Susan Lily Guitar

Susan Lily – Here On The Road

Known across Australia for ‘Daisy Jane’ (Co-Winner of the SCALA FOOM Songwriting Competition in 2013) and her latest single ‘Here On The Road’, Susan Lily began her stage career with a foray into stand-up comedy. It was in her words, a hard mistress and it obviously influenced a lot of the rapport that Susan likes to build with her live audience.

One of the first things that you notice about Susan Lily is her laugh, unabashed, warm, very quick to start, slow to stop, and always making you feel like you’re in on the joke. To try and notate all of the laughter throughout our conversation would be nigh on impossible and it is very clear that chatting with Susan is to instantly feel like you’re talking to an old friend.

NQ Music Press’s Eli Birchall spoke to Susan as she was packing to begin her journey up to Cairns, and about to head out for morning tea…

Your bio describes you as a ‘lyrical larrikin’. I liked the phrase so much I had to ask you about it. I would love to know your definition of what makes a true larrikin and what about that character do you think appeals to your lyrical sensibilities?

Well I think, in my situation being a bit of a larrikin is just having fun. A larrikin is never one for causing other people grief in their pursuit of happiness. (Insert laughter).. I like to have a lot of fun on stage as my background has been comedy as well, I don’t just get up there and sing my songs, I do my best to engage with my crowds and give them a fun time. The words ‘taking the piss’ did just jump into my mind..
(Insert more laughter) Well I do take the mickey out of myself!

Most musicians acknowledge that the physical landscape they surround themselves with can’t help but influence their song writing and you’ve been based in Adelaide for a couple of years now, please tell us what drew you to that city?

I’ve always liked the people over here and my partner actually lives over here. We were friends for a long time and he used to come over to Melbourne to visit. I’d come over here for a music event, a little festival in the Riverland, which is where I met him, and the second time I came over for it, I suddenly realised, that South Oz was my home, my real home. I was born and bred in outback New South Wales, but because music has suddenly… well it’s not suddenly been in me, it’s been in me from birth. It’s genetically linked; my grandfather was a self-taught piano player and had a piano accordion. He couldn’t read a piece of music to save his life, but he could play. He was a play by ear person and it wasn’t until I came over here a couple of times with my music and because music is such a huge part of me… and to be embraced over here like I have been. I thought, hang on a minute I’d be mad not to come over. (More laughter)

Reading your biography it seems the stage has long been a home for you and obviously the music has always been yearning to escape. After only two years in a cover band and with three original songs, you travelled interstate to compete in a talent quest. Could you tell us about making that decision?

I actually had been searching online for a few things and I came across the Gympie Muster, though I think it’s called something different now, and this was in late June. I decided to email them and say, ‘Look, I’m obviously too late for the competition this year, but could I please be put on some kind of an email list for next year?’ and I got a lovely email back saying ‘Oh no, the entries are still open, you’re very welcome to come up.’ And then I went… Oh my God!

A ‘what have I done’ moment?

Kind of! Then I thought, ‘Right, I’m going to pull in a few favours here, so I managed to talk work into letting me have the time off, booked myself a flight, got myself a car and had somewhere to stay In Brisbane and up there in Gympie. So I went in this talent competition… and.. uh.. I learnt a lot from that experience, because I had one song, that if played right, it would have come across really great. Unfortunately for me, at that point in time, I had no idea how to lead a band, because there was a backing band. So, instead of the song coming out nice and up-tempo, it came out maudlin, it was terrible! It was almost like a ballad! And so I just basically crawled off the stage with my musical tail between my legs! But, I did come home with a trophy for coming second in one of the heats.

Do you have any advice for fellow musicians struggling to bite the bullet and actually perform their own songs?

My advice for anyone who’s starting out is sometimes you’ve got to take a chance and push yourself a little bit. If you get given an opportunity, take it, take it and learn from it.

Moving comfortably between inner city Melbourne, Adelaide, Mildura and of course now Cairns, do you find you get different reactions to your music in different places or do you think we’re all a lot more alike than those trendy Melbourne hipsters would like to believe?

(Awesome belly laugh) I love what you just said, that’s so funny! (Yes. Susan is that nice) You know what the funniest part about Melbourne, and I think I put it in my little bio, is that I would people, random people, saying to me, ‘I don’t normally like country music, but I like yours’.

The back handed compliment..

Yes I know! It was hilarious but I took it with grace. It’s funny, I think that, the audiences want to have fun and I that’s where I think we’re all alike. Audiences who want to have a bit of a break from their own harsh realities, the audiences who are perhaps a little surprised about someone wanting to get up and actually talk to them and with them and engage them. That transcends the city, the country, all over. Well, I haven’t played in Brisbane yet, but I know a few people from Brisbane who’ve come to see me in Tamworth and they sort of remind me of country people as well and I am a country kid. I’ll always be a bushie.

You’re going to love it up here..

I can’t wait to come up. I really can’t, I’m so excited about it. And I’m so excited to get away from some of the chilly weather down here!

And perhaps most importantly, who in your expert opinion is a better stand up comic, Jerry Seinfeld or Eddie Murphy?

(This is an edited extract of this part of the conversation) Oh dear. The one who made me laugh the most, the old LOL, was Mr Murphy.

You’ve got a lot of music happening over the next week in Brisbane and Townsville and I have to ask. As this will be your first visit to Cairns, is there anything you’re looking forward too?
I’d just like to enjoy a day in the warm I think. That’s the one thing. Actually I suppose, the reality is, to leave my jacket at home! (Delighted laughter at the thought).

Thanks for talking to NQMusicPress.

No worries. Thank you.

Eli Birchall

Susan Lily plays Resonate at the Grand Hotel this Thursday the 13th August. Susan hits the stage at 8.20pm and entry is free. Also on the bill is Michelle walker and Tim Woodz who are both touring and worth checking out.

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