DIARY - 9 AUGUST 2006 - MELINDA SCHNEIDER INTERVIEW
SCHNEIDER AT THE GRAND OLE OPRY
sometimes it takes balls to be a woman/ look at Loretta and Dolly/ they
still live it to the letter." - Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be
A Woman - Melinda Schneider-Elizabeth Cook.
It's backstage late at night at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and
an octogenarian reformed moonshiner and an iconic Australian yodeler
join forces on a classic from a distant era.
Suddenly a crowd gathers to watch and listen to the duo harmonising.
Time stands still.
But not Australian country music queen Melinda Schneider.
Melinda reaches for her mobile phone and films this spontaneous performance
by her mum Mary and songwriting partner Elizabeth Cook's dad Tom.
Minutes later she replays it for these kindred spirits before Cook
takes the stage and enters homes all over the U.S.
Cooks - Tom and Joyce - have met Mary for the first time but their female
offspring have been making music together for a couple of years now.
Elizabeth have written at least a dozen songs together on Schneider's
trips to Nashville and three grace the Sydney chanteuse's fourth album
But it's this meeting off the not so odd couple that captured the lens
of Schneider's phone.
"Liz was on the Opry that night so mum and I went down to see her
perform as I was playing it the next night," Schneider, 34, told
Nu Country TV on the eve of concerts in Melbourne as part of the Broad
"My mum and her dad Tom hit it off right away. I've got them singing
old traditional harmony cowboy song together backstage. I filmed it on
my camera - just priceless. They just met - they were kindred spirits
too. It makes sense because Elizabeth and I are too."
Kindred spirits maybe but oceans apart in their geographical genetics.
Mary Schneider and her sister Rita emerged from Queensland in the forties.
They blazed their own trail across Australia.
Mary has become internationally renowned for her singing and yodeling.
and Joyce perform in Nashville as the Medicare Duo.
As a teen, Joyce was half of The Melody Duo, performing on farm radio
hours and TV shows in Charleston, West Virginia.
Tom learned to play guitar on a Georgia cotton plantation.
He later worked as a bootlegger and still supervisor for an organised
crime ring in Jacksonville, Florida.
He spent 11 years in state and federal prisons, where he learned to play
upright bass and performed in the prison band.
After his release, Tom met Joyce, by now a single mother of five.
They got hitched musically and legally and added baby Elizabeth to the
Elizabeth's husband, singer-songwriter Tim Carroll, bought Tom a bass
amp for his 80th birthday last year, The Medicare Duo was born.
But the Opry wasn't the first meeting of Melinda and Medicare - that
was one of her six songwriting sojourns in Nashville over the past
"I went out to their farm and had a ride of their horses,"
Melinda revealed of her visit to the family farm at the aptly named
Cooksville near Lebanon in Tennessee.
Elizabeth Cook & Tim Carroll
turnip greens and cornbread and ribs and stuff. It was fantastic. We talked
a lot about his time in jail. He was a little bugger - a bootlegger. Apparently
he had this car that had a smokescreen. It also had these buttons he would
press and the number plate would disappear or cover up so the cops couldn't
see who it was. It was really like something out of Maxwell Smart."
Elizabeth, born in Wildwood, Florida, is the youngest of 11 children.
Cook attended Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, earning a
double major in accounting and computer information systems.
She became an accountant with Price Waterhouse before choosing a music
career that resulted in her self-titled indie debut disc in 2000.
Expatriate Australasian CEO Barry Coburn then signed her to Atlantic
recording her second album that year but AOL-Time Warner, which owned
Atlantic, closed its Nashville office.
high-profile label mates John Michael Montgomery and Tracy Lawrence, she
was bounced to Atlantic's parent, Warner.
Her album Hey Y'all eventually made its debut in August 2002, but
it was too little, too late.
She resorted to writing songs including Hard-Hearted and Here's
to You about her demise that was a feature of her new album This
Side of the Moon (Hog County)
Cook wed fellow singer-songwriter Tim Carroll, 45, on May 13, 2004.
Carroll, born at West Terre Haute, Indiana in rural Vigo County, graduated
from college at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where he joined
punk rock band The Gizmos and moved to New York City in 1980.
He formed a bar band called The Blue Chieftains who had 2 singles issued
on the Diesel Only label in 1990.
Since 1993, he has lived in Nashville, Tennessee, writing songs and playing
The prolific writer's tune If I Could, I Would has been covered
by John Prine and Asleep at the Wheel.
Two Carroll original tunes appeared on soundtracks of major movies Election
(which stars Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick) and Drop Dead
Gorgeous (with Kirsten Dunst).
IT TAKES BALLS TO BE A WOMAN
"Sometimes it takes balls to be a woman/ standing up to the test
while you're wearing a party dress/ sometimes looks can be deceiving when
you're quietly over-achieving."
Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman - Melinda Schneider-Elizabeth
writing sessions of Schneider and Cook at the Nashville home shared
with her singing spouse Tim Carroll were not quite as exciting.
But two songs on Stronger came to fruition on the same day - the
first was Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman.
"It was really just a flippant comment on life," Schneider
song didn't come from a specific personal place. We were having a conversation
about being female in the music industry. That's how it came out - one
of those girlie conversations about life, how being female some times
makes it harder. We
were at her house talking about the industry. She's also struggling to
be known - we're both on same path. There's a lot of competition out there,
having to push yourself and be focused and gung ho and all the qualities
to get somewhere in this business. She said - "well, Melinda sometimes
it takes balls to be a woman.' I said 'you're flipping song titles, let's
write it.' It was a perfect case of a song being born from a title."
