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 Leaving Melbourne kinda stressed.
It’s the day before we leave for the US and my husband and musical pardner Rick can’t find his passport! Spends all day looking through the rubbish, calling the police and trying to retrace his steps from the last few days when he was sure [kind of] that he had it in the car. Basically he’s freaking out!
We have a gig that evening at the Retreat Hotel in Melbourne and by the time we get home at midnight we are resigned to the fact that the passport is gone. The next morning Rick drops my daughter 8 year old Freya and I off at the airport in Melbourne to fly to LA without him. Two hours later he finds the damn passport beside his computer in a basket, spends a mint to change his ticket and books on the next plane to LA leaving in 24 hours.
Freya and I settle in for the flight without Rick and all is well until we hit turbulence right after dinner which lasts for 2 hours. We are both feeling anxious and Freya says she wants to turn the plane around and go back to Australia. She starts to cry and I start wondering why I bothered booking a US Tour and swear I’ll never do this flight again!


 First show in Boston MA
We manage to survive the flight and are welcomed at LAX by friends who whisk us away for a refreshing sunny walk on Santa Monica Pier and then off to an Angels/Red Sox baseball game in Anaheim. Freya tries to take a nap on the stadium carpark but we manage to stay awake aided by large pretzels and cotton candy. Next morning we catch a red eye flight to Boston via Denver and are greeted by Rick’s family. That night I play the first show of the tour at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge solo. The Cantab is a classic downtown bar typical of the folky Cambridge scene. It’s an open mic night first up and there are plenty of quirky artists singing two songs each. The audience is made up of the other performers and some of Rick’s family. I play a special guest spot of 5 or 6 songs plus an encore and it’s a relief to get the first show out of the way and to remember that I am still good at playing solo, even majorly jetlagged. 2 glasses of red wine and then crashed for 12 hours.


 A rousing gig at The Toad in Cambridge MA – and Rick appears just in time.
Woke up at 2pm happy to see chipmunks, chickadees, blue jays and cardinals flitting around the summery back yard in Lexington Ma. Even the squirrels look cute as it’s been so long since I’ve seen one. Freya is happily getting to know her US family all over again and we all set off for the gig where Rick meets us fresh off the plane just in time for soundcheck. The Toad is an English styled pub and a bit of a hipster college hangout that only fits 50 people. I think we can call it a full house that night and I’m reminded of the enthusiastic and friendly nature of American audiences. In particular they enjoyed my story about growing up on an Australian Island with a plague of cane toads which seemed appropriate considering we were playing at a place called ‘The Toad.’
Great PA and food and staff make it a terrific night and it’s great to have Rick back in the tour party. We won’t mention the passport again ……until Canada.


 New England and upstate NY are beautiful
After a couple of days off in Boston we drive west to the Berkshire Ranges and an idyllic inland town called Tyringham where Rick’s extended family have lived or spent summers since the 1800’s. We hang out with chicks and goats, swim in the frog pond and play tennis with relatives from all over the place including Germany and then get a posse together to drive to the gig in Hudson NY. My good friend singer/songwriter Amy Rigby pulls beers in this fabulous book store called ‘The Spotty Dog’ - a bookstore/pub that serves local artisan beers and books and when they wheel away the book shelves at night it becomes a live music venue. Hudson is as you imagine right on the Hudson River with a cool main street that is all original facades and funky stores. We were taken to the supposed best coffee place in town but honestly compared to Melbourne no coffee in the US rates very highly. I am waiting to be proven wrong on that one.
Rick and I play a neat and intimate show to a room filled with our enthusiastic relatives and friends and then we spend the night with Amy Rigby and her hubby Wreckless Eric at their converted barn in nearby Catskill. Cherry Pie and icecream for dessert.



