - her smile & goodwill stays as a companion still, with but a moments recall.
A night off to adjust - Ah! But there is no need to rest I declare, as the finger randomly picks a music shop in the phone book. "Hi - blah, blah, blah" "Well you should go to 'The Gig'!" (A songwriter's haven). So I chase it up by phone and Shane Soloski puts my name on the door, "Yeah, I'd love some fiddle on a few songs, come on over". The night is shared with Stephen Stills's daughter, Jenny, plus ex-Mavericks guitar/steel man, Ben Peeler. I don't get home and the pace is set for the zig-zags across the land and oceans of October.
13 flights; Grand Canyon to Big Ben, Empire State Building to Shakespeare's House in Stratford upon Avon. Home via Singapore completed my first continuous lap of the globe. Strange, I got pretty tired! The body definitely has problems with shorter days as you fly west to east. We all get used to drawn out days, but shorter is confounding.
The company was great. Dya Singh himself, on soaring vocals & Harmonium (a hand bellows driven keyboard) and a constant source of new scales to taunt me each gig; Deeraj, master of the Tabla (the very melodic Indian drums), Parvan, the young starlet, a beautiful voice and spirit with a gratefully small ego, (er, that's a compliment Parv!). Dya's eldest daughter, Jamel & new son-in-law Harven, kept the tour smooth and balanced, well fed and financial when needed - a touch of class for sure. Missing daughter Harsell studied for exams at home and got tons of pressies instead.
Can't forget Simon, our (go out of his way) guide to the 4 corner states - Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado & Utah. He provided our Ying & Yang, between the hands to the wheel, the laughs and the very few tensions. 'Twas a tour to be blessed with sights in blue skies and friendships.
2e) - The Days of Extreme Travel - Part 1. LA to Pittsburgh for a 20min show and back to Espanol in New Mexico. That's like Perth to Adelaide & back to Albany via Kalgoolie!
The Days of Extreme Travel - Part 2. Morning at Ouray, hot springs in the snow, nestled high in the Rockies of Colorado after Crested Butte (pronounced Beaut) at 14,000ft, mountain passes at 11,000ft ; touch the four states; cannonball through astounding Monument Valley in the Navaho Lands till Phoenix midway down Arizona 14hrs later. Phew!
2f) - Finally to New York for sights, sound and traffic. We do the Mega Show for the gathered fans on Long Island. Two concerts were televised to the World Wide Web shortly after arriving in US (on a wing & a prayer). We hit NY 2 weeks later like the waters of the flooding rain from up river - we did what we set out to do, and possibly more.
However after hopping on the Jet, I was feeling too light; sure enough, the little black bag had been left in the terminal. The stewards ring and declare the Port Authority has it. Should the bag not make the flight in time it will certainly be on the very next. And so it was, that six weeks later, while coincidental in Adelaide, I manage to locate the bag in the never, never inner linings of the baggage claims in Sydney with a confused area-coded-mobile phone number. All did arrive intact (though, having opened the bag to check contents, they were unable to fit Humpty together again).
3) - Travel Berserk. Dear friend Nayia, source of my daughter's name, visits from France with her complete family of 5. Over ten years have passed since eyeballing. Despite two passing visits to Adelaide near their expected arrival time, the connection still misses. Finally I find a spare 24hrs and it's time to look at those gathered frequent flyer points (kept poised for family & friends). The bullet is bit and we rendezvous at Adelaide airport, south for lunch, talk, mingle, music, jam, laugh, babble, jam, wine, more wine, dine, blah - blah, sleep at the folks (coincidentally conveniently just up the road); walk back for a string ensemble gathering for brunch. We laughed & near cried as we brushed the leaves off the connecting paths of friendship between us; getting to good 1st base with the growing family with commitment to the longer road of good friends. Arrive back in Tamworth about 30hrs after departure.
We did manage some short but blissful jams and of course a more refined palate from being near wine-making greatness as their awarded product prove. A Beaujolais for all occasions: Julienas - Hautecombe.
This paragraph came recently in an email. Every so often we receive reminders of where we've been, both good & bad (may they be few!) here's one from the good basket:
"Keep playing and getting joy out of it. I have many areas of creativity myself, but I have to say that I don't need to personally explore music because as an audience, as it were, music takes me to places in my soul that I cannot find on my own. That is the point of it and hopefully in the middle of some of the music, tough times that you (as all musicians) go through, remember that you do fill people with magic and hope just by pulling that bow across that fiddle. The hearing of it makes for better people, even if just for a moment, but that is worth so much."
So then it finally comes down to the creme de la creme for we of the collector's habit; used to the screams of horror (from the unconverted) when we spot the potential golden offerings from the hallowed Garage Sales. What does your mind conjure up as the last thing you'd find - let alone buy, at a Garage sale? Well…..? How about a…
Now this is actually a story from dear mate & performer, Pat Drummond. We've spent a fair distance on the road uncovering the Universe, as can happen, and so I re-tell as I recall….
His neighbours, just up the street had decided on a clearing of gear, for all & sundry and, try as family & friends might, he still spotted it gleefully. So with a sparkle in his eye and drool at the potential finds, he slipped silently away to the awaiting Saturday morning home stall. Before long, with an even more gleeful look and far more secretive steps, he makes for his safety-house, the Shed. With only seconds of manoeuvring to go, a scream & wail falls upon him from the balcony. "What in heavens name is that?" (possibly less graceful terms were used!) Pat, in his caught out, one foot to the other kind of way, calls back with as much enthusiasm and 'Aren't you impressed with this find!' kind of tone, "It's a . . . . Pie Warmer!" The chorus return was instantaneous. "What? A PIE-WARMER? Don't even think of bringing that junk inside! How could we possibly need a pie warmer!?"
Well they & you might ask. However, despite being forbidden in the house and banished to the shed, the unassuming Pie Warmer lay calm & indifferent. The ribbing and jokes to follow this acquisition (and at $10, how could any sane person pass it up?!) would test Pat's metal for quite a while. We collectors do know however, that our day does come.
The memory of the Warmer had barely subsided when the Illawarra Folk Festival calls Pat with a curious inquiry. "Pat, is it possible that what we hear is true, that you in fact possess a . . . pie warmer? . . . We were wondering at what cost we could procure it for the next festival?"
As you can imagine, lights and bells were going off around Pat's head. "About $2.50" he said with a smile. "Because that's about how much a phone call to home will be, while I'm away this week, and ask Carol for it!!"
Ah! Revenge would be sweet! But not only did the pie warmer then become an icon of the festival, it is now a veritable platform for the United Collectors Front! Believe it or not, the saga grew ever onwards, for there came the day, where on return from another tour of duty (and potential collection of course), where should the Pie Warmer be, but in the kitchen. The kitchen from whence it was once banished, no less. In fact their newly installed walloven unit had broken down, and Carol's only immediate course of action could be, to call upon . . . that unwanted, banished pie thing. Yep, saving the day yet again. So now as you might guess, that humble pie warmer, who never had to say a word in defence or aggression, was now an integral part of the Drummond household. A heater when cold, an extra warm hand when needed, a source of solace, in the wee hours, and of course, . . . the keeper of the last laugh, Amen. Mind you, I do know where there's a cute Bay Marie. Only needs a little work, Pat.!
On a more sobering thought: I travel quite far through the years, see those sights & delights, but I can always assure you, each time I return I know we are most definitely in a lucky country. The problems we do encounter, tend to stem mainly from forgetting that truthful fact. Lucky. May you all attract the life you seek, to enjoy both the trip there, the arrival and finale.
Love & the Magic in Music to All,
yours ever here & there, Andrew.