At the recent Mullum Music Festival Mama Kin (aka Danielle Caruana) talked about the struggles of being a creative woman who’d let her dream go. With a high-powered super-slick husband in tow, Caruana had declared music talk a no-go zone in the house. Of course all that changed when she picked up her instrument. So too for Danni Carr (formally Sweet Painted Ladies) and Emilie Owen (Melbourne indie/rock band Luxedo), mamas who met while their husbands were jamming in Byron.
‘My husband Ash (Grunwald) and Emilie’s partner Scott (bass player for the Living End) have this Corona House in Belongil, where they put people together to jam and play; they sponsor musos to hang out and get drunk. So they are there doing that and the next day I went in there wildly hung over and Emilie was there and we just got talking about how we used to play music before kids and I was saying I wanted to play again. I had got out of that creative vibe, and I was just starting to feel like getting it back again, and she said she felt the same… I said, I want to do bluegrass country stuff, and she said so do I! I said I need great harmonies, she said I can do that, and I wanted someone who played mandolin or fiddle and she played both mandolin and fiddle. I was nervous the first time we sang together that she’d hate my voice but it went well, and Scott would be around when we were rehearsing and grab his double bass and then Fingers Malone joined in and then it’s been a much larger affair!’ And so Mr Cassidy was born.
Danni is currently 26 weeks pregnant with her second child. ‘I was pregnant when I started the project, we were going to do a full album but it was hard because I was really crook. It was taking a lot longer than I thought and then Scott our bass player had to take off and play (he’s with the Living End) so we never got to do a whole album, just an EP, but it’s worked out better, you can just put your favourite songs together.’
For the girls it’s about picking up and pushing on. Danni admits to being inspired by artists like Kasey Chambers who just have that knack of making her family part of the show.
‘I saw this photo of Kasey Chambers on stage playing with her husband and her brother and her father and her little baby strapped to her back on the stage and the baby is asleep!’
For Danni, stopping playing was a choice she made so she could focus on Sunny, her now-4-year-old.
‘When Ash and I met we were both playing and I was playing more than him, but his career began to take off and I got a bit resentful, but then in the last five years I hardly played, not even my friends round here knew that I could even play at all! A lot old of my old friends and family thought Ash was responsible for my not playing any more but he has always been very encouraging. The worst thing during that non-playing period was touring with him and selling merch and girls coming up and giving phone numbers! I’d be like, rip, yeah he’ll call you…’
In collaboration with Emilie, Danni has produced an achingly gorgeous EP with one of the most penetrating and breathtaking songs: Where My Babies Lie, telling a story so hard it can barely be told. It is a song Danni penned for her friend Cindy, the mother of the three little children tragically killed by their father seven years ago.
It’s a poignant murder ballad that retells an intensely painful story. It’s something Danni felt she was compelled to write as homage to her friend and her inestimable pain.
‘It’s just so, so sad. I’ve spent a lot of time with her and she talks about it heaps – it’s part of her own therapy and it really affected me. I think about it all the time and think about her suffering. I woke up at five in the morning and that chorus came to me. Where she lives is such a small town and every day she has to drive past the dam with the five little crosses – I say why don’t you leave? But she says I can’t leave! My babies are here.’
It was a challenging song to get right.
‘I wanted to be sensitive but wanted to tell the story and in respect to her I wanted to tell her story. I put off sending it to her for ages. It was getting close to the EP release time so I sent it to her with a letter. I hadn’t heard anything. I was starting to stress, and she rang me the day we got the CDs back and she was bawling her eyes out. She loved that I had written the song.’
Catch this hot new bluegrass country folksy little outfit with Danni, Emilie, Ash, Scott and Fingers Malone when they launch their EP at the Courthouse Hotel in Mullumbimby on Sunday at 3pm.
With special guests Starboard Cannons
$10 (children FOC).