bluehouse
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bluehouse

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia | SELF

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia | SELF
Band Pop Singer/Songwriter

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Anyone writing a book on how to be a successful independent artist could afford to devote a full chapter to folk/country/pop trio 'the bluehouse'. With their ten-year anniversary coming up, the band have managed to gather a solid (and still growing) following in Australia, the USA and Canada. They are in demand to perform live. Their albums sell heaps before they are even made. And they have achieved all this without the help of a record label. You go, girls.

"I don't think that we've made a conscious choice to avoid record labels in any market, " vocalist/bassist Jacqui Walter says, "it just seems that we've stuck with the independent mode because that works really well for us and that's what we know. The Internet has made things much more do-able for independent bands. However, that's not to say that if the right offer came along, we wouldn't look at it, because that would be a little bit silly."
Jacqui, Bernadette and Sam's attentive nurturing of their online fan community has allowed them to record all three of their studio albums to date ('big', '6 minutes of breathable air' and current album 'These Days') by a pre-order system, whereby the fans' up-front payment for a promised forthcoming album actually finances the recording process! Now, I can understand a band wanting to remain independent to avoid the kind of pressures that record labels are notorious for heaping on artists but wouldn't doing things by this pre-order system mean even more pressure?
"There can be," Jacqui concedes. "You've got to make sure you keep fairly regular contact with your mailing list, so they know where you're playing and what you're doing all the time. But we've a lot of faith in our fans, and they always come through for us, so it's almost like a trust issue.... every time we do the pre-sale, we know that there's usually going to be a certain hard core element that's going to keep coming through for us, and it's worked out really well."
It is possible that some of the band's strong following can be attributed to the variety of musical perspectives that has been incorporated into the trio. "We've got three lots of really eclectic musical tastes that we bring to the band" Jacqui says. "I'm a big opera fan, so 'classical'. Bernadette is a big female singer/songwriter fan, sort of the Suzanne Vega ilk. And Sam is a big Jazz-head, like Miles Davis would be on her list of favourite things. So it's really dfifferent influences in the band."
Jacqui describes the bluehouse's latest album, 'These Days', as "a bit of an evolution for us.There's a little bit more personal content in the songwriting. I think because we decided to make it a more pared-back album than the last two, throwing less instruments at the mix, we've been able to step back and capture what, in essence, is our sound. (We're) really proud of the album, in that it does capture that. Although nothing can capture the energy of our live shows. God knows, we've tried to get that, but it's one of those things that you just can't record. And also we picked a quirky cover to put on there; Only You, which is the last song on the CD, is by a group called Yah-zoo from an album in the 80's. Since we've been playing that live, it's been phenomenal how many people have been holding up their Bic lighters and how many people remember that album!"
Hearing 'These Days', I was not at all surprised that folk festivals and country radio stations in the States have developed an appetite for 'the bluehouse'. Although being an Australian three-piece in the mid-west, performing music that would be considered native to the area, was bound to affect how the group was regarded. "I think quirky is how they've come to think of us," Jacqui says, "but when we open our mouths they're quite willing to listen to what we have to say anyway. We've been putting our toe in the water there since 2002 (and) it's really going well. We did four tours in the States last year, we've played all the major folk festivals there, and in Canada. They usually are really, really good with giving music a go. There's a lot less chatter Than we've used to, growing up here (Austarlia) in the pub scene. Which is quite daunting, because when you're playing you're thinking, 'are they listening, or are they asleep?' So you do have to check with the audience, but they do assure us that they are listening very intently."They'd also be wise to watch very intently, as 'the bluehouse' are accumulating quite a few tales of interesting on-stage spectacles, not all of them intentional. Take for example, the time Jacqui was electrocuted by a faulty mic; "It's pretty wild....everything starts to slowly, slowly sink into oblivion. You see this little balck dot growing in front of you eyes, and you think This is it. I'm out of here...' I managed to throw the microphone away from my mouth, and blew myself backwards. Then I stood up, shook myself off, and got on with the show. I got a standing ovation for that!... And it does strange things to your hair. Your hair actually stands up for three hours. We had another show after that.... (I had) to stand up and do a show an hour and a half later with my hair still standing up."
Then there's the time Jacqui politely asked one particularly enthusiastic group of punters if she could surf on them. "You can do that at the Woodford folk festival in Queensland 'cause it's a lovely crowd and they're really into it. It was the gentlest body-surf I think I've ever done on people. My only advice is not to crowd-surf face down if you're a female, as it can take up to a week to re-adjust."
Or if you're a male, for that matter...
"Or if you're a male!" Jacqui giggles, "it could take even longer to re-adjust!...." - beat. issue #946 . 26 jan, 2005


"....blending velvety hamonies and acoustic pop sensibilities to establish itself as one of the few local independent acts who have been able to sustain a worldwide touring and recording regime."

