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:: Spotlight :: Anne McCue - Aussie guitar queen returns home for festival

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Anne McCue is an Australian singer-songwriter who has been based in Los Angeles over the past four years. She is remembered as a member of the all-girl band Girl Monstar several years ago. Her latest album “Roll” has drawn great praise from Australian and US circles because of her amazing guitar talent and affable vocals. Anne is here for the East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival in Byron Bay. It’s a festival that she has participated in previously and the atmosphere suits her music perfectly. Recently, I spoke to her and she felt really good about coming back home.

Q. It might be worthwhile telling us our readers, who might be unfamiliar with your music, about your career to date…

A. To go right back in time, I was at university in Sydney studying film production and film studies, and I started my first band with two friends. We just played in a garage all that summer. After university, I went to Melbourne and joined Girl Monstar. We were together for five years and built up a good following. When that finished I started going to all the blues jams in Melbourne. Through that I met Geoff Achison. He had been asked to go to Vietnam for a few performances. He couldn’t go, though, so he asked if I wanted to go instead. That was a great experience. I stayed there for a year, much longer than expected. When I returned I joined another band and we got signed to Columbia Records in New York and they took us to America. I then stayed there.

Q. Had you ever seen yourself as a solo artist?

A. Not really. I was thrown into it when Girl Monstar split up. I had to start playing my own songs. I wasn’t very confident about it for a long time. Now I really enjoy it.

Q. I suppose that going alone to Vietnam forced you to do these things for yourself…

A. It was the first time I’d ever left Australia and perform solo. I made many friends there, from all over the world, and it opened up my mind. I played gigs almost every night for a year. I wasn’t used to singing and this benefited me a lot. Also, I didn’t know anything about the music business. I learnt quite a lot in having to look for work and find gigs, do promotions, etc. I’d gone to Vietnam originally to do blues and jazz. Then I formed a power trio and we used to play heavy rock, like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, etc. Then I was doing alternative country music, then solo acoustic, before playing in a band called the Jazz Brothers. I returned to Melbourne for a year to release my EP ‘Laughing’. Then it was off to Los Angeles.

Q. You must have gained a great deal of confidence and experience in playing with artists like Graham Parker, Heart, and even INXS…

A. Yeah, Graham is really cool. He’s written some novels too, which is something I want to do too. Heart is a fantastic band and they are great people. It was a great time supporting them. We were playing to thousands every night and they are great fun.

Q. Did you like the big stage shows or the small intimate venues?

A. I just liked playing in a rock band. Big is great but smaller venues are often the better shows as you have more contact with the audience.

Q. Tell us about the process in making the “Roll” album?

A. I had written some of “Roll” for quite a while before we recorded it. When knowing of the plan to record an album, I started to write a lot more (eg ‘Stupid’, ‘Roll’). I wanted to treat it as if it was my first album and to keep everything to a minimum without over-producing it. That was the main thing I wanted to achieve.

Q. Your guitar playing is superb, particularly the lap steel performance. Do you own many guitars?

A. I have about twenty guitars, of which four and a half are with me on the road currently (the lap steel being a half). That’s a few guitars to carry around but I like creating different textures and sounds.

Q. You close the album with a Hendrix tune, ‘Machine Gun’. You get it great energy and it gives a surprise ending to the album for the listener as it strays away from other tracks on the album…

A. The lyrics make it my favourite Hendrix song. When war broke out, I thought it was really appropriate. Now, it hasn’t really changed, unfortunately. Fans should love it though.

Q. You took a basic, straightforward approach to recording the album…

A. Yes, we recorded it as a three-piece band and then added keyboards later. I wanted to record the bass and guitar tracks together, and not add too much after that.

Q. You’re returning to Byron Bay for the East Coast Blues & Roots Festival again. You must be looking forward to it…

A. I played there in 2001 so it will be good to get there back there this year.

Q. Who has influenced your career, in particular your guitar playing?

A. I saw Tony Joe White play at Byron Bay when I was last there. That really changed the way I approached playing the guitar. Obviously, doing all the shows with Lucinda Williams affected me too. And Neil Young has been a strong influence.

Q. Do you think that this album can really push you forward now?

A. I don’t think enough people have heard the album. That’s the frustrating thing about being an independent musician. There are at least 3 billion people who haven’t heard it but you need a big budget to push it forward.

Q. Have you noticed anything about the state of Australian entertainment in the time spent away?

A. I wish that there is more Australian music on the radio and less American shows on TV. Our film industry has suffered too, unfortunately, and I think it’s got something to do with the US film studios using up our resources here.

Q. Are you interested in writing music for movies?

A. I’ll probably make a movie one day. I’ve always had an interest in writing music for film.

Q. How about a DVD of your concerts and other footage?

A. Yes, I’ve actually almost finished making a DVD from a tour of a few years ago in the USA.

Q. What are your immediate plans after Byron Bay?

A.I’m recording new songs in June for another album. I’ve already written half the songs.

“Roll” is out now through Shock Records. See Anne McCue perform at the Byron Bay Blues & Roots Music Festival between March 24-28.

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