Hello!We’ve reached the penultimate week of Global Music Match and this week we've been getting to know one of Australia's best blues and roots bands, Hussy Hicks, a tour de force with 6 studio albums, multiple industry awards, 15 international tours and more than a thousand live shows under their belts.
Featuring powerhouse vocalist, Leesa Gentz, award-winning guitarist, Julz Parker, drummer Ali Foster and bassist Tracy Bassy, the all-female four-piece have awards coming out their ears, from Gold Coast Artist of the Year and Album of the Year to Queensland Music Award and Golden Guitar nominations. Julz has even been touted ‘Australia’s top female guitar player’ by Australian legend Phil Emmanuel, which albeit incredible and duly deserved praise does raise the question of the necessity of the word ‘female’ in the accolade. From one all-female band to another, the perception of women in music is an issue we could talk about all day, from the scepticism of sound engineers to gendered festival rejections, not to mention the far darker acts at play in the industry.
Thankfully, these issues are slowly starting to be addressed. The gender balance on festival bills is improving, with many major festivals committing to a 50-50 balance. But 'we’ve already got a female band’ are still words we’ve all heard more than once, whilst a second all-male band on a line-up wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. For Hussy Hicks, it’s industry respect and the kudos that’s come with the accolades under their belts that’s helped them to be taken more seriously over the years, rather than a societal shift. And as a consequence, they feel a sense of responsibility to nurture the younger women coming up through the industry still today. Leesa suggests that it is up to women to define their space in the industry and let them know ‘I’m not just a chick singer with a toy guitar’.
Along with phenomenal musicianship, social activism is at the core of Hussy Hicks’ writing. Sparked by a disillusionment in government policy, at the heart of their latest album is a message of unity. Leesa describes a ‘divide and conquer mentality’ that is currently prevalent in Australia and across the world, when ‘really most people just want the same things and want the people around them to be happy too.’ The aptly entitled Gather Up The People encourages people to come together, not be torn apart, by challenging times. Last year’s Australian fires are a sad illustration of one such time. Rather than bringing people together, they instead sparked a political rift between those who pointed to the facts of climate change and those who blamed the Green Party’s anti-backburning policy. But despite the integrity of the social message, the album is subtle in its conveyance of these ideas. As Julz says, ‘raising questions is perhaps every bit as powerful as presenting ideas’.
Like all art, music has always reflected the times and in the Australian blues and roots scene this can be traced right back to its ‘bush music’ origins. The early ballads tell of the harsh ways of life for the bushrangers of the epoch and themes include war, drought and flooding, as well as isolation and loneliness. Themes still very prevalent today. Their origins can be traced back further still to the sea shanties of 18th and 19th century Europe that travelled to Australia during the early period of British colonisation. And songs such as Botany Bay and South Australia still feature heavily in the English folk canon today.
Like their predecessors, Hussy Hicks sing of the times and the societal and global themes that need addressing. In particular, the challenging times that have divided rather than united people; their songs share an important message of unity interwoven in powerful musicianship.
Next week we'll be introducing you to Finnish duo Zäpämmät!
The Magpies x
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