DIARY - 2 MAY 2010 - CATHERINE BRITT INTERVIEW
EXITS CALL YOU BACK TOWN
pour on lies/ just to watch you drown/ in this call you back town/ in
this counterfeit city/ they don't look if you ain't pretty/ and it's such
a damn pity/ this counterfeit city."- Call You Back Town - Catherine
radio moguls burned the wings of expat Novocastrian Catherine Britt in
the richest country music market in the free world she harvested hay from
Now she is fast becoming a poster girl for all those talented troubadours
spat out as the fruits of their labour withered on the sales vine.
Britt, 25, and fully energised after a six-year struggle for success in
the U.S. didn't get angry.
She and fellow spurned singer-songwriter Ashley Monroe collaborated on
a brace of songs as sweet solace.
Call You Back Town, the pick of their literary litter, follows
in the satiric slipstream of Nashville parodies by Texan Dale Watson,
Chicago champ Robbie Fulks, Becky Hobbs and a posse of Lone Star State
Britt split with multi-national label BMG-RCA in Nashville after flirting
with country charts without consummating commercial nuptials.
She included their song on her self-titled fourth album, released here
in May on ABC-Universal.
Her bonding with Knoxville girl Monroe - descendant of famed Monroe and
Carter families - created three songs on her new disc.
The hard-edged country roars to life under tutelage of Britt's embryonic
producer Bill Chambers and son-in-law Shane Nicholson at famed Sing Sing
Studio in Melbourne inner suburb Richmond.
Monroe, 24 and dumped by RCA sibling label Sony without releasing her
debut album, is an apt surrogate sister in song.
The prolific pair's music may not have been pretty enough for the narrow
play-lists of commercial radio but artists diverse as Carrie Underwood,
Kellie Pickler, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert and Ricky Skaggs have covered
"Nashville can be a very harsh place at times, wonderful place too,"
Britt told Nu Country TV and Stereo 974 FM.
"A lot of great music comes out of Nashville and a lot of my heroes
live there. It's a harsh place, that's the reality and I saw both sides
of it. This song was a result of seeing that side at certain stages and
how I felt about that. No, they never call you back - you call and leave
a message and they never get back to you. That's what the town is seriously
all about and you are genuinely surprised when someone actually answers
MONROE - SATISFIED SONGSMITH
I'll go down good lord/ I'll go down good lord/ down to that holy water
and stay/ I'm gonna stay/ well I'm gonna bathe my sins/ I'm gonna bathe
those sins/ bathe all those dirty sins away/ well I can see that light/
I can see that big ol' light." - Holy River - Catherine Britt.
no such problem when then teenager Britt was lured to Music City with
help from Sir Elton John and a cattle call of competing labels.
But radio chose reality show graduates Underwood, Pickler and latter day
superstar Taylor Swift, who later poached Britt's fiddler Caitlin Evanson,
to fill their female quota.
"RCA and I worked together for six years," Britt revealed.
"Dumped is a harsh word but there came a time when we both had to
stop working together for many reasons. There were a lot of changes at
the label and we had to part ways. It was best for everybody. We're all
still very good friends, thank goodness. A lot of times in those situations
it ends up being quite messy."
But not Britt - ABC Music released her two stillborn Nashville albums
was not so lucky.
Sony released two Monroe singles and canned the album Satisfied
that that was released digitally only - without any promotion.
"I think Ashley is related to the late Bill Monroe, a cousin,"
"She's also related to the famed Carter Family. She's got quite
a cool bloodstream going through her family line. She always makes
a joke about Knoxville - everybody's related to everybody."
Monroe co-wrote the recent Jason Aldean No 1 hit The Truth
and landed two songs on Texan fireball Miranda Lambert's huge selling
ACM award winning fourth album Revolution.
Meanwhile Britt is on the road again with Troy Cassar-Daley - the
dual ARIA Award winner with a lazy 20 Golden Guitars in his swag.
She is showcasing
her 14 original songs penned solo and with Monroe, Evanson, bluegrass
singer Chris Stapleton, Rory Lee Feek, expatriate Australian Jedd Hughes,
Bill Chambers, Melanie Horsnell and fellow Novocastrians Morgan Evans
and Mark Wells.
the needle runs through you/ the way the pain cuts through/ I know you've
been there too/ those sad melodies/ oh how they comfort me." Sweet
Emmylou - Catherine Britt-Rory Lee Feek.
