Bring together one distinctly Australian storyteller, one renowned Record Producer/Writer from Nashville, Tennessee and his son who is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and Record Producer in his own right and what do you get???… Brisbane to Nashville and Beyond!!
The show ‘Brisbane to Nashville and Beyond’ is the uniting of two very experienced musicians who have been collaborating for over 30 years together – Nik Phillips and Michael Flanders. The show is an insightful and inclusive journey with them to countries far away and uses anecdotes and music (originals and covers) to provide an intimate window into their lives during those times.
Phillips could be referred to as ‘the greatest ambassador for Queensland/Australian life’ that I’ve ever had the privilege to meet and his ideals flow from his pen like the mighty Murray River. His skill in bringing together both his musicianship and songwriting is just awe inspiring – it is simple, clean, and extremely emotive.
Flanders is another remarkable Australian who has just returned to the fold after 13 years living and working in Nashville. He is an award-winning producer and writer with a career that spans 40 years encompassing both Australian and Overseas shores.
Flanders continues to have a hand in many musical pies in Australia and overseas, acting as musical director for BMG Nashville showcases, writing and producing albums and singles for artists including Jeremy Parsons, Floyde T Wilder, Jared Hill, Shane Cool and Michael McGregor. He capped off a successful 2020 when Performer Magazine commissioned Flanders to write an 800 word article on how to record at home for an international release product. (www.themichaelflanders.com)
Who’s the son?? That would be young Caleb Flanders. Caleb follows in his father’s footsteps as forging his own path as both a musician and a record producer. Between gigs Caleb continues exploring ‘remote working’ as he maintains producing for USA clientele from his new Australian home. Tonight, though Caleb will be the rhythm keeper on an Electric Bass.
The venue is an intimate affair – ‘The Lounge’ located in The Royal Hotel at Nundah in Brisbane. The lighting is low and there are booths, lounges, the bar, and the enticing smell of house pizza but what of the show – Brisbane to Nashville And Beyond….
The set listing tonight starts with an original written by Phillips portraying Flanders experience on return from Nashville and quarantined for 14 days as per COVID-19 requirements here in Australia.
Purposefully written for this show and appropriately called “Food Was Shit, The Wine Was Crap”, it’s a fun little ditty with a lot of slagging off at the frustrations endured during quarantine and the chorus is quite catchy. I couldn’t help but smirk during the performance and yeah – I sang! I did tell you the chorus was catchy!
Then we had a little flurry of popular previous Phillips releases – ‘House of Glass’ and ‘Lost In My Head’ both from his Poetry and Beer album. Between songs Phillips breaks into an anecdote and explains the inspiration for writing ‘Lost In My Head’ …
“When I lived in LA between 1992 & 1995 we had an earthquake. A friend actually got trapped in his apartment which was in the building next door to one where 60 people got killed. He said by the time he got out everyone was running around half naked, helicopters were everywhere in the air and gas lines were exploding his experience was my inspiration.”
Both songs give you time to lament on the simplicity or complexity of the life you lead bolstered by your own interpretation of the message and song.
The journey from here allows us to truly engage with the show in our own special way (I possibly should stick to singing in the shower…Lol) We were treated to great renditions of some popular covers that inspired both persons in their formative days – ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me‘ (Hunters and Collectors), ‘Desperado‘ (The Eagles) and the like.
A few tracks now into the first set and Flanders shares both a schooling experience and a reflective anecdote associated with the lesson. Of his Pedal Steel Guitar he says: –
“It’s tuned to E9 tuning so has a flat 7 on the 9th string so it can kind of sound Jazzy if you use that string – the pedals and levers all raise and lower strings. So if anyone knows anything about piano or guitar for instance – If that was a G Chord and then hit the pedals and it become s a 4 chord. If you had a guitar, you’d slide up to the same chord here (demonstration). So that’s kind of the simple way to play it – took a lot of time to learn!!
I have a friend Lloyd Green who is 82 and has been playing the lap steel since he was 9. He told me he still hadn’t mastered it and I said to him one day “How many recordings do you think you’ve played on?” and he said “Oh well Michael, that’s well documented” I said “Really??” and he said “Over 25 thousand”.”
Not only did we appreciate this moment but the many more that were had between songs where we were contemplative of the journeys and experiences shared with those of us in the audience. Some were serious in nature – earthquakes and the likes and some were just frivolous fun such as at the introduction with the topic of food in quarantine.
There’s a small intermission in Brisbane to Nashville and Beyond and rightly so but instead of using this time to rest their vocal cords or fingers in Caleb’s case, ALL 3 stepped down off the stage to meet and greet with those who’d come along tonight. How much more old school can it get than that – remembering the importance of your fans and perhaps something that is sorely missing in current trends from years gone by!!!
After intermission, the second set carried on much as the first seamlessly bringing the show through the last of its 11 original and 8 cover arsenals but was not without it surprises as well….
Seeking to add another layer to their sound and noting the absence of percussion, Flanders called for a friend from the audience to join them on stage and on snare drum. His name – Graham James! Story goes Graham used to be a lighting guy years ago. There’s obviously a mate ship at play here as we hear Flanders and Phillips playfully ribbing James and the retort being “I’m working from home”.
Also, in the closing songs of the second set, another talented audience member invited on stage. She along with James turned what was a trio into a 5 piece. I’m sure you’ll be familiar with her as a rising star of the industry – Lecia Louise. She took on playing lap steel while Flanders turned lead singer for a very bluesy number! That girl has skills and it’s refreshing to see a female given a spotlight on stage. Thoroughly enthralled as the show’s crescendo took place.
Now bear in mind, this was my experience on the night and I can’t attest to there being a repeat inclusion of these two persons in any future show and whilst it was a lovely addition to the experience Brisbane to Nashville and Beyond was already going healthy and strong before these additions in my opinion.
Brisbane to Nashville and Beyond is what I would term a ‘mature show’ not one for the ‘Faux Fan’ or ‘Poser’, if you know your music then the covers alone will fulfill your attendance but it’s the originals, the anecdotal moments, the raw sharing of experiences, the display of on-stage talent and musicianship …that’s where it’s true authentic bona-fide magic takes place – “See it, Feel it, Live it”
PS – Just before you go…Let’s enjoy an original track from the show –
“Not In This Life” (Nik Phillips – Songs From The Fourth Floor)….
FROM NASHVILLE TO ALEXANDER HEADLANDS
Saturday, May 15, 2021 at 8 PM
Alexandra Headland Surf Club.
167 Alexandra Parade,
Alexandra Headland QLD 4572