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Interview: RENEE GEYER

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Renee Geyer is the undisputed Queen of Soul in Australia. Her unique sultry vocals have been an unmistakable part of our musical landscape for more than four decades and the singer has no intention of stopping any time soon. Although she might not undertake long tours these days, for months at a time, she is always still a very prominent figure on the music scene. “I’m always doing something;” she tells me. And right now, Renee is preparing for her annual Sydney shows during the festive season. She will be performing at Lizottes in Dee Why and Newcastle plus two shows at The Basement between Christmas and New Year. These shows have become something of a tradition for the singer. “It’s almost an anniversary,” she quips. “I think it’s probably ten, eleven or twelve years now so it’s a bit of a tradition that we do that. At Lizottes, within the set now, I’ve got a horn section so I do some ‘Swing‘ which is the latest album but I basically do bits and pieces from everything and the show consists of a bit of everything through my career and some other things; some surprises, so there’s always something interesting in the show.”

Renee is full of praise for her band. “I always just have the best musos,” she enthuses. “I have my A Team or my B Team. I think I’ll have my A Team for this bunch of shows and it’s made up of Sydney and Melbourne musicians, just depending on who’s available and where we are and what’s going on but we always go with a really great band and we’ll have two horns with us on this one.”

As mentioned earlier, Renee’s current album is called ‘Swing’. “Yes, that’s the one that’s out at the moment,” she tells me. “But we’re working on the next one already.”

2013 has been a big year for the singer. Not only has she released her album, ‘Swing’ but she has also recently been inducted into The Age Music Victoria Hall of Fame. “That’s very special for me,” she says, “because I’m actually a Sydney girl who chose to live in Melbourne so it’s really lovely to be honoured in my adopted home. Waiting for the NSW one now!”

Do we have one? I wonder. “I don’t know,” she laughs. “That’s ok. I’ve got my ARIA Hall of Fame which is everywhere so I think I’ve got enough Hall of Fames, thank you.”

And Melbourne is where Renee’s musical career really took off. “It pretty much did,” she agrees. “Even though I sort of actually started in Sydney, the national attention started on me while I was based in Melbourne so Melbourne is where all the people that got me to where I am now were based. You know, all the people from Mushroom and Premier and all that sort of stuff. They’re still like family. Michael Gudinski, Frank Stavala and all those people.”

She recalls being in Sydney and reading magazines like Go Set and knowing that, if she ever got to Melbourne, she wanted to be with Mushroom. “Because I liked the people that they had on their label,” she explained. “They had Chain and they had acts that other people wouldn’t normally have but to have a blues band as one of your main acts was the thing for me. And just the choices that Mushroom made. I always wanted to be with that bunch of people so when I finally did get with those people, it was a thrill and that’s what anchored me into Melbourne; being with Mushroom and all the things that went with the Mushroom thing. Premier Artists, the agency and all that.”

Renee said that she always knew that she wanted to be a singer. Music was in her blood from the outset. “You can tell early on that you’re good at something,” she says. “Especially something artistic like music. It’s just about whether you are able to stay in it long enough to really make it a career and that just happens if you love it that much. I still love music and interacting with great musicians so I’m still very much involved in it. It’s where I’m meant to be. I just never really stop. I’ve had time off but I’ve always remained in the public eye, doing what I do so I think that’s been important.”

During those many years in the industry, Renee Geyer has accomplished a lot in her illustrious¬†career and earned the respect of the public, her peers and the music industry as a whole. She sites the times she has worked with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra as being highlights in her career. “Things like that stand out, of course,” she admits. “But there’s so many things. So many little things and big things; all sorts of moments, because we’re in an industry that is prone to falling on your sword, and then getting up and moving onwards and it’s that getting up and moving onwards that sets you apart from others.”

Does she have any other aspirations for the future?

“I’ve done a lot,” she agrees. “But there’s still a lot that I’d like to do and, in terms of albums, there’s a lot of area that I’d like to cover and lots more touring. Just a lot more ideas, musically, that I have that will just happen when they happen.”

But, like many of her contemporaries, the road has not always been smooth and recent years, in particular, have presented some challenges.

“Anyone who has ever been in this industry, especially for a long time, has had a battle, especially as we were pioneers,” she points out. “I was amongst the people who were in the pioneer part of rock ‘n’ roll in Australia but as long as you learn along the way, it’s imperative that you make mistakes. Otherwise, how do you know? It’s how you stand up and move on. That’s what a true artist is and that’s how longevity comes into it. You make a mistake, learn from it and then move on and that’s bound to make you stronger. The very nature of falling on your sword is about learning from it. There’s not much good about making mistakes, other than the fact that you learn from them and not to do them again. With anything bad that happens, there’s something good that comes from it, as in learning lessons.”

And the singer is definitely still going strong. “So far, so good,” she laughs. And, most importantly, she assures me that her health is good. “Absolutely. My job is a healer. It’s therapeutic. It got me through breast cancer and so far, so good, as I said.”

“Come and see me at Lizottes or The Basement,” she extends an invitation. “I’ll be there – with bells on. Bells and horns. It will be a good show.”

by Sharyn Hamey

Copyright © 2013 Sharyn Hamey. All Rights Reserved

 

RENEE GEYER’S SYDNEY GIG DATES

Friday 27th December 2013

Lizottes, NEWCASTLE NSW

(02) 4956 2066 | www.lizottes.com.au

Saturday 28th December 2013

Lizottes, DEE WHY NSW

(02) 9984 9933 | www.lizottes.com.au

Sunday 29th December 2013

The Basement, SYDNEY NSW

(02) 9251 2797 | www.thebasement.com.au

Monday 30th December 2013

The Basement, SYDNEY NSW

(02) 9251 2797 | www.thebasement.com.au

For more information, please visit www.renéegeyer.com.au

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