This is what Kristy Lee’s manager told me. I could have an interview with gifted Alabama songstress at the Byron Bay Bluesfest Busking Stage – if – it wasn’t raining. If it rained, she wouldn’t perform and thus there could be no interview.
I felt a bead of sweat run down my forehead. That’s because Byron Bay is humid, very humid but it can also be wet, very, very wet! My heart sank a little at the same time my heals sank into the thick Bluesfest mud. But there’s hope right – it ain’t raining right now I thought…
And the music gods indeed smiled. The precipitation didn’t spoil my anticipation and thankfully held off and I got my interview. A chat with one of the acts of Bluesfest 2015 – Kristy Lee.
Australia & Bluesfest 2015.
Our interview took place beside the famous ‘Buskers Stage’ at Bluesfest. I asked Kristy Lee about her first impressions of the festival, her first visit to Bluesfest and second trip to Australia…
“It’s the place to be, man. The Busking Stage is magic, it’s a good example of how this festival is. It’s run on roots and good vibes”
I wondered how this Australian Blues n Roots Fest compared to others overseas. Kristy Lee replied in her gloriously thick Alabama accent
“My favourite Fest I’ve ever been at, it’s seamless. I love that all of the artists’ ‘Green Rooms’ are set up together. Everyone gets to mingle… Most other festivals you get your own trailer, and in the States in particular groups turn up, go to their trailer, go on stage and then leave. It’s magical here”
What is also magical is how Kristy Lee actually secured her spots at this years festival having never played Bluesfest before. A few months earlier during her first trip to Australia she ‘popped in’ to the office of Peter Noble – Festival Director and a leading figure in the Australian music scene for close to 50 years.
“We just took our guitars and went into Peter Nobles’ office” she nonchalantly quipped. After playing some tunes for him Mr Noble looked her directly in the eye and said – “What are you here today to ask me?” Kristy Lee suddenly lost some confidence and spluttered back in response “Whaddya mean?”
Peter Noble looked at her again, right in the eye, and said “what are you asking me?” Kristy Lee rediscovered her bravado and retorted…
“Peter. Can I please play your festival?” Peter Noble returned
“Well, YES you can!”
This directness and genuine approach greatly appeals to the songstress. On Australia in general she says “Everyone over here is wonderful and real. It’s what has captured me about this country”.
What is Kristy Lee’s musical genre?
The singer/ songwriter is not a fan of pinning a category to her music. “I grew up around Bluegrass and a little mix of everything. I’ve never found a seat of what my genre is” Growing up there were musical influences from North Alabama and also New Orleans. She delights in saying that she was enjoying bringing some “Alabama ‘dirt’ to the festival”
I have caught two of Kristy Lee’s performances this year and have been quite frankly spellbound by her lilting voice and soulful, almost religious, performances. The sets have been in perfect harmony (quite literally) with the divine voices of the Hussey Hicks as backup. I ask if Gospel is part of her background?
“I say it’s not Gospel it’s just being Spiritual” Well amen to that.
Do Alabamans normally surf?
In some post interview research I note that Alabama is about 95% landlocked. Not much coastline at all. So how the heck does a musician end up getting their first ever surfing lesson from the most famous surfer of all time?
“On my first trip to Australia… we had a layover in Fiji and decided to stay a while. We stayed on an island called Tavarua… and ended up jamming one night with a guy called Kelly Slater!”
Not bad. But it gets even better. The 11 time World Champion decided to teach Kristy Lee to surf the next morning. She replied…
“Well OK, but I’m not real comfortable in the ocean now!”
So this delightful and uber talented singer from Alabama got her very first surfing lesson from the King of the waves. I asked her how that made her feel.
“It doesn’t get any better than that, man!”
And it doesn’t get much better than Kristy Lee! A big thank you to Peter Noble for his direct questions those months earlier and look out for a new album in “the Fall”!
Read More about how I tried, and almost failed, setting this interview up here. Kristy Lee & Hussey Hicks at the end of the Day 1 wrap up video below.