DIARY - 25 APRIL 2007 - SUNNY SWEENEY
SHINES ON HEARTBREAKERS HALL OF FAME
"I know my old high school boyfriend has his name on the wall/ well,
he was even nominated for this favourite new jerk of all/ I know it was
gruelling for him to try and not get elected by me/ now he's in the notable
club as the master of ceremonies/ well, once he got inducted there was
no way out/ even if he wanted to leave/ he's in the heartbreakers hall
of fame now baby as tonight's main honouree." - Heartbreaker's
Hall Of Fame - Sunny Sweeney.
has three dogs named Dolly, Nash and Merle and wrote her breakthrough
hit after a quick google.
The google morphed into a spontaneous songwriting sprint that became
the title track of Sunny Sweeney's indie debut disc.
"I Googled the Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame and all
these halls of fame came up, but there was no heartbreaker's hall
of fame," Sweeney revealed in Dallas, Texas, after her disc
was re-released by Scott Borchetta's heat seeking Nashville Big
that was the greatest title for a country song. I thought it would be
funny. I wrote it in five minutes. It just popped out. It's a ditty."
afford to call it a ditty but it's one helluva memorable song in the grand
old tradition of swinging doors and sawdust floors.
It won airplay from Austin to Alabama and Australia and Sweeney plans
to tour here in January 2008, after a whirlwind European foray.
The Sweeney tour, with fellow honky tonk heroes Becky Hobbs and Dallas
Wayne, is a welcome country oasis in the refried rock jungle that dominates
Australia between the autumn and summer festival tour flood.
It's also a challenge in a nation where the popular genre has long been
banished from mainstream radio and is now suffering a dumping by the street
Despite that it's easy to see why Sweeney already has the unlucky radio
country in the cross hairs of her lethal weapon - the turbo twang of a
voice owing as much to Loretta Lynn as Kasey Chambers.
She embodies the spirit of the outback and Wild West that shot Chambers
from lead singer in a family band to, ah, the cash converter in a family
And, with a little help from Chambers family protégée and
expatriate Van Diemens Land refugee Audrey Auld Mezera, she even has the
homegrown parodic paean Next Big Nothing song on her debut disc.
"We have Sunny booked for five major European festivals in July and
August," the singer's manager John Lomax 111 told Nu Country TV.
"Then the plan is for her to join Becky Hobbs in Tamworth and bring
Dallas Wayne along with her in January. Becky's already booked for the
You may remember Lomax as the U.S. springboard for Kasey Chambers and
author of the Dead Ringer Band book Red Desert Sky.
And, like recent Canadian tourist Fred Eaglesmith, the Australian band
might include Bill Chambers on guitar, dobro and lap steel.
SWEENEY LOCAL DEAL
seeking a distribution deal for Sweeney in Australia - Missouri born honky
tonker Wayne's albums are released here by Shock.
They included his Big Thinkin' (2000), Here I Am In Dallas
(2001) and The Twang Bangers 2002 disc 26 Days On The Road.
The other Twang Bangers were former Commander Cody co-founder and long
time solo artist Bill Kirchen, who has toured here and recorded with now
defunct Git, Red Volkaert, Joe Goldmark and Johnny & Jack.
Oklahoma born stone country singer Becky Hobbs will be touring to promote
Best Of The Beckaroo - Part One - from her five albums released
Those hits include Jones On The Juke Box, Mama Was A Working Man, She
Broke Her Promise, Are There Anymore like You and Cowgirl's Heart
on this 21 track disc you can find at www.beckyhobbs.com
We'll return to the careers of Hobbs and Wayne in upcoming stories here.
TIM CARROLL VIDEO PRIMES SALES PUMP
I could pay all these bills with my guitar/ then I would pay these bills
with some rock and roll/ put food on the table to pay the landlord/ buy
some working clothes/ cause I ain't making money playing guitar like I'm
paid at the factory." - If I Could, I Would - Tim Carroll
the interim you'll see the video for Sweeney's rollicking bluegrass
romp on Tim Carroll penned single If I Could on Nu Country
TV on C 31 as a tour teaser.
Sweeney kick started radio airplay with widespread exposure of her
video on cable TV network CMT.