Tommy Las Vegas
Beat Magazine
Feb 2 2005 - Beat Magazine/ Feb 2 2005


"If you've ever wanted to say "I was listening to that band before they got so rich and famous... catch the sensational act, bluehouse, before fame forces them to stop doing small intimate venues."

Steven Hill
Whistler Question
Feb 13 2003 - The Whistler Question/ Feb 13 2003


" Combining their collective singing, song writing, and story telling talents these girls have become one of the best selling indie acts in Australia and play to record crowds in the international folk and fringe festival circuit... a winning formula of songs and stories."

Dana Michell
Pique News Magazine
Feb 14 2003 - Pique News Magazine / Feb 14 2003


".....'the bluehouse' may win hearts with their hilarious stories and heartfelt songs, but the centerpiece of the trio's performance is without question the achingly beautiful three-part harmonies.....their unique blend of jazz, blues, soul and rootsy pop...." - Freight & Salvage Berkeley USA 2004


"......then the lights flicker for the main act, an Australian trio, "the bluehouse"......... finishes their first song and the crowd erupts, the noise loud, even down here, through closed doors, 100 feet away..... I get up and head back to the church and hear the crowd again, louder. My first impression of the bluehouse comes from the level of audience noise that I can hear from outside the building.
Back at the church, I slip through the doors to watch three Australian women give the best performance I've ever seen. It is seamless, natural, perfect, spontaneous, tight, professional, light, deep, true, joyous."
Nick Annis (singer/songwriter)
- Nick Annis online 2004


"Bluehouse have been winning rave reviews.... they write powerful radio-friendly tunes and twist them with a quirkiness which keeps them outside formula pop." Lesley Sly - Rolling Stone Magazine (Australia)


"They fill venues right across Australia, get 5-star reviews in Edinburgh (Fringe Festival highest score), break attendance records in England and get ranked in the media alongside k.d.lang and the Indigo Girls..." David Curry - TimeOut


"..Bluehouse...when they are in full-flight, have some of the best harmonies you'll find this side of heaven." Bruce Elder - Sydney Morning Herald


"A reviewer once suggested that if there are certain things that you should do before you die, seeing the Bluehouse live should be near the top of the list. I disagree - when the opportunity presents itself, it should be at the top of that list, while you've still got a pulse" Kim Fleischfresser - Rave Magazine


"....this band can handle just about anything in high style." Richard Foss - All Music Guide (online)


"the best night you've ever had" with "glorious harmony work and individual voices ranging from teardrop soft to thunderstorm forceful" - Geoff Wilson - Scene Magazine


"A combination of wickedly mouthy humor with drop-dead gorgeous singing." - The Scotsman


Discography

7 recordings total: 4 LPs, 2 EPs, 1 DVD

DVD - LIVE AT CENTER STAGE (2008)
Records a live concert at Sierra Nevada Brewery Big Room, Chico, CA.

ONE MORE KISS (May 2007)
Produced by Aussie guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel, features thirteen new songs from Jacqui Walter and Bern Carroll with Tommy Emmanuel on guitars and drums. Stand out tracks include title track "One More Kiss","Beside You", "Eyes Closed", "Sydney 2", "Walking Down the Line" and a fun, lively cover of Kris Kristofferson's "Help me make it through the night".

These Days (2004)
Recorded over three sessions between May and August in NYC with Producer/Engineer Ben Wisch. This release highlights rich acoustic arrangements with a more pared-back approach than previous recordings and is laden with the beautiful three-part harmonies that the bluehouse was so well-known for. Guest musicians of the highest calibre include T-Bone Wolk (bassist), Duke Levine (guitarist) and Ben Wittman (drums/ percussion). This CD includes more original songs from the three singer/songwriters, audience favorites plus the unique covers of 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' and 'Only You'.

