Fresh home from the Tamworth Country Music Festival are the Dirtroad Cowgirls. We speak with Angelika Booth from the band about how their style of music developed.
What is your role in the band, and how did you come to meet each other?
My role in the Dirtroad Cowgirls is musical director, songwriter and bass player. Ardrie was passing through Elands; she was brought around to my place and we had a jam session together. We knew at once something special was happening. So I asked her to stay for a while so we could work together … she stayed for 34 months. I came up with the name Dirtroad Cowgirls, as we both live on dirt roads. I had a bunch of songs written which Ardrie liked, and she was keen to sing them. We had a great fun time working on them, did a few local gigs that got a fab response, so decided to stick together and keep working.
I had started playing in bands as a guitar player, playing in Sydney bands ‘Sheila’, and ‘The Widgies’, and after that I moved to Tamworth and met up with Jonny Green, who was forming a band with guitar player Mick Liber. They suggested I switch to bass and join them. I’d always had a penchant for bass anyway, so we were a rockabilly country blues band.
Who inspires you?
Bart Willoughby … singing his own songs and playing drums in ‘No Fixed Address’ inspired me to want to do my own songs, as I have always written. We became good friends, and I did a few gigs with him – including one of the Building Bridges Concerts, and Woodford festival in the Millenium year. I also played with other indigenous bands – notably Bushdoctor, a Darwin band that moved to Sydney. I used to play a lot of group shows with bands like Warrumpi Band, Bart’s other band Mixed Relations, Yothu Yindi.
All this in a roundabout way connected me to Ardrie. She was lead singer for Cheatin Hearts, a band founded by Grunta, who now plays with Jonny Green band the Blues Cowboys. The Cheatin Hearts were a four piece country band that grew into a six piece swinging country blues band she still remembers.
How did the DirtRoad Cowgirls get the ball rolling in the country music world?
Well, years later just as their band was starting to have big following, Ardrie decided to take a break for 6 weeks. In Alice Springs she met Chris from the Arranda Walpiri tribe. She went to live with him on his traditional land and raised 5 children. In that time she sang backing vocals on a record made at Camma Studios with A Black Storm; the album is called Desert Calling. When we were joining gigs in Queensland last year, a journo saw us busking at the local markets, stopped and listened for a while, then took photos and our names. Later in the week there were articles in the newspapers about us … It started us thinking we should get serious. We agreed to meet up in Tamworth 2009, which we did and busked on the street to a great response – especially to all the original tunes.
I heard that Enrec Studios had relocated back to Tamworth. I had worked with Steve Newton in the past playing bass on some of his Koori Classic series. He booked us in for April, I rounded up some musos for the session and spent a wonderful 3 days cooking up a storm in the studio and made the album Love Come Easy. It’s our debut album and we are very pleased with it, and those wonderful musicians who played on it … it was a labour of love and lots of fun to make.
Rumour has it you got addicted to country music by sneaking into festivals and big tops to see performers as a young girl?
I grew up in Mildura, going there as a migrant from Europe, when the travelling shows came to town. I used to hang around there as a kid, and once I slipped into the Jimmy Sharman Boxing tent. I found that a bit scary, came out and heard music from another tent, sneaked in there under the canvas flap and it was Slim Dusty and Joy McKean; baby Anne was crawling around their feet. I stayed and listened to quite a few shows … what influence that had, who knows, but after playing all styles of music I’ve come back to country.