At the recent 2018 ARIA Nominations, Sydney Scoop sat down with Fanny Lumsden, an artist who has already truly arrived on the Australian music scene with the release of her two albums, but is continuing to aim high.
Fanny’s talent and ambition has been galvanised by the fact that both of her albums have received ARIA Award nominations for Best Country Album. Her first album Small Town Big Shot was nominated for an ARIA in 2016 and now, her second album, Real Class Act has been nominated for the 2018 ARIA Award for Best Country Album. This accolade comes after Real Class Act debuted at #1 on the ARIA Country Music Charts.
You may think that because Fanny has a huge following in the Australian country music scene, she doesn’t have any credibility in the overall music scene. You may just need to realign your blinkers on that score. Real Class Act not only debuted at #1 on the country charts, took out poll position in the Australian Independent Record Associations Country Album of The Year Award, it also debuted at #23 on the all genre charts. Not bad for a lass hailing all the way from Western NSW where the nearest city was some 600km away from the farm she grew up on, and seven years on from when she moved to Sydney and started playing her music around the traps, including Jurassic Lounge, a weekly Tuesday evening event at the Australian Museum.
It was at Jurassic Lounge where I was first introduced to Fanny by my friend Nick La Rosa who was in charge of booking the musical acts appearing each week. Fanny was as friendly and refreshingly authentic back then as she is now, after all those years with only one introduction, Fanny still remembered me. Given that I had known Fanny before she was a big timer, I was excited to have the chance to talk to her about all her amazing achievements and hard work since those early days of arriving in Sydney.
The first thing I wanted to discuss funnily enough was Fanny’s love of totem tennis. In all honesty I wasn’t surprised to learn that we share a love of this childhood game. In my mind it’s such an egalitarian game as no real skill is needed except the desire to bash a ball around on a string tied to a pole, it's inexpensive, it can be transported anywhere (especially on tour said Fanny with a twinkle in her eye) and be played by yourself or if you are lucky enough to have a willing sibling or a pack of them can be played with two people at a time in a team environment. It is absolutely endearing that Fanny had always held the game close to her heart, just like me. If we had never bonded before, it was at that moment we truly did when we were spontaneously spinning our conversation into a spiral of excitement about our love of the sport and the way Fanny has incorporated the playing of it on tour and at concerts. Especially vivid was the picture of Fanny calling up audience members to battle it out on stage on the modified totem tennis poles she has devised (instead of planting into the ground, a bit difficult on a stage as I agreed wholeheartedly, the pole has a flat base to allow it to stand up). And of course, this segued neatly into the community friendly genius way that Fanny has tackled touring regional areas.
Only Fanny Lumsden would come up with a smart idea of creating a touring brand that revolves around the one venue that is open to all ages and is apparent in the majority of one horse or more towns, the country hall. Fanny has on her roster 70 halls and she is keen to build The Country Halls Tour brand into more than a vehicle for her and her band, The Thrillseekers. Fanny explained that her future plan is to set it up so she can book other artists and have a circuit of entertainers roving the country halls of Australia to provide families with a chance to experience first-hand the music they might be listening to. As Fanny said “I know I would have enjoyed having artists roll into my town when I was a kid”. Really, you can see that Fanny’s true motive of playing her music is to provide an uplifting moment for the communities of regional Australia. Fanny and The Thrillseekers are onto their 6th annual Country Halls Tour, and Fanny has already begun signing them up for the next tour. Out of the 70 on the roster, 50 (over 70 per cent) have already jumped onboard for the next tour.
Next on my list of questions was whether being on top of the Australian Country charts was always a goal or was she surprised to find herself there. Fanny told me how it had been a gradual process. She explained that the chart and concert success, as well as the recognition from fans and the Australian Country Music community had kind of snuck up on her. She went on to say that even though she know full well all the sales figures for her albums and the number of attendees at each concert as she does the behind the scenes work of organising tours, the crowd funding and the recording, marketing and distribution of her music through her own record label Red Dirt Road Records, it was still a little surprising to find herself in the enviable position of debuting at number one on the charts and being nominated for an ARIA for Real Class Act especially when up against one of her Australian Country idols, Casey Chambers.
From all that talk, it was very evident that Fanny isn’t kidding when she had mentioned that her music was a truly home-grown affair what with all the work she does off stage and that both her brother Walter and husband Dan Stanley are members of The Thrillseekers. It is also a well-known fact that Fanny and Dan are also business partners in the whole Fanny Lumsden project.
In case like me you were wondering what type of music Fanny was listening to when she was growing up, you’ll be interested to know that she was alternating between Australian country music and classical. Fanny’s dad provided the Australian country influence with his favourites of Slim Dusty and John Williamson which led to her becoming a big fan of Casey Chambers. The classical influence came from Fanny’s mother. As well as listening to classical music Fanny spent her childhood studying to play it on the piano. Musicianship is something that Fanny is not short of. Fanny also mentioned that artists such as Josh Pyke and Katie Miller-Heidke have also been huge influences.
I was also speculating about what it would be like living and breathing your work and home life with your husband and baby in tow. This is exactly the reality Fanny is living. It is of no burden to Fanny as I discovered. In fact it has all been by serendipity in that Fanny met her husband, Dan as well as her band members beside her brother, back in her starting out days in Sydney. Fanny was one hundred per cent beaming when talking about how she loves the big happy band family she has created. (It was lovely to see Walter caring for Fanny’s baby during the times Fanny was busy doing interviews).
Finally, I asked about how she had found moving to Sydney all those years ago after coming from a very rural scene on the farm out west and then studying Rural Science at the University of New England. Fanny wasn’t reticent about admitting she had found the transition to living in Sydney very hard. She said it was very overwhelming until finding her place in the Sydney music community, a point that she never looked back on given most of what she knows about how to put on a show including how to plug in a guitar and set up a microphone was learned in those days. As Fanny says, moving to Sydney was both a huge learning curve musically and a great social networking scene that she remains grateful for, especially when remembering that Sydney was where she met her husband and the members of The Thrillseekers.