The song, title track of Carroll's third album in 2001, also impacted
when recorded by legendary former singing Chicago postie John Prine
on his 1997 Oh Boy album Live On Tour.
Carroll & Elizabeth Cook>
solo career dates back to 1998 when he cut the album Good Rock From
Bad for Sire who shelved it, enabling him to release it as the bootleg
Not For Sale.
He also released
albums Rock' N Roll Band in 1999, Free Again in 2001 and
Always Tomorrow in 2002.
The former member of Lonesome Bob landed Find A Way To Win on the
soundtrack of 1999 movie Election, starring Reese Witherspoon and
Matthew Broderick, and A Girl That's Hip on Kirsten Dunst movie
Drop Dead Gorgeous.
Carroll is best known in Australia as singing spouse of Florida born Elizabeth
Cook who landed three co-writes with Melinda Schneider on the Australian
country star's acclaimed fourth album Stronger.
They included Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman, I Like Men In
Trucks and Rest Your Mind.
Cook and Schneider wrote two songs in the same session at the Nashville
home of Elizabeth shares with Tim.
Carroll bought Cook's father Tom - a reformed moonshiner who spent 11
years in prison - a bass amp for his 80th birthday last year so he could
perform with his wife Joyce in octogenarian duo Medicare.
COMEDY TO COUNTRY
back to Sweeney whose star has shone so bright she scored a headlining
role at the famed Billy Bob's club, replete with 42 bars and a live
bull-riding ring, in Fort Worth (Cowtown.)
Sweeney, now on the flip side of 30, may be a hard-core honky tonker
but she chose a different entrée route before taking an existential
She bent the boards on the stand-up comedy circuit in New York,
Austin and beyond after graduating from university in 2001.
A fellow graduate was Cleburne born singer Randy Rogers, son of
a Baptist preacher, whose band scored healthy airplay on major Americana
stations for four indie albums and a live Billy Bob's DVD before
signing with major Nashville label Mercury.
But the comedienne's peers suggested she quit comedy and become
a new millenium mistress of melancholia.
after belatedly learning guitar from her stepfather four years ago
in a 13-hour car trip to Colorado, she clocked up 200 gigs in her
She played her first major gig, fronting her own band in September
2004 at Austin's Carousel Lounge.
In less than a year, she had weekly residencies at multiple Austin
honky-tonk bars and even scored a short tour or Europe, highlighted
by sharing a bill with Dwight Yoakam at a festival in Norway.
swinging western tunes/ coming from the jukebox late last June/ this was
the way our love songs would start/ play another verse and you get yourself
another broken heart." - Slow Swinging Western Tunes - Sunny Sweeney.
from Longview in her state's rural east and quickly filled a vocal void
left by Natalie Maines and Kasey Chambers in their post pure country careers.
Although she only wrote three tunes - including the sardonic title track
- superb song choice ensures Heartbreaker's Hall Of Fame deserves its
The other equally memorable originals are the evocative Ten Years Pass
and jukebox fuelled Slow Swinging Western Tunes.
Sweeney says she chose to record a majority of covers on her debut disc
because they fitted her concept.
"I have enough songs to make probably 10 CDs, but I don't want to
put filler songs just because I wrote them," Sweeney revealed.
"I'd rather have the best songs that I can possibly pick. My husband
said one time that good cover songs are better than bad originals. Why
would I want to put a bad song on there just because it's mine?"
Sweeney produced the disc with drummer Tom Lewis and veteran pedal steel
guitarist Tommy Detamore at his Cherry Ridge Studio in Floresville.
Detamore has owned and operated his studio in the town nestled between
Austin and San Antonio since 1990 with pedal steel his instrument of choice
on more than 100 albums.
The pedal steel and Grammy award winner Bobby Flores fiddle drenched the
music of Sweeney who originally released this as an indie in her home
So the story of the album's escape to Borchetta's fledgling Nashville
label in 2005 makes good copy.
"It's like a fairy tale," Sweeney says.
"He got my CD in a blank envelope, and he doesn't know how he got
Sweeney is in good company on Big Machine - label-mates include Texan
veteran Jack Ingram, belatedly enjoying chart success, Danielle Peck,
Taylor Swift, Jimmy Wayne and Dusty Drake.