The song, featuring Cook, expatriate Queensland singer Natalie Howard
and fellow Australian Janine Le Claire among the choir, has the joyous
vibrance of the Matraca Berg song Back In The Saddle.
"We also wrote Rest Your Weary Mind in the same session,"
"The night before I came up with the chorus. So we fleshed it out.
We worked on Balls and Rest Your Weary Mind in the same
day - two different mood swings."
But not Men In Trucks.
"I thought it was a bit of silly song but when I came back and played
it for Graham (Thompson) - her husband and producer of 10 years with whom
she split in 2005.
"He loved it. He said you've got to do that - Elizabeth didn't put
it on her record - her husband Tim said I don't know why you didn't do
it. He's really cool - he wrote the fishing song, If I Could that Kasey
did and John Prine did. We should listen to him."
SONGS FROM THE HEART
time is my stop, it's time to get off/ though I'm not too sure where I'm
going/ I've spent the best part of my life so far/ in a love that just
wasn't growing." - Stronger - Melinda Schneider- Jerry Salley.
exorcised her painful divorce from Thompson - also owner of her record
label Compass Bros - in two songs she penned with prolific writer Jerry
But she didn't inject her album title track of The Letting Go with
vitriol or angst.
"I formed a bit of a bond with him on the last album," Schneider
"We wrote Dreaming Him Home two weeks after my dad died. I
had met Jerry for the first time that day. We got into the grief in the
first day - he's a great country writer. I felt comfortable writing with
him. The initial idea for Stronger was mine. I wrote about three quarters
of the lyrics, Everything that I say in that song is true. I wanted to
keep it positive. It can be sad but it's got to be positive too."
Then song reflects Thompson's compassion when Schneider's policeman father
died and supported her through the tough emotional crises.
"I had a couple of other songs that I loved and he loved," Schneider
"One was a little darker and I made the decision I didn't want to
have three break-up songs on the album - that would have tipped the balance.
Stronger is personal and the other The Letting Go is a real
country song - it's personal but has broader appeal. The moving on in
The Letting Go was Jerry's line."
and Salley also wrote Send Them Love.
"It's about another friend of mine," she added.
"We turned negative feelings into a positive vibe. I had that
that chorus, it was almost fully formed."
not only ensured the balance of moods was reflected in her 13-song disc
but also that it started with on a positive note.
"Big World, Small World is a very happy, positive song,"
a new writer I have been writing with for the past year. He's great -
he's on my wave-length and I'm very happy with it. We also wrote Truly
True Love together."
Schneider made a video clip of Big World, Small World that will
be featured on Nu Country TV.
So what other songs are being considered for video clips?
"There are so many songs that could be singles," she added.
"What do you think?"
Well, obviously Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman.
"We could have a lot of drag queens in that," she joked.
"Well Vince Gill was in drag for the video he and Rodney Crowell
made as Notorious Cherry Bombs for Its Hard To Kiss The Lips At Night
That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long, I reply.
Ironically, Crowell already has a link with the Schneider-Cook anthem.
"There was talk of Balls being used in the movie The Devil Wears
Prada," Melinda said.
"Rodney Crowell pitched it to the producers. But I guess it didn't
make it. The film is already out."
BIFF WATSON PRODUCER
Schneider and Thompson suffered in their split they remain good friends.
"The break-up was very difficult as anyone would know after being
married for 10 years," Schneider says candidly.
"But the relationship is still strong - we're good mates. We're working
together very well which we're both very happy about. It's a credit to
both of us."
Thompson also sourced Biff Watson as producer of Stronger - featuring
a Nashville A team.
They include hot guitarists Brent Mason and Bryan Sutton, bassist Michael
Rhodes, drummer Greg Morrow, pianists Gordon Mote and Mike Rojas, Mike
Johnson and Randy Kohrs on pedal steel and dobro, Aubrey Hayney on fiddle
and mandolin and Flood accordion player Tim Wedde.
"Graham was going to be producer of the album when start writing
for it," Melinda added.
"Even after we split up I still had him in mind as the producer.
It came to a point that I was going to work with writer Gordon Kennedy
as produce but he couldn't do it for personal reasons. Graham was in Nashville.
I said 'maybe you should do it - it'll be a healing time.' He said 'it's
too hard - too emotional.' He met with Biff and said see if I like him.
He said you'll like him - he'll do a great job. I met him and liked him
and decided to go with him. I love Graham's production but it was obviously
time for a change in direction - we moved on in two ways."
TOUR AND BEYOND
plans to compensate for Australian radio boycott on country music by her
national Broad tour with Deborah Conway, Mia Dyson Kate Miller Heidke
and Ella Hooper.
The tour began in Lismore and brings the quintet to The Athenaeum in Melbourne
on August 22.
Melinda plans to belatedly release an album in the U.S featuring some
of the songs on Stronger.
But what's happening with the other 47 songs she wrote in Nashville?
"I have half a dozen really good songs I'll save for my next album,"
"It's not as it they're not good enough. But I was repeating myself
on some subjects.
I don't thing they'll date. The others I'll pitch to other artists. Bobby
- my publisher in Nashville - will pitch those songs after I do demos."
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