Having successfully turned his Hunter Valley property Dashville into a regional hub for live music, Matt 'Magpie' Johnston will now release the debut album from his band Magpie Diaries.
Titled 'Sanctuary' and due for release at the end of October, the album is a collection of songs Matt has been working on over the years. “It's an eleven-track album we've now been working on for the past three years in various places – up on the north coast, down here in the Hunter Valley and in Nashville as well,” Matt says.
“It's a whole bunch of songs I've been writing since back when I was 18 and 20-years-old through to now. It's a bit of a snapshot of who I am and where the band comes from... it's a bunch of stories I've collated.”
Matt started Magpie Diaries in 2012 to help come to terms with the loss of a close friend, though his desire to write and record his own music has been a long-term goal. “If you asked me how long it would take to put out an album when I was about 18-years-old, if I knew it was going to be this long I probably would have given up,” Matt laughs.
“But that's the most important thing about music, is that it keeps you driving and that you constantly want to be better. I'm definitely not a perfectionist, but I've definitely worked hard and there's a lot of people who do a similar thing.”
With 'Sanctuary' due at the end of October, Matt says he is currently in the process of booking shows for an album tour starting early next year, which includes some as-yet-unannounced festival shows.
“We're going to do an album tour throughout January,” he says, before revealing: “We're going to be playing Woodford [Folk Festival] – that's an exclusive announce as well – so I'm just piecing a tour together for January and February, and that's how we're going to roll - have a bit of fun on the coast and some other locations.”
Before he hits the road though, Matt will be in charge of producing yet another instalment of Dashville Skyline, which this year boasts an all-Australian line-up featuring The Waifs, CW Stoneking, Hat Fitz & Cara, William Crighton and more at the end of September.
“There are forty bands and every single one of them is Australian this year, which is a bit of a fresh statement,” Matt says.
“Usually we have a few internationals come through, but this year there's been a lot of albums coming out in Australia. It's really positive and this year there was so many great options, so that's the way we went with it. The Waifs are great, I've been wanting that band to come join us for a number of years... and this is the first time they're coming to Dashville, so it's pretty exciting.”
Matt and his team have been running the Dashville property as a live music venue since 2004, with Dashville Skyline being one of their signature events. “We naively took on the job of starting our own little festival and that was before there was so much going on,” Matt says.
"We've just done our own thing, worked within our means and we've just chipped away at it. We're still here when there are a lot of festivals, event and promoters that have gone by the wayside. We're definitely not the biggest but what we do is from the heart and we just keep doing it like that.”