22 June 2023

Glastonbury and the dawning of a new album from Fanny Lumsden

| Edwina Mason
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Right now Fanny Lumsden, her family and her band The Prawnstars are readying to play at the world’s largest music festival, Glastonbury ahead of the launch of her third album in August. Photo: Fanny Lumsden.

Somerset, England is home to 900 mystical acres of land called the Vale of Avalon where King Arthur is reputedly buried.

Right now, it’s also home to Tooma’s very own Fanny Lumsden.

The award-winning musician and her family have set up camp, tents ‘n’ all, on the very spot the world’s largest greenfield music and performing arts festival, Glastonbury, opened to the public on 21 June.

Of the estimated 210,000 festivalgoers expected to attend, Fanny is in a league of her own; bound for the spotlit stage at the folk music heart of the medieval site – the Field of Avalon – where she and her band The Prawnstars will perform during the five-day event, which, even for spectators, is a bucket list item.

When it was announced she would be attending Glastonbury even Fanny could not believe it.

“I can’t quite believe we get to play such an iconic festival with so much history and for it to be our first gig in the UK,” she said at the time. “It feels a long way from the small farming community I grew up in in western NSW which is pretty thrilling!”

Fanny may have been raised in the tiny town of Tallimba, west of West Wyalong, but she hasn’t strayed from those country roots, her journey to the UK coming off the back of a packed schedule which is her annual Country Halls Tour, now in its 10th year and still a sellout.

The application-based tour means regional, remote and the “odd urban” community halls can apply to host a concert featuring Fanny and The Prawnstars.

Over a decade they’ve notched up 200 halls throughout Australia, “generally having a hell of a time,” as Fanny says, but also raising funds for local communities.

With around 70 to 80 halls now applying per round, Fanny says she tries to work as many as she can into the touring schedule which this year boasts 35 halls across two parts.

“With all but one of them sold-out, it reminded me why I put all the effort into running these shows,” she said. “They’re so – I know it sounds wanky but it’s true – connected. Kids to grandparents turn up and everyone gets involved. The Country Halls Tour is something I am immensely proud of.”

Never more proud than when she returned home in April.

“Tallimba Hall is the first hall I performed in at the age of five as a Ninja Turtle in the annual Christmas Concert,” Fanny told About Regional.

“It was also the first hall we played in on the Country Halls Tour back in 2012, so 29 April was a pretty triumphant and celebratory night – it made me really emotional.”

Fanny’s toured with the likes of Paul Kelly and Kasey Chambers; she’s played AmericanaFest in Nashville and along with her husband, Dan Stanley Freeman, runs her own record label and production company, Red Dirt Road.

She’s about to release a new album which follows the striking success of her second album Fallow, which released in March 2020 to soaring success including reaching number 10 on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) charts, winning the 2020 ARIA Award for Best Country Album before taking out the 2021 Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR) award for Best Independent Country Album or EP.

Fallow also won five Country Music Association of Australia (CMAA) Golden Guitars including Album of the Year 2021.

Fanny confessed her third album, Hey Dawn, to be released on 4 August, was harder to tease out.

Fanny Lumsden

Fanny says she’s really embraced the British traditions during their short stay in the UK. Photo: Fanny Lumsden, Instagram.

“After such a wild couple of years with the fires and COVID taking all our income away, I actually didn’t really want to write about it,” Fanny said. “It took me until we were accidentally driving down the Western Australia coast after getting caught in the Northern Territory due to border closures in 2021 to unwind enough to want to write again.”

First came Millionaire.

“It started with a guitar riff and the chorus just came out, I didn’t really have much preempting it other than when it did come out of my mouth, I really just wanted the song to feel great,” she said, “like that freedom of getting your first car and being able to drive wherever you want to hang out with the windows down – it’s a classic moment, not particularly profound at all.”

The album’s title track had its genesis on another journey as the band was recording. It turned out to be quite prophetic.

Fanny said she was fixed on one vision as they were putting the album together; a person playing a slightly out-of-tune piano in an empty hall.

When storms in Tasmania forced the band to relocate to a studio on Australia’s east coast, Fanny said she woke on the first morning in the Airbnb, coming out just as the sun popped over the horizon.

“I literally said to it, ‘Hey dawn’,” she said. “It was a moment that helped me realise I was telling the stories of right now. I had to just move on from the past few years and forget about my last album and honour these songs.”

Days later the band travelled back to the original studio in Tasmania, stopping off at a local market held in a little hall.

“When I walked inside there was a man in a red beanie sitting at the piano playing a slightly out-of-tune piano. He played and played and I just sat there mesmerised. It was what I had in my head going into the album.

“So, I went back to the log cabin that night and wrote Hey Dawn. It was the final piece of the puzzle and really brought everything together for me.”

It’s an album of stories Fanny explains, “yours, mine, theirs, ours. The ones we were told that made us and the ones we tell ourselves that define us. Hey Dawn is exactly that, it’s a hey to the new. A nod to the old and a walk on forward regardless.”

The band will travel to Ireland before returning to the “Hey Dawn tour” which includes the album launch at Canberra’s Street Theatre on 4 August, followed by a show at Wagga’s Civic Theatre on 5 August.

“Yeah, we are calling it, ‘A little bit of the world – tour’ and it’s pretty awesome,” she said. “I can’t believe we get to play this iconic festival headlined by Elton John and on one of the original fields of Glastonbury that started back in the 70s. It’s a definite career highlight moment.”

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