A taste of Americana

Henry Wagons is no shrinking violet. Given the chance, he'll tell you himself.


"I try to steal the spotlight at a family function," he jokes. "It does not matter how high the stage is or who I'm playing in front of, when I'm playing I try and, well, I'm not trying to steal the spotlight, I don't think music is competitive like that in terms of stealing someone else's glory.


"Everyone wants to go to a night to see good bands from start to finish. It's not like if you see a good support band there's no room left to be blown away by the headliner as well. I hope to fill the spotlight as opposed to steal anyone else's luminescence."


The luminescence currently at risk of being stolen belongs to enduring American folk duo, Indigo Girls.


Yep, Henry Wagons, the smooth-talking outlaw country rocker is supporting the girls as they make their way around Australia, and in his own words it's a partnership that "should be nothing but funny."


Which begs the question, how did it all come about?


"I have this theory about the music industry that a lot of import goes to the partner of key people and you know, whether it be a label manager or a booking agent or a venue, whatever, you know a massive conglomerate touring company, if your wife, girlfriend, partner, whatever, whispers in your ear enough, that is the most influential thing that can happen and my manager's wife loves Indigo Girls.


"So to make a long story even longer, I think it's because my manager's wife loves Indigo Girls that I'm doing this."


Still, the opportunity to play for folks who might not necessarily know what they're in for when the hirsute and bespectacled frontman takes the stage is one not to be passed up.


"Any time I can play in front of a new audience, I'm over the moon. Any time I get the attention of a stranger makes me smile," Henry said.


With the new Wagons album, Rumble, Shake and Tumble, to promote, the Indigo Girls tour is just the tip of the iceberg for this travelling man.


Wagons have an extensive national tour set for May, June and July, taking in regional centres and capital cities across the nation.


It even includes dates in Adelaide, a city Henry has been known to chide as part of his on-stage repartee.


"My dissatisfaction with Adelaide is nothing I don't say to Adelaide's face," he laughs, wryly. "In particular it's directed to a moment of time when I had to do a long and windy drive and I do get carsick. A long and windy drive to a really disappointing tourist attraction called the Eagle on the Hill.


"I don't mind Adelaide, but it's a very flat, white, desolate city and it doesn't have many windy drives. But I managed to find the longest winding one there was and there's shit all when you've finished it.


"I've been made to feel guilty since. The Eagle on the Hill is drawing attention to the work of fire fighters who battled a horrific bushfire in Adelaide, so I've had to eat my words many times for giving crap to the Eagle on the Hill."


Issues with Adelaide aside, there's no doubt punters will be eagerly anticipating the arrival of a full-strength Wagons outfit in their hometown.


The new album, the band's fifth, is a collection of foot-tappers and sing-along sensations, all utterly addictive and shamelessly inspired by classic country and western sounds from the good ol' U S of A.


So positively has Rumble, Shake and Tumble and the Wagons package been received during showcases and a spell at this year's SXSW, the album's May 6 release in Australia will be followed by an August release in America.


"The album is coming out in the States in August and we've got a couple of festival gigs we're shaping a tour around in late-August, September kind of region. We're working with a great label and touring agent over there.


"I think we've got two trips back already planned as we speak and that's in the next year. I'm gonna be getting used to the Red, White and Blue."


For a bloke who writes and performs the songs he does, this entry to the American market is obviously a big deal.


"I mean, it is a dream come true in a way," he said. "I'm really influenced by the whole Las Vegas entertainment scene. Everyone that has been in and around Vegas in the 70s, like your Elvis and Roy Orbison and stretching back to the Rat Pack, I just love that.


"Not so much The Hangover Galifianakis Las Vegas that people seem to talk about now. Musically I just love what was happening 30 years ago and it's good to be able to spit that back at the Americans and have them absorb it in some way.


"It's a new frontier for us. We're all really excited and there seems to be some really legitimate, kind of tangible things happening over there.


In the spirit of cultural exchange, perhaps, Henry admitted to looking forward to experiencing the many and varied culinary delights of North America as he takes his music to the masses.


But this self-confessed food nut probably isn't searching for the same kind of experience as your more fashion-conscious foodie.


"I'm absolutely fascinated (by food). It's one of the best things. Obviously playing music in front of new people is number one, but a very close second is food for me. I get disproportionately excited by weird, local fare.


"Whether it be kind of Dill flavoured potato chips in Toronto or bacon donuts in Portland or I had a burger in Los Angeles that had apple in it. I just love shoving weird food in my mouth.


"I'm even guilty... We played in Vietnam at a festival last year and anyone who does follow me on Facebook or Twitter will know I absolutely love my dogs, but despite this I had dog stew in Vietnam.


"I feel it actually brings me closer to my dogs knowing what they taste like... My dog could not tell, but I've not let him sniff my breath."


This kind of tour experience also brings Henry closer to his band, the group of "hardened troubadours I've picked up out of the gutter and forced to follow me via chains and whips".


"We have spent a lot of time with each other and I know all of their good and bad habits, for better or worse.


"I know that there are things like certain vegetarian members of the band who let that lapse in the face of an In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles.


"My drummer had an Old Dirty Bastard donut that had lots of crumbled Oreos and icing and cream and peanut butter.


"We're going to be going back to the States a lot next year so we've got to get used to that kind of diet. It's a new five food groups over there."


And the States better get ready for Henry Wagons.


"I'll probably end up a bum on the New York City streets, in the gutter somewhere in a few years, but we'll give it a good shot."

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