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BELLE HARVEY Something of Herself

Belle Harvey
Perth alt-country sensation Belle Harvey has finally released her debut album Something of Myself and will be celebrating with a launch at the Bassendean Hotel on Saturday, October 14, followed by a series of shows across the city and regional Western Australia. It’s been a long time coming for the singer-songwriter, who has made a name for herself on the national touring circuit over the past decade as a member of Ruby Boots and opening for stars such as The Waifs, John Butler Trio, Clare Bowditch and Diesel. BRAYDEN EDWARDS spoke to Harvey about what it took to bring it all together.

Belle Harvey’s crowd-funded debut is a testament to the WAM Award nominee’s journey as a musician and as a person. Hailing from a farming background in South West WA, the former SES volunteer knew her story was unique and wanted to capture it in a work that was honest and passionate. Amazingly, the mentor that helped her bring this vision to life was legendary Australian country-music veteran Bill Chambers, who as a producer and co-writer, helped her “bring up all the dirt and grit from down below” and turn it into an impressive debut that is classic, contemporary and undeniably her own.

Your debut album is finally out, but you’ve been playing both as yourself and with a few other acts for a few years now. How long has this been in the making?

How long is a piece of string? (laughs). The whole process from pre-production through to release took just over two years. I started pre-production around late 2014 and tracked the album in February 2015. I play with other bands so I have been kept busy performing, recording and touring with them. It was important to stay within the reach of everyone’s ears so trying to keep my name out there with several single releases and tours of my own as well. The other main factor was budget. Being an independent, self-funded musician, things are gonna take their time!

Were these songs that you had written over a number of years or did you write them together as one piece to better capture a point of time in your life?

It was a bit of both actually, written over a number of years but capturing some major turning points in my life. They all tie into one another or relate to each other in some way, like chapters in a book. Songs like City Life and Frenchman’s Bay are of earlier moments in life but all still correlate nonetheless. To me, the actual tracking of the songs, all in one place at one time was most important, as to make sure I was capturing a moment in time, sonically. Same players, same studio, same great vibe.

How did you come into contact with Bill Chambers and what role or influence did he have on the record?

I first met Bill back in 2012 or 2013. I think it was at the Momba Festival in Melbourne whilst playing bass for Ruby Boots. He was playing guitar for his daughter Kasey (Chambers) in a set before us. I’ve always been quite a fan of his and knew he made his own guitars. The Ruby Boots’ guitarist and I were standing back in the crowd during their set and I said to him “that’s a ’52 B-Bender Tele he’s playing, and he mod’d it himself.” I think he thought I was talking shit. Anyway just as we were about to go on stage he came busting into the dressing room saying “Belle! You were right! It is a ‘52 B-Bender and he did mod it himself!” So I went out and met Bill for the first time, we hit it off straight away with tech talk and songwriter talk… plus he thought it was cool that I was a chick that played bass!

Anyway, shortly after that, he came over to WA for a tour that I’d organised, we spent a lot of time writing. Drive was probably the standout track we wrote from that tour. From there we spent a lot more time back and forth with songs. He really helped with the flavour of the of the songs, how to piece them together smoothly and effectively to produce a tasty hook. He really helped me to execute the heartache too, we sat down and talked a lot, about the songs and life, bringing up all dirt and grit from down below, it made me cry during one of my vocal takes, which was a bloody amazing experience. Sometimes it can be hard having a good friend as your producer and mentor, but sometimes that’s just the person you need.

Belle Harvey
You’ve talked about his contribution allowing you to bring together some old and new influences. What were some of these that you might not have expected that came together and worked well in your work?

I think Steering Me To You was probably one of those songs. It was kind of written from two peoples point of view, line by line, and could almost be done as a duet. It’s not normally the sort of love ballad I would come up with, but with our influences combined, the heartache shone through. You can really hear that Bill’s fingerprints are definitely all over this one.

The same applied on the storytelling side of things, like Frenchman’s Bay, in which the vibe of that song was actually inspired by his track Southend Rain.

Frenchman’s Bay is clearly an autobiographical tale. I feel like the wide open spaces of regional WA really lend themselves to ‘feel’ of the Americana music. Do you feel like that background has influenced your style as well as the music that you listened to?

Yeah, I guess so, I’ve never really thought about it. To be honest, it was very much a more roots folk scene back then in South West WA, but coming from a farming background there was obviously a heavy influence on more country music and then there was Creedence Clearwater Revival! I used to listen to that a lot on cassette in dad’s car on the farm! I guess the merge of the roots and folk with the rock and blues really drew me into the American music and scene.

Belle Harvey
I really enjoyed the slide and trem guitar throughout this release. How did that come to be such an important part of the aesthetic?

I’ve always loved both slide and tremolo. I use tremolo a lot during my live sets and my guitarist Brendan does slide on the guitar, it adds so much flavour to the tunes, so tasty! I’ve dabbled in lap steel but I know Bill plays hearty lap steel licks and Moko’s (Michael Muchow) guitar tones are just what I love. So it was a match made in heaven for me. I did play some of the electric parts with that tremolo sound but Bill did most of the slide work.

Is there anyone else you that was important in making this album, either in the recording and writing or even just as an inspiration?

Definitely, my brother from another mother and longtime collaborator, Brendan Gaspari, a fantastic singer-songwriter in his own. We both started playing together when we’re living in Albany and spent a lot of time gigging and writing together. Then when we moved to Perth we eventually lived under the same roof for a while, so we spent a lot of time nutting out the songs. He wrote a lot of the guitar riffs and counter melodies, I couldn’t afford to take him over with me to record so I took the demos over that he had tracked and then the guys captured them really nicely but still in their own way with their own little signatures on them.

I’ve noticed you play a lot of regional shows in your tours both in WA and across Australia. Do you find your style of music connects with the people from those places maybe more than in the cities?

Yeah, in most places I do think so. Maybe it’s that they are potentially more appreciative of having live original music. The feedback I often get is that it’s great to have something to listen and relate to on a more personal level.

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