  First US House Concert in Buffalo NY and passport trouble
After spending the previous night at a hotel in Niagara with other members of Rick’s family we hope to check out the Niagara Falls on the supposedly more spectacular Canadian side and then meet a friend by walking over the bridge to Canada. We wait while Rick looks through his luggage for (you guessed it ) his passport only to discover to my horror that he has once again lost it!
Daughter and I decide we are fed up and walk over the bridge ourselves for a nice morning in Canada. We all meet up at that afternoon at a house in the lovely neighbourhood that is Hamburg, near Buffalo.
I have to say right here that house concerts are the best way for singer songwriters to tour around. There are many in the US that have been hosted for a long time as ongoing ‘concert series’.
The hosts invite their friends to come to their house with food and drinks where they have a suggested donation of $10 to $25. This money goes directly to the artist with the added bonus that most of the very attentive crowd also buy CD’s. And mostly the artists are also invited to stay over the night. It’s a great way to meet people and really be involved in a very direct and relaxed relationship between artist and music fan and I wish more folks in Australia would try this out.
A cool old time band called ‘Pine Fever’ with a long haired shirtless singer called Thor open up for us on the porch of this lovely house while around 50 folks sit in chairs or just on the grass in the back yard with hummingbirds in the garden as the summer eve sets in. Rick and I are getting better tuned in to each other as the shows progress and we have a fun show throwing in some crowd faves like ‘These Boots are Made for Walking’ and the Neil Young song ‘One of These Days’
Our daughter sets up the CD merch stand and sells em like hotcakes.
We learn that the most important member of the touring party is the merch person. Especially when she’s 8 years old and cute!



  Columbus Ohio – WCBN Radio, great Mexican food, not so great gig
It’s Monday and we drive to Columbus Ohio first off doing a live performance and interview on National community public broadcasting radio station NPR. Rick and I play 3 songs. They treat us very well and fall in love with Freya who is soon in the studio recording voice-overs in her cute ‘Aussie’ accent. When I lived in Nashville I listened to NPR a lot [like ABC in Australia] so I was thrilled to be asked to do this. We hook up with our friend Steve and stay at his house with three cute and crazy dogs and a swimming pool. He’s organized a gig at a great venue called Café’ Rumba in the University side of town but as it is Monday night in the summer we aren’t expecting a massive turnout. We arrive to find the barmaid and the mixer plus about 6 people who have won tickets to the show. Luckily we still have 4 family members from Chicago with us and they boost the crowd to around 12. But the show must go on so Rick and I hit the stage early and entertain as best we can. We make $50 off the door and sell 3 Cds. Afterwards we have a few drinks then walk around the corner to find a taco truck with the best Mexican food we had the whole trip and sit on the sidewalk with our family and new friends eating it. Perfect!


  Chicago in the summer, meet up with Ed Burch to play the Beat Kitchen.
It’s divine to drive into the windy city in full on summer holiday mode. Skyscrapers, huge lakes, ornamental gardens, Canadian geese. I’ve been to Chicago many times before but always in winter when it’s grey and dreary so we are delighted to drive along the lakeside, check into our dinky hotel with a pool and then have an in room rehearsal with Ed Burch who is joining us onstage tonight. Ed was a good friend of Jay Bennett and performed with him in the last few years before his death. He is playing Jay’s old acoustic guitar which makes us all feel like somehow Jay is with us. We set off to the gig at The Beat Kitchen with high hopes and spirits but are disappointed by the nearsightedness of the band booker who thinks it’s a great idea to book 4 bands [of mismatched genres] on a Wednesday night and then take nearly $400 from the door takings to cover production.
Good for him maybe but not for the bands – aint that the way?
Obviously there is barely anything left for the bands to share 4 ways even though there are around 50 payers. Still I’m not in a position to complain as I’m just happy to have a gig in Chicago on a Wednesday night. On the up side the band room is fabulous and the dinner is free and delicious. We meet some twenty something friends of Rick’s nephew who we drink beers with after the show and it’s all good. 18/7/2013 House Concert in Champaign IL Jay Bennett’s home town
Ed Burch lives in Champaign (3 hours south of Chicago) and he kindly hooked me up with the lovely lady who hosts this event.
It’s a concert series called ‘The Sandwich Life’ and they’ve made a fabulous custom poster for the night. There is a huge wooden guitar in their living room that all previous house concert performers have signed including many of our friends from Nashville like Fats Kaplan, Phil Lee, Amy Rigby and Tom Mason. A lovely spread of food and some little girls keep Freya happy looking for fairys in the garden. Somehow during our set we are convinced to play one song from our ‘Mudcakes’ repertoire for the kids in the audience. Folks adore my song ‘Pandora Mink’ and many people tell me it moves them to tears. This is what songwriters love to hear. Ed opens up the night with some of his tunes through an excellent small PA.
We chat with a lot of Jay Bennett’s old music friends and school friends and then play two long sets in the lounge room of the delightful 2 storey house that is very American country quaint.
We are blessed with a lovely large bunch of US bills and Freya sells many many CD’s. After the show we stay at Ed Burch’s house and he makes us cocktails from his extensive bar where he has brewed his own flavoured bitters. Yum! I’m starting to notice that all of my diary reports seem to end with drinks, desserts and or food.


