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Regional Art Stories Interview | Ange Boxall, Singer/Songwriter

You’re currently working on writing songs for a new album and preparing for a show you’re performing at the Festival of Voices in Hobart, can you tell us about these projects?

The show for Festival of Voices in Hobart will take place in mid July. It’s an evening of 70s rock songs and I’ll be backed by members of the RocKwiz / Paul Kelly bands. We’ll also have a guest appearance by Mark Holden and there will be 1970s cocktails and canapés.

It’s been fun picking out the songs. The 1970s is an era of music that I will always listen to and be influenced by, whether its rock or folk.

Yes indeed, I have been writing songs for my next album! I always say that the last one is the last one but I can’t help myself. I love writing (when I can find the time..) and I love being in the studio with an engineer and co-producer turning a blank canvas into a soundscape. I love the creativity.

It’s interesting that my writing is different when I’m in Tasmania – it’s more raw. Perhaps because I’m closer to family and living in a place where the elements are wild, my emotions are heightened. When I’m in the city my writing is slightly more passive and subdued. It’s interesting and potentially the opposite to that which one would assume.

I was born in Tasmania and I care deeply about how people treat the place and where things sit politically. I recently wrote my first ever protest song, which is based around the idea of protecting the landscape from foreign investment and the mega developments that potentially ensue. Tasmania is special and we need to protect it and develop it wisely and in consultation with the public and with complete transparency.

As well as writing and performing, you’re also the producer and programmer for the Festival of Voices East Coast Program, you co-founded and co-own a gin company and you’re turning an old flour mill into an event space, wow! Can you tell us a bit about these amazing projects too?

Yes, I’m busy!

The Festival of Voices on the East Coast of Tasmania, known as ‘FoV Coastal’ is a slightly more roots take on the Hobart festival’s origin – it’s about celebrating everything that is coastal including the produce, people and landscape. Again, it’s kind of raw. This year we have Mental As Anything headlining, which sold out four weeks out – so there will be lots of people traveling to a remote rock quarry in the middle of nowhere on a chilly winter’s night to experience music, food, fire and frivolity. FoV Coastal starts the whole of the festival so this opening night will be amazing.

The rest of the weekend promises lots of fun with live music at a Farmer’s Market, a cooking class, a Secret Garden Party, a Speakeasy, a Reggae boat cruise and some stand up singing Comedy!

It travels from location to location along the beautiful East Coast so it’s a fun weekend road-trip with something for everyone.

Full details of the lineup here.

The Splendid Gin came about when we moved to the area after buying an 1820s flourmill property. We’re close by to many of the vineyards up here and soon became friends with the people from Spring Vale Vineyard. We knew we wanted to do something together. There is a natural pure clean spring at the Spring Vale property and after a night of trying (many, ha!) gins we decided that we hadn’t quite found the flavour profile that we were wanting so that was it, we’d make gin! My husband and I had lived in London for over a decade and we had a lot of creative influences that we’d brought back with us. So with our creative ideas and Spring Vale’s understanding of the booze industry, along with some other serendipitous happenings, we found a distiller, we found an investor and voilà, splendid things happened! We’ve now gone on to win awards across the world!

We’re turning the flourmill into an event space. We hold the occasional farmer’s market and house concert here in the outdoor spaces during the warmer months and will extend to other events. It’s an amazing space. Whenever we find some extra money or time, we work on it bit by bit. Whilst touring the world I’ve been invited into people’s homes and private spaces to showcase my music – I love the idea of providing that to other musicians and to have the occasional Artist in Residence as well as hire it out for special foodie events or smaller weddings and celebrations.

With so many diverse projects on the go, is there a typical day for you? What does a day in the life of Ange Boxall look like?

There isn’t really a typical day as such – I could be at my laptop researching acts, doing poster artwork or on social media or general admin – the classic ‘artist who dons many a hat’ scenario.
I could be on the road to a rehearsal, a show, a photo shoot, an event or meetings.
I could be at the beach or park or making some kind of creative mess with our daughter.
I could be playing and writing on my guitar. I could be writing a storyboard for a gin animation or arranging something else curious in this curious life I lead!

However, general day to day is completely unglamorous (ha!) and I can occasionally be found in my pj’s still at lunch time, clickety-clacking away at my computer with my dog beside me. Our little girl is in prep so is at school during the day. I also do much of the photography and all of the social media for the The Splendid Gin and Riversdale Mill, as well as for my music sites, so I spend a lot of time at my laptop and phone going cross-eyed.

I fit writing in during the quieter times – I need an empty head to focus and let the creative ideas free up. It can be frustrating but I’ve often worked in bursts with my writing. Unless something emotional is charging me – and then I’m tormented throughout the night and I’ll turn the lamp on and off a hundred times to write down my thoughts!!

The weekends are usually social with either shows, festival happenings, gin events or hanging out with friends or family – trips to the beach, the park, dinner parties, barbeques. My favourite day of the week is Saturday and having a lazy late brunch together at home.

