Home' Rhythms Magazine : Rhythms May June 2019 DIGITAL Contents MUSICIAN
And such initiative ended up paying
ludicrously handsome dividends, his new
southern soul-tinged collection featuring
not just one but two of the greatest
keyboardists of the rock era – Benmont
Tench (The Heartbreakers) and Spooner
Oldham (Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan) – as
well as legendary session drummer Jim
Keltner, bass guitar maestro Don Was and
acclaimed axe-slingers Rusty Anderson
(Paul McCartney) and Mitch Easter.
Easter also lent his prodigious mixing
talents to Joy, alongside producer Don
Dixon reuniting the team behind classic
R.E .M . albums Murmur (1983) and
Reckoning (1984), making this a musical
dream team of ridiculously epic proportions.
“I’m just ecstatic,” Rooney chuckles. “The
idea was to do a couple of songs with some
of my heroes, and it ended up that we did
two albums worth: Joy is essentially volume
“What I wanted to capture was the live
feel in the studio of a band, particularly a
band with two keyboard players, which
was inspired by Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs &
Englishmen period with Leon Russell [in
“I think we achieved that with Spooner
Oldham and Benmont Tench playing off
each other and just playing a really down,
blues-roots kinda feel, anywhere from
Muscle Shoals right over to the west coast.
I was rapt that it sounded like a band
and that the songs were very strong and
everyone was on their game.”
Tench and Oldham had never played
together before and from all accounts loved
the experience, how on earth did Rooney –
a mainstay of the Sydney scene for decades
fronting The Lonely Hearts and Coronet
Blue – get this to actually happen?
“First of all, you’ve just got to ask people,
that’s the first point,” he smiles. “First, I
spoke to Don Dixon – who’d played bass and
done the string arrangements on an earlier
album of mine – and then contacted my
great friend Darryl Mather from The Orange
Humble Band, who’d had Spooner play on a
couple of their albums.
“So, Daryl introduced me to Spooner and
wanted – Don Dixon and myself had a little
shortlist – and he’s great friends with Jim
Keltner, who I’d wanted to play drums.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s really Don’s
record: they listened to the demos that I’d
given them a couple of times and then we
just went in and jammed them, and the first
take was often really quite magical which is
unsurprising with musicians of that calibre.
“But Don really set the stage, and then
there were Benmont and Spooner who are
both Southern boys with nearly a century of
combined playing between them. And two
guitar players Mitch – another old friend of
mine – and Rusty, and the two of them were
content to play along with it without being
the stars: it’s not a guitar album, it’s a song
“And then there was Don Was on bass for
about half the tracks, it gets pretty obscene!
It was crazy!”
To make things even more surreal Joy was
birthed at Dave Grohl’s 606 Studios in LA,
on none other than the Sound City Neve
Console that recorded (among countless
others) Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.
“We were very lucky, we were the first
people to get into that studio apart from
obviously the owner,” Rooney recounts.
“The desk has got all these signatures on
it like, ‘Ah, my dear old friend, love Stevie
Nicks’ and things like that, and it sounds as
good as you hope it would. It really is that
great, it’s very true and pays homage to the
music that’s being played through it.”
Rooney’s strong song writing throughout
Joy even touched seasoned veteran Keltner,
who famously played on many of John
Lennon’s non-Beatles recordings.
“There’s a certain underlying sense of
sadness or melancholy throughout Joy,
but it’s kind of like splitting hairs because
there’s a positive side to the negativity, like
two sides of a coin,” Rooney explains. “As
we played the track for All Over the World
I said to Keltner ‘I hope you don’t mind this
song, it’s about your good friend’ – there’s
a strong John Lennon inference to it – and
he just said, ‘Wow, who would have thought
there could be a positive song about John
“Then he just said, ‘We don’t have enough
joy in the world’, and that’s basically where
the album’s title comes from.”