 Drive through the Midwest Illinois to St. Louis MO
Euclid Records Instore
It’s a long drive through charming Midwest scenery cornfields, cornfields, silos, cornfields, silos, wind farms and neat little towns. We stopped at one for Rick to have a haircut from a 70 year old barber called Cecil who trimmed his eyebrows for no extra charge. We arrive in St. Louis and have an icecream spider in an old fashioned malt shop before playing a set at a groovy record store called Euclid Records. Ed Burch is with us again and does a cracker few songs to open up then joins us on a few like ‘Puzzle Heart’ and the Big Star song ‘My Life Is right’. A small but interested group of people mingle around the store while we play. It’s been fun singing with Ed and hanging out with him the past three days and we are sad to say farewell. I sell some Cd’s and pink ‘Pandora Mink’ vinyl singles to Euclid and promptly spend my earnings on other Cd’s and vinyl in the store. We decide somewhat foolishly to go up into the 1000 foot Arch in the middle of St. Louis that night before driving through the night to Nashville arriving at 3am.


  Tennessee Tennessee there aint no place I’d rather be
We dump our stuff at a friends in Nashville then drive 3 more hours south to Knoxville.
On the way we have to stop for lunch at a ‘Cracker Barrel’ which is one of my fave chainstore food places in the US and a real southern eating experience. Grits and bacon bits and collared greens with everything! I have a fried egg sandwich on white bread with some tomatoes on the side and a terrible cup of coffee to keep me awake.
My friend singer/songwriter Jennifer Nicelely lives on a beautiful family farm in a place outside of Knoxville called Strawberry Plains and just as lovely as it sounds. Lush green all around with horses chickens deer and organic crops growing in the bend of an ancient winding river with ties back to the Cherokee. Freya gets to drive a pony cart and ride across fields in an open truck to feed the goats with some American boys and girls. Unfortunately the weather turns against us on the second night and the concert planned for the stage beside the river is quickly relocated indoors and becomes a smaller event.
Still we have a lovely night with Jennifer singing a set of her country folk tunes and Rick and I following on to entertain the loungeroom of friends in the farm house. We finish the night with wine and homemade organic jam doughnuts.


 3 shows in 24 hours and a triumphant return to Nashville.
After doing some farm chores in the morning we set off back into town to the Knoxville Visitor Centre where every day of the year radio WDVX FM Knoxville broadcasts a live performance called the Blue Plate Special. On this day a very intense New York cowboy songwriter called Kasey Black is on the show before Rick and I. It’s a very pro set up with a live audience and a lady with a smooth southern accent conducting an interview with me between songs. There are about 50 people in the studio audience and Freya sells more Cds after the show. It’s a lot of fun! Listen to the broadcast of our set HERE.
After the show we walk along the main street checking out amazing music stores with the most divine old guitars alongside boots and racks of vintage clothes. Rick buys an authentic Hawaiian shirt for $15 but what he really wanted was the $1300 60’s martin acoustic. Can’t have it all!
Back in Nashville Rick’s passport has arrived in the mail – sent by his sister in Boston. Yes he’d left it on a table there. It goes straight into my handbag with the other passports.
We play a tremendous show in Nashville that night - listed as critics pick of gigs in the local scene - that is a kind of homecoming for us. Our friends fill up the Basement which is a funky venue in East Nashville under Grimeys Record Bar. Many of those people had never seen Rick and I play as a duo before and remark on how good we sound together. A rare complement coming from Nashville musicians. My dear friend Tammy Rogers breezes onstage to sing a third part and play fiddle on a song we wrote together. The lovely young hippy folksinger who opens up the night plays amazing guitar and sings like a charm. Reminds me of the depth of talent in this town. I feel lucky to have the chance to live here for 10 years and do my thing. We go out afterwards to a bar with a posse and a great catch up.


