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JOE CAMILLERI: THE BLACK SORROWS BLUES ON BROADBEACH INTERVIEW

Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips chats to local music legend Joe Camilleri about The Black Sorrows appearance at Blues on Broadbeach in May.

“At night you’ve got all the lights, people out in apartments and it is quite exciting,” Australian rock legend Joe Camilleri tells me. His iconic band The Black Sorrows has just been revealed as a featured act in the second huge lineup announcement for Blues on Broadbeach, Australia’s largest free music festival, which happens May 14-17, 2020 on the Gold Coast. In fact over 25 more unmissable acts have been added to an already impressive bill which will perform across 20 dedicated areas offering more than 200 hours of live entertainment. “Everyone is having a good time,” Joe adds. “Everyone wants to have a good time and there are all these other side shows, it’s not just the main acts and it’s more of a community thing which makes it interesting.”

Joe is quick to point out that many cities around the world present free music festivals but it’s the street vibe about Blues on Broadbeach that he appreciates most. “That’s what I love about it. You play a lot of festivals with a lot of good bands and they do that everywhere, they do it at St Kilda too but there is something about a good block party … People just want a knees up and block out whatever else they’ve been doing and if I happen to be that geezer (performing for them) … then I want to deliver.”

Clearly performing at music festivals provides much joy for Joe but it wasn’t always like that. His first festival experience at the Sunbury music festival back in early 70s was a nightmare. “I was playing in the Double Decker Brothers and I should have just remembered that straight away because we played after Billy Thorpe! We were a 15 piece art band. They loved Billy Thorpe and they loved us in a different way (laughs). It was an incredible experience for me to see … not so much hatred necessarily … well, it was close to it actually! We had to dance or die and with that one we died. I think the first festival that I went to though, was the Myponga music festival in Adelaide. That was incredible just being a punter in that environment and seeing all these bands. I think Black Sabbath played that one. With Sunbury, it was certainly exciting to be in front of so many people, even though we were hated by this crowd. Of course I have had the opposite of that. I’ve had the joy and love but you only carry the scars (laughs).”

These days the love for Joe Camilleri and The Black Sorrows reaches far and wide. In the last few years the band has been able to successfully tour Europe, a market they hadn’t tackled for some time due to Joe’s aversion to flying. Like so many other Australian bands, Europe and Germany in particular have been appreciative of acts from downunder heading over to tour and The Sorrows will head back again later in 2020. “They love their blues and they love Americana,” Joe says of the German audiences. “I think after being there, they really appreciate the musicianship of our ban … If they like something they go nuts. They do it in Norway too, maybe it’s the cold parts of the world, they keep clapping and you have to tell them to shut up! They have this wonderful thing and we have it here too … we have it at this festival, Broadbeach, this community thing. But a lot of Australian bands go to Europe now and you don’t know about it. There was a time when that would have been big news but those days are gone, you’re working invisibly now”

Around the same time The Black Sorrows head back to Europe, they’ll also be releasing their 22nd album, which happens to be the 50th album of Joe’s celebrated career. For the new album, Joe reconnected with International record producer Peter Solley, who has produced many of Joe’s biggest selling albums.
“I gave this guy the gig, Peter Solley who did all my albums for Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, “Joe explains. “We reunited in a weird way. He was going to Vietnam and thought he might want to pop down to Australia again. So he stayed with me and out of that we decided to make a record and he had stopped making records, he’s just been playing organ … he plays with everyone. I said you’re 71 and I’m 72, this could be the last tango, why don’t we make this record together? I had all these songs, I’m going to make it anyway, why don’t you come down, I’ll pay ya and we’ll make an album and that’s exactly what we did. There were a lot of things I didn’t particularly like but I said he’s doing the job and you can’t interfere with someone’s soup otherwise it’s not going to be his soup … but he likes what I do. He likes the integrity of what I try to achieve and likes that the songs are a bit dark and come to you in a certain kind of way. Every song is in a different style, he likes that, it’s not set and forget. It’s not like AC/DC where you know what you’re going to get. I’m trying to find myself in a place I have never been before and he likes that.”

For Joe’s Blues on Broadbeach performance he’ll be playing his trusty ’64 Gretsch Country Gentleman.
“I have been playing that for years,” he tells me. “It’s one of those guitars that keeps on giving and providing the airlines don’t break it, it stays in tune. Mind you, I use barbed wire for strings. I just play rhythm. With strings, I’m up to 54s down to 13s, pretty heavy strings. When I am away I play through an (Vox) AC30 amp and that does the job for me with my minimal technique. I’d rather not play the guitar at all and just concentrate on sax and singing but because of the way we structure everything, the band doesn’t know what song I am going to play next. So there are plenty of songs that I start on guitar and that’s how I get things moving for them. Otherwise you’ve got to tell them what to play, you’ve got to have a song list and to me a songlist would be the most restrictive component that you can have. I don’t like the idea of walking in there and saying we’ll be doing this. I like it when I walk in and they ask what’s our first song Joe? I’ll say, don’t know yet I will tell you as soon as I get up there.”
If you’d like to find out what songs The Black Sorrows will play, be at The 19th Blues on Broadbeach Music Festival will be held from Thursday 14th May to Sunday 17th May 2020.

About Blues on Broadbeach
One of the largest free music events in Australia, Blues on Broadbeach sees over 200,000 people attend the four-day festival each year. The festival allows patrons to enjoy over 200 hours of entertainment in stunning locations throughout Broadbeach’s streets, parks, bars and restaurants.

Fly or drive and stay in the heart of Broadbeach with the festival right on your doorstep! There are many sophisticated accommodation options in the precinct from five-star hotels to self-contained apartments, satisfying all needs and budgets. Check out Broadbeach accommodation here.

Blues on Broadbeach 2020 second line up announcement

THE BLACK SORROWS
G. LOVE (USA) – DON BRYANT AND THE BO-KEYS (USA)
BOOTLEG RASCAL – TAMI NEILSON (NZ)
KAREN LEE ANDREWS – HAT FITZ AND CARA (AUS/IRE)
RAY BEADLE & THE HI-TONES – THE SOUL MOVERS
LI’L CHUCK THE ONE MAN SKIFFLE MACHINE (NZ)
DEVILS KIOSK DUO – DEAN HAITANI – MOJO WEBB & WIL SARGISSON
TIM STOKES – EAMON DILWORTH’S CRAWFISH PO’BOYS – BB FACTORY
DEZZIE D AND THE STINGRAYZ – BENNY D WILLIAMS – MIKE BEALE
MIKE ELRINGTON – TROMBONE KELLIE GANG – B-DADDY AND THE DOUBLE D’S
SIMON KINNEY-LEWIS BAND WITH SPECIAL GUEST ANDY JUST
ADAM HOLE BAND – SLIPS AND THE FW’S – JULIAN JAMES
NIKOLAINE MARTIN – MATTHEW ARMITAGE – PATRIK WILLIAMS

To join the already announced….
TOMMY EMMANUEL
GABY MORENO – KARISE EDEN
KIM CHURCHILL  –  BONDI CIGARS
THE TURNER BROWN BAND USA   –  OSAKA MONAURAIL JAPAN
JEFF LANG – FIONA BOYES & THE FORTUNE TELLERS
THE MASON RACK BAND – ALLENSWORTH USA
SHAUN KIRK – DAN DINNEN & SHORTY
JULES BOULT & THE REDEEMERS
PETE CORNELIUS BAND – MINNIE MARKS
THIS WAY NORTH – GRACE & HUGH – SWEET THUNDER JAZZ ORCHESTRA

All Blues on Broadbeach info HERE