"It's very flattering and amazing all at the same time," Sweeney
revealed about her Big Machine signing.
"I've only been playing for two and a half years. For somebody to
believe in me enough doing exactly what I'm doing and not ask me to change
a single thing is the most flattering thing in the entire world. I made
a record exactly like I wanted to make it. For that to go forward the
way it has gone is mind-blowing to me."
gonna be the next big nothing/ you won't see my name on MTV/ I'm gonna
be the next big nothing/ no-one knows my name in Tennessee" - Next
Big Nothing - Audrey Auld Mezera.
also a sweet dream for expatriate Van Diemen's Land diva Audrey Auld
Mezera whose parodic paean Next Big Nothing also landed on
this classic debut.
"When I heard that I thought it was so my personality,"
Sweeney says of the song penned by the singer who now calls the Northern
California hippy enclave of Bolinas her home.
"We made it a little faster of a shuffle. I thought it was a
great song to put on the record. Whenever we play that, people go
crazy. If it's a great song, I don't care if I didn't write it."
originally appeared in 2001 on Audrey's second solo disc Losing Faith
- a not so late entry in the heartbreakers hall of fame after the singer's
split with touring and performing partner Bill Chambers.
Audrey impacted heavily in the Lone Star State after recording third solo
disc Texas in Austin in 2004 with Bill Chambers in the star studded
"Texas is about people those who have inspired the songs - Woody
Guthrie, Harlan Howard, Billy Joe Shaver, Karla Faye Tucker and the Dead
Ringer Band," Mezera said at the time.
"Also my father, husband and the universal family to which we all
That family also includes Chambers who produced, sang and played on Audrey's
fourth solo disc Lost Men And Angry Girls in 2006.
VU ON NU COUNTRY TOO
the corners of the country/ from the cities and the farms/ with years
and years of living/ tucked up underneath their arms/ they walk away from
everything/ just to sing for me and you/ so God bless the boys who make
the noise on 16th Avenue." - 16th Avenue - Thom Schuyler.
of now defunct Victorian community radio broadcaster Nu Country FM, High
In The Saddle on 3RRR-FM and PBS-FM and top rating PBS-FM show Acid Country
will recall other songs that Sweeney has resurrected.
We frequently played Lacy J Dalton's 1982 version of Thom Schuyler's songwriters'
anthem 16th Avenue as a reality check for shooting stars and starlets.
"I always said if I ever did a record I would put that on there,"
"I stick to my word. It's my favourite song on the record because
it was always one of my favourite songs. She has an amazing voice. It's
so sexy, but it's also so truthful. I heard it when I was around 5 years
old. I remember thinking, 'Oh my God.' Now it's even more amazing."
And, of course, Pentecostal raised Iris De Ment's ancestral Mama's
Opry scored wide airplay here on the same shows before and after her
1998 Australian tour.
Arkansas born De Ment, 45 and youngest of 14 children and latter day singing
spouse of Greg Brown, toured here with former husband Elmer - a fireman
- with whom she wrote I Take My Sorrow Straight.
De Ment now lives with Brown - also son of a Pentecostal preacher - in
Iowa and cut Mama's Opry on her Jim Rooney produced 1992 album
A later radio bloomer was Libby Bosworth's aching East Texas Pines
from her 1996 album Outskirts of You.
vintage tune covered here by Sweeney is Please Be San Antone
penned by recent Aussie tourist Jim Lauderdale and Dixie Chick Emily
Erwin before she became spouse of Charlie Robison.
Lauderdale also wrote Sweeney's album entrée weeper Refresh
My Memory with John Scott Sherrill and duets with Sweeney on Keith
Sykes hook heavy Lavender Blue.
Drummer Tom Lewis, album producer with pedal steel guitarist Tommy
Detamore and Sweeney, sourced Lauderdale.
"We were sitting in the studio. I said 'Who are we going to get
to sing this duet?'' the singer recalled of the session at Detamore's
studio at Floresville.
"Tom said, 'Hold on. Let me make a call,' and he said, 'Jim's
gonna do it.'" Sweeney said, "Jim who?"
