I never imagined my music would one day take me to Tasmania. But, it makes sense to eventually end up there since I’ve traveled nearly tip to tip on the globe – from Invercargill, New Zealand to the Orkney Islands and Hoy, which is two ferry boat rides away from the northern tip of Scotland. Now that the 2011 tour of New Zealand, Australia, and Tasmania tour has come to an end, I can’t help but wonder if the next gigs will be on the moon or at a space station.
I’ve always had a strong desire to visit the four corners of the earth (it is still flat, isn’t it?) and to bring to far regions the music that has inspired me during my ongoing career, now coming up on nearly 40 years. It is in these locations where a great many listeners are intimately familiar with these tunes but may not have had a chance to see and hear the music in a live setting.
The reason for going to Tasmania this time is that thirty years ago one of my greatest inspirations, guitarist John Fahey whom I had the good fortune of briefly knowing and touring with, recorded an album in Hobart titled, Live in Tasmania. I had always been curious about this remote corner of the earth, that for me at the time, had actually seemed like another planet.
Having been to New Zealand for six tours, I always had an inkling to make my way over to Australia, but never quite knew how to pull it off. With the internet and current communication systems making the world seem even smaller, that mainland tour came about with the generous invite from Australian guitarist Tim O’Brien, who put together the Queensland tour, which is whole ‘nother story of great adventures. Coincidentally, Tasmanian musician Steve Gadd, who had attended that very Fahey concert nearly a third of a century ago, heard through the grapevine that I was touring New Zealand and Australia, made the John Fahey connection and kindly invited me for a tour to the land down under the down under!
While in Tasmania, along with meeting and sharing the stage with Steve and his wife Marjorie, I was fortunate to have begun a great relationship with Aussie agent Roger Joseph of Arelmedia and as I’ve always said, you never know who might be in your crowd. At the end of one evening I realized Brian Ritchie, founder of The Violent Femmes, was sitting in the audience and we shared a hello.
One of the other highlights of the trip to Tasmania was the opportunity to conduct my GillaCamp guitar workshops at Claremont College and in downtown Hobart, with hosts Steve Gadd and MacFie Music. I never can feel quite fulfilled unless I have a chance to pass the torch to future players. More and more it seems that the educational side of these trips is as important as the performances. It’s one thing to get people to relax and enjoy and evening of music with a few laughs, but it’s an entirely different experience to realize that you’ve left something else behind regarding the craft. Mel Bay Publications has always been supportive on a worldwide platform with me and I have a high regard for the relationship that allows me to produce educational materials for players.
Towards the end of the tour as planned, two of the evenings were dedicated to a live recording, which will hopefully be assembled and released within the year, and if all goes well I’ll have to put Tasmania on my annual event planner.