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Emma Beau is hitting the stage for her debut solo at the Gympie Muster
WITHOUT a doubt, Gympie local Emma Beau has benefited from working alongside some of Australia’s top-level talent during her short career – from record executives and ARIA-winning music producers to country music royalty Troy Cassar-Daley, Kasey Chambers and Sara Storer.
But some things just can’t be taught: like prolific musicianship, impeccable, soulful vocals and good old-fashioned authenticity.
Congrats on your upcoming solo debut at Gympie Muster next month! How did that feel getting the call-up?
Thank you! It’s so exciting. They only called me about a month ago, so I actually wasn’t sure if it was going to happen. It actually feels really nerve-wracking – I played there two years ago with Jon English and Kasey Chambers, so it’s totally going to add to the excitement level to be playing there on my own. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years.
You actually toured extensively with Jon English (who passed away in 2016) – he was a real mentor to you, wasn’t he?
Yes, he was a real inspiration and he actually still is. I still listen to his music and also play in a group (Songbirds) with two former Jon English bandmates. In Jon’s band we were all like family, we never fought, and it still feels like that today. I’ll definitely be playing one of his songs at the Muster.
You play quite a few different instruments – violin, fiddle and guitar – how did that come about?
I started violin when I was eight and played classical music with the school orchestra. But we moved to Gympie when I was 15 and then I started playing country music, being at a country music high school! The guitar I first picked up around 13 years old – mum had an old guitar from the ’70s she didn’t play anymore so I just picked it up and started playing.
I actually wrote my first song around then at the Gympie Songwriters organisation (run by John Bromell, former managing director of Warner Chappell Music). I’m sure the song was really bad but John really encouraged me to keep going.
Do you have a favourite instrument?
I always go back to the violin, it’s my soul instrument. Having said that, I have three different guitars on stage with me as I love all the different sounds they make. I play a blend of country, folk and roots, so having the different guitars allows for that.
How did you start touring with such big-name artists?
I won the 2011 Golden Fiddle Award (Youth Achievement) at Tamworth Country Music Festival and started touring after that.
When I was younger I was singing pop/country, but going on tour with people like Kasey Chambers, who sings everything from blues to folk, pop and country, you can’t help but be influenced.
I’ve also had a huge influence of ’60s and ’70s music from my parents, including Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin – whatever my parents were listening to. I’m such an old soul really!
Any really special touring moments you can recall – like a wow, how did I get here?
The most amazing moment was playing with Jon English on the Gympie Muster stage. I just took a mental photograph in my brain and thought ‘I never want to forget this moment’. I looked over at Jon and it was really special. I also loved that after a show we’d just go and stand out the back and debrief. At the end of the day, he was just a normal human, but there was something special about his spirit.
How do you come up with your tracks – do they just pop into your head or is it something you have to put work into? How do you capture them?
One song can take two years and be a real labour of love, other songs can take just five minutes. The creative process is strange, you just can’t predict it. Some artists put down the melody and then the lyrics or the other way around, lyrics then melody. I actually write both at the same time. Usually I’m sitting on the bed with my guitar hashing it out and record it on my phone. I write a lot in the motel room.
The tracks are inspired by all different things, like touring and relationships forming. I also suffered a lot from anxiety and depression, so the songs are also inspired by my own personal growth. Anything creative is a positive thing; it’s a brilliant healing tool.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Jason Isbell (Alabama-born singer-songwriter-guitarist). His wife is also a singer-songwriter and violinist.
Where to next?
After the Gympie Muster I’ll be heading straight into the studio (Sydney-based recording studio Love HZ run by ARIA-winning producers Matt Fell and Michael Carpenter). I wouldn’t go anywhere else, the studio is amazing and Matt’s also from Gympie!
You crowdfunded your debut EP, which did really well. Are you working on a debut album?
Yes, it’s all perfect timing with the Gympie Muster and crowdfunding campaign for the debut album. The album isn’t just all about the music though, by crowdfunding it becomes more a community experience for me and about connecting with people.
I feel like I’m in a good place at the moment, coming back to my roots and having a country element to my music, all with a ’70s vibe. It’s the most Emma thing I’ve ever done!
One song can take two years and be a real labour of love, other songs can take just five minutes. The creative process is strange, you just can’t predict it.
I feel like I’m in a good place at the moment, coming back to my roots and having a country element to my music, all with a ’70s vibe.
Emma is crowdfunding her debut album and will start recording soon.
Gympie singer-songwriter Emma Beau performing onstage.
Emma Beau will perform at the Gympie Muster next month.
Emma says she loves the ’70s vibe.
Gympie Muster 2016.