James Reyne: “Try to stay vaguely cool, if you can”

james reyne

FOR someone who is an ARIA Hall of Fame member, a holder of a Medal of the Order of Australia, and is often called an icon of Australian music, former Australian Crawl vocalist and songwriter James Reyne is a refreshingly laid-back character.

Perhaps it’s because he’s happy with what he’s achieved in music, or maybe he’s simply enjoying life and the freedom that being his own boss gives him. Either way, get ready to enjoy his charm and song-writing once again as he takes his acoustic show on a national tour, including a stop in Geelong on September 20th.

“The shows have been going really well so far,” he says. “It’s a cross-section of all the stuff I’ve been known for. There’s me playing acoustic guitar and singing, a guy called Brett Kingman playing acoustic guitar and singing, and his sister Tracy Kingman singing; so it’s three voices with two guitars. We usually do all the hits people would want to hear, but we can slot in the odd new one. We can bookend them; put two or three either side of the new ones [laughs]. I’m lucky that I have a good core of fans who keep up with the current stuff. I’m often surprised by the number of people that yell out for newer stuff and I think ‘oh wow, I didn’t think they’d know that one’. But we definitely do all the hit stuff, because we’d get lynched if we didn’t [laughs].”

With a near forty-year career in music behind him, Reyne is rarely taken by surprise. Then came a letter earlier this year letting him know he’d been chosen to receive an Order of Australia; something the 57 year-old doesn’t take lightly.

“I was chuffed that they thought I was worthy,” he says. “I’m very grateful and it was very kind. I don’t know how it works, how you get nominated or chosen, but I’ll take it, thanks [laughs]. First, they sent a letter saying I was being given it and to please not tell anyone before they announce it. I think I told my mum and made her swear to not tell a soul. She was more surprised than I was, but she might have been lying to me; she might have told some friends.”

With a number of classic Australian Crawl records and a slew of solo albums in his back catalogue, Reyne can afford to go at his own pace when thinking about new material.

“[Songwriting is] always a creative outlet for me, and as I get older the more I seem to enjoy doing it,” he says. “I’m self-funded and not under any pressure to put anything out, but every couple of years I get to a point where I think I might just record some stuff. I’m lucky that I have some great friends who are technicians, because I’m an idiot with technology. I’m hardly ever these days sitting around planning my next album; it’s more like ‘okay, I’ve got a bunch of songs, I might as well stick them down’”.

He may come across as a laid-back guy of the highest order, but Reyne and his band show no signs of slowing down in terms of putting in the hard yards on the road.

“We’re touring and doing shows with the band and then this acoustic run” he says. “Then we’ll be doing some festivals and outdoor things over summer – we’ve got gigs up until May or June, so we’re usually working about nine months to a year ahead. There are all sorts of other things I’m interested in and I keep my fingers in other little pies, but this is my job and it’s how I earn a living. I’m lucky that I do a job I enjoy. If I didn’t do this as a job I’d probably do it as a hobby, and I’m lucky that I have people who are interested enough in what I do. I can still play at places all over the country and people want to come and see what I do. But I hope I’m getting better, because I do practise my craft and we do it consistently. An [element of] so-called show business is learning when to say no, so you can stay vaguely fresh; not say yes to everything. ‘As much as I love you, it doesn’t suit me right now’; that’s a big lesson in show business, I reckon. Try to stay vaguely cool, if you can [laughs].”

When & Where:

Saturday 20 September Geelong | GPAC Drama Centre

For Forte