The sleepy streets of Murwillumbah are set to come alive this October when singer/songwriter and now festival director Lou Bradley presents the first Murwillumbah Country Roots Festival.
What makes Murwillumbah the perfect setting for your Country Roots Festival?
To me, Murwillumbah is an old-school country town. As it is right in the middle of Byron, Nimbin and the Gold Coast, Murwillumbah also shares the amazing natural beauty that our area offers. There are no music festivals in Murwillumbah and the showgrounds, where the festival will be held, is extremely well set up. It looks like a movie set out of an old western film! The townspeople of Murwillumbah are also just that little bit more country than the neighbouring towns mentioned, and there is a great old-fashioned country hospitality feeling about it.
How have local businesses and council got in behind your event?
Council couldn’t be more supportive. Gary Bagnall, the Tweed Shire mayor, bought the first ticket and has it framed in his office! There is a new buzz in Murwillumbah and everyone is generally excited about the event.
What opportunities do you think this event could eventually provide locally for musicians and business and later down the track? Do you feel you could attract international acts?
We have booked many local musicians to play. I had more than 400 people apply to play, so I don’t think I’m ever going to have to scrape around for musicians! We’re hoping this festival will put Murwillumbah on the map. It’s common for tourists to drive past Murwillumbah and go to either Byron Bay or the Gold Coast. So far we have people booking tickets from Mt Gambier, Tas, Cairns, NT etc. I think this town has the potential to accommodate a large group of people, local and outside, without losing its charm. I think we could definitely attract international acts; it’s just a matter of whether that fits the dream at this stage.
What is the vision you have for this event?
The vision we have is to create a Country Roots Festival. So instead of the usual country music festival with whips and cowboys (although that doesn’t sound too bad either), not too many songs about utes and dogs, I have wanted a festival that focuses on country music that is a little left of centre and roots music that sometimes finds its way into the country music genre. We want cool country music and great original music. Music that gets back to the roots of country music and hopefully provides something a little more substantial than the average country music festival. Of course there are a few fun acts thrown in that may not sit completely in the genre, but this kind of thing happens I guess and I am happy for it to let it take its own course a little.
It’s a pretty impressive line-up – how did you get so many big names to commit to such a new event?
Lucky for me, I have gotten to know most of the acts personally. Throughout my music career I have either played with these acts or become friends. Also, I think they too can see the line-up is quite different from the usual country fest and so it’s very appealing. Everyone wants to play! Also, the area is so beautiful and accessible. That kind of thing is important to a travelling muso.
Do you think the country music industry is more supportive and community minded than the rest of the music industry? Does this help in getting new initiatives like this one off the ground?
The country music industry is definitely very user friendly. It does support the community and common way of life. There aren’t too many wankers in the country music industry. Most artists do it for music’s sake, not for fame, and most of the audience are usually there for the music and to listen and have a good time.
Where is it going to be set in M’bah? Is it in the town and venues or is it in a gated area? Can you talk me through what it is going to look like?
The festival will be staged at the showgrounds. It is a ticketed event. Opening night is Friday 2 October and we finish Monday evening 5 October. There are four stages. One main stage will be in the show arena. This will be a marquee stage to fit 5,000 people under in case of bad weather. It will be surrounded by our carefully chosen local market and food stalls. Then there will be the shed stage up at the northern end of the grounds. This will be for fun shed music. A bit unruly, it will open up on to a big bar and canteen that will sell fun fast food (burgers, hotdogs etc). Then in the middle of those stages is the busking stage. It will run all day with buskers who we have had on the streets throughout the year. There is a busker comp too. The last stage (and probably my favourite) is the Opry stage.This will be in the old dance studio building on the southern end. This will be a seated area and will have one mic for unplugged musicians to stand around and sing. Lots of bluegrass and roots music. There will be camping and parking around the perimeter.
Who are the acts you are most excited about?
Well of course I’m pretty excited about Kasey Chambers. She is a good friend of mine and also one of my favourite Australian artists. I am naming the main stage the Kasey Chambers Stage (she took a lot of convincing) as I believe she has really been the one who has paved the way for alternative country artists here in Australia. Archie Roach is also such a fantastic artist. Also being a Bundjalung man, we are very lucky to have him play, that’s for sure. Busby Marou are not only fun fellas to hang out with, but have really great positive feelgood music. I’m actually looking forward to all of the acts. It’s my dream line-up of artists, that’s for sure.
What about emerging musical acts?
There is a young sister duo act that I’m really looking forward to. Charm Of Finches are two sisters, 13 and 15, from Victoria. They were one of the first acts I chose to play. They’re fantastic songwriters and have old souls.
What should we expect for the first festival?
Great music, grassroots, bluegrass, country folk, roots, country, country roots, old Aussie rock legends, singer/songwriters… plenty of good wholesome food, a great local feel and hopefully a relaxed atmosphere that is family friendly, and a warm and fuzzy feeling. We want the first year to be great and to feel like there are greater things to come.
With more than 50 artists and just 5,000 tickets this is going to be a heck of a show. 2–5 October, with headline Kasey Chambers.
For ticketing and program info go to www.mbahcountryrootsfest.com.