Australian singer, songwriter and actor Wes Carr is returning for the exclusive national tour of Rolling Thunder Vietnam that lands on the Gold Coast at Jupiters Casino, Friday 5 and Saturday 6 August. Jodie Bellchambers caught up with him to chat about his passion for music and creating.
This is your second time performing on stage with Rolling Thunder. How did you find your first experience of acting on stage?
Fantastic, it was great, I really enjoyed it. The production is amazing; it’s more of a concert drama as well a pretty major kind of rock show. The band is also amazing and David Berthold the director is great – I took direction from him so I felt safe. You know it’s a pretty incredible story that actually needs to be told in Australia, it’s something that never really has been touched on before in our history. The fact that some kids were given an option of two years jail or go to war – that’s what really hit home with me I felt like I really wanted to be a part of telling this story as it’s a very important story to tell.
Has much changed with this second tour of Rolling thunder in terms of script and cast?
Ben Mingay is now in the show, but mostly it’s the same. I think if anything, what’s going to change is that it’s the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan this year. I think there will be people who saw it the first time who might see it again to commemorate this and we will come out on stage and acknowledge all the soldiers. Also when you see it again you can focus on different parts you may not have the first time because it’s so dynamic and diverse. The stories are quite cathartic, every time we played it in Australia the Vets were there with all their medals and they were crying from the first song in, sometimes. It was like we were telling their stories, the ones they had bottled up inside them for the last 50 years you know.
I think for them they felt like they had been recognised for the first time through this show. As weird as it sounds I think it has given them a voice, the audience witnessed that and felt that too so it gave it more credibility and depth as opposed to just a show about the war. There have been millions of war stories told through the eyes of the many American movies we’ve all seen – this is Australia’s history of the Vietnam War.
The music associated with the Vietnam War is very powerful – why do you think that is and what are some of your favorites?
Songs is one thing but albums another, for me favorite albums would be The Beatles White Album, I just recently went to India and visited the Ashram where they wrote all the songs for that which was incredible. Pet Sounds, anything Hendrix, Floyd, anything that Dylan or John Lennon had to say those kinds of songs. In the show I go nuts on Hendrix throwing myself all over the stage playing All Along the Watchtower which I don’t usually do as much anymore. My ego says yeah I can do this but my body – especially my knees – go ouch. I had the privilege of meeting Joe Cocker overseas and singing The Letter which was incredible those artists have left such a great legacy.
Are you still able to manage your other activities like the spirit songs project and working on a new album perhaps while touring Rolling Thunder?
Yeah working on a new album, and just finished doing a one man show about George Harrison last year which was a really successful tour – it sold out across the country. I’m also working on my creative coaching Spirit Songs which is working one on one with anyone who wants to unlock their creative potential either musically or poetry, writing etc. I spend one-on-one time with them for 90 minutes, it’s my way of I guess helping people that wouldn’t necessarily go on The Voice or whatever, but who just want to get creative and be able to unlock their own creative potential and unlock themselves. I get teenage kids, 50 year old guys who want to write a love song for their partner, it’s amazing to be able to do this. I’m much more interested in doing that it’s a service, giving people something back. If I had have been given this opportunity when I was starting out I would definitely have done it.
You won Australian Idol in 2008 – has your musical career path followed the trajectory you have wanted?
Yes you know I think mine’s been an eclectic one. I started out in independent bands and playing around town when I was 12 years old, playing in acoustic bars in Kings Cross I grew up doing it. I guess I was always an over-thinker, you know I got in my own way a lot so I think Australian Idol was something I threw myself at, I threw caution to the wind to see what would happen. I was a bit risky at the time, I remember thinking what am I doing? I went on it and won it and then afterwards I guess I didn’t really understand how to deal with that or turn it into something of worth. So I just rode the wave for a while, went through the motions, I came out the other end and thought – now what do I do now? So it took me a while to work out what it all meant. And now I think for me it’s more about my Spirit Songs project and then going out on the road once year doing a tour of what I love doing. Writing my own music, running my own industry and not feeling like I have to appease anyone’s ego’s or needs to make their financial targets. I don’t want to be a slave to that machine I’m just happy writing my own stuff. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that machine it’s a viable avenue too but it just doesn’t work for me. I’m not interested in sitting down and writing a song about tits and arse you know (both laugh) and trying to get in the top 40 chart.
Rolling Thunder Vietnam hits JUPITER’S HOTEL & CASINO Friday 5 August – 7.30pm and Saturday 6 August – 2pm & 7.30pm.