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Country, culture and collaboration: we chat to Benny Walker ahead of Bluesfest

Having just been signed on to Byron Bay Bluesfest and the accompanying Indigenous mini-festival Boomerang, it’s a big moment for Benny Walker.

The Yorta Yorta songwriter is flying high off the release of his 2017 EP Undercover, a six-strong collection of stirring ballads for love and land. Ahead of his Bluesfest appearance and a staggering list of tour dates on either side of the festival, we caught up with Benny for a chat.

benny walker interview bluesfest boomerang happy mag

With a huge Australian tour and one of Australia’s biggest festivals  just over the horizon, Benny Walker is simply humbled to be playing the music he loves.

HAPPY: What are you most excited about at Bluesfest/Boomerang?

BENNY: Getting onstage with my band and performing at a festival I’ve had on my wish list for a long time!

HAPPY: What makes Boomerang so special to you and why should people pay attention?

BENNY: Boomerang shows just how diverse the range of music and other art forms is amongst Indigenous artists. Not all of us are doing traditional stuff.

HAPPY: You worked with Emily Wurramara on her upcoming debut album, can we expect any onstage appearances from other artists this year?

BENNY: Oooo. I hadn’t thought of that! I’d better get on the phone and see who I can rope in…

HAPPY: How do you balance writing music you love and that connects to everyone, but also speaking your truth when it comes to your connection to culture and country?

BENNY: I just write the things I want to write. If people love it, that’s great and if it connects to my culture and country, awesome. I feel as if I don’t get to pick what I write about most of the time. The lyrical content comes from a subconscious place.

HAPPY: What would you hope for audiences to walk away with from your set?

BENNY: I hope they experience a range of emotions. When I’m with my band, the music can be everything from driving with a lot of attitude, to soft and emotive. I want people to take away their own connection from my set.

HAPPY: Who have some of the biggest influences in your music for the past year?

BENNY: I’ve been listening to Gary Clark for the past few years. I love what he’s doing. Ryan Adams is really great too. Brother, Dan Sultan has made a beautiful record, Killer, with Jan Skubiszewski (who’s the same producer I just did my latest EP with). I love the songs and the production on that.

HAPPY: You’ve been nominated and awarded multiple prizes over the course of your career, have you got expectations for this year or goals you want to achieve?

BENNY: I just want to continue to make the music that I want to.

HAPPY: What is your focus this year when it comes to songwriting?

BENNY: I’ve been doing more co-writing and that has been really enjoyable. I’m learning every time a write with somebody else and I want to continue to become a better songwriter.

HAPPY: What do you think the Australian music industry needs to be focused on this year?

BENNY: Pushing to make sure that radio stations are meeting their Australian content quotas. And when they do, don’t just fill it with songs from the ’80s and ’90s. There is so much brilliant, Australian ausic out there. Tap into it!

HAPPY: What would be your favourite song to perform and why?

BENNY: Under Cover Of My Skin. It’s a song with some swagger and a strong lyrical message. It’s about growing up as an Aboriginal man with fairer skin. Due to my appearance, people wouldn’t assume my heritage and many times I’ve been faced with blatant racism because the person I’m talking to doesn’t realise what my background is. It creates a situation that I’ve had to learn to deal with. That’s taken a lot of time to get to a place where I can do it in a reasonably composed way.

 

Catch Benny Walker on his national tour. Dates below, grab your tickets here.

March 2 – Super Kawaii – Warrnambool, VIC
March 3 – Beer, Wine and Cider Festival – Longwood, VIC
March 4 – The Foundry – Echuca, VIC
March 9 – Brunswick Music Festival – Melbourne, VIC
March 11 – First XI Legends Concert – Harrow, VIC
March 12 – Moomba Festival – Melbourne, VIC
March 17 – Art Not Apart Festival – Canberra, ACT
March 17 – Twilight At Taronga – Sydney, NSW
March 18 – Old Church On The Hill – Bendigo, VIC
March 25 – Darebin Community & Kite Festival – Reservoir, VIC
March 31 – Byron Bay Bluesfest – Byron Bay, NSW
April 1 – Byron Bay Bluesfest – Byron Bay, NSW
April 2 – Byron Bay Bluesfest – Byron Bay, NSW
April 7 – Rhythm Hut – Gosford, NSW
April 8 – Birdhouse – Wagga Wagga, NSW
April 14 – Turf Club – Alice Springs, NT
April 15 – Memo Music Hall – Melbourne, VIC

Get your tickets to Bluesfest here.

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February 15, 2018