Three of Australia’s hardest working and most accomplished songwriters – Mia Dyson, Liz Stringer and Jen Cloher – have joined forces Traveling Wilburys-style and are embarking on an exhaustingly extensive tour. Their combined talent, experience and critical acclaim is sure to deliver all those in attendance a great show, but in truth it’s the familiarity the three have with each other that creates the intangible spark.
“We’ve known each other for close to a decade,” Cloher says. “I meet Mia just before she released her first album, Cold Water, at the ripe old age of 20. Mia met Liz after she was handed a demo of her songs back in 2006 and asked her out on tour. Since then we’ve all played with each other, on each other’s records and in each other’s bands.”
It seems a simple enough question but it’s hard not to ask why they chose to throw themselves into this tour when it has been such an arduous one to plan. “A mutual love for great songwriting and genuine passion for performing live,” says Cloher. “That couple of hours onstage makes the hundreds of hours of emailing and organising worth it.”
The mutual respect the performers have for each other is immediately evident, but in an industry as tough as this one, is there ever any healthy competition between them? “There’s no rivalry,” says Cloher. “It’s a hard business, making a living from your music as an independent artist – any win is a win for all of us. We’re inspired by each other, though; we’re always trying to write our best songs.”
If you read one of the many press announcements for this tour you’ll notice the word ‘female’ or ‘ladies’ countless times. It’s still a thing – a damned and burdensome thing – that their gender must be mentioned. It makes sense to seek Cloher’s perspective on the issue. Does the group see the gender attention as positive or negative, or are they indifferent? “It’s weird, huh?” she says. “It doesn’t seem to happen as much for men in the music industry. Our favourite review said the EP was one of the best guitar records of the year. We thought that was cool. Perhaps the only way you can change those perceptions is to keep making music on your own terms. Creating art and the media perception of that art are two very different worlds.”
The EP in question is the accompanying tour release that Dyson, Stringer and Cloher have prepared together. “This tour is a true collaboration, and making an EP together seemed the best way to give people an idea of what we’re doing,” Cloher says. “A recording is exactly that – a document of a time when a group of people decided to sit in a room together and create something new. The EP will always be that document for us, and for anyone who comes along to one of the shows.”
So, three seasoned performers in their prime; three long-time friends, no less – is this tour going to be all work or should pundits beware of mayhem? “We’ve done a lot of the work,” she says. “This tour has been two years from inception to execution. Performing is a peak experience – nothing, not even the best drugs come close to being in the moment with a band onstage. That’s where the mayhem needs to happen; that’s what we want to share with our audience.”
BY KRISSI WEISS