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Byron Shire
May 18, 2021

Jo Jo – Soul-O

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The beloved one-time local resident Jo Jo Smith returns for a very special solo concert at Wilsons Creek this Saturday.

Smith reminisces to when she first arrived in the place she calls ‘beautiful Mullumbimby’.

‘I first visited Mullum in 1985. My first outing was to a school fete at the Wilsons Creek Hall. It was unforgettable. I am not telling you what happened! I will one day.

‘It was absolutely hilarious! It was thinking back to that time that made me want to play Wilsons Creek Hall on my own, exactly 30 years later. I lived in the area for about 16 years. The first house I had was a banana shed in Coopers Lane. There was no power and bush plumbing.

‘My first day in the banana shed I got bogged and then met the landlady; it was pouring and I was covered in leeches. She took me to a waterhole and all of a sudden she was naked and diving in the waterhole and she came up with a pipe said, “This is the filter; it comes away sometimes”.

‘She had no clothes on and she was standing there with a pipe. She told me to go down the creek, follow the pipe, and when I found the end she wanted me to suck on it! I couldn’t believe it – what if there were leeches in the pipe?’

And that was Jo Jo’s first lesson in how to get the water running when you live in a banana shed.

It certainly knocked the city out of her and gave her an unquenchable thirst for country life. Jo Jo believes the place changes you.

‘I reckon living with snakes around makes you braver! We had two of them in the water cupboard. One was a black and one was a tiger. I was freaked – it was full on – it was great. The bath was on the balcony and you went down the steps straight onto the road.

jojosmith‘I remember looking and saying I didn’t know if I’d ever bathe here! As it turned out, I loved that bath; I never got out of it. It was insane – we’d have Seventh-Day Adventists knocking on the wood saying can we come in? I’d be like, “Fuck off, I’m in the bath!”’

Jo Jo is excited about heading north. She now lives in Violet Town, a pretty little place near Mt Bulla in Victoria, where other notable creatives such as Michael Leunig are also local residents.

Smith is passionate about her music.

‘I love this little solo thing. I want to play up close and intimate, move in close and talk to the audience…’

There is a powerful humanity in Jo Jo’s performance, something that never fails to root audiences to the spot.

‘I have been thinking a lot about peace lately. I am an Aquarian and I want peace in this world so badly! I can’t bear to think of future generations and what they’ll have to face up to. Everyone is making these crazy decisions; why go to war? I just can’t get my head around it.’

There will always be a place for protest music, says Jo Jo, because someone has to point out that there is always another way. Something she believes she found in a banana shed all those years ago!

‘I love coming up here. Some of my best friends are still here, so every time I play music I celebrate music in my life, and the wonderful musicians I know and the fact that I am still that I’m doing it.’

Is she ever!

Jo Jo Smith, the woman with the voice that melts you in half – at Wilsons Creek Hall on Saturday arvo from 3pm. Solo, with support from Mark Haezlett.

Tix are $25 on sale at the Bookshop in Mullumbimby – 6684 1413. For those wanting to catch Jo Jo at a very intimate house concert in Lismore on Sunday 22 March 3–5pm, ring Georgina Pollard on 0417 640 369.

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