Country musician Fanny Lumsden will be the first to tell you she faced her fair share of industry pressure while writing Real Class Act, the follow-up to her ARIA-nominated debut album Small Town Big Shot. But rather than caving into the pressure and releasing something she was less than happy with, Lumsden engaged directly with her fans, and let them guide her towards authenticity.
“We actually crowdfunded the album again, but the process was a lot faster this time,” Lumsden says. “Last time we took our time with it, but this time round we were literally crowdfunding while in the studio. We went in for three weeks, full time, and it was a much more intense experience – which was actually really awesome.”
I went from someone not many people knew about to having all of these accolades in the country music world.
Having spent a good deal of time touring around rural Australia, Lumsden says it was incredible to see town hall audiences stepping up and engaging with the crowdfunding process, something they might not have had the opportunity to grow entirely accustomed to before. “We spent the last few years on the road meeting people, so we found that when we did the crowdfunding thing it happened so fast, with heaps of people we didn’t know joining in.”
While Lumsden does admit that the success of crowdfunding “depends on your intentions and what kind of artist you are”, she feels like the experience has been an empowering revelation for her and her fellow independent musicians alike. “I think it’s making a big difference for musicians – it’s a way more direct way to create music. It’s enabled us to create our own label, in a way.
“We’re hugely community-based with what we do. We had the option to sign to record labels, but when we thought about it, this model made so much more sense to us. It was about keeping the creative process within our little community — and everyone really enjoyed being a part of the process.”
Still, the spectre of self-directed pressure haunted Lumsden throughout the writing and recording process. “I went from someone not many people knew about to having all of these accolades in the country music world – and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I have to keep checking in on myself and reminding myself why I’m doing what I’m doing. In terms of my songwriting though, I’m always writing, so I had some space and time for that, which was nice.”
With the record now available to stream and purchase around the country, Lumsden says the self-imposed pressures have only increased. “Now I’m really feeling it, now that it’s out. The response and reviews last time were so good … I’m trying to just sit back and focus on the response from my audience. As long as I’m really proud of it and the people who buy it are proud of it, that’s all that matters to me.”
The songs on Real Class Act evoke the distinct feeling that you’ve been invited to flip through Lumsden’s family photo albums, with cicadas croaking in the backyard and her father playing guitar on the front porch, so it makes sense when she reveals that her childhood memories had a huge bearing on the record.
“I had a pretty wonderful upbringing, doing lots of farm things, helping out in the shearing sheds and in the paddocks. We all rode horses – and there was lots of music. Both of my parents play the guitar — everyone learned instruments — so at family gatherings there would be music constantly. My music is really influenced by those memories and that family-oriented upbringing.”
One track in particular, ‘Perfect Mess’, was written for Lumsden’s sister’s wedding, while ‘Big Ol’ Dry’ recounts the times her father carted the entire family’s water supplies during a drought. Then there’s ‘Real Men Don’t Cry (War On Pride)’, which tackles the mental health challenges experienced by men, particularly in rural parts of the country, head on.
We’re going to dabble overseas, but I’m not gagging to go to Nashville or anything.
“’Real Men Don’t Cry’ is a comment on how over time having a stiff upper-lip and being stoic … inhibits personal relationships. I wanted to write a song about how we need to shake ourselves free of that idea. There have been a bunch of instances of depression in my town, when people just didn’t know how depressed they were because they wouldn’t share their feelings. I wanted to say that sharing your feelings shows so much strength.”
Despite having supported some big names on tour, Lumsden says her ideal concert venue would be “a big old country hall somewhere” – which certainly explains the Country Halls National Tour of Australia she’s currently embarking on.
“They’re just the most amazing shows,” she says with a loved-up sigh. “The whole community comes out – kids and grandmas. To have pretty much an entire town show up in the middle of nowhere… It’s like, ‘Where did you all come from?’”
Going against the grain is clearly in Lumsden’s nature, so she’s not in any hurry to head overseas, instead prioritising upcoming shows in her homeland. “We’re going to dabble overseas, but I’m not gagging to go to Nashville or anything. I’d love to tour in Canada — and Japan has a big country music scene; there are lots of amazing places that I’d love to explore. If I could just expand on what I’m already doing, that would be amazing.”
Real Class Act is out now.