Billie Rogers & The Country Gentleman will perform at the Fly By Night in Fremantle this Friday, November 14, by way of launching her debut EP. BOB GORDON gets the lowdown.
How’s your EP launch tour gone so far? What have been the highlights, onstage or otherwise?
So far the launch tour has been great, on the road in the southwest with some great guys-my band, The Country Gentlemen. Playing Bridgetown Blues was a real highlight – festivals are like nothing else and this one in particular – run on ground level by volunteers who just really love good live music. They live and breathe it and are so accommodating – welcoming a whole heard of musicians into their small town to take over for a weekend. It’s brilliant.
It’s clear that you had a very musical upbringing. Is it correct to say you were never not going to pursue this?
I was exposed to great music from an early age and perhaps sometimes take that for granted – whilst watching Dave Brewer at the blues fest my dad, Bill Rogers, who is in my band and a well known West Australian musician, whispered in my ear, ‘this will be some of the best blues you see all weekend’. And he wasn’t wrong.
My dad Bill has been a gigging musician since I was born and long before it. Between Dad and his friends, bandmates and fellow musicians, like Dave, I have been lucky enough to grow up watching, admiring and learning from the best. There certainly wasn’t ever a push to do music, heck, Dad probably thinks I’m crazy trying to earn a crust doing this, but watching him, still killing it on stage at age 63, it seems like a pretty great life to me. And even if the gigs dry up its something that’s in me and will always need to be put out there, on paper, recorded, performed… however it happens.
When did you start writing your own songs? Describe your evolution as a songwriter?
I started writing my own songs as a late teen, periods of inspiration and prolific song writing have come and gone ever since. It’s not always ‘on’ but when it is you have to jump on that. I had a really great spurt soon after I starting gigging in my early 20s. A friend and promoter from Sydney, Gawain Davies, was touring, managing a band, and asked me to play as a support. He said if I had eight originals up to scratch in the right weeks left ’til showtime, I could have the gig. I don’t mind a bit of pressure, in fact it did me good and songs followed. Needless to say I got the gig and that bundle of originals got me many a gig after that too.
I’m not always sure where it is a song comes from, though I’m a firm believer in the need to put stuff in to get stuff out. That is, you need to soak up some experiences; travel, heartbreak, loss, joy, love, in order to have something to write about. Its all pretty obvious, really… not that it always leads you to a song.
What did you want to evoke of yourself on this EP?
Hopefully the EP is a good taste of my music and the various ways I like to write. Sometimes it’s the melody that hits and the lyrics take a back seat to that, other times, particularly in the case of Pretty Little Thing, there’s a definite story being told that’s really driving the song. The music acts as an avenue for getting that little tale told.
You have some great players on the recording and in the live band; what do they bring to the game?
I am very lucky and also extremely grateful to be playing with the calibre of musicians that I am. Dad for one, also Tom Fisher, an awesome songwriter in his own right, Murray Campbell on drums and Killian Albrecht on lead guitar. Experience, wisdom and encouragement by the truck load!
What are your plans from here looking into 2015?
2015 is set to be another great year of gigs, hopefully! Ill just keep doing what I’m doing and if ever in doubt, some of the best advice I was ever given when it comes to music is to remember nerves mean you care so don’t be worried when you have them, put yourself out there and keep saying yes. So here’s to that!