Hussy Hicks – Leesa Gentz

The Australian folk and blues scene is a world unto itself , a stand alone culture that seems not to depend on anything much from the mainstream , or from the world most of us exist in on a day to day basis. Many well known artists and performers within this tapestry of alternative culture never receive a lot of radio airplay, or revenue from the traditional avenues that have been the bread and butter of more commercially successful performers.

These artists live the life of the troubadour, constantly traveling from one place to the next, relying on word of mouth for their livelihood. Its not an easy life, and in many cases, its not particularly secure. Its a lot of hard work, and there aren’t many artists that work harder than Hussy Hicks. I had the chance to have a chat with Leesa recently.

Formed on 2006 in Lismore New South Wales., the engine room of the outfit consists of Leesa Gentz on lead vocals, and Julz Parker on guitar and vocals. They perform both as a duet and with a full band behind them when the occasion arises.

“I grew up in the Northern Rivers (NSW) and it’s always been home to me. Julz was based on the Gold Coast, We met in this area just after we had moved back from living overseas. We formed a friendship, and shared a love of music, and it all went from there. We’ve just kind of been sticking with it, and we ‘ve been a band ever since. We have a really solid rhythm section that we have been working with for many years now. We have Ally Foster on drums, and Tracy Bassy on bass. They’re amazing. For our Cairns show, we will have our good buddy, Minnie Marks joining us on slide guitar.”

If there’s a festival in Australia that this band hasn’t played at, they are few and far between..

“We generally spend a few months of every year in Europe, and we have been choosing to do that for some time, so we do miss some of the local festivals, but we do try to catch as many Australian festivals as we can. We love it. We’re suckers for the festival life.”

As one does, I enquired about the writing responsibilities in the band.

“We collaborate on everything, but generally, the person singing the song initiates the process, Then we throw ideas around until we have something we’re both happy with. Julz is really into the production side of things. I have a country background, so my writing is simpler, but Julz throws in lots of different chord shapes and maladies that flesh out the musicality of the piece”.

In 2017, they released an L.P. album (or a Vinyl, in Gen Z speak). We discussed the experience.

“Theres not much difference in terms of the recording process between a C.D., an MP3 and an L.P., but the post production and mastering is different, so the songs have to be mastered differently for the different format. We involved studio legend Don Bartley , and its so beautiful to hold that big physical copy. I’m a bit retro in that respect. There’s some kind of romantic feeling about reading the liner notes and credits, looking at pictures of the band, and the cover art. It takes me back to being a teenager.”

Having been so busy for so long, both here and internationally, the changes in the music industry since 2020 have had an impact on all touring artists. I asked what impact it has had on Hussy Hicks.

“Traditionally, we just used to get paid for gigs and sell C.D.s . Now everyone is scrambling to find new ideas for merchandise, which accounts for over half our touring income now. It used to be such a simple transaction. Someone would be excited about seeing our live show, they would give us 20 bucks, take a C.D, and that was it.
We always played anywhere we could. Any dive bar, house party or festival that would have us, we were there. There are so many less venues hosting live music now. The gigs just aren’t there like they used to be prior to Covid.”

The industry has changed in terms of recording also. Fewer and fewer acts are supported by labels now, and independent releases are the norm. I asked what the band’s one experience with a label was like , and how it worked.

“We worked with a german label called “Acoustic Music”, and the guy who runs that is a great guitarist named Peter Finger, and he is a friend of ours who we have worked with before, and the idea is that he runs a tour called “The International Guitar Night”, and part of the deal with that tour is that the artist records an acoustic album with the label, and then do a 20 or 30 date tour through Germany and Europe to promote the album. That album was released through that package, and it worked really well for us. We had a great experience with that whole concept. It was a very successful release and tour for us.”

Their latest release,entitled ‘Swimming in uncertainty’ is what the current tour is all about, and I asked Leesa what she loved about the new work.

“I love that it is the most representative of where we are at now as musicians. A lot of artists have had traumatic experiences through the pandemic. Some had good experiences, but for us , it was really tough. A lot of the songs we have written are about that. A lot of that experience is wrapped up in the finished product. It’s a complete collection of songs that we think fit really well together, and it’s an honest and beautiful snapshot of the last few years. Its been a long road, but we are back where we want to be. We survived”.

“Playing live is our passion. That moment of total connection…when you feel like the onstage experience and the audience experience is totally in sync. You’re all This one beautiful , organic organism, and you’re sharing the experience as one, rather than the band delivering and the audience receiving the performance.We exist for those magical moments where we know we all are in the same place at the same time for the same reason.”

”People can be brought together to feel these things as one , and it’s powerful. When people come together and have real, genuine, beautiful experiences, it binds us all together. I think during the pandemic, it was easy to forget how that felt, and how important it is to feel that as people.”

“We are so keen for Cairns. You can expect some wailing, howling guitar from Julz, and some rockin three part harmonies, and a whole bunch of energy, and , as I said before , our good friend Mizzy Marks will be joining us . We don’t keep anything in the tank. We put it all out there and don’t hold anything back.”

Hussy Hicks will be supported by “Lontano” on the night.
The show is on Friday June 7th at The Tanks art center.
Tickets are, as always, available through TicketLink.

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