Wendy Matthews and Grace Knight are two names synonymous with the Australian Music Industry. Wendy is known for her time in the 90’s with ‘Absent friends’ as well as her own solo work and Grace for being the front woman of the ‘Eurogliders’ as well as her own solo work.
Between them they have over 60 years’ experience in the music industry and have racked up a multitude of hit songs and awards in their time.
Wendy and Grace are coming together for a run of shows performing the songbook of Paul Simon for a very limited time. Simone from Live Music Photography, had a chat to Grace, to talk about the show and how she and Wendy came up with the “We’re Going to Graceland” show.
Simone: Thank you for speaking with me today about your upcoming show “We’re Going to Graceland” that you’re doing together with Wendy Matthews.
Grace: You’re most welcome.
Simone: I wanted to say you and Wendy have actually known each other for quite some time. When did your and Wendy’s paths initially cross and how did your friendship come to be?
Grace: Initially we would have hooked up with each other in the 80s. Because we both had songs in the charts, and we were both touring. I lived in Byron Bay and Wendy would be performing there so she’d come and stay at my place and after her gig was finished, we’d often go out riding as I’d organise some horses. We would take a horse float down the beach and go for a bit of a gallop and a bit of a swim or go up into the mountains and do a bit of camping and stuff like that.
Simone: Wow! That’s so fantastic!
Grace: And I might add it was back in the 80s when we suggested wouldn’t it be fun to do something together and it’s taken till now to actually find the time to put a show together where we are just not singing each other’s songs. We’re doing something completely different. As I said, it’s taken till now to get our shit together! (Grace and Simone laugh)
Simone: That’s always the way! You always sort of say these things, yeah, we’ll get to that, and twenty or thirty years goes by and you go, ooh we didn’t do that!
Grace: I know! And the thing was we often see each other at gigs, and I remember saying to Wendy come on let’s just do it! I don’t want to die wondering! So, let’s get this done and park it. And that’s exactly what happened we made the time and we’re so happy that we did because this is one of the most exciting shows that either of us has done. It is such high energy. It took us a long time to decide what sort of songs we might sing. Then we decided that Paul Simon had such a catalogue of incredible songs throughout the eons. He’s had so many hits, that we thought actually that’s a really good idea. We’ll do a collection of his songs, two women singing Simon & Garfunkel but also singing Paul Simon’s latest songs. And then Wendy came up with the idea of “We’re Going to Graceland”, and I was like oh really.
(Simone & Grace laugh)
Grace: Have you written a song about a Wendy there? (Simone laughs). So, like I say we’re really thrilled to be doing something that is not just singing each other’s songs.
Simone. Yeah that’s really wonderful. You’ve sort of touched on my next question I was going to say there’s so many fabulous artists being celebrated currently with tribute shows. So other than what you’ve just mentioned about the fantastic back catalogue, what made you and Wendy choose Paul Simon out of all the other artists particularly those who have passed. What made you choose Paul Simon?
Grace: Ok, I’m going to say this first up Simone. This isn’t a tribute show. I think people, including bands, get a bit confused. A tribute is something that happens once. So, you don’t go out and do a tribute week after week after week travelling around the country. That’s not a tribute. That’s doing a cover of that person songs. We specifically picked the Paul Simon Songbook because of the incredible stories that he tells in his songs. The fact that he is an incredible musician. We’ve got an amazing band with us on this tour, and finally that the audience knows so many of these songs it has become kind of – I don’t want to say, a sing-along – but it is a bit like that! (Grace laughs) Because the audience from the moment we get on stage, which we weren’t anticipating this happening but it’s just become that way, that from the moment we get on from the moment we leave the audience are singing with us. So, it’s a little bit like going to a pub in Dublin and having a sing song. (Grace laughs)
Simone: Yeah that’s really fantastic. It’s really nice when, as you said, that the audience can interact becomes more of an immersive experience and feeling like you’re part of the show.
Grace: That’s exactly what it is. It’s a really lovely thing for Wendy and I and the musicians because it feels like the room can be a really big room, but it feels like we’re actually sitting at a campfire, or sitting in Wendy’s or my living room and that we’re just all there together. It’s so beautiful. It’s a lovely lovely experience.
Simone: Yeah that’s really great. You’re also no stranger yourself to hit songs and song writing recording and producing having been the front person of Eurogliders but also as a solo artist. So, over the decades of your career, who are the artists you would say have inspired and influenced you?
Grace: Oooooo I hate being asked this question!
