Australian bluegrass sensations – we talk to Innes Campbell before their Belladrum appearance
Present Company from Brisbane, Australia are four musicians with a passion for organically created music. Their unique sound is created via bass fiddle, violin, mandolin, banjo, guitar and four voices which are blended, old style, through the single microphone that the boys dance around. Their heroes range from Bill Monroe to The Strokes and from to old time bluegrass to contemporary acoustic music; their repertoire consists of quirky original songs and tunes written by the band as well as some cover versions which may surprise. The band have been delighting festival crowds up and down Australia since 2011 and are currently working hard on their new CD (due mid – 2011) In July 2011, they take their music overseas for the first time with a tour of Scotland.
Here’s a sample of the album while we talk to ex-pat Scot Innes Campbell about life down under and the return over and above.
1. WHERE WERE YOU BORN, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
Born in Stirling Royal Infirmary, May 1972. Grew up in Tillicoultry before moving to Stirling when aged 10
2. WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY?
So many! My Mum and Dad had a band – called ‘Gleus’, which is gaelic for harmony, so from as early as I can remember I was milling around at concerts, getting into mischief. I remember plugging my electric guitar into my dads PA when I was aged 16 (I got an electric guitar for my 16th birthday) and getting an electric shock through my hands as the strings had become electrified.
3. WHAT WAS THE FIRST RECORD YOU OWNED?
All Stood Still’ by Ultravox
4. WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST PERFORMANCE?
When I was a medical student in Aberdeen I played in a band for the medical revue, a sort of comedy / skit show. We did a song called ‘Kids Doing Medicine’ to the tune of Kim Wilde’s ‘Kids in America’ and some other daft stuff. I remember the feeling of walking onto the stage into the lights very well. A seminal moment.
5. WHO IS THE SINGLE BIGGEST MUSICAL INFLUENCE ON YOUR WORK?
That is a very tricky one. I’ve been around for a while now!
For guitar in terms of its technicalities I am a student of Bryan Sutton – that is to say, we have never met but I study his playing very closely. In term of tone, taste and ability to vary his playing there is no-one better in my opinion. In terms of songwriting I am probably influenced by Chris Thile… but I find him a little too esoteric in general…and I like to connect properly with my audience. I love Nick Drake..but really I just write about what amuses me. The guitar skills I have learned just give me the ability to follow my nose really.
6. WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE CONCERT YOU’VE ATTENDED?
Well I saw Tim O’Brien recently in Australia… that was cool.
7. WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE CONCERT YOU’VE PLAYED?
The final concert at the National Folk Festival in Canberra this year, in front of 2000 people. Memorable because the band were on fire and we had had a very successful festival.
8. WHAT IS THE WORST JOB YOU’VE EVER HAD?
Every job I have done has had its good points, if only for the bonds I made with others forced into the same desperate situations! But then I suppose I did work in Wimpy (remember that?) on Union Street in Aberdeen when I was a student. Going out to pick up litter in red dungarees that are several sizes too big and a red baseball cap at midnight on a Saturday night was not that much fun. There was a fair amount of abuse. I was quite cold too….
9. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS MEANT BY THE WORD ARTIST?
Anyone who expresses themself in a way that is designed to entertain and/or educate others.
10. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING AT THE MOMENT?
Stephen Fry ‘Chronicles’
11. IS THE MUSIC INDUSTRY BETTER NOW OR WHEN YOU STARTED?
Better in some ways – it is easier to get your music heard. But probably harder to make money from it.
12. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SONG ON THE ALBUM, AND WHAT THE BEST THING FOR YOU ABOUT THIS NEW ALBUM?
My favourite is ‘Hole in the Sea’. I know… it’s one of my songs, but I love what the band did with it. What it sounds like on the album is completely different from what I heard in my head when I wrote it. The best thing about this album is that it was a true collaboration between all of the members of the band. It brought us closer.
13. WHAT IS THE FAVOURITE SONG SOMEONE ELSE HAS WRITTEN (AT THE MOMENT) ?
So many! OK, well you can have ‘Channel One’ by Grant Gordy
14. WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT MODERN LIFE?
15. WHAT’S THE WORST?
Lack of time
16. WHAT SINGLE THING HAS HELPED YOU MOST IN YOUR CAREER?
Winning the bluegrass championships in 2009 on guitar
17. WHAT SINGLE THING HAS HINDERED YOUR CAREER?
I can honestly say there hasn’t been one. I try not to look at things like that!
18. WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT LIVING AND MAKING MUSIC IN AUSTRALIA?
Open mindedness of people
19. WHAT’S THE WORST?
I sometimes get frustrated by the fact that the public like music that is easily digestible….they will walk past world class musicians, with a paltry crowd to go an see some guy with a didgeridoo and a stomp box with 2000 people watching…but it’s the same the world over. You can’t blame people for being people.
20. WHAT WOULD BE THE BEST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN IN 2011?
My family has a happy relaxing time while on tour with us in Scotland!
Thu, 14 Jul
Fri, 15 Jul
Sat, 16 Jul
Mon, 18 Jul
Sat, 30 Jul
Sun, 31 Jul
Dunnet Head, UK
Wed, 03 Aug
Sat, 06 Aug
Flyinshoes Review: http://houseconcerthub.ning.com/profile/InnesandPresentCompany
Face Book: www.facebook.com/Innes-and-Present-Company
My Space: www.myspace.com/innesandpresentcompany