Interview: Bethanie Jolly

Bethanie woos us in our sleep

‘Woo Me from My Sleep’ album launch | Drill Hall Mullumbimby | Saturday 25 August | 6.30pm | $12–15 

Five years ago Bethanie Jolly lost her partner in an accident. He was a beautiful musician who had long encouraged Bethanie to share the music she had been creating since childhood. His death taught her something quite profound, and in the process Bethanie has found her way as a musician. She talks with The Echo about her new album Woo Me from My Sleep, launching at the Drill Hall this Saturday with an accompanying art show by Bethanie.

What was the concept for the album Woo Me from My Sleep? Where did you draw your influences?

The journey since the death of my partner has been the biggest and most profound, and in some weird way I am grateful for it all. The depth of the grief and struggle, the sheer height of the love and the joy when it came and everything in between has felt like this great journey across such a wide expanse of human experience, revealing undiscovered parts of life and myself. I feel like we can sleep through life, or we can let life’s experiences, however wonderful or challenging, wake us up. Woo Me from My Sleep is an invitation to life – a poetic way of saying ‘Dear Life, bring it on!’ After all, who knows how long we’ve got?

Why did you choose to include paintings?

As Joni Mitchell said, painting and songwriting is ‘good crop rotation’. It allowed me a fuller expression of what I was trying to get across. Music is just like another colour to choose from. Painting with music and singing with colour make sense to me. Doing one without the other would be like seeing a beautiful view and not hearing the birds.

Tell me about the recording. Where did you record? Who with?

I recorded with the legendary Jordan Power at Inky Studios in Byron. A friend of mine told me that if I was going to record with anyone it had to be this guy because he’s the best. To be honest, I was a bit nervous about asking him, because he’s worked with so many amazing artists, like Xavier Rudd and Angus Stone, and who am I? I honestly could not have picked a better human for the job! Not only did I come out with an album that sounds more beautiful than I could have ever imagined, I also scored a wonderful new friend. It was also such a treat getting to work with the incredible musicians who came out of the woodwork to play on the album – Peter Hunt on trumpet (Kooi), Bobby Alu on Samoan log drums and other magical nic naks, Matt Bone on double bass, Ben Wilson on banjo, Kara Mallory’s vocals, Robbie Farrar on cello, Will Chance on congas, Benny on guitar (Benji & the Saltwater Sound System) and of course the beautiful singers I’ve called the River Stone Choir. I’m still pinching myself!

How do the songs change and evolve from recording to the live show?

My live performances vary quite a bit, depending on who is around. I often play solo, but I love sharing music with other musicians more than I love ice-cream. I love how much the songs can vary depending on who is adding their own zest to them. It keeps the songs alive. So it depends… but this is definitely the first time these songs have experienced so many beautiful musicians all at once. It’s very exciting.

What should we expect for your live show?

For me, this show feels like the pinnacle of this huge 12-month journey. Many of the musicians who played on the album will be joining me and we are very lucky to have Peter Hunt and Chris Mallory opening the evening. I will also have the Woo Me from My Sleep painting series displayed for the first time, in which the paintings reflect lyrics from each song on the album. I think it will be a very special evening that celebrates the coming together of all things good and worthy in life – journeys, music, art and damn fine community.

Saturday at the Drill Hall in Mullumbimby with special guests Peter Hunt and Chris Mallory. 6.30pm. Tix are $12–15 and can be booked on

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