(Simone & Grace laughs)
Grace: I really don’t like it! No, I don’t mind it, but people never expect the answer that I’m going to give them. I try not to really be (pauses) – let me back up. I’m inspired by the story inside the song. As a singer I perceive my job as a storyteller. So that’s what I believe I do for a living. I tell stories. They’re 3 minutes long, and there’s music to help touch the emotions of the listener as well as the words that I’m singing. So, I actually don’t listen very much to popular music. I listen to a bit of opera, I listen to classical music, or I listen to music that I don’t understand the singer for example. Being in a pop band – I’m sort of backing up here to the days of when Eurogliders were in the pop charts. It was so easy to listen to your peers and I would hear myself kind of adding in a little lick here and there that I had heard the night before. And I stopped doing it because it wasn’t me. It was me copying someone. And so that’s why I don’t listen. I mean I do listen to a lot of music but it’s not the sort of music that is going to affect how I tell my stories.
Simone: Yeah fair enough. That’s really good. And I think just from your music that I have listened to over the years I think you can really hear that influence of that it’s not mainstream necessarily. It’s really nice as you said when you hear things sometimes that’s what inspires or influences.
Grace: Yeah look as I say it’s the story. I choose songs where the story has some relevance to me because I believe if I tell the truth when I’m singing that song, and by that I mean from my perspective, then I think that you the listener are going to believe me and I think that you’re going to understand a little bit more about yourself within that song as well. So that’s another reason I don’t listen to other singers singing those songs. (Grace laughs) I mean I might listen to them in terms of choosing a song to do when I performed a lot of the jazz, American Songbook type songs, I’ve listened to the singers, but as soon as I’ve think that I understand a melody and the story then that’s the end of it. I don’t listen anymore. Then I will break the song down just myself and the guitarist, or myself and a pianist so there’s nothing else there to affect how I might interpret that song. Then I’ll bring in the band or the orchestra.
Simone: Yeah fantastic. Both you and Wendy Matthews have quite an impressive list of accolades between you both from your hit singles, awards, collaborations, and performances. So, as you were saying you’ve done performances where you do your own songs be that with a band or solo and perform each other’s songs; but the songs from both your careers, they’re just loved so much. Do you think we’ll see you and Wendy do some shows perhaps where you play your own music?
Grace: (interjects quickly) Nope!
Grace: In fact, I can guarantee that won’t happen. There you go how about that. That was pretty sure wasn’t it! (Grace laughs) I mean we just simply didn’t want to do that. Because that’s what we do. And we wanted to do something completely different together than what we do as solo artists. And we’re both really really thrilled we’ve chosen such an amazing song book to work from. So, in this case for the “We’re Going to Graceland” shows, Wendy might take the lead in one song and I’ll be the backing vocalist for her. Or I will take the lead in another song and she will be doing the backing vocals for me. So, we’re on stage all the time and we’re just bouncing between songs with each other. But I think to hear us singing each other’s songs it’s like, I think people would think I got in the way!
(Grace and Simone laugh)
Simone: No! I don’t think so. Not at all! As I said you’re both very much loved in the industry and people still love and listen to your music today and it’s still played on the radio and you know us – and I’m speaking for myself – older people (laughs), we still love going “oh my gosh I listened to that growing up”. It’s just really lovely to see artists of my generation that I grew up with they’re all touring and it’s just amazing and I’m just loving reliving my youth! (laughs).
Grace: Thankfully people of our generation that’s what we did back then. I remember Eurogliders and I’m sure Wendy was the same we’d work four nights a week in different venues and we would do that every week. The climate has changed. People have Netflix. They have home entertainment. They cook for each other at home. So that’s just the climate. And it’s sad for musicians because it makes it very very difficult and sometimes impossible for them to make a living because of that change of climate. That’s what the public wants. You can’t blame the venue for it, if the public were there the venue would keep having the bands there. I’m sure Wendy is as grateful as I am that we’re still working after all these years. But having said that, “We’re Going to Graceland”, I don’t know how long we’ll be doing that for. It would be a limited time and we’re not going to forgo our own careers. I’ll keep performing Eurogliders and my solo work and Wendy will still be doing hers. So, we’ll just be doing this for a limited time and see how it goes and thoroughly enjoy what we’re doing while we’re doing it. So, come on down!
Simone: Yeah no, absolutely! Yeah, I definitely will be! (Simone & Grace laugh) I’m very excited for it. I just wanted to say in regard to the different genres – you’re very multifaceted, and multi-talented. As you said you perform pop, then you’ve done jazz. How do you find the transition of performing across different genres and do you actually have a favourite?
