Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2017 Nov-Dec Contents 32 Rhythms
Just before heading out on the final leg of her
50th anniversary tour, new Zealand-born singer-
songwriter Jo Jo smith shared some time with Rhythms.
accompanying smith on the tour are lucie thorne
and hamish stuart – and lucie also shared time with
When did music come into your life?
Jo Jo Smith: Music came into my life at a very early age
and it has always been my soul soother. My parents were
interested in music and music was always playing in our
house. As a kid, I loved listening to the Top 40 / Top 10.
And I was keen on doing the dishes, because that was when
I could really listen to the radio and nobody would say,
“Turn that down!” because I was busy in the kitchen.
Tell us about your first gig.
Jo Jo: I did my first (paid) gig in 1967 at a club called The
Spider in Dunedin, New Zealand. I was playing drums and
singing in a band. Pete Edmunds was the drummer in the
band we were supporting. He was a very cool dude and
really, really tall. Pete let me play his drums and I remember
trying to reach the bass drum pedal. And you know, two
years ago when I was playing at a festival at Bellingen, I
spotted this woman and I called out “Pauline, is that you?”
Pauline was the bass player from that first band I played in
and I had not seen her since way back then.
Why did you play drums?
Jo Jo: I love beat and grooves and the sound of the drums.
My brother played drums and we had drums in the house,
so I got stuck into it too.
New Zealand creates fine music.
Jo Jo: Yes, some super fine music comes out of New
Zealand – it flows through the blood of many. Just
thinking... Tim Finn, Margaret Urlich, the late Marc Hunter,
Dave Dobbyn and so many more new acts of this day. The
list is long!
Tell us about your 50 years in the music industry.
Jo Jo: I started playing music in Dunedin, New Zealand
in 1967 – drumming and singing. Then I began doing solo
shows there. In 1969, I went to Sydney, doing the floorshow
thing. Not quite my thing at that time, so I returned to New
Zealand. I moved to Christchurch and joined the rock band,
Fantasy. I was also playing in a gospel band at the time. I
did floorshows in clubs and pubs in Christchurch. In 1974,
I came back to Australia and sang in pubs and clubs in
and around Brisbane. I also did session work, radio and
TV commercials. There was a lot of work back then – the
scene was pumping and the music was good. I met some
great musicians, some of whom I am still good friends with
to this day. I joined The Ride Band [in Brisbane], playing
drums and singing. We worked for an agent on the Gold
Coast and toured around the country for a few years. The
Ride Band was playing a lot of music that wasn’t heard on
radio, sometimes a bit hard to sell to punters, so we were
often being asked/told to learn more Top 40 material. The
Ride Band moved to Melbourne in the late 1970s and we
split up soon after that. There was lots of session work in
Melbourne and I was also doing backing vocals on albums
JO JO SMITH AND
for various artists [including on John Schumann’s Etched
in Blue and Kate Ceberano’s Brave]. In the early 1980s, I
toured with Marcia Hines (that was when I first met Hamish
Stuart) and with Renee Geyer (one of Australia’s greatest
singers in my opinion). Then it was time for a move north to
Mullumbimby. I joined the funk soul band, The Hip Pockets,
and I also played in other duos and trios. Now I’m living
back in Victoria, playing the fun gigs, festivals and house
concerts and collaborating with some wonderful musicians
What’s your advice for aspiring musicians?
Jo Jo: Do a music business course and learn to read
music – wish I’d done that. Watch videos of great players
and singers. If you are in a band, listen to what the other
players in the band are doing. Leave spaces – because less
is more, always. Take your music into an aged care facility
from time-to-time and share the gift – you will be giving
something so great. Keep a close eye on your ego. And learn
to be gracious.
How did the two of you (Lucie Thorne and jo jo Smith)
Lucie Thorne: I first saw Jo Jo play at the Mullum
[Mullumbimby] Music Festival – about nine years ago. A
few friends said I had to see her. So I did – and I was blown
away. I sat on the edge of my seat for the whole hour – goose
bumps, tears, laughter. Jo Jo has an extraordinary voice and
the capacity to sing right into the heart of it all. She’s up
there with the real greats. I remember going back stage and
thrusting my CD upon her and mumbling something about
how amazing she was. She came to my show the next day. In
my book, Jo Jo is a national treasure, an absolute legend, an
amazing songwriter. And I love her dearly.
Jo Jo: We met at the Mullumbimby Music Festival. There
was an instant connection in that meeting. Soon after
that we started doing some gigs together. Lucie’s voice
is unique, one out of the box. I love her sound. Her songs
come in all colours and her lyrics are striking. She’s a very
kind, warm, generous-hearted woman, with tons of vital
energy. Lucie put this 50th Anniversary Tour together and
made it all happen and I am so grateful.
Tell us about some jo jo/Lucie songs that you
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