  Austin Texas - gotta love a good dance hall!
After a few welcome days off in Nashville for some business meetings and relaxing hikes and dinner parties with folks we fly to Austin and picked up at the airport by our gracious host Rosie Flores – she who is the rockabilly singer guitar pickin’ legend. The first time I came to Austin in 1997 Rosie was the first gal I saw at a club playing her ass off! And now here I am staying at her house..I’m a lucky girl.
I won’t even start to tell you how cool her house is. That night Freya stays home with Aunty Rosie and Rick and I go out to the Mercer Street Dance Hall outside Austin to ‘sit in’ with Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros. Walt is a friend from Nashville who lives in Austin now and we wrote ’41 going on 17’ from my album Dakota Avenue together. Dance Halls in Asutin are many and it’s so cool to see folks of all ages and types dancing together. Skaters, grannies, Mums and their kids..anything goes and it’s all very friendly and relaxed. Wish I could do the two step. Rick is up onstage for most of the night playing guitar with Walt and I get up to sing a few songs too. We even get paid! And I get a rockin tee shirt for free from the grandma working on the door. Drive back to Austin in a furious electrical storm fearing for our lives.


 San Antonio – Stetsons and Texans
After some boot and hat shopping with Rosie in the morning we drive to San Antonio and on the way hook up with Alex Moore. Alex lives in Austin and played drums on ‘Dakota Avenue’ Album. He was also Jay Bennett’s good buddy and it’s great to see him after nearly 10 years. We load up a little PA and head to the house concert at Betty’s in San Antonio.
We don’t know what to expect and that’s half the fun of a house concert. We arrive at a lovely spread out luxurious house and meet Betty a charming gentle Texan lady who loves hosting artists for concerts in her house. We see a sign saying ‘Don’t piss off the fairies’ in the back garden and know she has that Texan sense of humour. We set up the PA in the loungeroom with lots of chairs in rows and then masses of Betty’s folks arrive with food and good listening ears. We play 2 sets and really enjoy ourselves. This is one one of the highlights of the tour for me. Rick and I and Alex on drums play more covers like ‘summertime’ and ‘spooky’ and ‘Fever’ because I’m a little obsessed with Peggy Lee right now. We meet many lovely folks who are all music lovers, sell a lot of CDs and then stay the night in a luxurious bed.
What more could a musician want?


Austin TX – the last show of the tour
We head straight for the Alamo in the morning and breakfast beside the Riverwalk in San Antonio then just in time spy the legendary ‘Paris Hatters’ hat store where Rick scores a fab new Stetson. He doesn’t want to pay $80 so I buy it for him as a present for all his hard work on tour. It’s long dreary drive back to Austin on the highway that once was quirky Mexican café’s when I was last here 10 years ago now miles of malls and industry. We drop in on Rosie and band doing a gig at the Austin Brewery Company in what has to be the hottest venue ever! Luckily they sell beer to cool folks off..very clever. Rosie calls Rick and I onstage to do a couple of songs and then we head off to our last concert of the tour… a show at a local collective art workshop gallery. Our friends Walt and Tina Wilkins warm up the crowd and we get them up at the end of our set along with Rosie for a rousing rendition of ‘I Hear You Knocking’
A great way to end the working part of our tour.
The next day we fly to John Wayne airport in Anaheim CA and meet up with cousin Martha for a day at Disneyland. After all of her hard work our little merch girl deserves a treat. Pleased to report no more issues with passports occurred and we arrived safely back in Melbourne a few kilos heavier from all the good food but a few kilos lighter in the heart region on account of a successful trip that was everything and more that I could have hoped for.

Thanks for reading x Sherry


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