Talks with Anne McCue

 

Anne McCue

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Koala Motel

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CEV:  Was there a point in your life that you can remember when you knew that your interest in music was going to be a lot more than just listening to it on your stereo? What was it that really turned you on to writing and playing music for yourself?

AM:  Since I can remember I wanted to play in a rock band, probably since I could walk and me and my brothers ans sisters used to pretend we were The Beatles. But it took leaving town and my family before I got the courage to pursue it seriously.

CEV:  When did you pick up your first guitar and what kind of music did you want to play on it back then?


AM:  I probably started playing when I was 15 or 16. I'd played the piano before that so the first thing I did was transcribe a Bouree by J.S. Bach. I loved the sound of  The Byrds and I loved The Jam, The Police. Bands like that. I started writing songs pretty much straight away but often they were experimental, in open tunings and sometimes there were only a few strings left on the guitar.  We had The Reader's Digest Treasury Of Songs so I learned all the jazz chords and stuff from there.

CEV:  Did you have any formal education in your music or lessons with the guitar? Do you think that it is a necessity for an artist to have some formal training or is it really something that a person can do without?
 

AM:  An artist can defintiely do without. I took lessons because I was extremely lacking in confidence and discipline so it was good for me  in both ways. I studied theory with a guy called Bruce Clarke. It was very tough but perhaps worth it.

CEV:  I get the impression that since you graduated from the University of Technology in Sydney with a degree in Film Production and Film Studies you weren't thinking that you were going to end up in the music business after college. How is it that you ended up walking the musical path instead of the film production path?
 

AM:  I always wanted to play music but I was never really encouraged to do so so I thought I didn't have the talent. But it was this pressing urge I couldn't ignore. I still want to be a filmmaker when I grow up though.

CEV:  By the time that you answered the ad in the paper "Wanted: Wild Women for Rock 'n' Roll Band" how would you describe your level of skill as guitar player and how was it that you were keeping your edge even though you were not in a band yet?
 

AM:  I could play fairly well but I wasn't sure if I could be a lead guitarist yet. I'd played guitar in a Comedy Show (my first gig) before that and those people were very encouraging which was a first. So I started to think I might be able to do it and that I had nothing to lose by trying.

CEV:  Tell me about the band you joined and how that took your music to a higher level.

AM:  It was a pop/rock band and the songs all had the same structure. So I moved on from writing experimental songs to classicly structured pop songs. That was good disclipine. At first I would make sure my amp was turned down so no-one would hear me but after about a year I got a little more confident. I started singing in that band too.

CEV:  Was everyone in the group involved with writing the material that the group performed?
 

AM:  Just about. But the main writer was Sherry Rich, she started the band.

CEV:  What is it that acts as the inspiration to your songwriting? Is songwriting something that you do every day?
 

AM:  No, you need time on your own, lots of it. Harder as you go along. My guitar is my inspiration.

CEV:  When was it that you decided to go solo with your music and how did you end up in Vietnam performing your music?
 

AM:  I was asked to go to Vietnam to play in a jazz/blues duo for three months. Then I just stayed and would have stayed there forever probably - just as well I didn't. I've always tried to be in bands but eventually it doesn't work out and I end up on my own, alone again, naturally.

CEV:  So why did you join a 2nd group which put your solo career on hold for a time? It sounds like this group offered you the opportunity to perform with some rather big name artists. What benefits did you take away from this experience and why did you leave this group?
 

AM:  My mother died and I felt I should grow up and get a real job so I auditioned for the band, was asked to join and we were eventually signed to Columbia Records. They brought us to America and then we waited for 2 years for the record to come out. I got sick of waiting and felt I had to get on with my own stuff.

CEV:  When you were finally able to complete your debut solo release "Amazing Ordinary Things" were you happy with the finished product and how was it received by your fans?

AM:  I was glad just to be finished it! It took 6 years from start to finish. I though it sounded good and people seemed to like it.

CEV:  Did the effort to get that debut solo CD released teach you anything about the process of getting your music out and how you were going to handle your next solo release?
 
AM:  Negotiating the music business can be like walking through a mine field. I wonder if I will ever understand the way it works.

CEV:  Let's jump ahead to your latest release Koala Motel. First off tell me about where the name came from and what it means to you.  

AM:  It's a burned out shell of a hotel in Australia that we drove past down there. In the middle of nowhere. But there was still the sign and the big koala. I guessed it symbolised the end of an era.

CEV:  Is there any kind of theme tying the songs on Koala Motel together?

AM:  Living in east L.A., darkness, decadence and hope. Westerns and film noir movies.

CEV:  How long did it take you to get the material written and narrowed down to the 12 songs that make up this project? Is that pretty much an average amount of time for you to get everything lined up for a new project?

AM:  Some songs I wrote ten years ago. Some I wrote the week before.  We had about a month to record and mix.

CEV:  How long have you worked with Dusty Wakeman the producer of Koala Motel and what qualities does he bring to this CD?
 

AM:  He is a spright, mischievous yet talented. Great engineeer, bassplayer and producer. Fun guy to be around. Good quality tequila... He has a great studio - Mad Dog. We worked on Roll, my previous, album as well.

CEV:  You have quite a few special guests that I recognize on this CD. Tell me about how they came to be involved with Koala Motel and how you decided who you wanted to appear on this CD?
 

AM:  They are all people I have met over the last few years - Lucinda, John Doe, Nancy Wilson, Jim lauderdale, Doug Pettibone and Will Courtney. All great folks and wonderful musicians.

CEV:  Are there any particular songs on Koala Motel that you are proud of the way that they turned out more so than the rest of the songs you recorded?
 

AM:  I like all of them. Having those folks sing and play on my songs make those tracks special. I'm also proud of the instrumental - new territory.

CEV:  After listening to As the Crow Flies it brings to mind something that Stevie Ray Vaughn might have done in his time. Have you ever gotten any comparisons along those lines in regards to your guitar playing?
 

AM:  Sort of but I'd have to really play and practise a lot to ever earn such a comparison. But I do love his playing and listened to him a lot when I was first starting. I love the Texas thing.

CEV:  You have some great guitar licks during the course of Koala Motel and I'm sure they are even better live when you can do some improvisation. Do you feel that women musicians have gotten past the point where they have to prove themselves to be as competent as their male counterparts to be accepted?
 

AM:  Yes I think the musicians have but is the world ready yet?

CEV:  How did you hook up with Messenger Records and what kind of relationship do you have with them as an artist?

AM:  Messenger Records is Brandon Kessler and he's a really nice guy. I really like working with him. My manager met him at SXSW one year. We've made two albums now.

CEV:  How much did you get involved with the studio end of the recording of Koala Motel? In other words are you a hands on kind of artist when it comes to the studio or do you leave that to those folks behind the boards?
 

AM:  Naturally I have a strong opinion about what it should sound like. But thus far I haven't done any knob twiddling on my records. I have a small pro tools set up of my own now so I'm learning that side of it. But Dusty is an engineer from the old school. There's a lot to learn from a guy like that and our engineer Eric Corne.

CEV:  Are you going to be heading out to tour in support of Koala Motel? Do you like the touring and the live performances?
 

AM:  I love playing live with a good band. Touring starts again in April.

CEV:  Any final thoughts you'd like to share about the making of Koala Motel that you'd like to share with our readers?
 

AM:  We put our hearts and souls into it, hope you enjoy it!