Musicality was always in Graeme Bird’s bones, although he’ll readily admit that his career in music bloomed later in life. With two albums under his belt, Graeme now officially calls himself a musician …
His first album, Life on the Run, received plenty of overseas airplay and its title track – the rollicking Country romp – A Day in the Run, reached number 6 on the European Country Music Awards. Graeme’s second album, Reflections by Graeme Bird and Friends, is a heartfelt collection of songs with a distinctly Australian flavour, which reflects on significant experiences in Graeme’s life, including being a father. The album brims with an alternative Country influence and considers pertinent topics, including the angst felt by Australian farmers despairing over farming land being sold to overseas interests and the somewhat indiscriminate mining practices currently engulfing the country. Graeme talks to us about his love of music, which he has previously described as a “hobby that got out of hand”!
You live at Wherrol Flat with your wife, Rozann. How has living there influenced your songwriting and music?
Thirty two years ago, we bought a property in the Little Run Valley and moved here with our two young children. Being on the land was a totally new way of life for us, and we set about fencing, clearing and building our home, while at the same time getting a small herd of beef cattle together and setting up a saw mill. These experiences in mind have influenced some of my songs by reflecting, including A Day in the Run, Mountain Man, Little Run Dreaming and From the Heart. I think the peace and quiet and the tranquil surroundings help to put my mind to writing.
You are the front man on Reflections by Graeme Bird and Friends and wrote all of the songs on the album, although many other local talented musicians contributed to the album also …
We didn’t have to look far beyond the Manning Valley to find the talented musicians that we used to record Life on the Run and having formed friendships with them during the months of recording, it only took a phone call and they were all keen to be a part of the Reflections album. This is why I titled the album Reflections by Graeme Bird and Friends.
Tell us about the inspiration behind the tracks Only Son and Selling Us Out?
The inspiration for all of my songs comes from personal emotions and experiences; an example of this being Only Son. The idea for this song came to me when my son joined the Army and after all his basic training at Kapooka and in Sydney, he and his family flew out of Taree airport to go to Darwin, where he is stationed as a Combat Engineer. This was an emotional time of mixed feelings, and I then reflected on his Marching Out parade at Kapooka and of the ANZAC Day dawn services that we have attended together since he was a young lad.
Selling Us Out was inspired when during a top end trip a couple of years ago, I visited a friend on a property in the Northern Territory. While there, I learnt that some of their neighbouring and other large properties have been sold to overseas interests.
Then on our way back home through Queensland and the Hunter Valley in NSW, Rozann and I were surprised to see so much mining activity, and now we are concerned about the impact that Coal Seam Gas mining may have in our beautiful area if it should go ahead.
What’s the most amazing part about being a musician?
I see myself more as a songwriter. Creating new songs gives me great satisfaction; it becomes very personal, as you are exposing your inner thoughts and turning them into a song. Originally my idea was to just put my songs down for family and friends, but by doing the album on a ‘grander’ scale and now receiving airplay nationwide, that is what I find amazing!
Hearing a song come to life must be an exhilarating experience?
Yes, it certainly is … from the time you first put pen to paper, it can be a long or short process, depending on the song; sometimes I find it easy to start a song, but hard to finis … other times it comes to me very quickly. Also, condensing your thoughts into a few lines can be very difficult, but is becoming easier with the more experience I get. Once I have the lyric, I then think of the song and what it is about and try to arrange the appropriate chords and tempo to give the song the most meaning. Every song is different; it may be sad, happy, etc.
Another consideration is choosing which instruments to use on each song for the best effect. Once all this is done and the recording process is finished, finally hearing it come to life certainly is a great feeling.
You recently did a long road trip and played at different towns. What was this experience like?
Yes, Rozann and I did a trip to the top end through Queensland and the Northern Territory and eventually to Darwin to visit our son and his family. We both enjoy fishing and travelling to the more remote places, where we meet some great characters – all the while looking for ideas for writing new songs. I enjoy playing my songs around a fire in the camp grounds; people seem to appreciate some live music, some having been on the track for many weeks. This gives me a great opportunity to sell my CDs. Also, calling into Country radio stations, promoting the album and on occasion doing live interviews and having several songs played is a great way to get my music out there. A friend of ours, whom we visit at Borroloola in the N.T. is the DJ for The Voice of the Gulf radio. Val and I had a lengthy live interview, and she played quite a few of my songs. Experiences like this and the characters of the bush is what keeps drawing me back.
You are performing at the Wingham Rotary Town and Country Expo … when will people be able to see you play?
The Wingham Rotary Town and Country Expo will be held over two days and being a member of the club, the job of co-ordinating the music was given to me. So, I have arranged for five local bands to play over the two-day period. I have slotted myself to play before the first band on each day and hopefully if time allows, I can do another bracket during the day.
I will be playing on Friday 7 Sept at 11am to 11.30 am and on the Saturday from 9.30am to 10am. I will have my CDs there for sale, and I’d like to mention at this point that 25% of proceeds from the sale of CDs is going to the End Polio Now fund through the Rotary Club of Wingham.
How can people purchase your albums?
Now available at all good music stores, as WJO Distribution has taken it on physically and digitally.
Thank you Graeme.
Interview by Karen Farrell.
This story was published in issue 67 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus