SXSW Interview: Fatai (Australia) talks taking the “Road Less Travelled” in the Chicago Blues scene

I first sat down with Australian artist Fatai at SXSW 2018, where we spoke about her making her SXSW debut and getting comfortable in Chicago – the US city she calls home. Fast forward a year and the artist has returned to SXSW, with a brand new single “Road Less Traveled” in tow, and a slew of successful tours and festival appearances behind her (including Austin City Limits last year – check out her tour diary HERE). In our first sit down chat in a year, I learn more about the new single – with its Chicago Blues inspirations – and find out what the road ahead is looking like for her in 2019.

Well, welcome back to South By.

Thanks, man.

It’s been 12 months since we last caught up, almost to the day. We’re back sitting at Australia House. You just got off the stage. Last time we met, you really didn’t know what this place was.

No.

Let alone what you were in for, y’know. So I’m imagining you’re a bit more prepared this time around.

I don’t know if anything’s different. I mean, festivals are not a norm for me. So it’s still pretty new, but definitely feel more confident coming in, ’cause I know what to expect, in a way. But yeah, just as fun. Just as cool. People are dope and the music is great, and having a ball.

Anyone that you’ve gotten to see that you’ve enjoyed over the last couple of days?

No. ‘Cause I’m currently on tour, I’m resting most of the time. No, I didn’t get to check anyone out. Besides Australia, actually, Australia House, the girl before me. What’s her name? She was…

Holiday Sidewinder.

Yeas. That’s a cool sound. Very cool sound. She reminds me of Kylie Minogue, which is kind of crazy. It’s like a throwback. But she was really cool. Got to actually see her full set. Saw a band from the UK, maybe, in Downtown. They were really cool. I forgot their name, but yeah. I love experiencing and hearing the world at large in the one city.

It’s the place to do it, You mentioned you’re on tour, and you literally released your single for said tour yesterday. Tell me a little bit about “Road Less Traveled”. It’s a little more blues-y, you can hear that Chicago influence coming through.

Yes, because I used Chicago players, maybe that’s why.

Might help.

It’s dope. I can’t believe it. It’s been a long time coming. The last time I released music was three years ago, so this is the first studio recorded thing, and that’s a big moment for me. I can’t believe it’s out, but it’s so, yeah, feel free to have a listen. It’s called Road Less Travelled, and the current tour I’m on right now is named after it. The Road Less Travelled Tour. And it just speaks about my life and where I’m at right now. Feels like just a path that not too many take. Just like, being an independent artist, being away from home. Thanks.

And, in all the ways and aspects of my life, it’s a unique path that I’m walking. And while it’s hard, it’s also just worth it, ’cause I get to stay true to who I am.

Yeah. Well, it’s a beautiful track. I listened to it just about 20 minutes ago for the first time. And yeah, I was really struck by the musicianship of it. I mean, do you have more up your sleeve of this variety?

Absolutely. I enjoyed that recording process so much. Right after tour, I wanna make music for the rest of the year, because yeah. It’s the first time actually playing with other humans. And the first time imagining a world around music that’s been acoustic for years. So it’s surreal, and yeah, you got, I don’t even know, a couple of songs, maybe like five songs I wanna hit the studio with. And I’m actually currently writing more stuff, so lots to come.

And you are indeed on the road. I saw you’ll be in Toronto on April 5th by the looks of it, so I’ll see you there. How are the shows going, and are you just playing shows solo like tonight?

So, based on availability, my band, I’ve got different shows for every city. So wasn’t able to get the full thing, mostly independent, so I can’t get everyone at the road. But yeah, the shows will look different ever time. So some are just myself, mainly in the cities I haven’t been to, and then others I’ve got a keys player, and then I’ve got a drummer and a keys, and then just for LA, I’ve got a full band based on working with the best talent. But I’m extremely booked and busy.

So next run, yeah. I wanna get the whole crew out for the whole thing.

So it feels like things are going really nicely for you in that respect. Not so much in the sense of, obviously you haven’t released all that much music in the last year, but you’ve been working very hard. So how have you found, kind of, that sort of community to be growing around you? From what you’ve said, that seems to be what’s happened. A little music community growing around you. I know you’ve been performing with other people as well, from memory.

It’s part of the whole Road Less Travelled journey, is taking my time with growing the team. ‘Cause what matters most to me is you can be amazing at what you do, but if you’re an ass, it just doesn’t count. It’s not impressive to me. So I’m looking to grow the family, and what I’m aiming for is a family to go on the road with to do this whole music journey. People that love that they do, really top quality, high quality folks, whether it’s production or management or booking agent or label. But really nice people and really quality humans and characters. And so that’s why it’s taken a while, ’cause-

It’s not easy to find that.

No, it’s a rarity. But like, they’re out there for sure, and that’s why I’m taking it, I’m trying to be patient and I just go with the flow, and yeah. They’ll come.

So you got these shows coming up. Are we getting you back to Australia anytime soon? What’s the year ahead looking like for you?

I may be coming back sooner rather than later. Might be coming back in November to do Australia, New Zealand, which I haven’t done since I toured with Guy last year. But my own stuff, I haven’t been doing that for two years maybe, so yeah, excited to possibly come back home and do some shows for my people.

And by then, there’ll be, I imagine, some more music between now and then, so…

I hope so, for sure. Yup.

Where did you record the single?

I recorded it down the road from where I live in Chicago. I must say, your creative juices come out really well when you’re under pressure. And so I had a time limit of like a week to get something together. And prior to that, since late last year, I’ve been looking for producers to like, sort of help out with the recording process. And at the end of it, I ended up just getting really great players, chucking ’em in the studio and just letting them play on my song. And we produced it ourselves, and I would not have it any other way for this first studio recorded record.

Well, we can’t wait to hear it. You can’t rush that stuff. So take your time with it, get it right. I’m sure that it sounds exactly like what you’re doing, and everyone will be waiting when it’s there.

Thank you. Yeah, I’m excited to put music out. Excited to be here. Excited to talk to you, and yeah, life’s good.

———–

Fatai is currently touring North America, with shows in the UK and Europe to follow. For all her music, and details about the tour, head to her official website.

NORTH AMERICA
SUN 24 MAR – Greenville SC – Radio Room
WED 27 MAR – Charlotte NC – Evening Muse
THU 28 MAR – Vienna VA/Washington DC – Jammin’ Java
FRI 29 MAR – Philadelphia PA – Milkboy South St – SOLD OUT
FRI 29 MAR – Philadelphia PA – Milkboy South St – SHOW 2
SUN 31 MAR – New York City NY – Rough Trade
TUE 02 APR – Boston MA – The Red Room @ Cafe 939
THU 04 APR – Detroit MI – The Magic Bag
FRI 05 APR – Toronto ON – Rivoli
TUE 23 APR – Seattle WA – Tractor Tavern
WED 24 APR – Portland OR – Secret Society Ballroom
FRI 26 APR – San Francisco CA – Neck of the Woods
SUN 28 APR – Los Angeles CA – The Roxy

EUROPE & UNITED KINGDOM
THU 9 MAY – Berlin DE – Prachtwerk
FRI 10 MAY – Amsterdam NL – Paradiso
THU 16 MAY – London UK – Borderline
FRI 17 MAY – Birmingham/Coventry UK – Nexus ICA

Photo by Larry Heath

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Larry Heath

Founding Editor of the AU review. You can find him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.