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Byron Shire
April 16, 2021

The man who blew Tom Waits’ mind

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C R Avery
C R Avery

It takes a special kind of performer to garner a response like, ‘He’s blown my mind’ from the legendary Tom Waits.
The hit of last year’s Mullum Music Festival, Canada’s CR Avery returns to Mullumbimby for one very special show.

Whether performing to thousands at the Royal Albert Hall or the lucky few who made it inside the packed-past-capacity speakeasy, CR Avery is a unique, raw and dynamic performer. His genius lies in many genres – blues, hip-hop, spoken word and rock ’n’ roll. He is a one-man band, but one for this generation; with the rare ability to sing poetic verse while beatboxing simultaneously while pounding the piano and adding harmonica like a plot twist. A multi-talented front man for his Legal Tender String Quartet; a crazed lead singer/harp player for his rock ’n’ roll band The Special Interest Group; a lyrical dynamo and the musical backbone of the spoken word trio Tons of Fun University.

Who are the songwriters or lyricists or artists who have most influenced you?

A razor-sharp-tongued boxer who threw his gold medal over a bridge; a honky-tonk sharp-dressed cowboy poet; the little Jew who wrote the bible from Montreal; North Ontario’s Shaky Productions and the man from Minnesota.

What is the appeal for you of hip-hop?

Same as Chuck Berry or Patti Smith, but it happened in my lifetime, the street-post-modern shakedown.

Are there particular subjects that you like to focus on?

Ballads are better, I’d rather tell someone else’s story… A drunk doctor with a pen and his subjects of worthy stories that need to be told.

That’s what I want! But I have to write the odd prayers, like the night-light dreams to figure it all out, my next turn, to deal with this heart of mine in a world surrounded by a woman or women, stuck-in-the-mud-love.

C R Avery on stage
C R Avery on stage

How do you start a piece – do you have a typical approach?

‘Behind every beautiful thing there’s bin some kind of pain.’ – Dylan

You have a unique approach to harmonica. What is it about that humble instrument, do you think, that has the power to move people?

Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson changed everything. I’m just adding that post-modern street shakedown to it.

What have you been working on of late?

A musical, bin touring it for over a year – it’s called Some Birds Walk For The Hell Of It (trailers on YouTube). Put out a book of the same name on Anvil Press; was just gonna be a crazy over-the-top book release, but when lightning strikes you go with it till the tank is dry, and till another flash of lightning is seen over the skyscraper hill.

You seem to move seamlessly between genres – and sometimes they spill into each other. Do you think we are moving to a musicality beyond genre?

Next big thing is to really master my instruments and take my vocal singing to uncharted places. Working on my Irish accent right now, like Orson Wells in The Lady of Shanghai.

What do you most enjoy about coming to Australia?

Fresh slate of a new audience, smoking on patios, Nick Cave is your Elvis, par-ma’ with chips and many dark and stormies.

What should we expect for your show in Mullumbimby?

Nothing but the fuckin’ best. I love this life of song and stories like Bessie Smith did singin’ the blues on the outskirts of town under a revival tent and mystical night stars. I was born to do this and nothing else.

Outlaw hip-hop harmonica player, beatbox poet, punk piano player, string quartet raconteur, rock ’n’ roll matador, playwright CR Avery returns to Mullumbimby’s Court House Hotel on Friday – show at 8pm.


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