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INTERVIEW: Fanny Lumsden

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Fanny Lumsden’s third country-folk album, Fallow, sees her exploring new musical terrain and dealing with the loss of loved ones and the joy of bringing new life into the world. As she explains to Chris Familton, it’s an album that represents possibility and new beginnings.

Fanny Lumsden looks out the window of her Tooma Valley home, near the southern NSW border, and thinks back to last winter when she recorded her new album Fallow there. “It looked like a picture book, it doesn’t now, it looks burnt,” she reflects grimly. As with much of the Eastern seaboard, it’s been a hellish summer with fires raging and destroying or threatening huge swathes of land. Lumsden’s career is intrinsically connected to the country communities she visits on her annual Country Halls Tour and indeed her album launch show is a fundraiser for Tooma Bushfire Recovery. That connection to the land was one of the key factors in recording Fallow, with producer Matt Fell, in her country home.

“I wanted to do it in a different space and it was the third album I’d done with Matt. If you limit things then creativity comes out of that and so we took away some of his tools and put him in this new space and I hoped that would inspire him to be creative in a new way,” explains Lumsden. “Because the songs were so inspired by the valley, the only way I could translate how it made me feel was to put him here. I remember when I was explaining how I wanted a theme song and an introduction to the record. I wanted it to be like driving into the valley and setting the scene and mood and Matt just walked outside and looked down the valley as we were playing it and said “Right, I know what we’re going to do!”

In the wake of her previous album Real Class Act, Lumsden reached a point late in 2017 where events in her life caused her to feel the need to write with a greater sense of optimism and emotional depth. “We lost Dan’s (her husband and bandmate) mum and then had a baby a few months later, it was such an intense emotional period and I think I just wanted to talk about those feelings. So many people around me were having a hard time that I just wanted to create something that was about green grass and running water and beautiful valleys. I think people just want to have an escape, me included and then the songwriting started to happen after that,” Lumsden explains.

Managing parenthood and a professional career is always a juggling act and for Lumsden it was something she threw herself headlong into. “I just kept going, and looking back it was so full-on,” she says. “I starting gigging again three weeks after giving birth and we toured in the car with my brother, Dan and I doing house concerts every weekend for their first six months of my son’s life – and he didn’t sleep!” she exclaims. “There were so many moments of breastfeeding, putting on makeup and crying because I was exhausted. I’ve had the most amazing support from family and my band though. There’s a level of understanding from them all,” says Lumsden, the gratitude clearly evident in her voice.

Lumsden has always been able to create a personal connection with her audience, while putting on a high energy and entertaining live show. It’s like she’s harnessed the greatest attributes of Gillian Welch and Dolly Parton and she’s adamant that’s exactly how she is, on-stage and off. “I wanted to create a world that I wanted to be a part of. I’m pretty manic and I love colour and I love performing but then the depth of songwriting is really important to me as well. Finding that balance is always something that is important to me and that I strive to achieve. I think it holds me back in lots of ways as I can’t be pushed into certain genres – which I’m fine with,” she emphasises. “Dan and I have always said we’re here for a slow and steady climb and we want to be doing this for a long time!”

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