DIARY - 27 MARCH 2005 - FRED EAGLESMITH
DUSTY WITHOUT SLIM
just dusty, there's flies on you/your guns are rusty and your soul is
too/the Texas is wearin' off your leather boots/ you're just dusty, there's
flies on you." - Dusty - Fred Eaglesmith,
MOVIN ON WITH FRED
expatriate Australian band Greencards was struggling to finish the
title track of its debut disc in Texas it called on the song doctor
For the Canadian singer-songwriter, making one of his many Austin
visits, it was a nice little earner.
"I was in Austin and Kym Warner came to me and said I need helping
finishing this song," Eaglesmith 47 and father of three, told
Nu Country TV on the eve of his fourth Australian tour.
"He said he needed a punch line. Some times you need a second
Eaglesmith and his band The Flying Squirrels perform at The Esplanade,
St Kilda, on Saturday April 2 to promote his 14th album Dusty (Vital.)
also performs Byron Bay Blues Festival on Friday March 25 and 26, Pub
With No Beer Festival at Taylors Arm on Sunday March 27 in Northern NSW,
Vic On The Park in Sydney- March 31 - and Bridge Hotel, Rozelle on April
Eaglesmith, one of nine children raised on Southern Ontario farm, has
become one of the most popular live acts on Nu Country TV.
And his songs are equally well known here when covered by local artists.
Prominent Australian artists Kasey and Bill Chambers and expatriates Catherine
Britt and Audrey Auld Mezera have earned Fred lucrative mail box money.
Movie director Martin Scorsese used Eaglesmith songs in his movies and
James Caan chose two for Viva Los Nowhere.
Peers diverse as Canadian rock band Cowboy Junkies, Todd Snider, Chris
Knight, Dar Williams, Wendy Newcomer and bluegrass artist James King have
also cut his songs.
Eaglesmith writes about a world populated by drifters, grifters, vagabonds,
farmers, truckies and heart and horse breakers.
born Mary Gauthier also cut Eaglesmith song Your Sister Cried on
fourth disc Mercy Now that was released here this month on Lost
"I've been lucky enough to have a lot of covers this year,"
says Eaglesmith who has just headlined his own festivals in the Texas
"Mary's first gig was opening for me in Vermont about four years
ago," says Fred, "she's a big fan of mine. I guess she heard
it on one of my records. Bluegrass artist James King recorded a couple
of my songs recently. Todd Snider recorded Alcohol & Pills
(also cut by Audrey) and Wendy Newcomer recorded 105. I've had about one
a month for the last couple of years."
Virginia born King chose Fred's tune 30 Years Of Farming as the
title track of his fourth disc in 2002.
King, 46 and a former Marine, also cut Fred's Flowers In The Dell on
fifth album The Bluegrass Storyteller that also includes Buddy
Miller's historic The Garage Sale.
So what does Eaglesmith spend his money on when he has rare breaks from
the rigors of the Lost Highway?
"I still have my fishing house boat in Port Dover," Fred revealed.
"I have a shack where I do my painting and have a recording studio
there. I still have the farm and a few boats, a plethora of boats, all
in states of disrepair in the state of - southern Ontario. I hate to see
these old wooden boats get tossed so I buy them. I own too many wooden
Eaglesmith added strings to his new disc - one of five produced by fellow
Canadian Scott Merritt.
"I had been listening a lot to Dusty Springfield and decided to do
a concept album and get back to what music sounded like before the Beatles,"
"It was that era of Glen Campbell - that was a cool time."
The title track is a composite of characters from mean streets of Canada
"It's about a lot of old guys on the street I know and Willie (P
Bennett) who has been in my band for 20 years. My father had a lot to
do with it too."
broncs & rodeos, the horse was a runaway/ from Liberal with
an altered brand/ and we kept the white from showing/ with shoe
polish and number #2 stove oil/ the wind stood still when he ran."
- Wichita - Fred Eaglesmith.
also credits his father - farmer, horse breaker and evangelist -
for sourcing part of new tune Wichita.
"It's the story of a 65 year old man who is a horse trainer
and scam artist and a horse was stolen," says Fred.
a runaway from Liberal - a town in Kansas. My father told me how
they covered up the markings with motor oil and they would race
it because it was stolen and give it a couple of bottles of aspirin.
disguise them and away they would go. It's about a kid and an old man.
My dad was a horse trader in his day. He took me to places where we met
shyster horse traders - they were criminals. We got sold a horse one day.
It looked great in the ring but when we got it home it was limping and
had legs full of stones. I was raised with horses. I broke my first horse
at 10. My father made me get back on it until it stopped bucking me off."
Another new song Codeine was inspired by another old equestrian.
"This old farmer was in pain all the time so he took codeine and
didn't feel like riding his horse and getting his cows in," Fred
"He was too old, too tired and hurting too much to bring the cows
75 - LOST HIGHWAY
"Horse trailers and truckers/ and old station wagons/ driven by women
with too many kids/ and they've been trying to leave their situation/
for years and years but they never did." - 1 75.
But it was the desperados stranded on crowded interstate highways who
adorn his narrative 1 95.
"1 75 runs from Detroit, Michigan, down to Florida," Eaglesmith
"I spent a lot of time on that highway on the way to Nashville. I
meet all these people at these truck stops who are destitute. They have
run out of gas and have to sell a tyre or try to sell you their battery
to get food. They can't move, they have mattresses on their cars full
of kids. I write about I feel has happened to them, they're begging for
something. There's no safety net in America - when you are down and out
you are down and out with no welfare."
is bemused about the punk refugees who populate a crowded alt country
"A lot of kids who were laughing at me 10 years ago in a punk
band are now playing alternative country," Fred observed.
"All of a sudden they love Johnny Cash, now that he's dead. I
remember not so many years ago he wasn't filling halls here. Now everyone
loves him. I'm burned out every time I see a little band or artist
who couldn't make it in other genres decide they love country music.
They bring in their influences, which is fine. But what they're saying
is 'I'm not really loving this.' They become snotty kids on stage
- once they get any recognition they get big heads. I say go play
punk music. I don't like to be cool and part of things that are cool.
Cool is such a fleeting mistress Cool. I've been doing this a long
time doing something I loved. I was ahead of the game."
still sleeps with his guitar on his bed.
songs in the middle of the night," he added.
"I've written a fair number of songs on Australia tours. I really
like the night. I have been outside of pubs in Australia and thought this
must have been how it felt in the fifties. It's a really wonderful vibe
in Australia - it makes me write songs."
IN THE FUEL
Eaglesmith & Audrey Mezera
singer says Water In The Fuel - cut by Kasey Chambers - is
his favourite song. Freight Train - also cut by Kasey - and
30 Years Of Farming (one of several covered by bluegrass artist
James King) - have been more lucrative.
Eaglesmith can be excused for being a trusting soul.
So trusting on a European tour earlier this year he confessed in an
interview that he was running late for the Trans Atlantic flight so
he left $30,000 in his car at Toronto airport.
Although Eaglesmith's confession was published in print and on the
Internet he beat treasure hunters back to his car.
car looks like it wouldn't have any money in it," Eaglesmith confessed.
"It's a dusty old 1979 Mercedes Benz. No-one would be looking for
money in my old car. It was the well lived in look. I've slept in it and
never been bothered"
Eaglesmith says he's oblivious to war and violence.
"I forgot about those sort of things, the world is very afraid now
but I'm not," says the singer who can hot wire a tractor to make
it go faster on the open road or paddocks.
"I've never locked a door in any house that I've lived in."
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