Catherine doesn't know if country-folk icon Emmylou Harris heard her collaboration
with Rory Lee Feek on their thrice recorded tune Sweet Emmylou.
Sweet Emmylou adorned debut Joey & Rory album The Life Of
A Song in between two recordings by Britt.
and singing spouse Joey Martin released their version in Australia
on Sugar Hill-Vanguard through Shock.
"I was watching that movie, not the greatest movie in the world
the other day, Julie & Julia, and Julia saw this person
blogging about her as a chef and all this stuff and was freaking out.
She didn't think it was respectful -you are just worried when the
artist hears this tribute song, how they're going to react, and how
they're going to feel about it. I'm not sure if she has heard it at
this stage. I'm very nervous about when she does hear it - maybe I
don't want to know what she thinks."
So why did Britt cut the tune twice.
"I did it on my last album Little Wildflowers as a hidden
track," Britt recalled.
sat down in a little kitchen and recorded it on our lap top. I always
loved the song. I never could I really recreate it and do it properly.
I thought I was trying too hard to make it sound good. It wasn't until
we recorded it on this album it came out really naturally and flowed out
like it did. We ended up keeping it for this record. It came out great
- it's one of my favourite songs. I'm stoked."
Feek, a prolific writer, wrote Easton Corbin's 2010 #1 hit A Little
More Country Than That.
He scored in 1998 with Texan Collin Raye's hit of his song, Someone
You Used to Know - it was his first cut and peaked at #3 on Billboard.
The following year he another Texan Clay Walker had a smash with his Chain
He also had cuts for Kenny Chesney, Randy Travis, Charley Pride, Reba
McEntire, Terri Clark, Lorrie Morgan, the late Waylon Jennings, Buck Owens
Oklahoma singer Blake Shelton - latter day partner of Miranda Lambert
- cracked #1 in 2004 with Feek song Some Beach.
Feek also produced the Blaine Larsen album that year and co-wrote his
biggest hit, How Do You Get That Lonely?
- NOT JAMEY JOHNSON
you dressed me up with diamonds/ held me up so I could fly/ then like
a fallen star/ you shot me right out of the sky." Down - Catherine
Monroe and Evanson used songwriting as lucrative therapy for ruptured
romances - especially Down.
don't write many happy songs, it's another of my depressing songs,"
"Ashley and I share a lot of emotions - she has been through
a lot in her life. Her father passed away from cancer when she was
only 13. That was decisive of her move to Nashville in the end. We
used to sit around and talk about the most amazing things, from that
we shared these harsh things in our lives and these songs they came
out of nowhere. We had both been through a lot of harsh times and
lost loves - we just sit there and pour our hearts out. We literally
lived next door to each other, go around to each other's houses and
have a cry and pull out our guitars and write these great songs.
Down is just another of those break-up songs."
So was Down
inspired by former boyfriend and fellow BMG-Sony artist and latter day
star Jamey Johnson?
"I think was before Jamey actually," Britt confessed.
"Jamey was a short part of my life but nonetheless important - that
was a passing moment in my life and it did affect me. I definitely got
some songs out of it but I don't think this is one of them."
So will Britt be sharing royalties with Johnson for that?
"No, I wish, that would be great," she joked. "I would
love to get half his royalties."
I'm building walls and closing doors and leaving you behind/
shutting out the hurt inside and taking back my mind/ the blood you drew
it hurt you too now we both have to pay/since you slipped away since you
slipped away/it's colder than the winter now and quiet all the time/I
tell myself you're still around just to ease my mind." - Since
You Slipped Away - Catherine Britt-Jedd Hughes
creative shelter from the Guitar Town storm with expat Jedd Hughes when
she arrived in Nashville as a teenager.
Hughes, born in the tiny town of Quorn north of Adelaide in the Flinders
Ranges and raised in Tamworth, and Britt both left here as teenagers.
Texan Terry McBride discovered Jedd studying music at the famed South
Plains College at Levelland near Lubbock in the West Texas panhandle.
Hughes scored a gig as a guitarist for the other Kentucky Coalminer's
Daughter Patty Loveless.
He then releasing his solo album Transcontinental and became an
in demand guitarist for Texans Rodney Crowell and Jack Ingram while writing
with Ingram and Guy Clark, expat Australians The Greencards and Felicity.
"We hung out on and off in Nashville, lived literally around the
corner from each other," Britt recalled.
