Joe Camilleri and The Black Sorrows are currently touring Australia with shows planned till April.
Across a career spanning 56 years and counting, in 2021 Joe Camilleri realised a major milestone releasing his 50th studio album – the new record from The Black Sorrows 'Saint Georges Road'.
Best known as frontman for blues rockers Black Sorrows who formed in 1983 with the players from Joe's previous band Jo Jo Sep & The Falcons, who courted national success during the late '70s and early '80s (give 'Hit & Run' a spin, you won't be disappointed) and were inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 2007, Camilleri remains active on the scene, with Black Sorrows currently in the middle of an extensive runs of live shows.
"I'm just one excitable boy. . . it's as joyous as sunset over the Nile or dawn at Uluru. . . it just feels great to get back to doing what I love," enthuses Joe about the Sorrows' tour.
The band released its 19th studio album 'Saint Georges Road' September last year; for a band with as much experience as The Black Sorrows and such a massive back catalogue, does a new album come together the same way time each time or does each project remain unique to that set of parameters and the people involved? Well, every record is a unique experience. . . you can't harness up to a timeline or formula.
Nick Smith and I just keep gathering new songs and ideas that will eventually make our next album. Unfortunately, sometimes the demos are better than the finished product. . . there must be something in that.
The current incarnation of the band; how does 'Saint Georges Road' showcase the sound of the band? First of all, it becomes a Black Sorrows recording and we service songs accordingly to get the best sound we can for a track.
They're all top musicians in their own right and each has something to offer in the studio. Sometimes I might step in and say this is the pathway, but I'm aways up for listening to a better idea.
'Saints Georges Road' saw you reunite with English producer Peter Solley (who recorded Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons 1979 album 'Screaming Targets'); did you wander down memory lane much? And what did it mean to work on another project with Peter some 40 years later? Yes, we did a little of that but mainly it was about the work.
It was an incredibly enjoyable process and I know it's a better record for having Peter on this one. We were two like-minded souls coming together for what could be the last time. . . we knew we had something special. . . a record that was a culmination of everything I’d done before.
Given the band's longevity not many acts reach a point like The Black Sorrows; how do you maintain a fresh energy, a determination to keep pushing forward, to continually work at your craft? Well, first of all you want to be in it 100 per cent otherwise it's just a waste of everybody's time.
You gotta feel that there's something left in the tank and you're not running on empty. Music is still a wonder to me and like the seasons, it's forever changing. Essentially, for me, it's always been about where I'm going and not where I've been.
As a songwriter, do new songs still flow out regularly or have you found you have to work harder to bring a new collection of them together? The process of writing songs is still the same. I've been writing songs with my dear friend Nick Smith for 40 years.
Maybe the first 20 songs come a little easier than the next 400. It's challenging; sometimes you just wanna hang up your gloves, get out of the ring. . . then something will bring that song you've been working on to life and the bell rings – you know you have to finish it.
Personally, 'Saint Georges Road' is your 50th career release; that's a lot of time spent in studios, collaborating with other artists, plenty of creative differences etc etc; when you look back at the career you've had and the connections/ friendships you've made what are you most proud of? I'm most proud of the work that my team has put into this record. It's never just one driver or one person dictating. It's a collective and I'm just the chairman directing traffic.
I still get a thrill when I hold the finished vinyl in my hand. You appreciate the work that's gone into it behind the scenes.
I've met some beautiful people along the way, forged life-long friendships. It's a wonderful feeling to be part of the Australian musical tapestry.
'Chained To The Wheel', 'Harley & Rose', 'Hit & Run' – you've penned your fair share of classic hits; how satisfying as a songwriter is it knowing that something you wrote decades ago remains as vibrant, fresh as the day you wrote it? It's enormously satisfying. . . but it's nothing I really had control over.
That's the power of radio and television appearances. Those songs thrive because of that exposure at the time. I’ll always be grateful for that. It's especially satisfying to see an increasing number of younger kids in the audience when we play live. They come up and tell me they discovered The Sorrows in their parent's vinyl collection. Gotta love that.
Over the years you've also produced a number of albums for high-profile artists alongside your own bands work; are there a couple of memorable moments or stories you can share with us? Yes, there's been some wonderful experiences with other artists.
Some of my favourite times behind the board were producing jazz records for the Jazz Head label. The language of jazz is about creating music on the spot. Every musician brings their A-game without that expectation of a hit record. . . just a great one.
The pull, lure of the stage; the emotional and passion that performing live generates, do you think you'll still be performing for as long as your body/ mind allows you? Well, this is my station really. I realised this maybe 20 years ago. I loved the thrill of it all, there is no greater drug.
I've often joked that I want to die on the tour bus and at 74 the odds just got higher! I'm at my happiest onstage playing with a bunch of like-minded lads. . . we have a ball. That is my place in the world.
Speaking of the stage, The Black Sorrows will be headlining Dashville Skyline in rural Hunter Valley; is the band primed and what can punters expect from the set? There's all the old faves sprinkled with some new songs from 'Saint Georges Road' and songs more recent records like 'Citizen John'.
We are a little bit different than a lot of other touring bands doing the same kind of circuit. The show is not pre-meditated. . . we don't have some kind of whacky song list. I know this has value and comfort for some but for us we wanna take it somewhere. I don't dumb down the audience. It's elastic. . . that's been my philosophy for the last 56 years.
The Joe Camilleri rock & roll wardrobe; have you managed to collect your fair share of denim and leather jackets as well as other outfits perfect for the stage? Okay, so that's a funny question. Thing is when I started out I was an insect. I was a coat hanger with 'Beau Brummell' tendencies and a good shoe collection.
I think I got the look down before I could play a note on the saxophone! I tend not to hold on to stuff. I've kept a couple of badges and smaller things that re-connect me to the past. I'm a collector of other things. My thing is to never look back, just have a peek now and then.
The rest of 2022 for you; what's on the menu? Well we're on this pretty massive tour, some of it was that was rescheduled the Saint Georges Road show from September so we will reconnecting those dots with new shows. We're planning to go to Europe in September to play the shows we had booked in 2020. So we're really looking forward to that.
The Black Sorrows 2022 Tour Dates
Fri 25 Feb - Dashville Skyline (Hunter Valley) Sat 26 Feb - Sunset Sounds (Yarra Valley)* afternoon show Sat 26 Feb - Lizottes Newcastle* evening show Sun 27 Feb - Lizottes Newcastle 5-6 Mar - Ghost Rock Wines (TAS) Sat 12 Mar - Lucky 13 Garage (Melbourne) Fri 18 Mar - Under The Southern Stars (Adelaide) Sat 19 Mar - The Point (Mornington Peninsula)* afternoon show Sat 19 Mar - Bridgeway Hotel (Adelaide)* evening show Sat 26 Mar - Sunset Sounds (Mudgee) Sun 27 Mar - The Palms at Crown (Melbourne) Thu 31 Mar - Princess Theatre (Launceston) Fri 1 Apr - Rocky Cape Tavern (TAS) Sat 2 Apr - Homehill Winery (Huon Valley) Sun 3 Apr - Scamander Beach Resort (TAS) Sat 9 Apr - Sunset Sounds (Central Coast) Sun 10 Apr - Tallagandra Hill Winery (Gundaroo) 14-16 Apr - Bluesfest (Byron Bay)