Australian country music star Beccy Cole discusses The Cowgirl and The Showgirl, her current show with partner Libby O’Donovan, her book Poster Girl and the evolution of country music.
You’re performing your show The Cowgirl and The Showgirl with Libby O’Donovan in Brisbane in September. Can you tell me about that?
This is one of the best shows I’ve had the pleasure of performing in. We have taken the best of country, jazz and show tunes, popped them in a melting pot and as a result, it’s such a fun mash-up. The fusion of these genres makes for a very funny musical experience, especially when we attempt to be authentic in each other’s field of expertise.
What’s the inspiration behind the show?
We realised from our first song together that something very special happened when we joined each other on stage. Our nicknames for each other from the day we met were ‘Cowgirl’ and ‘Showgirl.’
You’ve had formidable success with the show so far. What do you think makes it so appealing for audiences?
I think people are curious to see what might happen when these styles come together. From the reaction of the audience at our very first show, we knew we had something unique and very special. The Helpmann Award nomination came as such a shock – it’s thrilling to know that something born out of a chance meeting has become a success.
What is it you enjoy most about touring?
I have always loved the travel, the towns [and] the chance to explore our beautiful country. I am as equally drawn to performing for a fresh audience night after night. I am always humbled by their purchasing of a ticket, I want to take them on a wonderful journey and leave them with happy memories.
What do you want people to get out of attending one of your live performances?
Dolly Parton says that to put on a good show you have to “Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, scare hell out of ‘em and then go home!”. It’s about entertaining them [the audience], they come first – not my ego, not the band’s free meal, not how tired we are after the day’s travel … the ticket holder is king.
Do you and Libby ever get sick of one another, given that you’re together pretty much 24 / 7?
I could never get sick of one so amazing. Libby is the most generous, kind hearted and talented person I know. Not to mention hard working! No one will ever accuse us of being lazy; together we work our butts off. When we’re on stage singing and smiling at each other and the audience, it has all been worth it.
What are some of the highlights and lowlights of your career thus far?
Performing for our troops in the Middle East a few times was certainly a highlight. Being presented with Golden Guitars is an amazing feeling, although that has never been my motivation for writing songs. I truly think that the most satisfying part of my career is hearing that a song has touched an individual in a special way, that’s the pot of gold right there.
It’s not in me to retain lowlights, I suppose I covered the lowlights of my life in my autobiography but if there have been any in my career, I do not recall.
You recently released your book, Poster Girl. What made you want to share your story?
I am still not entirely sure why I did it, but I know I’m glad I did. I feel free now, no more scary things hidden in my past. I’m proud of my story, my journey, my truth. It’s still way more than I ever planned to tell people about myself but I’m learning to be OK with that!
How was writing a book different to writing a song?
Different by a million miles! A song is like a photograph, a snapshot on time. A book such as this is a detailed account of everything that has shaped who I am.
Who inspires you, both personally and musically?
Dolly [Parton] has always been number one, along side my mum, Carole, who is also a singer (and the best entertainer I’ve ever seen). My mum and Grandma are from whom I get my work ethic, strength and humour. I am extremely blessed to have my Grandma in my life and living just down the road, she is 96 and I still ask her advice.
If you could perform with anyone in the industry, who would it be and why?
I feel as though I have performed with all who have inspired me, so many wonderful singers; Adam Harvey, Troy Cassar-Daley, Kasey Chambers, Gina Jeffreys, Sara Storer, Diesel, Kate Ceberano, Melinda Schneider, Jimmy Barnes, Angry Anderson, Slim Dusty, Kenny Rogers … I’m proud of this list.
Of course, adding Dolly’s name would be quite the cherry on top but that will never happen.
You’ve been fairly prominent in the music industry for a while now. How has it changed over the years?
Many changes have occurred over the years, some good; like watching the audience for my genre grow and gain a new love and understanding for country. Seeing thousands turn out for a big CM Festival or Muster is just so heart warming.
I guess the down side of the progress has been the digital age, where people can download our music for free; it’s been a game changer for those of us who make a living only from music.
What advice would you give to those aspiring to a career in the creative industries?
Be prepared to work very hard. It doesn’t matter how talented your mum thinks you are, what matters is your attitude and your willingness to put everything into your passion.
Country music is slowly gaining more popularity with the success of Taylor Swift and Keith Urban. What’s your opinion of that?
The popularity of country music has been on the incline for years, even before Keith and Taylor. In Australia, country artists were selling platinum albums in the early 90’s. A country song can creep up on even the most hardened ‘non-country’ fan. I’ve seen it happen, time and time again.
What’s the epitome of success for you?
What else is in store for you this year?
Continued touring, Festivals, and a trip to the UK to perform my songs … no sign of slowing down here!
Beccy Cole is performing with Libby O’Donovan throughout Australia as part of her Sweet Rebecca and The Cowgirl and the Showgirl tours. To find a venue closest to you, and for ticketing information, visit http://beccycole.com/ .
Written by Jackie Smith