Felicity Lawless, musician
When you have to play to eat you suddenly get better much quicker ...
If you’ve been lucky enough to catch a set from fiery, bohemian rocker Felicity Lawless, you’ll know all too well about her incredible ability to elevate the soul with music fusing gypsy, world, rock and folk elements. From the streets and tapas bars of Spain and bustling Japanese music venues, to Australian festivals, Felicity has delighted many diverse audiences with her journey through sound and emotion. The local lass is gearing up to take the stage at Blues on Broadbeach from May 19 to 22, but before she does, we caught up with the free-spirited rocker to chat about adventures abroad and following your heart.
What inspires you creatively?
Love, life, joy, pain and basically a desire to make a better world. That’s at the root of all of my music. Whenever I play a show I always try to connect with the audience and make it so people can feel joy.
Congratulations on your second album Tails! What themes or influences did you draw upon for this record?
Thank you! Everything, life with particular attention to stories and the stories we tell each other and ourselves.
Your music kind of skips effortlessly between bohemian folk and flamenco, how would you describe your unique style?
Gypsy rock. It really blends world music elements with rock and folk and there’s really uplifting vocal melodies and lots of fast and fun guitar. The new album definitely has a lot more folk than the previous one but with all of those extra elements thrown in.
Where does that Spanish influence stem from?
I always say that I have a Mexican cowboy trapped inside me trying to get out because I have no idea. I have always been fascinated with Spanish music and world music in general and my music does draw on lots of different kinds of music.
Have you been to Spain and experienced the music and culture first-hand?
I have! Quite a few years ago I went over with Julia Rose, who I play with, and it was just amazing. We lived off busking and I traded guitar theory lessons for flamenco lessons. I just walked into a dream come true because I had just started learning flamenco styles. I have a habit of landing in the perfect place at the perfect time, with my music anyway.
Did you grow up listening to music of the world or is that something you’ve picked up in later years?
I grew up listening to Dolly Parton and 1970’s disco! The world music is something I have explored a lot by myself because I love Eastern rhythms, scales and Latin guitar. I’ve also grown up on pop and rock, like most Westerners, with Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2 and lots of women rockers. I guess I have blended all of those subconsciously.
Let’s rewind a bit, when did you first discover your musical abilities?
When I was a child, from about six or seven I started playing and writing songs on the piano. I was a very sensitive person so music was always my outlet. It’s always been my home and my place of peace ever since I can remember.
When did you take the leap to make music your full-time career?
When I realised I couldn’t be a high school teacher anymore. I was teaching music at a high school and everything in my body was saying that I needed to be playing music and I kept getting really sick. Eventually I did it, I gave up my job and started playing music. I’d been playing for years in bands so it was more making that transition to full-time. I started by taking a trip around Australia and just busking for a living. When you have to play to eat you suddenly get better much quicker.
How hard was it to leave the comfort of a weekly pay cheque for the rather fickle world of music?
I stalled on it for a long time and you know everyone tells you that you’ve got this perfect job but I think when there’s something inside you that says you have to do it, you have to do it. It just wasn’t even a choice for me, it was just the way everything flowed. Being fearless to pursue your dreams and what you know is right is just something that I have in me, I think everyone does but it has been a real focus for my life. I live the way I believe is right not how I am told is right.
Your live shows have developed a bit of a reputation, for readers who haven’t had the pleasure yet, can you tell us what a live set from Felicity Lawless entails?
Shredding guitar, lots of excitement, extremes of emotion and a real connection with all of the people. I like to get everyone involved and really set an atmosphere of us all partying together.
You’ve graced stage at some of the country’s biggest music festivals including Byron Bay Bluesfest earlier this year and have even done a tour of Japan and played countless shows. What have been some of the highlights?
Bluesfest was great. I am also really excited about Blues on Broadbeach next weekend. Of course the massive shows are amazing but sometimes it’s the little intimate shows that just blow you away.
Any words to live by?
I’m not sure where this came from but freedom is liberation from worry. Be completely present in every moment, fearlessly face every challenge and be yourself.
What are your essentials for a well-spent weekend?
Lots of forest time, beach, running with my dogs, playing guitar and having dinner with friends. That’s my ultimate weekend.
Only a Gold Coast local would know … that the local arts scene is amazing and the best coffee is at Dust Temple.
FAVOURITE WEEKEND SPOT TO:
Perk up … Dust Temple, I always feel uplifted when I go there.
Relax … My home in Currumbin Valley.
Indulge … At home because that would mean I’m not working!
Dine … Zipang japanese in Currumbin. It’s devine.
Be inspired … Dust Temple or the mountains.