This year marks 10 years of Mullum Music Festival, a unique festival that presents music within the confines of the village, filling halls, pubs and clubs with local, national and international artists – an untried formula that has proven its merit by offering patrons and participating artists a very different experience. With the full lineup being announced this week The Echo spoke with director Glenn Wright.
Ten years on booking Mullum Music Festival, what has changed – how has the festival evolved?
We’ve worked hard not to change much. The first Mullum Music Festival was one of my favourites and I try and remember that each time I program the festival. I think if we have evolved it’s as a music festival that is egalitarian at its core. So we value our customers, our performers, and staff. It’s not just about one act but rather all the performers. I think the evolution is that we now have a loyal following who get this very respectful approach to the artists performing and the festival in general. So the festival flows and all performances are well attended. There is as much excitement at a Drill Hall gig as there is at the Civic Hall.There is huge support for the local acts, as well as excitement around the international guests. It would seem the possible weakness of having so many smaller venues has become a strength. We now even have a designated piano bar that holds 50 people. That’s so much fun.
Did you ever think it would become such an iconic and embraced event?
I try not to think too much. If you think too much you worry. It’s not rocket science. You book the act, they turn up and play and you hope you sell a few tickets. I did know this event was different from the existing music events and that gave it a chance.
How have you approached booking this year with the 10-year celebration in mind?
The first announcement of 10 for 10 was pretty much all new acts and mainly internationals. It’s possibly a bit bigger announcement than we have done in previous years and I’m super excited about Jon Cleary & The Monster Gentlemen, Frazey Ford and Marlon Williams. The announcement today is more about a return of artists from the first 10 years of the festival. It’s like a family returning home, with our patrons Suzannah Espie, Mama Kin and Harry Angus all returning to perform along with Tinpan Orange, JoJo Smith, Liz Stringer, Hussy Hicks and so many more acts we have grown to love so much.
You are coming off the back of Bello Winter Music… How do you keep yourself energised? What else do you have on the go?
I take Fire Tonic once a day, which balances the ridiculous amount of coffee I drink. When we are not working on Bello or Mullum festivals we promote concerts. In the next few months we are presenting gigs for Tex, Don and Charlie, as well as Aine Tyrrell (www.redsquaremusic.com.au).
How do you know an artist is right for Mullum? Clearly you are booking artists who sometimes people may have not heard of. Is this risky?
We have a reputation for booking new acts. Washington, Nano Stern, Husky, Marlon Williams, Montaigne, Tash Sultana… I think it’s what we do best. Often these acts go onto bigger stages all over the world. That’s cool. It’s lovely Marlon is actually coming back to help us celebrate 10 years.
How do festivals like Mullum offer people the chance to broaden their music palette? Or go off the grid so to speak?
Well I’m told there are only two types of music. If you think you don’t like classical music it’s because you haven’t heard good classical music. Same goes for country, jazz, blues and any other form. So we try to just book good music and that means you might just find yourself enjoying something you thought you wouldn’t.
What is it about MMF do you think that has set it apart and has caused it to succeed in a difficult live music environment?
It’s affordable, it’s appealing to all ages and it’s all about good music.
How has your festival impacted on Mullum do you think and the creative community here?
Well there are many tourism and economic benefits, but that’s not really why we do it. We do it because we love booking bands. So the creative community benefits big time. Bands get work and also get to showcase their talents.
The youth mentorship helps promote young musicians and many have gone onto wonderful careers in music. Also it’s just a nice thing to have in your home town. I have met many wonderful locals through producing the festival and I think it’s a really good yearly catch-up for many locals. It’s a social event as well as a cultural event.
What are some of the things you’ve had feed back to you about the festival from artists and community?
I think the general feeling is that it’s a fatigue-free festival that is easy to attend. Often it’s an ordeal to go to bigger music festivals. Mullum is easy and comfortable.
What should we expect this year and what are the surprises and highlights for the tenth year of Mullum Music Festival?
Expect to hear amazing sets from some very cool first-time artists attending the festival from the UK, USA, NZ, Canada, Ireland, Mali and more as 15 international acts joining 60 national and local acts. Also a very special 10-year celebration street parade, a youth mentorship reunion of past winners, a concert celebrating JoJo Smith’s 50 years in the music industry, as well as performances by many of the artists that have made the first 10 years so much fun.
Topping all that off is the return of legendary Sunshine Coast act Oka closing out the festival, as they did so often in the early years of the festival.
Mullum Music Festival 16–19 November. For tickets and lineup info visit the website at mullummusicfestival.com.