You’ve lived in Australia, London, France and Nashville, can you tell us about your background and returning to Tasmania to live?

After University (I studied photography and painting) my husband, then boyfriend, and I took off traveling overseas for what we thought might be around six months – it rolled into almost twelve years! We traveled around Europe and arrived in London completely broke. Within a week we both had jobs. I was a high school supply teacher and Mike got a job with a design company. We fell in love with London and met so many interesting and inspiring people. I love the intellect of the people you meet in vast, congested cities like London – it’s a hub for ambitious people to congregate and question the world. We found it very stimulating there. After around six years I gave up the teaching to become a full-time musician. It was tough giving up the money from teaching but I felt I had to do it for my sanity and to give my music career a good go. Fortunately my husband was supportive of this decision and I’ve never been shy of new and odd jobs.

It was then that I started to visit Nashville, which lead to all sorts of interesting things. I was co-writing lots over there and ended up recording a couple of albums. I met and worked with some amazing people, including JD Souther who is revered for co-writing legendary hit songs with the Eagles such as ‘Best of My Love’ and ‘New Kid In Town’ among others. JD was also a co-writer and romantically involved with the legendary Linda Ronstandt for some time. He is Songwriter royalty over there and is in the Songwriter Hall of Fame. We became great friends and ended up writing and recording a duet together called ‘Lucky Day’, it was an amazing time. I also got to know and became good friends with Bones Hillman, the bass player of Midnight Oil who was based in Nashville at the time. I would stay with him and his then wife and we played lots of shows together and he played bass on my album, ‘Into the Wind’. I toured the states several times playing shows in a variety of venues from the famous clubs of New York to private lounge rooms in San Diego. I toured right up to moving back and did a nine-week tour whilst I was five and six months pregnant before moving back to give birth to our daughter here.

I still miss London and Nashville dearly. We’ve been back to London twice for a visit and hope to get back over the states sometime but it’s a long way from East Coast Tasmania!

Once we had decided it was time to leave London and were thinking of starting a family, we sold our house and moved to France for a while. This was a beautiful time and one I’d love to repeat. We rented a little barn off a larger farmhouse in rural mid-Pyrenees. Life was slow and relaxing; watching the fields being prepared, sown, nurtured and finally harvested. The weather would roll over the mountains and swiftly change from gunmetal threatening clouds and heavy rain to glorious calm and clear sunshine within minutes. My husband was able to work from here with the occasional trip overseas to far-flung places such as Guatemala or Russia and I was planning and booking my aforementioned nine-week tour, which included Spain, UK, Ireland and the USA. It was here that we fell pregnant.

When we made the move back to Australia we decided Melbourne would be the obvious choice and less of a shock. It turned out that we’d moved all the way home to not really feel at home. When the Riversdale property came up for sale on the East Coast of Tasmania everyone thought we were mad to even consider it. But like many times in our lives, we enjoy taking risks and things just seemed serendipitous on many levels. We dropped everything to move to the outskirts of a town of 700 people into a rambling, empty, rat infested, old estate. We were thrilled!

What is the best part about living/working on the East Coast of Tasmania? And what are the challenges that you face?

The hardest part is that there is a lot of time spent in the car traveling but the best bit is that when you’re home, it’s a sanctuary. It’s calm and relaxing and often it feels like we’re on a permanent holiday even though we’re working.

When you live in a smaller place it feels like you can achieve more and make a bigger impact somehow. Big cities are great for networking but you can get lost in it.

The flip side of that is that you can occasionally feel a little deprived of stimulation but that’s when you get in the car and head to Hobart or jump on a flight to Melbourne or Sydney for a cultural injection.

The property is beautiful – it’s lots of work but it’s special and the area is gorgeous too. Our daughter Hattie attends a little primary school down the road and she is picked up by the school bus every morning. The kids are lovely, happy country kids and are always screaming out to see Lioneld – he’s our hilarious and very long black ‘n’ tan sausage dog.

So yes, it is tricky living so far away from the city sometimes, and it does take a long time and lots of expensive flights to get overseas but it seems that we either like life to be at one end of the spectrum in the city or otherwise at the complete opposite end of the spectrum – there is no in between.

Finally, what are your top tips for visitors coming to the East Coast of Tasmania? What should we be seeing, doing and listening to?

All of the beaches in the area are stunning and chances are you may be the only people on the beach. Friendly Beaches is just gorgeous with pure fine white stretching sand. The vineyards close by are well worth visiting; they’re all different in look and feel but all of the wine is of exceptional quality and some do fabulous food, too. Visit the local oyster producers. Take a trip around to Wineglass Bay on the cruise or walk up over the Hazards Peaks to make your way on foot – both are wonderful. The small townships Orford, Swansea, Bicheno and Coles Bay are sweet to stop and stay. If you can, make your way further up the coast to the Bay of Fires, you won’t regret it, the beaches and bright orange lichen covered rocks are simply stunning.

Of course, if you’re here at the end of June then come along to the festival of Voices, FoV Coastal!