It’s been a long and bumpy ride to the next edition of the Byron Bay Bluesfest – especially after its attempt in April got nixed a day out from opening, with the site and its stages already built – but lo and behold, Bluesfest is finally (finally!!!) making its return in 2022.
Taking the form of an exclusive special edition, sporting an all‑Australian lineup, the four-day celebration of all things blues, roots, rock and beyond will take place at its established home of the Byron Events Farm (formerly Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm) across next year's Easter long weekend of Friday April 15th through Monday 18th.
And although the usual suite of international icons are sitting this one out – y’know, travel bans and all that fun stuff – the lineup couldn’t be more enormous: headliners include Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly, Tash Sultana and Jimmy Barnes, with over 50 of Australia’s biggest and best names set to raise the barn over four epic days.
To get ourselves prepped for what is undoubtedly going to be the most exciting weekend of the year for any Aussie music fan, we’re catching up with handful of the acts we’re beyond keen to see.
This week, we're going one-on-one with All Our Exes Live In Texas!
THE CHEAT SHEET
Okay, so who’s this?
All Our Exes Live In Texas are a four-piece folk troupe hailing from Sydney, with a uniquely eye-catching setup consisting of full-band vocal harmonies, guitar, mandolin, ukulele and accordion. Their critically acclaimed 2017 debut, When We Fall, scored them that year’s ARIA Award for Best Blues And Roots Album – and rightfully so, if we may declare ourselves. Here, we’re chatting with Elana Stone, the band’s accordionist.
What would I know them from?
They’ve toured with everyone from Passenger to the Backstreet Boys, and a legion of this year’s biggest players at Bluesfest (think the likes of Midnight Oil, Kate Miller-Heidke and Mama Kin). In addition to its #8 peak on the ARIA Charts, When We Fall spurred the beloved singles “Tell Me”, “Sailboat” and “The Devil’s Part”.
Why should I see them?
Even if off-kilter folk isn’t your typical jam, All Our Exes a certainly worth a look-see for the fact there’s nobody else on the lineup like them. They are truly one-of-a-kind, and you’re almost guaranteed to walk a way with a big ol’ smile on your face.
When are they playing?
All Our Exes Live In Texas are scheduled to get the party started when Bluesfest kicks off on Friday October 1st. They’ll also play on the Saturday (October 2nd), because just once definitely ain’t enough!
So Elana, what are you looking forward to most at Bluesfest 2021?
I mean, I’m just looking forward to it actually being on! That’s the main thing. I’m so pressed by that, just the tenacity of going again – like, this is what? The third time it’s been postponed? It might even be the fourth, I’m not even sure at this stage. As a human, you take so many knock-backs, and after a while you’re like, “I’m just going to see what happens.” Because I so badly want Bluesfest to go ahead. I feel like if Bluesfest can’t go ahead, I don’t know what can. Basically, all my hopes and dreams are pinned on Bluesfest. If Bluesfest doesn’t happen, I don’t know who I am anymore. So y’know, some casual, fairly low expectations.
I know you guys played the festival in 2018, was that the first time you played?
Yeah, in 2017 we won the ARIA for Best Blues & Roots Album, and we were like, “Yes! Finally, Bluesfest will have us!” We were just itching to play, and then they didn’t get us ’til the next year, but we were like, “Okay, that’s cool, they got us eventually.” So that was nice.
What did you find so exciting about your Bluesfest debut that made you want to come back this year?
We had a real rushed situation last time, where we pretty much line-checked and ran out onto the stage and played – I think there was some kind of kerfuffle on the way there with transport or something… I’m looking forward to just soundchecking and having a nice, leisurely gig. But I remember we played twice – we played once on a mainstage and then once in a smaller tent, which was kind of like the ‘alt-country’ tent. And I met Lukas Nelson, Willie Nelson’s son, and I felt like I’d come pretty close to country royalty. That was cool. But yeah, the whole event was amazing!
You always meet amazing people at Bluesfest, y’know? Even if you’re in the audience, you tend to stumble across them all in the crowd, and that’s exciting. I saw Questlove there one year – not when I was playing with All Our Exes, but when I was playing there with a different band.
Who are you keen to see this year?
