Saturday, 18 June 2011

Nicki Gillis

Nicki Gillis is an Australian, multiple award winning, Country Gal. Her work is an eclectic mix of Country and Rock standards, referencing anything from Buddy Holly to Nanci Griffiths. Rock Legacy caught up with Nicki as she was about to depart for Nashville after a gruelling schedule of gigs and recordings. Nicki's UK tour kicks off soon, but more about that later.

I began by asking her how difficult it was to categorise her repertoire.

NG: It’s really hard for me to tell people what I really do as far as pigeon-holing. I can’t even pigeon-hole myself because, for me to say that I’m purely country rock – I love that, but I also sing classic songs. It’s a tough one for me and I think that I have struggled with that a lot.

RL: You have a fantastic jazz voice.

NG: That’s funny. All of my life people have said to me, “you should be singing jazz”. I don’t mind a couple of jazz songs but I just don’t think I could do a whole night. I have won a jazz award here (Australia) for a song I wrote that is purely, totally jazz. But I think Eva Cassidy is about the closest you are going to go there.

RL: The country idiom has always seemed to me to be a perfect for women to express themselves in a strong and authoritative way. For example, Nanci Griffiths and Trouble in the Fields.

NG: True. I recorded Once in a Very Blue Moon on my Lucy’s Daughter album, and it’s just one of those well-written songs that grabs hold of exactly how you feel sometimes – things that you can’t really say on a general day to day basis. I have just recorded Woman of Substance, an album of songs that to me were written by women of substance between 1965 and 1975 (You’re So Vain, These Boots Were Made for Walking, The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, Mercedes Benz etc.) In a very fun kind of way it says what women want to say. It reflects all the different places in your life, especially having children and being married and trying to juggle everything. There are so many blurred lines. Our lives change so quickly and our emotions change so quickly. The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, for me, is something I can really relate to, in that, I ended up with post-natal depression. Shel Silverstein wrote this song – he wouldn’t have experienced what I experienced – yet is just absolutely so true.

RL: That must have been a bad time for you.

NG: It was. It took a good 12 months to admit that I was ok with finding help and that it was ok not to cope. It took another good two years for me to come out of the fog. It’s really hard to describe and I don’t wish it on anybody. The music helped. Getting myself back on stage. I lived on a farm and there was nobody but the sheep! So I just put the kids in the pram and walked up and down the dirt tracks and write songs. I even wrote a silly ditty that will never be recorded or released called The Seeding Blues; it’s when the men go off and start seeding the crops and you never see them for weeks.

RL: You have worked with Frank Ifield. Many people still remember him and how big he was over here.

NG: (laughing) Yeah, I had dinner with him last night! Frank is fabulous. Last night I was performing at a charity event for a local community centre so myself and some other artists who are quite well known over here (Normie Rowe and Ray Burgess and a magician called Jack Black) Frank was one of those who came along to support the event. Frank now, is involved, and has been for a long time, involved behind the scenes in the music industry, helping young performers. He still has this passion for music and if he likes someone’s work he will help them.

RL: You did a duet with “young Frank”.

NG: That was a project that was put to me by my manager and Frank was gracious and said, “If this works, great. It will be fabulous.” The question mark was finding the right footage and even whether I could sing in the right key. Bob Howe, who put it all together and produced it all, made it work.

RL: You reference a lot of classics, both live and recorded, such as Buddy Holly and The Everlys.

NG: I grew up with all of that music being played. My mum and dad were musicians, my dad was a drummer and my mum was a singer and keyboard player. Mum was in cabaret bands where they played that kind of music. I always think I was born 20 years too late!

RL: One of your songs that leapt out and me because it sounded like a classic was On the Mountain.

NG: When I wrote On the Mountain, I was travelling round Australia at the time through the mountains in Northern NSW and Southern Queensland in and around all the State forests. It was one of those songs that came to me easily and quickly. It was years later before it was recorded. I sat down with Brendan Radford, who helped me finish it. It’s one of those songs where people say, “I don’t like Blue Grass” but whenever I play it, people jump up and start dancing.

Nicki Gillis arrives in the UK at the end of this month and the tour follows shortly after.

for dates and venues see:

and for more info:


Smoking Hot said...

Keep up the good work WW, I'm trying to spread the word as much as possible.

Really like your interviews.


Wrinkled Weasel said...

Thanks for the support Smoking!

Dave said...

Excellent article WW!