Fanny Lumsden on this year’s Country Halls Tour, her ARIA nomination & the importance of regional touring

It’s fair to say that with her debut album Small Town Big Shot, Sydney’s Fanny Lumsden has been thrown well and truly into the spotlight; while she’s had a great reputation as a live performer and musician established for some time now, the album has brought Lumsden much acclaim and most recently, an ARIA Award nomination for Best Country Album.

While her annual Country Halls Tour approaches it’s final run this month, the songwriter took some time out to fill us in on how the last few months of touring in the regional areas she holds so dear has been treating her, what the ARIA nomination has meant for herself and the band, and how she’s anticipating her upcoming date at Newtown’s St Stephen’s Hall.

How has the Country Halls Tour been treating you this year – what has been the most enjoyable aspect of getting out to the halls this time round?

This year’s Halls tour has been an absolute ball! After five years of trial and error and working out how things work the most effectively, we have finally got to a model which (we think) works really well for both the communities and us! I love arriving at the halls having no idea what it going to be like, setting up our stage and set and then watching it come to life with all the communities filling it up.

The halls are often just in the middle of a paddock, so to see all the cars stream in and fill the hall with life is such a thrill for me. I often just stand out the back and watch them all arrive. We get to meet and hang out with so many interesting folk from all walks of life, which has to be another highlight. Oh, and the totem tennis.

It’s important to bring live music out to the regional areas, and it’s great that you’ve always been a strong supporter of this; do you think that the perception some may have of live music communities outside the major cities is now starting to significantly change?

Regional touring is my first priority when it comes to booking a tour; having grown up in Western NSW, the chance to see live original music without travelling to a major centre/city was basically none. It would have blown my little mind if I had seen a band put on a show with full production in my little hometown hall. I think it’s also so important for the chance for original music to be celebrated and for all perceptions to be challenged, that you don’t have to play only covers to do gigs throughout regional Australia and have people turn up.

Communities in regional Australia are always on the look out for live music and truly appreciate it when you bring it to them for a change, rather than them having to drive 10 hours plus one way, book a hotel and spend a week’s wage just to see some live original music. I can’t really comment on how it used to be compared to now, however I think currently if you as an artist/manager/promoter treat it like any market and have a long term plan for reaching parts of regional Australia, then it’s no different to the capital cities. People drive a long way in the country, so the claim on the market being ‘too small’, I think, is crap;  they are just geographically more spread out.

Having grown up in the regional areas of NSW yourself, can you tell us a bit about how you first started to engage with music and how those early influences informed the musician you are today? 

There was a lot of music in my extended family; everyone played the piano, sang in choirs, played instruments and performed on some level, so when we would get together we could all write songs, put on shows and spend hours listening to our favourite artists. My Mum is a huge lover of classical music and also taught music at school and my Dad is a lover of all kinds of music, so it was constantly around and talked about. My Dad also pretty much sings songs about whatever he’s doing at the time (on the farm) and has songs for all the animals, so we were always singing along, making up ditties about our horses or dogs along with him.

In terms of early influences, I would say my family would be first. Secondly, I had a huge crush on Taylor from Hanson (my cousin loved Zac, and we would kiss their posters good night); I loved Contemporary Country around that same time including Kasey Chambers, Dixie Chicks, Sara Storer. I went away from Country completely for a couple of years and the main artist that inspired me to start writing songs again in my late teens was Kate Miller-Heidke. So all in all, my younger days were nothing far away from many other kids growing up in the 90’s/early 2000’s.

Your show in Sydney is coming up in a few weeks, which is exciting; even though the show you’ve been touring has been coming together well over the last few months, how are you anticipating this one in particular?

Well if last year’s show is anything to go by, it was literally my favourite gig ever, hopefully it will be a hoot! We will be bringing out all the bells and whistles for it with our stage, totem tennis competitions, dancing and dad jokes. The show is more like a country themed variety show, with a focus on songwriting and good times.

Congratulations on the ARIA Award nomination too by the way; your music has been praised by many for a long time now, but still, this has got to be a pretty cool little nod to receive. What does it mean to have garnered that piece of recognition?

Thanks! Yeah, this was a massively unexpected cherry on the top of the last few years’ work with our record Small Town Big Shot. We went in to this record having absolutely zero expectations of how it would go; it was our first record, we crowd-funded it, we were (and still are) self managed, self-booked and independent. Things like this kind of recognition were absolutely (we assumed) out of our reach. We are completely thrilled and honoured to have this recognition as there were so many great records put out this year and its really a testament to our wonderful community that helped us along the way. Woooo going to drink all the drinks to celebrate.

How is the end of 2016 looking forward you and are there already plans for new music coming together for early 2017 that you can tell us about?

The rest of this year is full of one fun thing after another for us with the rest of the Country Halls Tour, The ARIAs, my partner Dan (who plays double bass and helps with all elements of the band and business) and I are getting hitched, I have a mini milestone birthday and then we are heading to Woodford Folk Festival to play for New years, so hell its going to be fun.

2017 we are also pretty excited about as we have some great tours in the works, we will be recording our next record early in the year and then also hitting the road with our little caravan again. We are also looking at some overseas touring options as well. So yes! Here’s cheers to the rest of the year and 2017!

Fanny Lumsden’s Country Halls Tour continues until the last week of November – catch her and her band, The Thrillseekers, at the following venues:

November 4th | Carabost Hall
November 5th | Thowgla Hall
November 19th | St Stephens Hall, NEWTOWN
November 26th | Spring Plains Hall

Small Town Big Shot is out now.

Image by Dan Stanley Freeman.