From Down Under to the folk fest
Coming from the left, Australian folk band the Rosie Burgess Trio will play this year’s Canmore Folk Music Festival at Centennial Park (Aug. 4-6).
“I haven’t been that far over to the right,” said Burgess, speaking from Melbourne. “It’s a bit of a first.
“We’ve done a little bit, mostly around Vancouver and Toronto, so we haven’t really gotten past the edges.”
The trio was spotted by festival organizers at another event earlier this year.
“We went to Memphis earlier this year to play at the Folk Alliance and quite a lot of Canadian festivals were lurking about, and Canmore was one of the good ones,” she said. “We were very excited when they offered us a spot.
“We love going someplace we’ve never been before, and the festival’s got a really awesome reputation. I’m just really excited about it.
“It’ll be great to hear all the rest of the music and the Canadian music scene’s got a really good reputation and I’m excited to come to one of your festivals.”
The trio’s music is a real mix, said Burgess.
“We’re Australian roots music – there’s a real sound that’s a mixture of folk and roots and blues and acoustic stuff,” she explained. “It’s got an Australian sound to it, and we’re all about the harmonies and well-paced melodies, and we love to all sing together, but with a less traditional style. It’s got that modern folk rock style.”
While Burgess begins the writing for most of the music, the band then collaborates to create the finished product.
“I mostly write all the music, and then we get together and we play and all arrange stuff,” she said. “They’re quite vocal about where they think things should go and what they should sound like and in that way it’s a bit of a collaboration between us. But I generally come with the bones of a song and say ‘here it is’ and they get to work.”
The songs tend to be about emotions, explained Burgess.
“In general, I sing about little emotional moments that flare up in me and create a song. Sometimes, songwriting gives me perspective on my life,” she said. “I might be feeling a particular emotion about something – happiness or love – and I use the songwriting to give me some kind of broader perspective.
“I love storytelling songs, but I’ve never been particularly good at writing them. I think there’s an element of that that creeps into my music. I like to feel each song has its own little story.”
The band’s newest album, Before I Set Sail, was released in March.
“I’m really excited about this album, it’s a collection of songs that I’ve written over the last year,” said Burgess. “We went into the studio and it all popped out really quickly. It’s got a sound that really reflects how we sound when we play together live – it’s a studio album, but it sounds like us.
“I’ve made albums in the past where it doesn’t translate so well, where the live show doesn’t match the album, and for me I was really excited to make an album that sounded like us.”
Burgess’ bandmates are Sam Lohs and Tim Bennett.
“Sam plays the drums, but it’s not a traditional drum kit, she’s got a stomp box that we made ourselves and a bunch of cymbals and a snare,” said Burgess. “Tim plays electric bass, and I think he’s definitely the best I’ve ever seen in my life. He’s got a very unique style – he’s a left hander – and he’s all over it like you wouldn’t believe.
“We get along very well, we share similar values, and we travel well together, so it’s a great mix.”
When it comes to folk music, the genre is music of the people, she said.
“The idea of what folk music is has changed a lot,” said Burgess. “One thing I’ve certainly seen is folk festivals are putting on a much broader range of music – it’s not just traditional fiddles and guitars – those instruments are still there, but there’s a lot of interpretation.
“Folk music just means music of the people, where you’ll see anything from hip-hop to traditional folk music, because it’s about what the people are playing right now.
“It’s a general feeling, where you’re getting a sense of a life and a story and a people. We stretch the borders on traditional folk music, but we fit well.”
In addition to playing Canmore, the Rosie Burgess Trio will participate in several U.S. festivals this summer. To find out more, visit rosieburgess.com
The trio play the festival Sunday (Aug. 5) and will share the stage with Ray Bonneville and Gurf Morlix, Mike Farris, George Kahumoku Jr., Ian Tyson and Elage Diouf.
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