6 minutes of breathable air (2001)
The second full-length CD by the bluehouse was recorded in a backyard shed (renovated for the project by the band…with a little help from their friends). Produced by James Black & the bluehouse, it explores a more ‘pop’ leaning to their original songs (except 10 – written by S. Anderson & arranged by the bluehouse) while keeping in with the acoustic/harmony content of their ‘sound’. Additional musicians include; Tony Floyd (drums), James Black (bass/harmonium), Damian Smith (keyboard), Ed Bates (pedal steel), Liz Sadler (musical saw) and also by Doug Brady (loops) who mixed the CD.

big (1999)
The first full length CD by the bluehouse came together over 10 days in SoundHouse Studios in Richmond, Melbourne, Australia. Jeremy Allom produced (with the bluehouse), engineered and mixed the CD. bluehouse sang and played guitars to their original songs and were joined by a number of wonderfully talented musicians. They include; Michael Barker (drums/perc), Helen Mountfort (cello), Hope Csuturos (violin), Janine DeLorenzo (grand piano), Bruce Haymes (keyboard), Andrew Entch (double bass), Steve Morgan (electric bass), Jeremy Allom (programmer), Kevin Keogh (synth/guitar).

"independent review: AMG Rating ****1/2
The first full album by Australia's premier folk-pop group is an astonishingly mature affair. The three-woman trio known as the bluehouse developed a huge following in four years of local gigs and touring, and was able to fund the production and manufacture of the CD entirely by pre-sales - an astonishing feat. The fan's got their money's worth here, with a collection of stylistically varied material that is beautifully performed and recorded. The three women in the band have gorgeous voices, and the sometimes jazzy, sometimes folksy arrangements suit them perfectly. The general quality is so high that it's hard to pinpoint standout tracks. From the beautiful, wistful folk of "Crying" to the jazz/soul workout of "Last Name", this band can handle just about anything in high style. The production is impeccable, the material excellent - in short, 'big' is a must-have album for anyone who likes bold acoustic music with lots of style and character. - Richard Foss, ALL MUSIC GUIDE online sept 2002

EP - a little bit live (1997)
This 5-track selection of original bluehouse songs was recorded live at The Continental in Melbourne, Australia, on the 26th April, 1997, to a packed house and captures just a snippet of the experience that is ‘bluehouse’. The band was again accompanied by Andy Fitzgibbon on drums, with a special appearance by Hillary Green on steel pan.

EP - bluehouse (1996)
This is the first independent recording by bluehouse, recorded at Woodstock Studio, Melbourne Australia. All songs were written & performed by the band – Carroll, Harley, Walter (except 4 – bluehouse & DeLorenzo). Mark Forrester produced (with the bluehouse), engineered and mixed the E.P. (additional mixing by Stuart Day) and it is dedicated to the memory of Mark who tragically died just after it’s completion. Additional musicians include; Andy Fitzgibbon (drums), Mark Forrester (synth & bass), Kerry Gilmartin (bass/piano) and Helen Mountfort (cello).

Photos

Bio

The bluehouse gals blend strains of sharp rootsy pop, soul, jazz and blues with classy original songwriting and artfully arranged covers. Genuine, fresh, feisty, upbeat, and endearing.

As one of Australia's premier independent bands, bluehouse has stamped out their own unique style by combining folk-flavored pop melodies meshed with powerfully intricate harmonies and inspired guitar and bass playing (along with healthy doses of sardonic wit thrown in between songs).

The dynamic duo, Jacqueline Walter and Bernadette Carroll, met in a pub in Melbourne in 1995 and moments later were singing together on stage. Together with the third member, Samantha Harley, they forged a successful career as a trio by combining widely varied musical influences, honing their performance skills, and creating a loyal fan base through near-constant touring.

After performing sold out shows all over Australia, they moved on to play to audiences in Europe, including spots at WOMAD and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Beginning with their first tour of North America in the summer of 2002, they have continued to wow audiences at many prestigious US music festivals and showcase venues.

< THE DUO > Since 1995, Bluehouse independently released two EP’s and three full-length CD's: "big" (1999), “6 Minutes of Breathable Air” (2001), and "These Days” (2004). In 2006 Harley left the group and Walter and Carroll have continued to tour as a duo. The first project the new group has recorded,“One More Kiss” (2007), was produced in Nashville by Aussie guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel (who also played nearly all the instruments on the album).

bluehouse has shared the stage with names like Neil Young, Cowboy Junkies, UB40, Elvis Costello, Neil Finn (of Crowded House), and has toured multiple continents as an opener for Tommy Emmanuel. They've played to an estimated worldwide listening audience of 200 million on the Mountain Stage radio show based in West Virginia and have appeared on the nationally syndicated Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour.

The Sydney Morning Herald recognized the band's essential eclecticism, terming their music "delicious folk-pop...tinged at times with sweet gospel soul, before plunging into raucous guitar riffs" and "exuberant, sad, wise, harmonically dazzling...a lively display of both instrumental and a cappella with attitude and polished pop."