After a 2020 that saw her run of tour dates in the USA evaporate (where she has been a regular visitor prior to COVID) alongside a stack of local shows, multiple Golden Guitar nominee Jayne Denham spent much of last year creating an album unlike anything else she has recorded previously.A career that has seen her release four studio records since her 2007 debut 'Sudden Change In Weather', as well as perform at CMC Rocks, Deni Ute Muster, Gympie Music Muster, and Tamworth Country Music Festival, the sudden stoppage in her touring schedule allowed Jayne to approach her newest album, 'Wanted', with a specific concept in mind.
Again collaborating with her producer, Nashville-based Brian White, and frequent collaborator, Grammy-nominated songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brian Bunn, Jayne wanted to explore traditional country rock themes by placing the songs within a Wild West soundscape.
The result is a ten-track collection of songs that could easily be a soundtrack for a spaghetti western that already has a host of Aussie country stars singing Jayne's praises.
"Jayne Denham is truly one the most exciting female vocalists Australia has seen in a long time!" declares Gina Jeffreys.
"She is gutsy, fierce and honest. Jayne's new album 'Wanted' is a breath of fresh air in a world of similarity. Breath-taking vocals, amazing new songs and beautiful production! Congratulations Jayne."
Adds Lee Kernaghan: "I've had Jayne Denham's brand new album, 'Wanted', totally cranking in the ute. Fully loaded with hits. . . it's new country and western music at its best."
With 'Wanted' released today, Jayne sits down a for an in-depth chat about the album.
Congrats on the new album 'Wanted'; you must be ecstatic to be on the verge of releasing another record and all that comes with that?
I sure am. I have put more into this release than ever before because the album, the concept and the music is very different, so I was able to step outside of the usual marketing square and have a bit of fun.
The elevator pitch for 'Wanted'; how does this LP showcase the current incarnation of Jayne Denham?
This album is something quite unique. It was created to be a musical journey, an experience. I had an idea to mix country rock and old-time western movie soundtracks together. It's different to what I have done in the past but still me. I just decided to make an album that was artistic, and not just a bunch of songs.
Being your fifth studio album; as a musician and songwriter, do you feel you have grasp on what's needed to make an album that will connect with the listener, or is that an ever-evolving process?
I decided with this album it was time. I did not want to follow trends or do a normal country album.
I wanted to make a piece of musical art and after four albums it was time to really step outside my square. Deep down, this is the album I have always wanted to do and now was the time to step outside the box.
How much did the folklore and culture associated with the Wild West influence, inspire your new album?
I have to say my Nashville producers Brian White and Brian Bunn deserve the most credit for this epic country rock meets the wild west album.
We were all in lockdown last year, and I called them with my idea for this record. I wanted something totally new with sound effects as you listened through the songs. They went nuts over the idea, took it, and went over and above.
They researched music from old western movies: the sound effects, the different instruments, even down the the mixing of the record – it had to sound old yet cutting edge new country music.
The more times you listen to this album the layers of instruments is quite incredible. Brian Bunn played every instrument and created every sound except drums, so he really is a musical genius. I did watch a lot of western movies to get in the zone as I also had to create my costume, the artwork and videos to match the music.
Working with Nashville producer Brian White and Grammy-nominated songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brian Bunn; what did they each bring to the project and how critical were their contributions?
Brian White produced my last album, so when I called him with my crazy idea, he called Brian Bunn and right away they said 'let's do this, it will be fun to do something totally different'.
They have said to me as Nashville producers and songwriters they have to tick boxes every day, but doing this album was like a breath of fresh air as they were able to forget rules and trends, and just simply make music for the music's sake. They went way beyond what I ever hoped or dreamed this would be, so I feel very blessed to have had them create something unique for me.
Lyrically, did you focus on songwriting that espoused the Wild West, spaghetti western mood of each song?
I co-wrote four of the songs and we did write in the direction of the record, but I am lucky enough now to have a publisher Will Osland who put the call out to USA publishers on the hunt for killer songs that fitted the direction.
After hundreds of songs, we found the perfect ones to fit. In the US especially, it is not unusual for artists to not write all the songs on the record – even Keith Urban. If he finds a killer song he loves and it fits, he grabs it. There are so many amazing songwriters out there, why not let their songs be heard.
The soundtrack feel that emanates throughout the record gives this collection of songs a familiarness; like they've been created to listen together (not as standalone singles) – was that important to present the songs in such a manner?
Absolutely you have got it, that was exactly my plan.
I said to Brian White I want it to sound like it has been cooked all in the one pot. They had to change some songs quite a bit to make it fit, but they nailed it. Some of the songs alone might sound musically left of normal but when you hear it in the context of the album it totally makes sense.
The process to conceive 'Wanted' included a number of Zoom meetings; how did that format shape the album workshopping ideas etc. (and where there any unintended consequences – positive or negative – that arose from this method)?
We did all the songwriting and the whole record via Zoom. It was totally nuts, but it worked. In fact, it was easier than I thought it would be. They did the album over there and I did my vocals here.
The one and only issue we had was with one song; I had changed the key and by the time it was done and I sang full voice, we worked out it sounded too high – it had lost the toughness of the demo so we had to redo it. If I was in Nashville, we would have worked that out before it got that far, but we all agreed if that was the only thing that went wrong doing an album via Zoom we did very well.
How much fun did you have filming the 'Wanted' music video?
Silverton, NSW, is one epic location. It was where they filmed a lot of the 'Mad Max' movies so say no more. After hearing the title track 'Wanted' and with the music sounding quite epic and wild, my director Jay Seeney said there is ONLY one place that would look like the wild west.
It was funny to be running around filming with a gun, but no one cared. I guess many things are filmed out there and due to my outfit, the drones and cameras it was clear I was not robbing the pub. Yes, we went the extra mile – an 11-hour drive to shoot it – but it was worth it. The outback shots take your breath away.
Your personal favourite moment on the album? Is there a song or lyric that resonates deeply with you?
'Aftermath' is the most incredibly written song and the boys took the music to a whole new level of epic-ness. So, to get in the studio and sing it was something very special – it still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. In fact, I hope this track may end up on a movie one day.
If 'Wanted' was a character from western movie, who would it be and why?
I would have to say Sharon Stone's character in the brilliant movie 'The Quick And The Dead'. She's my alter-ego – she's bad-ass!
Were there any songs that began to form during the 'Wanted' sessions that didn't fit the mould you were after for this record that may end up on future releases?
Yes. It is always good to have a bit of blood when you are choosing the final songs. If it is hard to choose that's a good problem.
There were a few that were just not going to work putting a western spin on them, so I have kept them in my secret file and maybe one day will release them as singles down the track.
You have a number of tour dates coming up, fingers crossed COVID gets the memo – the current stop-start-stop nature of live music and touring; how are you handling all the madness of the past year or so?
Sadly, my album launch at a big festival in Mackay and my 15 tour dates are now cancelled or postponed. It is devastating for myself, my band and my agent Geoff Bell.
We have all put so much time and effort in and I have lost an incredible amount of money. But I just try to stay positive and look forward to the time I can perform this album as we have quite a show planned.
Life on the road and international travel no doubt were a big part of your day-to-day life pre-COVID... how have you filled such large gaps in your professional life?
Yes it sure was. I was one week off flying to the US to perform the biggest show I had ever landed when COVID hit last year, so it was heartbreaking.
Never one to sit around or feel sorry for myself I got busy working on this album AND I also opened a fashion gifts and homewares shop with my sister called Sista Styling in our local town of Springwood in the Blue Mountains. It is a childhood dream that came true because I was not touring, so had time and we found the perfect shop.
Sadly, it is also now closed due to lockdowns, but we will be back, and it has now given us the time to set up online.
You have a sponsorship deal with Wickham Freight Lines that features you and your branding on three semi-trailers; that's pretty unique for a musician, right?
Yes, I have been very lucky over the years to work with such an awesome company and to have my face on the side of three of their trailers is really cool. It's unusual here, but it fits my brand with all my past truckin' song hits.
Thanks for your time; anything else you'd like to add?
Thanks for the interview, I guess I would like to just say if anyone out there reading this enjoys the album I would really appreciate it if you could share it with your friends.
With no touring we are limited to how we get the word out, so I am relying on people to be the ones to now spread the word. The music industry is doing it tough but with your help we can get all the new music released in the pandemic out to the world.
And lastly, I hope this album takes you out of reality into the musical movie that is WANTED. I look forward to seeing you all at a show when this is all over. JD
Jayne Denham 2021-2022 Tour DatesFri 17 Sep - Mezz Bar @ Wallsend Diggers Club (Newcastle)
Sat 18 Sep - Springwood Country Club (Blue Mountains)
Sat 16 Oct - Country By The River Festival (Murray Bridge, SA)
12-14 Oct - Groundwater Country Music Festival (Gold Coast)
Thu 18 Nov – Hallam Hotel (Hallam, VIC)
Fri 19 Nov - Gateway Hotel (Geelong)
Sat 20 Nov - Tumbarumba Hotel (Tumbarumba, NSW)
Sat 15 Jan - Moonshiners (Tamworth)