Jim Keltner, John ‘Lou’ Lousteau, Mitch
Easter, Rusty Anderson, Spooner Oldham,
John Rooney, Georgina Johnston, Benmont
Tench, Don Was and Don Dixon
When Sydney vocalist John Rooney went to assemble
a band of US musicians to play on his latest solo Joy,
he aimed high and went for his absolute heroes, figuring
‘what’s the worst that can happen?’
By Steve Bell
Australian-born, Nashville-based guitar whiz Daniel Champagne
has seemed destined to tour the world with his acoustic music since
becoming proficient on the axe while most kids his age were still
struggling to talk.
Having finished his schooling, at the age of 18 he took off from
his home on the southern-NSW coast to embrace the itinerant
musician’s life. From there he took his heartfelt and charismatic solo
show around the world on a regular basis, sharing stages along the
way with everyone from Lucinda Williams and Judy Collins to INXS
and Ani DiFranco.
And while his mail might these days be addressed to a Tennessee
abode, Champagne explains that when you’re on the road over
300 nights a year your home essentially becomes wherever you’re
hanging your hat that evening.
“I kind of enjoy everywhere, which is good for my job, but I’ve been
based in Nashville for five years,” he explains. “Having said that
there’s so much travel and I’ve been touring so much that it doesn’t
feel like I’m based anywhere a lot of the time, but a lot of the touring
is in North America so if I get some time off it’s nice to go back to
“It’s a cool place to go back to and a cool community, and there’s a
of creative people there doing what they love which is inspiring and
makes you lift your game.”
America can be a hard nut to crack –especially for foreign singer-
songwriters but Champagne explains that he’s starting to see his
hard work pay dividends.
“It’s certainly picking up really strongly in pockets,” he continues. “I’d
be lying if I said it wasn’t hard because it’s been a good six years of
really doing a lot of hard groundwork there, and while Canada and
the UK are big markets for me and Australia and New Zealand are still
going well, the States for me has proved a lot harder.
“It’s starting to work, but it’s just so big! Luckily, I kind of of enjoy the
challenge and the adventure, and it’s a beautiful country to travel and
there’s so many cool people and so much amazing musical history, so
I find it really exciting to roll into each city.”
Champagne comes back each year for an exhaustive jaunt around
Australia, but he’s unsure whether his time abroad has given him a
new perspective on his homeland.
“I’ve always just enjoyed life in general and I’ve never had a bad time
anywhere, so with Australia it just always feels wonderful landing
back home,” he ponders. “I come from the far-south coast of New
South Wales near Bega, and the more I travel the more I miss that
place and realise how beautiful and special it is.
“And it’s nice coming back to Australia and getting to do an extensive
tour, and not just getting to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide,
Perth but also getting to a lot of smaller places and seeing parts of
the country that a lot of people don’t get to see even if they live in
Australia their whole life.
“There are a lot of people in those communities who really love music
and appreciate it, but they don’t get a lot of things coming through
town so when it does they really jump on-board and embrace it and
want to show their support.”
And while being a hardened road warrior is obviously fantastic from
a performance perspective, Champagne admits that his gruelling
itinerary can be a challenge on the songwriting front.
“I’m most comfortable onstage – as a performer that’s what I feel is
my strongest trait – and the creative side is a completely different
world,” the singer admits. “To be honest, it’s something where in
the last 12 months there’s probably been an imbalance, because
I’ve played so many shows that I’ve basically being doing a lot more
performing than creating.
“And performing is an art-form, but it has more to do with repetition
and has more physical aspects to it than creating. Last year I played
293 concerts and a lot of days off were driving days or flying days
between shows, so I just have to pull that back and focus on the
creative side a little bit.
“Also, they’re two very different headspaces, because performing is
almost like a sport – you’ve sometimes got to have this confidence
and a bit of ego to do it – but then creating is kind of the opposite,
you’ve got to strip yourself back and almost be vulnerable. It’s very
hard to swap between the two.”
Daniel Champagne is touring across Australia in May and June.
Daniel Champagne is based in Nashville but
he returns home each year for a national tour.
By Steve Bell
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