Grace: No, I don’t have a favourite. I guess my favourite is the song I’m learning at that moment because I’m so locked into it and I’m in love with the places I can go, and trying to decide where will I breathe, how should I tell this story. So, I get very close to the song when I’m first learning it. I don’t have a favourite song. I mean I adore singing for example “Heaven” because it was such a big hit. But now it has a new life. I mean the audience always did sing along with it, but now there’s a difference – you know when you have an audience say of my age singing the song, they’re remembering what that song meant to them when they first heard it. So that’s really beautiful. So, in that case that’s a song I really thoroughly enjoy singing because I like handing it over to the audience as a bit of a gift. You know, like just remember your past.
Simone: Yeah absolutely. Definitely. For the Graceland shows you’ve got four lined up for Melbourne are you taking this show to other states?
Grace: Yes, we will be. We started off; we did a few gigs before Christmas last year. I think 6 shows and thankfully, you know we’re really really grateful, thank you for coming to our gigs! They were sold out, well not all of them but most of them were sold out. I don’t want to exaggerate! And they were so much fun. The only thing I felt a bit sad about was that people said, “oh when are you coming back, I couldn’t make it that night”. And it’s like I don’t know if we’re coming back. This really is a limited time. I don’t know how long it’s going to go on for. But we’re certainly going to be playing in Melbourne. We have four dates and venues. Memo Music Hall on Thursday 26th of March, Shoppingtown Hotel in Doncaster on Friday 27th of March, Village Green in Mulgrave on Saturday the 28th of March, and Caravan Music Club in East Bentleigh on Sunday the 29th of March.
Simone: That’s fantastic that you are doing a handful of shows around Melbourne to give the people the opportunity to pick a date and get along to a show!
Grace: If you are interested in coming along, as I said, I don’t know if we’re coming back. This is a limited time. Get online and buy your tickets. Because the venues like to know that people are coming. But I don’t know if we’re going to come back with this show.
Simone: You were saying after this because it is a limited time then you will obviously branch off and do some more solo work or do some more Eurogliders work. Are there any plans to release new music or will you continue just doing your catalogue you’ve already got?
Grace: Look that’s a really good question, and I don’t know the answer to that. I have to be quite practical about these things. It really depends. I don’t work through a record company anymore. I never earned any money from record companies, or worth the time that I put in. So, I’m like a small business as many musicians are. So, it costs a lot of money to make an album, so we want to know when we go in and spend that money and get the stock of those CDs that we’re going to sell them. So, I’m taking that on notice at the moment whether we do a new Eurogliders album or whether I do another solo album. So, we’re thinking about that at the moment.
Simone: Yeah fantastic. It sounds exciting.
Grace: Yeah look Eurogliders, myself, and Wendy have been really busy last year and this year is shaping up to be even busier. I’m really glad Wendy and I got our act together and that we can add this show under our belt.
Simone: Yeah definitely well I have to say thank you very much for talking to me today. It’s actually a really big big honour for me as I said I was a fan of Eurogliders growing up. So for me to sit here and say (pauses) – if someone had have said to me, to 14 year old me, “you’ll be talking to her one day and doing an interview” (Grace laughs) I would have said “oh no way shut up”!
(Simone and Grace laugh)
Grace: Awww that’s really lovely Simone. Thank you so much for your support too.
Simone: Yeah no, thank you. I really am looking forward to coming and seeing you and Wendy. I’m going to be at the Memo Music Hall show taking some photos.
Grace: Oh lovely.
Simone: I look forward to seeing you.
Grace: That’s really lovely. And look I want to say that as much that you think it’s lovely talking to me, it’s lovely for me to talk to you because it’s people like you that sell our shows and get the punters to the gigs. So, I really appreciate that thank you.
Simone: Thank you so much. Thanks for your time and have a really lovely rest of the week and I will be seeing you soon.
Grace: Ok take care Simone. Thank you.
Simone: Take care. Bye.
Don’t miss the opportunities to see these two iconic singers side-by-side – tickets are on sale now.
Thursday 26th March 2020
Memo Music Hall, ST KILDA VIC
Friday 27th March 2020
Shoppingtown Hotel, DONCASTER VIC
Saturday 28th March 2020
Village Green Hotel, MULGRAVE VIC
Sunday 29th March 2020 [matinee]
Caravan Music Club, EAST BENTLEIGH VIC
For more information please visit www.graceknight.com.au and www.wendymatthews.com