by Ryan Meehan
Open the door to Henry Wagons’ first solo offering and who knows what awaits you. Following Wagons’ critically acclaimed U.S. debut album, Rumble Shake & Tumble, with his band, Wagons, Henry has broke out on his own with a mini-album titled Expecting Company? Six of the seven tracks are duets featuring one of six stellar guests: Alison Mosshart (The Kills, The Dead Weather), Sophia Brous, Canada’s Jenn Grant, Robert Forster (The Go-Betweens), Patience Hodgson (The Grates) and Australia’s Gossling. Henry Wagons, recently named one of Melbourne’s Top 100 Most Influential People, is unanimously lauded as one of Australia’s greatest and most entertaining performers. Along with his rare charisma he offers heavy doses of stomping outlaw country rock, irresistible crooning and classic songwriting, not to mention being our guest today in 5 Questions.
FOH: What’s the music scene like in Melbourne, Australia? Are listeners more open towards experimental sounds than they are in the States for example?
HW: Melbourne is arguably the biggest music city in Australia. There seems to be a venue on every corner. So, it’s very difficult to have a quiet weekend with a novel and my dogs. With the luxury of choice around so there is a lot of everything around, from great twisted country bands (fantastic) to the smoothest acid Celtic fusion (abysmal).
FOH: How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it before? Is “vintage” the guitar sound that you tend to aim for?
HW: If Elvis and Orbison had a baby daughter and someone irresponsible gave that child a little LSD it’d be getting close to my sound. “Vintage” would more accurately describe my hips. I do far too much stomping and jumping around on stage. I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.
FOH: How does the material on “Expecting Company?” differ from the songs on “Rumble, Shake, and Tumble”? Is there anything that you did different from a songwriting perspective?
HW: Like many songwriters, I use my writing as a psychiatrist’s couch. A lot of these songs came out more dark and twisted than the ones on Rumble, Shake and Tumble, but they also have a little bit of a fun wry smile too.. I dread to think of my psychological state if I didn’t exorcise whatever demons inhabited me when I wrote these tunes.
FOH: For some reason “Unwelcome Company” reminds me of The Animals…What do you think of that statement and could you briefly discuss how you came to work with Alison Mosshart of the Dead Weather and what that song means?
HW: I’m massively flattered by a comparison to The Animals. I saw Eric Burdon sing at SXSW recently, and he’s still got a great pair of lungs. I can only hope to have some of his songwriting nous and longevity. Working with Alison was amazing as you might expect. While drinking in London, she told me about a rat infestation she’d had in her home which was followed by multiple waves of spectacular pestilence. It perfectly fit into three verses. Some months later, I found myself flying to the very same home in London the song was written about to record her vocals. It was quite a trip. I spent more hours flying to and from London from Australia than I actually spent on the ground in the UK.
FOH: I notice that there are several collaborations with female singers on the record…do you find it strange writing lyrics that will be sung by a female?
HW: I found it really fun to write these duets. The song writing dynamic is very different. Instead of doing a monologue directly at the listening audience, a duet creates a more voyeuristic relationship between writer and audience. You write across the audience, as they watch a relationship unfold in front of them. You become a puppet master….like Jim Henson. I’m a particularly big fan of those two grumpy old men puppets in the balcony from The Muppets.
FOH: What’s up next for Henry Wagons in 2013? Anything big on the horizon that you want to discuss?
HW: I’m about to head to your country for a month, which is very exciting. I love driving around and playing and eating over there. So many meals are eaten with fingers over there…its so easy to fill up with great tasting food without being encumbered by knife and fork. See you soon!!!
Official Website: www.wagonsmusic.com
Henry on Facebook: www.facebook.com/wagonsmusic
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