Henry Wagons is a veritable man for all seasons – singer, songwriter, guitarist, bandleader,TV host, raconteur and more. Currently he’s traveling the country promoting this years fine solo album After What I Did Last Night and he took the time to answer our PTW Q&A questions.
Check the tour dates below (co-presented by PTW) and if you are keen to win a double pass to any of the remaining shows on the tour (starting this Friday in Katoomba) just comment below and tell us your favourite Wagons song and the headline show you’d like to attend (excluding the Kyneton and Mullum festivals).
What was the album that first led you down the dusty path of Americana music?
Solitary Man… Johnny Cash’s first American Recordings album. I was deeply into indie rock at the time, but this album almost spontaneously flipped the compass. I’ve fallen down a deep wormhole ever since.
Describe your latest release in 100 words.
My solo album After What I Did Last Night was the realisation of a country music fantasy. Like so many of my favourite albums, I showed up in Nashville with a bunch of carefully crafted tunes and had them filled out by some very special players. I took the idea of recording a solo album seriously, so gave a lot of myself to the songs, for better or worse. I like to think the album tracks my life, from young stupid Henry through to old stupid Henry.
What’s been the most memorable gig you’ve played and why?
Playing a festival in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam was a very special experience. Blisteringly, hot and humid, never far from pho. An exotic, left of centre show at its eye-opening finest.
How did you learn to play your instrument?
I try my hand at most instruments in the classic rock band lineup. I was self taught, starting mostly by scouring internet tabs of my favourite songs and trying to imitate my heroes at the time. I have always loved to record, so when I first rolled tape, I just wanted to get to a level of competency on a few instruments such that I could fumble my way through some songs in order to realize my far fetched ideas on my Tascam four-track. As an ego-maniacal teenager I got a weird kick creating an orchestra of Henrys and it created a monster that still roams the Earth to this day.
What do you consider the finest song you’ve written and why?
I have a soft spot for ‘Why Do You Always Cry’ from the last Wagons album Acid Rain and Sugar Cane. It came more or less spontaneously in a basement shower in Toronto. I had to teach myself to play the melody on guitar when I’d dried myself off. The recording came together live in a perfectly brutal and evocative way, which I think suits the song’s message too.
If you could sit-in with one other musician (living or dead) who would it be?
“Living or dead” perfectly suits Elvis. I’m sure I saw him at my local Woolworths last week. I was too shy to say hi. It would be amazing to have heard him sing in the studio. So effortless, yet so powerful.
Do you feel there is a strong folk/country music community in Australia and if so, what does it need to keep growing?
I love Australia’s Americana community!! The fact that festivals are cropping up over the past few years devoted to the cause is a great sign of strength. In these days in which music disappears into the ether, people are on the search for reality. Interesting narrative lyrical expression and sounds made by actual acoustic instruments seem to be a grounding force, cutting through the noise.
What’s been your favourite Americana release over the last year?
I love Introducing Karl Blau so much! A record that really pushes the genre, with a fascinating reinterpretation of the past. Dori Freeman’s self-titled album really resonated with me too. Such an honest voice completely sliced through my judgemental walls.
What are your musical plans over the next 12 months?
I’m looking forward to a swag of solo shows both in Oz and in North America. I’ve put together a show I’m really excited about, with a bunch of songs from both my band work and solo releases that really bloom when stripped back to the core. Then come summer, it’s time to enter Dr. Frankenstein’s lab and forge another beast!!