"I would have paid to be on this tour, the fact that I get paid for it is just wild."
For anyone with even a passing interest in country-influenced singer-songwriter fare the impending A Day On The Green bill of Paul Kelly, Lucinda Williams, Kasey Chambers and rising star Marlon Williams should have you absolutely salivating with anticipation. From a purely musical standpoint it's a line-up of indubitable length and breadth, covering three countries, numerous genres and many styles of delivery and composition. Then introduce that heady mix to the gorgeous winery surrounds and picnic festival atmosphere inherent with the A Day On The Green franchise and it's a formula for good times and great music, no matter which way you spin it.
Nominal headliner Kelly is still touring on the back of his excellent project Paul Kelly presents The Merri Soul Sessions - which found him taking a vocal back seat whilst showcasing the skills of bandmates such as Vika & Linda Bull, Dan Sultan, Clairy Browne and Kira Puru - and he's just as excited about reuniting this crew after a length sojourn as he is joining his accomplished tour mates.
"It's a really strong bill, with lots of great women singers and songwriters on the bill too."
"I'm looking forward to it very much," he smiles. "Firstly it will be good to get back with the Merri Soul gang again, because the first couple of times around went really well and it's such a fun show to do. A Day On The Green is like a mini-festival really - like a day-long festival - and the Merri Soul show works really well as a festival show; we've only done it a couple of times at a festival, at Byron Bay [Bluesfest], so that'll be good. Apart from that the line-up of Lucinda, Kasey and Marlon Williams is a really good one too - it's a really strong bill, with lots of great women singers and songwriters on the bill too. I think it's fantastic.
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"It's diverse musically but some of the songs on the Merri Soul record are what I'd call 'country soul', and Marlon's got a lot of that too, so it all ties in. We're going to try and work out a song that we can all do together to finish the night off."
Chambers for her part seems even more thrilled, primarily because she's rejoining two of her biggest inspirations on the road.
"I'm so keen for this tour, I'm so excited!" she gushes. "I would have paid to be on this tour, the fact that I get paid for it is just wild. Lucinda Williams and Paul Kelly seriously are my two favourite artists of all time - Lucinda's always been my biggest role model in music, and Paul Kelly's always been my biggest Australian influence in music, so I'm pretty stoked. I'm like a little kid waiting for Christmas!
"I find with A Day On The Green that the vibe is so much like you're hanging out in your lounge room and just chilling with people but it's like a big outdoor festival as well."
"I've done a few [A Day On The Greens] over the years and they're always great shows. It suits me really well, because there's a real family atmosphere - even though we're in a winery! It's got that vibe and I love playing that sort of thing, I reckon it's the closest you can get doing outdoor shows where you still get that real inside intimate vibe. Often you've got to go for one or the other and it means you have to give up something to have the other one, but I find with A Day On The Green that the vibe is so much like you're hanging out in your lounge room and just chilling with people but it's like a big outdoor festival as well. You kinda get the best of both worlds, which is pretty cool."
Kelly is also a veteran of numerous A Day On The Green forays and is equally fond of the concept.
"They've always been good, and it works well because people like going and it's all ages," he offers. "I guess for me the main thing is variety when you're playing - you wouldn't want to do theatres all the time, or you wouldn't want to do bars or clubs all the time, or you wouldn't want to do festivals all the time either. Keeping it mixed up for me is the main thing. A Day On The Green is like an event to me - people make a bit of an effort. It's not just getting out of your house and catching a tram or something, people get to get out to the country and make a day of it."
Given the nature of their respective music - especially Chambers and Kelly who have spent the bulk of their careers circumnavigating Australia plying their wares - it's no surprise that they've crossed paths many times already.
"We got to tour a little bit really early on back when he did the Uncle Bill record [1999's Smoke], his first bluegrass album, it was awesome," Chambers chuckles. "I got to open up some shows for him all around Australia, then we sang a bit together on a few things as well - I was just blown away, a bit star struck. I've been lucky enough to get to know him a bit over the years as well, so the star struck thing goes away to a certain extent, but every now and then I might be hanging out with him or something and I'll just go, 'Holy shit! That's Paul Kelly!' Then I'll be, like, 'Just don't think about it! Don't think about it!' but he also makes you forget that you're in a room with Paul Kelly too because he's such a normal guy, just such an easy guy to be around."
And both Kelly and Chambers are pumped to reacquaint with Lucinda Williams, whom they justifiably hold in high esteem.
"I spent a bit of time with her a couple of years ago when I was in LA doing the A To Z shows, she came along to a couple of nights and we went out to dinner afterwards," Kelly tells. "We know each other and I'm looking forward to catching up with her again. She's such a fine songwriter."
"I've been so lucky too with Lucinda because one of my first tours in America was opening up with Lucinda for five weeks, I was like, 'Fuck, this is just the best thing that's ever happened to me!'" Chambers giggles. "It was so awesome! It was on her [2001 album] Essence tour and she had such a great band, and it was honestly just like five weeks of free tickets to see Lucinda Williams! I was, like, 'Fucking hell, my life cannot get any better!' I was so stoked, I couldn't believe it.
"And I was so lucky too because she got me my first gig in Nashville playing on a songwriters' night with her, and a couple of other gigs where she was doing guest spots and gave me a couple of songs and got me up with her. It makes such a huge difference when you have someone like her supporting you - it means such a lot in towns like that - so it was pretty amazing."