The Queenscliff Music Festival takes off on November 22-24 and it’s set to be a ripper. This mecca for all things instrumental and vocally brilliant began in 1997 and showcases the cream of the blues, jazz and smooth crooning. This year Clare Bowditch, Missy Higgins, The Cat Empire, The Waifs, Tim Finn and others will be joined by Mississippi-born Kent Burnside, who’s bringing his distinct gravelly down south blues guitar and vocals to the Bellarine Peninsula. As the grandson of legendary blues man R.L. Burnside, Kent was born into the shoes of one of the best blues masters around and has toured Europe and the US. Liz Rogers got a chance to ask him some questions before he set sail for our great southern land. Enjoy.
So, what do you know about Australia?
Nothing. All I know is you got kangaroos.
What’s the best thing about playing the Queenscliff Music Festival?
They get to hear what I do. You know what I’m saying? They open the doors for me to spread my music to Australia so I can get more gigs and keep coming back.
Tell us a bit about growing up in such a renowned musical family and what your childhood looked like.
It was pretty crazy. I was very poor, actually. We worked on a farm and ate what we grew. At the beginning R.L. was very poor. He always worked and played music but only came up near the end of his life. He would have parties at the farm on the weekends and play music, and I made and sold sandwiches to help out. It was $2 to get in . . . sometimes $1 if it was a slow night. I was about 15 when he became very successful. He always stayed humble, though.
What do the blues mean to you?
Man, the blues, man. It’s an outlet for me, a release for whatever I have going on. It helps relax my soul. Their problems can help you with your problems. They tell me that the blues ain’t nothin but a good man feelin’ bad.
When did you begin playing guitar and singing?
Since I was nine. I started trying to sing at 14.
Where do your lyrics come from?
From the heart. I’ve experienced so much I’m amazed I’m still alive. It was crazy coming up. It wasn’t all good. We struggled a lot until R.L. came up. There were lots of days I didn’t eat as a kid.
What’s life on the road of a touring blues man look like?
It’s amazing. When I’m home I’m Dad, but when I’m on the road I’m young again.
How many gigs do you do per year on average?
Around 100 a year.
And finally, anything you must do when you come Down Under?
Just to enjoy every moment I’m there. I wanna see some kangaroos.