Well, I mean, the royalty of Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly and Kasey Chambers – you can’t really go past those guys. I’m really excited to see John Butler because he’s a friend of mine, I toured with him for a year – it was just two years ago now, but it feels like a lifetime ago. I miss him! I miss Mama Kin – they’re my friends, so I’m very excited to see them again! The Cat Empire are playing a different day to us, so I might not get to catch them, but I hope I do. The Waifs are very great friends too, I love them all very much. Pretty much everyone on there is amazing. I’m very excited just to see a large gathering of people in one spot, to be honest.
Do you find that as a performer, there’s a different sort of atmosphere you tend to embrace at a festival, compared to a bespoke All Our Exes show?
Well, I guess you’re kind of spruiking a little harder than you might for your own crowd, y’know? You’re also playing on a bigger stage, so you kind of have to fill that space with a giant crown of a huge dress, or some kind of pyrotechnic. But yeah, we just generally stand very still and play our instruments and sing, and hope that’s enough to get us over the line. I feel like you’re also trying to appeal to some people who may have other bands they’re scheduled to go and see, so you try to keep them there for as long as possible.
My bandmate Katie [Wighton, vocals/guitar] has a good trick. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but when a bunch of our audience members are starting to walk away to go see another act, she gets everyone to cheer really loudly on the count of three. She says, “Okay, let’s all pretend the best thing ever just happened,” and it makes the people that just left feel like they’ve missed out on something. And it’s worked! It’s actually a brilliant idea. She’s very sneaky.
It’s been a hot minute since All Our Exes put out any music – we’re coming up on five years since y’all dropped When We Fall. Have you been working on any new tunes?
Yeah! We’ve got heaps of new stuff, and a lot of it is recorded and ready to go – it’s really just a matter of waiting for the right moment. I mean without touring, it’s very hard to justify putting out any new music. Everyone’s been doing their own thing for a little while – I have a baby, the other girls are doing solo music, I’m doing solo music – but y’know, I think once the wheels of the world start turning again, we’ll get back into the swing of it. Some of the songs that we’ve recorded are some of my favourite Exes songs, so I’m excited to get them out.
Is it too early to say when we might get our ears around some of those?
Well, we were on the road for six years nonstop, and we kind of burnt out in terms of, like, road weariness and self-management. And since then, it’s been very hard to get everyone in the same place. I’m in Wollongong, Georgia’s in Sydney, Hannah and Katie are in Melbourne – and now with border closures, it’s been very hard for us to all even be at the same gig, even if we’re hired to play for something. So I feel like saying anything at the moment would be insane. Nothing can be predicted, y’know? We just have to see what happens – and in the meantime, we’re all putting out our own music and looking after ourselves and our families. But I miss seeing those girls every single day. I love being close to them and being a little family.
Who are you excited to catch at Bluesfest 2022? Take a peek at the lineup below, then start getting your schedules ready!
BYRON BAY BLUESFEST 2022 – LINEUP
- Midnight Oil
- Paul Kelly
- Jimmy Barnes
- Fat Freddy’s Drop
- John Butler
- Xavier Rudd
- Pete Murray
- Ian Moss
- Kate Ceberano
- Kasey Chambers
- The Waifs
- The Church
- Jon Stevens
- The Living End
- Mark Seymour & The Undertow
- The Angels
- Russell Morris
- Kate Miller-heidke
- Vika & Linda
- All Our Exes Live In Texas
- Ross Wilson And The Peaceniks
- John Williamson
- Troy Cassar-daley
- Tex Perkins The Man In Black
- Hiatus Kaiyote
- Josh Teskey & Ash Grunwald
- Weddings Parties Anything
- The Black Sorrows
- Cw Stoneking
- The Bamboos
- Ash Grunwald
- Melbourne Ska Orchestra
- Jeff Lang
- Nathan Cavaleri
- Kim Churchill
- Henry Wagons
- Garrett Kato
- Mama Kin Spender
- Dami Im
- Pierce Brothers
- Emily Wurramara
- The Buckleys
- Fiona Boyes & The Fortune Tellers
- Ray Beadle
- Pacey, King & Doley
- Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission
- Hussy Hicks
- Daniel Champagne
- Little Georgia
- Round Mountain Girls
- The Regime
- Electrik Lemonade
- Palm Valley
- Byron Busking Competition
- Rockwiz Live
Tickets to the 2021 Byron Bay Bluesfest are on sale now – head to bluesfest.com.au for more info!