"When I first went over there I hooked up with him. He was one of
the only people I knew over there - it gave me a chance to hang out with
an Aussie. Every time we could write together we did. We were so busy
all the time, both trying to get our careers off the ground. Since You
Slipped Away was one of the many songs we have written together. I
have always loved it - it was the first song we wrote together."
do you go when the lights go out/ when the music stops, the curtain falls/
the people all leave nothing but empty seats/ it's just you the piano
and four walls." Where Do You Go - Catherine Britt-Caitlin Evanson-James
But it was
Nashville fiddler Caitlin Evanson who Britt credits for Where Do You
Go - the song that kick started her album.
"Caitlin and myself became really great friends, best friends,"
"We lived together in a house with other girls - she also played
fiddle in my band. We travelled all around America together. She's a very
talented singer songwriter. We had this song a long time. When I came
back from America I was ready to make music again. I got my head straight
and knew what I wanted to do. I played this song for Shane and Bill and
it was the grounding of the record. It was the first step - we knew we
were going down this route and based the record on that song."
Britt thanks Evanson for having the time to share her talent.
"She went on to other things when I left the states, she started
working with Taylor Swift," Britt quipped of the multi-instrumentalist
who has toured here with both blonde singers.
"She sure doesn't have many days off these days."
change a thing/ so there are things, I may have done, I'm not proud of
every one/ but every one, is who I am/ I'll never take it back again/
wherever I go, there I am/ wherever I've been so I've been/ I turn around
and I grin." - Can't Change A Thing - Catherine Britt-Melanie
wrote three tunes for her album with Sydney songsmith Melanie Horsnell
- another artist better known overseas than her homeland.
They include the first single Can't Change A Thing, released
in late April.
The song was ignited, like many of the car and truck crashes, while
on the M3 Motorway that has also claimed a few other scalps on the
eve of the NSW election.
"I wrote it on M3 driving from Newcastle to Sydney," Britt
was on that two hour drive that I do so often - I had all that time to
think. That melody came out of nowhere and I just started singing it.
I sang it for two hours straight. I just walked in there to Melanie's
home, picked up my guitar and played it to her and said 'what do you think
about this?' The lyrics fell out within 30 minutes - it was one of those
lucky things where the song falls out and it's meant to be and it ends
up as a really catchy tune - we're really happy with it. It's always a
pleasure to write with Melanie. I always get so inspired by her poppy
melodies - she's very good with that. She's so brilliant with that."
It was so brilliant that Britt and Horsnell also wrote More Than You
Are and Saved for the album.
cry on, you're lonely just like me/ well I pray that this whistle/ can
drown out my blues/ our love was a lie/ and that's the cold truth/ when
two hearts are empty/ nothing is nothing to lose." - Lonely -
Catherine Britt-Chris Stapleton.
wrote a new tune with Kieran Kane and Kevin Welch sidekick Chris Stapleton
who recently decamped power Nashville bluegrass band The Steeldrivers.
"They were one of the great new bluegrass bands, they were just starting
up when I was over there," Britt added.
"Chris is one of the most talented singers. Oh my God, he's got this
really cool graded voice. It was so great to work with him - the times
we did. It's sad he left the band. I guess he will go on and do other
things as he's an incredible songwriter. We wrote this song and hung out
together and wrote many songs."
can get on top, but it won't take long/ I'll mess you up like a wrecking
ball/ you're a love struck junkie trying to run/ you be the user I'll
be the drug/ hey, there's no where to run/ I hate to tell you honey, but
you're under my thumb/ like a travelling preacher, door to door."
- Under My Thumb - Catherine Britt-Morgan Evans-Mark Wells
keep the publishing royalties in her hometown when she penned Under
"I wrote the song recently with Mark Wells and Morgan Evans,"
"They're Newcastle singer-songwriters and country rockers. I was
being silly. I had been listening to Lucinda Williams all day. I had these
rocking melodies in my head. I started messing around on the guitar and
came out with that. I was messing around with Morgan, saying how he was
under my thumb. I'm not sure how impressed he was with that."
Britt also included other songs that she held onto for many moons.
"There was a compilation of songs that I have been writing over time
that never really fitted records for whatever reason," Britt explained.
