Winner of nine Golden Guitar awards and three independent music awards, James Blundell needs little introduction …
>You are performing at the Gloucester Soldiers Club. Have you been to the area before?
I bought into Pacific Palms or Coomba Bay in the year 2000. In the years prior to that I was living in Sydney for music, but my family and parents were in Stanthorpe.
Quite often, as a break from doing the New England Highway, I would drive through the Barrington Tops. So for a lot of years I was driving along through the Buckets Way and up over the top into Gloucester. I’ve always loved that part of the world.
> What were the stand out features that attracted you to the Coomba Park area?
I started looking for real estate everywhere from Lennox Head south, and there was just something about that region – the Mid North Coast – that was absolutely beautiful.
After six months of looking, one of the first places that we stayed was the caravan park in Forster itself. I got talking to the man who owned the park, and when I mentioned I was looking for some land he mentioned that there were some great deals going on the west side of the lake.
And he was right – we picked up a 25 acre block for a steal, and prices have just gone through the roof ever since. It’s just such a pretty area. I’m from Queensland, and I grew up as a drought child. Last year we measured just over 2 metres of rain, so it’s a nice change.
> How does your latest album, Portrait of a Man compare to your previous works?
It’s a logical progression in the biggest possible sense, in that as an artist you are inclined to be your own worst enemy for a long time.
By nature, an artist is an exploratory being. The first 2 or 3 albums were written and produced from a very naive point of view. Then followed 15 years of fairly hard core experimentation music, because I’m such a music junky. I like so many different types of music. But ironically after trying so many different ideas, when it came to writing this one it was back to a process of song subjects that I had a personal and first hand experience of. And it’s come together as a very strong record.
It’s quite a lot like the headed down this road albums of the late 80s and early 90s, but with a whole heap more convictions, because I’ve actually lived all the ideals.
> Where did the title of the album come from?
My father and I have a very strong relationship. We’ve been very good friends for a long time, but like all male Australian friendships you know, we have had our moments when I was in my mid to late teens.
I was very aggressive in a life sense, and we didn’t always see eye to eye. I see now that it’s the sort of transition that fathers and sons either make it through or they don’t. We did! You know, Dad’s a very resilient man, and he’s also the most joyous man I know. So we managed to get through all that stuff, and as a result we are very close.
Even last night we sat around and pushed the rum bottle around till half past 3 this morning – you just don’t do that sort of thing with someone you don’t like!
> Do you have a stand out track on the CD?
There are 3 that I love for different reasons. I love Nothing’s Going To Get Me Down, because it was written as an anthem to shake people out of the induced stupor we’re in financially globally at the moment. So the whole point of that song is to go while you’re upright and breathing, so you’re ahead of the game.
Five To Five, because it’s a true story. It’s always a pity that there is some degree of restraint needed in music that is generally broadcast, because this story was told to me by an old Aboriginal mate in a wonderful, wonderful story telling way but heavily expletive laden (so I’ve had to retell the story from my own experience and memories of that meeting).
And having a lot to do with the Defence Force, being able to write the anthem for the charge of Beersheba is a big honour for me.
So they are the tracks I’m pleased with.
> Last time we chatted you had just returned from a tour of the middle east, performing for Aussie troops. Have you been involved with them again since?
Yes, I have. After that I went to the Solomons – that was a really good experience. Domestically I’ve done quite a few more Vietnam Veterans awareness and fundraisers events, and just today I was down at the recruitment tent at Tamworth.
> You have collaborated with many great musicians over the years. Who has been your favourite?
The recent co-writing with Mick Thomas on Moving On was a real pleasure. Mick is just such a real erudite man; he just writes so beautifully. It was a real pleasure on this album. I’ve co-written with Lee Kenergan a lot over the years, predominately for his projects, so it was great to finally write some with him that have ended up on my album.
In previous years writing with Chris Bailey from the Saints was fantastic. I’ve been real lucky with the people I’ve worked with.
> You have won nine Golden Guitar Awards and more recently three Independent Country Music Awards. This came as a shock to you, we heard …
The Independent Awards caught me completely by surprise. I had gone down there to perform Postcards from Saigon, and I was actually really interested to see what was going on in the independent industry. I had noticed some great talent coming from there. So to go down there and be given a trophy really put me on the back foot.
> Where do you find inspiration for your songs?
It may sound like a cliché, but we do live in the best country on the face of the Earth. We enjoy an unparalleled amount of personal freedom. Although, living in Australia there can be times of frustration from an artistic perspective – with the smaller population and distances and time it takes to tour around.
Getting out of Australia every so often to experience the other cultures and then referring them back to here means there is never a shortage of things to talk about.
> You spent a fair bit of time busking and backpacking through Europe. Did that influence much of your music as well?
That was during the mid 1990s at the end of my first marriage, and I was at a stale-mate with my record company. So there really weren’t a lot of reasons to hang around.
I naively assumed I could slip over to Europe, play guitar and feed myself and my then girlfriend, now wife, while we were travelling.
It was the silliest thing I’d ever thought, as we would have gone hungry. From an artistic point of view, it was a re-awakening experience to solicit other people’s attention – particularly with the language barrier. You have to be really good at what you do.
> What would you describe as the highlight of you career to date?
That’s a really tough one; I would have to name a few. The Timor concert that made it to international television in 1999 was a highlight. Touring with Kris Kristofferson last year. The most recent tour to the other side of the world to visit only a handful of Australians who are so far away from home and have basically thrown their hat in the ring to make the world a better place is a really inspirational experience. It’s not about how many people are in front of the stage; it is the environment that you are performing in and the purpose that you have for being there.
> Is there anyone in particular you would like to perform with?
One of these days I am going to record a song with Wendy Matthews; I think she is a stunning talent and is a wonderful woman. I will find a way to get in the studio with her.
> Thanks for your time James.