Sugarcane tells his story of the blues before Gladstone gig
SINGING was a natural process for Sugarcane Collins who took to the gift since he was a lad.
"Singing along with the radio and TV and singing along with my dad," he said.
"And like many other jazz and blues-men before me, I even sang in a church choir for a while.
"My father gave me my first guitar when I was seven but I didn't get serious about playing guitar until I was around 22 years old."
This week, before his gigs at Rocky Glen Hotel and Agnes Water Tavern, Sugarcane Collins shares some insight of himself in a Q&A.
To check out more of the artists gigs or albums visit www.sugarcanecollins.com.
What was your life like growing up - did it influence you as a musician?
My early years were divided between life in the city and life in the bush at 'The Oaks', a dairy farm near Berry's Creek in Sth East Gippsland.
It was a great life for a boy - milking cows, feeding pigs, carting hay, picking spuds, trapping rabbits and catching fish in the river.
But nothing about that life suggested l'd end up becoming an entertainer.
It was when l left home and went north in the late 70's that the idea of becoming a musician started floating round my head.
One thing was certain, I sure didn't want to be a tit puller anymore!
There was a lot of live music going on up north at that time and l just kind of got hooked on it and before l knew it l was singing and playing guitar in rough tough canefield pubs and the waterfront bars of Cairns' famed and feared and now gone Barbary Coast.
When l got to Cairns it was the end of the road and a seasonal town and the pubs were packed with fishermen, canecutters and all kinds of crazies.
You had to be able to roar like a lion to be heard over the racket going on.
Fortunately I could holler loud and l pleased the crowd.
How would you describe your music style?
In a review of my latest album DOWNUNDER THE BLUES in the Living Blues Magazine, one of the biggest blues publications in the USA, Mark Uricheck reckons "Along with harmonica/didgeridoo practitioner Harper, there is no finer contemporary Australian interpreter of the blues than Sugarcane Collins".
I guess l would describe my style as solo acoustic blues & roots.
I endeavour to create raw intense performances of my own compositions and then supplement them with my versions of some of the old classics.
I have a lot of knowledge and great respect for the traditions of the old time southern bluesmen.
I absorbed a good many influences - the delta blues of Charley Patton and Son House, the nimble fingered ragtime of Blind Blake and the rambling story telling folk traditions of Leadbelly - to name a few.
When I sing the blues you see the fervour in my face, the light in my eyes and the veins in my neck.
I like to think of myself as a powerful singer and a versatile guitarist who can also spin a good yarn.
I've been making a living as a muso for thirty - three years so l've definitely got a story or two to tell!
What challenges you in the music industry?
My biggest challenge has been making a name for myself both here and in the blues world outside of Australia.
I'm based in Cairns and it 'aint been easy!
For the past eight years l have been riding the blues train all over the world for all l am worth.
From juke joints in the Mississippi Delta to blues clubs in Buenos Aires and blues festivals in Turkey, alone and acoustic, l've been taking my music out on the road performing for those who want their blues alive and raw and real.
In South America I made history by being the very first Australian bluesman to perform in Argentina.
Big tours of the USA in 2005/2006/2008/2010/2012 and East Coast Australian tours in 2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014 plus appearances at major festivals all around the country are testament to my ever growing reputation as one of the most original and authentic blues artists performing in Australia today.
Where do you find your inspiration to write and do you have any secrets when it comes to songwriting?
I guess I'm old school. I hark back to the days when music was all about individuality and direct personal experience.
Not for me the simple love songs so regularly employed by others.
I've got much more to say.
There is a strong personal narrative pulsing through my songs on the albums BARRON DELTA BLUE ( 1999 ) and LAKE STREET SERENADE ( 2003 ) and they brought me multiple awards and much critical acclaim.
But it was the release of WAY DOWN THE RIVER (2006) that has cemented my place in the upper echelons of blues songwriters.
The songs were set in the Mississippi Delta of the 20's and 30's and the album went on to be awarded the 2007 Australian Blues Album of the Year.
On my latest album DOWNUNDER THE BLUES l've turned my attention back to Australia.
The new songs traverse a whole range of subject matter from the personal to the political from issues pertaining to baby boomers like me to songs about the original Australians, the environment and those flowers and crosses out on our highways.
There are no real secrets to songwriting, you just genuinely have to have something you want to say.
Otherwise you just end up with more limp love songs.
What are three of your biggest passions in the world and why?
Music, because l'm obsessed.
Travel, because l love the act of moving through time and space.
Learning, because l have an enquiring mind that demands l keep on trying to figure out the truth of what is really going down in this world.
- WHERE: Rocky Glen Hotel
- WHEN: Friday, January 24, 8pm
- WHERE: Agnes Water Tavern
- WHEN: Saturday, January 25, 8pm
- INFO: For more information visit www.sugarcanecollins.com