With sell-out shows, critical acclaim for her debut album “Small Town Big Shot” and a nomination for CMC New Oz Artist of the Year, Fanny Lumsden has fast become one of our most loved country music artists.
Whilst she’s speaking to me from an inner-city Sydney café, as I ask Fanny (or Edwina Margaret as her family still calls her) about her upbringing as the eldest of four children on a large dryland cropping property between the Central West villages of Tallimba and Weethalle and her extensive tours all over the countryside, it’s apparent rural life is certainly where her heart lies, especially as she gives a behind-the-scenes insight into her latest music video “Totem Tennis” which was filmed on location from her hometown.
“Going out there is so special because it really is showing where I grew up and what’s personal to me,” she says. Fanny reveals the props and setting all depicted her favourite era and “the early 1980s overtly Australiana vibe – backyard cricket, totem tennis, of course, and the simple family friendly vibe that went with it”.
“Basically we told the neighbours to come over (to my aunt and uncle’s farm at Tallimba) and bring clothes from when they were a kid or a teenager. These were memories I had of a time before devices and phones, so people were really present when we were all together too.”
Fanny’s childhood was spent experiencing the harsh reality of the drought that battered farmland in the early 2000s. “Dad carted all our water for the house and the farm for years.
It was really just how life was when we were little, it was dusty, we had brown water baths an inch deep…” Fanny recalls.
Despite what might have been a challenging environment to grow up in, Fanny was very hands-on in the farming operations – helping in the shearing shed, and up until a couple of years ago was still driving a chaser bin at harvest time for neighbours.
After boarding at a secondary school in Albury being involved in ag show teams, then studying for a rural science degree at Armidale, Fanny moved to Sydney for five years where she gained a more in-depth insight into the music industry. While she met the members of her band The Thrillseekers there, she was eventually lured back to country life, and now resides (when she’s not touring our vast countryside) with her family and husband Dan Stanley (who is also the bass player in her band) in the picturesque Snowy Mountains between Tumbarumba and Corryong.
“I’m back on a farm, we don’t have phone service and we just got internet, only one person can use it at a time. We have horses and cattle, and it’s right next to the national park and a beautiful creek. To see the snow on the mountains is great, and it’s so different than growing up in Tallimba,” Fanny tells me.
With her mum previously a music teacher and members of her extended family opera singers and musical theatre performers, Fanny took to the stage from an early age too. She has fond memories of performing at local eisteddfods when she was 5 years old and even had key roles as a ninja turtle and a lizard in Christmas plays held at the Tallimba hall.From the relaxing ‘drinking tea on the porch’ to the more rebellious ‘nicking Juicy Fruit from the tuckshop at the pool’ she chooses to celebrate the ‘every day’, true-to-life stories, rather than creating fictional ‘sensationalist’ wording in her lyrics. She has just released her second crowd funded album “Real Class Act” through her own record label Red Dirt Records. “When I’m travelling, I’m really inspired. I wrote the songs over the past few years both on the road as we have tripped around Australia (we are just shy of 95,000km since last March) and also at our little mountain-side farmhouse. The songs are a real mix of serious messages and fun and the ridiculous. Because I am very personal with my songwriting, it feels like I’m releasing secrets when a record comes out.”
“We did a massive trip around Australia last year where we did 25,000km in four months, from Broome in Western Australia, to Tasmania, and everywhere in between, and I just found I wrote so much on the road. We’d pull up the caravan in the bush somewhere and songs were coming out really fast,” Fanny says. And that journey certainly provided her many an anecdote – crab fishing in Queensland, performing in a Tasmanian cave, mustering on an outback station, playing house gigs in Broome, and possibly the most terrifying moment – having their car headlights stop working 130km from Coober Pedy in the darkest hours of the evening.
And, now, from an isolated shed with bullet holes, to basic paddock structures made of old untreated pine and corrugated iron, she’s been embarking on her latest Country Halls tour.
The locations as part of this tour include Burren Junction, Mullaley, Tullamore, Marra, Rankins Springs, Greenethorpe, Eurongilly, Ben Lomond, Tumblong and Ungarie.
Six years ago, rural communities in southern NSW had been gripped by extreme flooding, and Fanny decided to perform in a number of halls to raise money for Blaze Aid – an organisation that was rebuilding fences. From there, the Country Halls Tour has evolved into an annual event, with several halls applying to be put on the map, with money raised from the ticket sales and local sponsorships being put back into these communities.
“We really try to make it as fun as possible. An old-fashioned show has so much excitement to it. It’s not just an audience to one side of the stage, we want it to be so much more inclusive than that, and we get local performers to open up the shows.
“Every hall is so different, there’s so much character and so many stories, they really are the most amazing places, people fall in love, they hold classes like yoga or pilates, CWA meetings, babies and mothers’ groups, and deb balls. But a lot of the communities are struggling to keep them open because of running costs like insurances and promoting them as a potential venue for events, so we’ve got to keep that energy running through them.”
There’s a personal energy from her ‘under the hills hoist’ tours as well. Backyard two-piece shows – literally where people gather family and friends, grab a beer and pop a snag on the barbeque – have become a popular part of Fanny’s tours.
“The places we go are definitely incredible, but it’s the people and the stories you get from that you really remember.
“I think there’s so much to tell about regional Australia and so many wonderful people. There’s endless inspiration. I really want to talk about what I’m about, and that’s what I’m about.”
For tickets visit www.ticketebo.com/countryhallstour