"People didn't feel they were right, I guess at the time for the
records I was making. Like the first record I made this was done independently
without a label. Once again it's been picked up by ABC and Universal to
be distributed. I just went in with a bunch of songs that I have always
loved but no-one felt fitted anything else. It's funny this time they
all fitted together - the bunch of misfit songs. I've been wanting to
record these songs for a long time and there's plenty of Ashley Monroe
songs that we have written and are similar and in that vein - I'm really
glad we got these songs down and got them out there."
mother and father were buried here/ beneath the cold and lonely hills/
so carry me home and lay me down/ so when it's time, I'll come around/
sleepy town, oh sleepy town/ don't you change where I am bound/ lay me
down oh lay me down/ in sleepy town, is where I'll be found/ somewhere
high up in those hills." - Sleepy Town - Catherine Britt.
born in the Newcastle suburb Kahiba, has had life long support for
her music from her psychologist father Steve and mother Sue.
They took her to talent quests as a pre-pubescent schoolgirl, encouraged
her writing when she was a sales serf for JB Hi-Fi and recently doubled
as roadies during her performance at the resurrected Whittlesea Country
So it's fitting that she sings of being with them in the after life
on her new tune Sleepy Town.
And she confessed she had not bumped them off for the soft gospel
tune - one of two she wrote solo on this disc.
I'm speaking from an old woman's point of view," Britt reassured
"I'm talking about how I'm about to die and please take me home to
my hometown - bury me with my parents under those Blue Mountains. It's
about Newcastle - my hometown that I love very much."
takes a fool to learn, it makes a fool to cry/ it takes a lot to lose
and a love to die/ you came at me like a freight train/ then you left
a mess like a hurricane." - I Want You Back - Catherine Britt-Bill
wrote her album entrée track I Want You Back with mentor-producer
It was a fitting reunion for the duo that dated back to Britt's talent
"I've known Bill since I was 11 years old, I guess," the singer
"We have been talking about writing this song for so long. It never
happened so I said 'I'm going to make a day and come up to your studio
on the Central Coast and write a bloody song.' We came out with this track.
Bill produced this record with Shane Nicholson. I really enjoyed working
with him. It was such a pleasure to work with him again. He produced my
first two records. I really missed working with him - he is such a big
part of my life. I don't think anyone else in the world gets me as much
as he does."
Chambers produced Britt's acclaimed stone country debut disc Dusty
Smiles & Heartbreak Cures.
And, he also co-produced her first Nashville recorded disc Too Far
Gone with hit writer and seasoned producer Keith Stegall - the man
behind Georgian superstar Alan Jackson's huge selling albums.
When Britt arrived in Nashville she requested Chambers as her studio angel
"I had to go in and explain if they (BMG-RCA) loved me and what they
heard on Dusty Smiles and Heartbreak Cures that was Bill. That
was really Bill they were hearing. It as my singing and my songwriting
but that was him - production, instrumentation - that was Bill, everything
sonically that was Bill. I wanted him to be part of Too Far Gone.
He walked me through that. It was really scary for me, out on a limb giving
it a go. I didn't really know what I was doing. Fortunately for me in
those early days in Nashville he walked me through that. It was really
good to have someone familiar and part of the creative process."
AT SING SING
did Britt choose acclaimed Richmond studio Sing, Sing as her recording
"That was Nash Chambers idea, he was project manager and engineer
on this record," Britt explained.
"I love Melbourne - I adore Melbourne. It's one of my favourite
cities. I go there all the time - it's just got a really good musical
vibe there. Every time I play in Melbourne they want to hear the singer-songwriter
real music stuff - they really appreciate the good music. One of the
guys in my band lives there. We spent a week recording. My brother,
his wife and their kids are now living in Melbourne. I'll be back
down there soon - I'm touring Victoria in May with Troy Cassar-Daley.
Hopefully there will be some inner city gigs."
But it was
a retreat on the NSW Central Coast that was the locale for the CD slick
"Patonga is a little peninsula in the middle of nowhere," Britt
"It's really hard to get to but once we got there it proved to be
one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen - a fantastic place to
shoot photos. Not a lot of people have been there before - it was really
The results are on the ABC-Universal album released in May.
CLICK HERE for a previous
Britt feature interview in the Diary on February 20, 2008.
CLICK HERE for another
on February 12, 2006.
CLICK HERE for earlier
feature on October 21, 2004
This interview was broadcast live on Bob Taylor's top rating morning show
on Melbourne country music HQ - Stereo 974 FM - in the bowels of Brooklyn
in the city's western suburbs on Wednesday April 28.
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