Our Writers in Action students got to interview some of this year’s Bendigo Blues and Roots Festival musos. The stories are great, so we’re sharing them here, starting with this article, written by TOM O’CALLAGHAN.
Stringybark McDowell, covered in tats and dreadlocks and his trademark top-hat, is travelling far from home for gigs these days.
Formerly based in Geelong, McDowell’s now living way out in South Australia’s Riverland area.
“There’s no gigs out where I am because people don’t have a lot of money. My closest gigs are like an hour away and they’re only once a month.”
Not that he’s too worried.
“I’m not one of these musos who has to play every gig on the planet, all the time. I’m a bit more of a casual musician than what most people are, I s’pose. I’m not trying to be a pop star. I do it for the love of it.”
Nevertheless, right now he’s winding up a few gigs in Tasmania, then travelling back home for a few weeks before the Bendigo Blues and Roots Festival kicks off.
It’s the fourth time he’s played the festival and he’s looking forward to sharing music from Madder than a Backward Flying Crow, the new album he and Molly CoddleCream have collaborated on.
“Bendigo is a place I’ve performed at for over 20 years. Ever since I started playing and touring ‘round I’ve always had great gigs in Bendigo, from the old Golden Vine days right through to various other venues. And Col Thompson (director of the Bendigo Blues and Roots Festival) has always been supportive. When I ring him up and say ‘I want to come to Vic for a few gigs’ he’ll get me a whole weekend in Bendigo.”
McDowell says it’s important for communities to have a live music scene. “Too many only support footy.”
McDowell’s built a career on the road, first as a member of Muddy Puddles and then on his own. He plays the blues and, like Tom Waits, sings like a bloke who has eaten gravel.
“My life’s simple. That’s my musical theory too. I was playing music before the internet come along and all of a sudden you’ve got to be a computer nerd just to apply for a gig. I tell people I can’t be ……!” (Sorry Tom, we had to bleep that one.)
His act’s an irreverent one, full of soul.
And just like his new album, he’s madder than a backward flying crow.
“You see an army going into battle and they all look the same. They’re all in that army and they are all a team of soldiers. Well I’m one of those guys that runs through the bush with all the war paint on and pumping off arrows into the trees.”
Stringybark McDowell is playing throughout the festival weekend. To find out more, click here.