Gina Jeffreys, one member of the ‘Songbirds’ trio, speaks with Focus about the tour, her ‘big break’, and being a happy working mum.
Tell us how this tour started. Who came up with the idea to do a tour as the ‘Songbirds’?
Well, Sara, Beccy and I always thought it would be so much fun to tour together, and we were always mates. Beccy and I were each other’s bridesmaids at our weddings, and she jokes that I was also the bridesmaid at her divorce (laughs). She also jokes that she was the flower girl, because she is that fraction younger!
We’ve really good friends, Beccy and I for twenty years, and Beccy, Sara and I, friends for nearly ten years. One day we just joked around and suggested getting out on the road together, and we thought, “Maybe one tour”. Our managers and agents loved the idea, and we just went out and kept doing sell out shows, and that led to another tour … then another tour and now we’re into our third year of touring!
We try not to tour constantly though … three or four nights a week at the most. We all have families, including the members of the band, and we are all very family oriented.
It has since snowballed – ‘Songbirds’ made a DVD which went gold really quickly … it was just one of those things that worked accidently, just through mates who wanted to go on the road together for a bit of fun.
> How are each of you different musically?
It’s interesting, really. We’re all country singers, we all fit under the one umbrella – but we are very different.
Beccy is really raunchy … and so funny! She is one of the funniest people I have ever met. I cry from laughing whenever I am with her.
Sara is very dry, very down to earth … she is almost like a young female John Williamson – an incredible songwriter and just very relaxed. Very Darwin actually, because that’s where she is from! And me – I am very talkative, and my music is very girl next door-y.
We’re all really different. Some have described us as the country Spice Girls! Beccy is Naughty Spice, Sara would be Bush Spice, and I would by Sparkly Spice, because I love really sparkly clothes! That sums us up and kind of describes our music as well! It all flows really well, and when we were designing the show, we soon discovered that’s what makes the ‘Songbirds’ a success – we’re different.
> Take us back to the Star Maker Talent Quest that you won in 1991. It launched your career and shot you to fame.
Yeah, I went to Tamworth to compete way back in ‘91. I was living in Toowoomba at the time, and I was still living at home with my parents and in my early twenties.
I went in this great talent quest, which in the previous years had been won by Lee Kernaghan, Beccy Cole, The McClymonts and Keith Urban. So already it was looking like the kind of competition that found the stars of country music. You can go through a lot of the history and find that many starts came from this competition.
That, for me, was a big turning point … the industry was looking straight to that and was looking for the next big thing. I met my manager through that event, Doug Trevor, who is still my manager today.
I got a record deal and a publishing deal, and before I knew it, it had gone really quick. Suddenly I was doing sold out shows and performing all over Australia. It was a whirlwind, and immediately I was a country singer.
I am very thankful for Star Maker. I came from a country town; I didn’t know how to approach the industry leaders. I walked into this with no connections! So I feel really lucky that I have this opportunity.
> It’s inspiring that despite global hardships, people still turn to music for hope. Do you think this is the case for country music fans?
You’re so right. So many people who are facing the drought, facing the economic downturn, going through difficult times … they really turn to music to lift their spirit. We find that people see music as timeless.
And there is so much talent out there, so it’s keeps growing, and country music will never end – even when times get tough.
> You have won a lot of awards and travelled a lot of miles as a performer, but now you have a family, with the arrival of Jackson. Describe your life for our readers right now.
I live on the Central Coast of NSW today, as most music artists do for transport advantages. When I was pregnant with Jackson, I decided to stop touring for a while – I really pulled back.
My priority was being a mum, and that comes first. Anything that fits around me being a mum, I’ll do it, if it can’t – I won’t. I’m really inflexible on that. I used to say, “Yes” to everything, but now I say, “Yes” to Jackson and my beautiful husband all the time. So yes, my priorities have completely flipped – but that’s me being a mum.
In saying that, I have had a great career! I am 41 and it has been an amazing life. I have done everything I have ever wanted to do … and more! I really feel like every dream I have ever had has come true, and I’m extremely satisfied.
And having the opportunity to get out on the road with the ‘Songbirds’ and continue living the dream, it means so much to me.
> Thanks Gina.