We came to know Harry James Angus as the exuberant trumpet-playing frontman from the Cat Empire.
His energy and talent seemed boundless, and what made that band work was his passion for playing both with his band and his ability to create unforgettable musical experiences for his audience.
That’s what he does best. Stepping away from the big-band show that is the Cat Empire, Harry James Angus takes the same enthusiasm for musical uniqueness to his other projects, be they wild collaborative jazz expeditions or quiet solo shows with just Harry and a guitar. Harry James Angus is a generous performer. It’s what makes his shows so engaging.
He’s definitely one of my favourite performers to watch live – you never get the feeling there’s another show Harry would rather be at. When he’s onstage Angus uses his technical skill and his ability to improvise to craft bespoke shows. I doubt any two would ever be the same. Harry James Angus has just embarked on his Parlour tour to launch his new album Struggle With Glory. This isn’t a big stage show; these are small intimate gatherings in houses, paddocks and backyards around the country. This is a man who’s performed to thousands in stadiums and festivals around the world!
‘I love the idea of playing in someone’s living room,’ says Harry. ‘It’s a whole different style of performing – me and a small band. It’s a really nice thing to do. People from all over the country put their hand up. These are some of the best gigs, the regional house concerts; you go there and end up meeting the whole community.’
Playing a small gig can be more confronting for an artist than playing to thousands.
‘There are some basic skills you lose as a professional performer. Some basic interpersonal skills. So it’s good to keep things simple. You don’t want to lose touch with the reason you are there in the first place.’
Although he’s traversed the globe, Harry still admits to moments of self-doubt before a show.
‘I still feel like every gig I do in the days leading up that I am not prepared and then I find it an addictive feeling. There are probably a lot of musicians who are better organised than I – but I am good at taking risks musically and that is what I enjoy.’
Harry’s new album Struggle With Glory not only takes a different path in its tour; it’s also a unique concept for an album.
‘This is a whole new set of original songs inspired by gospel music and Greek mythology,’ says Harry. It was the epic themes of Greek mythology that drew him in. ‘I was reading them to my son Louis, who was six, as bedtime stories – The Iliad and The Odyssey and The Minotaur. I had been thinking for a long time how much I loved gospel music but how it feels contrived and disrespectful to yell out ‘Jesus’ as it feels like a parody of it somehow. It’s sad because so many people love gospel and want to play it. I thought I could right songs that sound like gospel but they could be about Zeus.’
Harry has had a long love affair with Mullum Music Festival. He was the patron in 2014 and 2015 and programmed one of the best festival venues to date – The Village Vanguard, featuring his band The Jazz Party. Mullum Festival is the premiere of Struggle With Glory, being played with a full 9-piece band.
‘It’s a mixed bag of people I went to high school with and we have been playing with for years, and a few people I had been playing with but haven’t for years. There is a fair crossover with my band and the Jazz Party but it’s a whole new set of original songs and it’s inspired by gospel music inspired by Greek mythology !’
Harry James Angus’s Struggle With Glory is sure to be one of the major highlights of Mullum Music Festival this year.
For tickets and program info for this 16–19 November, go to mullummusicfestival.com.