Recording was as simple as sourcing.
e-mailed it to Jim. He recorded it in Nashville in Jay Weaver's studio
and then sent it back. It sounded like we were in the same room. I sang
live with him when I came up to Nashville."
Sweeney says her eventual meeting with Lauderdale was inspired.
"Now he's like one of my favourite people," she added.
"He is hysterical. He's probably the funniest person I've ever met
- and I've met some really, really funny people in my life. He's always
on. You never know if he's kidding. He keeps such a straight face, and
he says some of the funniest things you've ever heard come out of somebody's
Sweeney says the Lauderdale connection is "one of those lucky moments
when you actually get to meet somebody that you've been a huge fan of,
and they turn out to be cool."
is an unashamed devotee of Coal Miner's Daughter Loretta Lynn who
cut tunes by stone country writers and the late Playboy cartoonist
Shel Silverstein as well as her own feisty originals.
"I think that vocally she has the best country voice out of
any human being that ever lived,' Sweeney says.
"It's so true. There's nothing that she can't do. She kind
of paved the way for every female in one way or another. She carved
out a way and said it's all right."
can be a girl and rebel against the system in your own way. One
time I heard her on an interview, and she said, 'I got famous cause
I didn't think I couldn't.'
she sticks out in my head as being such a role model for me. And her writing,
all of her songs are so true. They're
about the things that she's lived. You just can't fake that."
Sweeney has modest goals for her own songs and claims only one similarity
between her songs and those of her idol, Lynn.
"The things I write, I just go with the things I've lived. I hope
that aspect of it comes across, that I'm singing about stuff that I know
about, and I'm not trying to pretend to be different than I am. I'm just
writing about stuff that happens, which is what she does, which I think
is her best quality. And I always loved Loretta, too, but it wasn't until
I got older that her lyrics really started to mean so much to me. It was
from her that I learned that it's OK to be yourself: write from your heart
and what you know."
Sweeney's love of roots country dates back to her childhood in Longview.
"I'm drawn to it because of the kind of music that I grew up on.
The kind of music that I grew up on was Merle, Tammy Wynette and Loretta
Lynn. They are still awesome. They are staples in country music. They
never get old. They never turned any corners; they all stayed on the straight-and-narrow
country thing. I'm not doing it because I think it's cool to sing country;
I'm doing it because I want to have a career that lasts hopefully as long
as their careers."
She says her mentors include Rosanne Cash, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson,
Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, Kasey Chambers and Johnny Cash.
"Growing up in East Texas, we had mostly country radio stations,
but I was a child in the early '80s right when the genre had started its
downfall," she admits.
"But the first time I heard Merle Haggard, I remember actually thinking,
'Now this guy, his songs are worth something!' I'd hear something else
I didn't like, and then I'd hear the intro to a Merle song and my heart
met Kentucky born, California based singing actor Dwight Yoakam, who
recently toured here, in Norway on her first European tour.
She posted photos of their meeting on her web page and hired former
Mavericks and latter day Yoakam guitarist Eddie Perez for a cameo
on her album.
Other guests include D.B. Harris, whose song Here Lately graced
this disc, and Gary Claxton on harmony vocals, Skip Edwards on organ,
Ted Roddy on harmonica, and Terje Kinn on banjo.
The core band is producer Detamore on guitar, pedal and lap steel
and dobro, guitarist Lars Albrecht, drummer Lewis, bassist David Carroll,
Bobby Flores on mandolin and fiddle Casper Rawls who toured Australia
with the Leroi Brothers.
"I have plenty of people in my life that live in Austin that
do the exact same thing who do the same thing I do who say 'It's so
for me, I've tried every other job, and this is actually the most fun
I've had at a job."
"It's a hard, hard job. I'm not gonna lie. But it's so much fun.
I love it. I love every minute of it. I wake up, and I'm like 'God, I
get to do this for a living?! This is the hardest I've worked on anything
in my life but I still cannot believe this is my job. I'm doing what I've
always wanted to do, and, honestly, it's the thing I'm supposed to do
because I haven't gotten fired yet!"
Stay tuned here and we'll keep you updated on this amazing tour with Becky
Hobbs and Dallas Wayne.
Further info - www.sunnysweeney.com
/ back to diary