Life, musos and Blues: The stories behind the artists

AT 4pm today, the music starts in each of the five Bluesfest stages, kicking off five days of blues and roots.

The punters are here, traffic is slower, cafes are full and the tents are pitched - it must be festival time in Byron Bay.

Musicians from across the globe have arrived on the Northern Rivers, making it the music capital of the Southern Hemisphere during the Easter long weekend.

A first for Bluesfest this year will be Soulshine, Michael Franti's latest music project and a mini-festival of yoga within Bluesfest.

It combines his long-term passion for yoga, collaborating and jamming with fellow musicians, and live performances.

Bluesfest 2015 punters will have access this Monday to a one-off mass yoga session for one hour by Duncan Peak, pioneer of contemporary yoga and founder of Power Living Australia Yoga, a passionate yogi, philosopher, author and surfer.

The event will be a fun experience and not a formal yoga class, Franti explains.

After the class, Franti, Trevor Hall and Soja will play a full set each.

 Buskers will be taking to the stage in the coming weeks for the final chance to be part of this year's Bluesfest with the 2015 Bluesfest Busking Comp.

The grand final will be held at the Beach Hotel in Byron Bay tomorrow from 12pm, where three grommets and six artists selected from the open event will fire up the stage for one last shot at the winning place.

All the Bluesfest crowd favourites are back this year, including Rockwiz Special gigs tomorrow and Saturday at the Jambalaya stage from 1.30pm.

These are some of the bands that will be performing this weekend, and the stories behind the musicians.


Mariachi El Bronx

 PUNK rock and Mariachi (Mexican country music) join forces in Mariachi El Bronx, set to make their Bluesfest debut this Easter.

The Bronx was an LA-born punk hardcore band formed in 2002 which received early success, including a dedicated Australian fan base.

When The Bronx were requested to perform acoustically on a television show the group decided that, rather than taming their own sound, they would wear sombreros and take their music in a whole new direction.

This led to the beginning of their alter ego: Mariachi El Bronx.


Alabama Shakes

ALABAMA Shakes is an American rock band formed in Athens, Alabama, in 2009.

The group consists of lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, keyboard player Ben Tanner, and drummer Steve Johnson.

Alabama Shakes received nominations at the 2013 Grammy Awards in the categories of Best New Artist, Best Rock Performance (for Hold On) and Best Recording Package for their debut album, Boys & Girls.

Alabama Shakes will be making their Bluesfest debut in 2015.

A new Alabama Shakes album, Sound & Color, is in production and set for release next month.


Paul Kelly

SINGER, poet and songwriter Paul Kelly is returning to the Bluesfest stage to showcase his brand new collaboration-based release, The Merri Soul Sessions.

Live, this very special soul-review will feature performances with some of the guest vocalists from the album including Dan Sultan, Kira Puru and Vika and Linda Bull.

Through continual reinvention, 19 studio albums (plus several live releases and film scores) and countless accolades, Paul Kelly has carved out his enduring place in the Australian psyche; his stories are synonymous with our landscape, history and lifestyle.

Songwriters and poets everywhere have paid tribute to his rich, tapestry-like catalogue of songs that have become the soundtrack to our lives, like How to Make Gravy, From St Kilda to Kings Cross, To Her Door, From Little Things Big Things Grow, Everything's Turning To White and others.


Frank Yamma

He is the son of Isaac Yamma, an early proponent of singing Western style songs in traditional language.

Frank's style of music is indigenous roots and he writes about his country and his people.

He has performed in bands Ulpanyali Band, Digital Dreaming, Terrasphere, Piranpa ('skinny white lizards' in Pitjantjatjara) and his father's Pitjantjatjara Country Band.

Frank Yamma & Piranpa won a Deadly in 1999 for their album, Playing with Fire.

He was a featured artist of the ABC TV show, Sending a message: Naidoc concert.


Genevieve Chadwick

PUNTERS at Bluesfest 2015 can expect to discover not just an artist, but a real star in Genevieve Chadwick.

She has been likened to Janis Joplin, Melissa Etheridge, Tracey Chapman, John Lee Hooker, and even John Butler.

Genevieve exudes raw energy by the bucketload within her own brand of blues and roots, her poignant songs full of rich melodies, all sung with her gravelly voice.

Hailing from NSW's South Coast, Genevieve tirelessly toured her popular debut album Riding the Wind, Forgetting Time.



ANDREW Hozier-Byrne, 25, is better known as Hozier.

In 2013, he released his debut EP, featuring the single Take Me to Church, and his second EP From Eden in 2014.

His debut studio album, Hozier, was released in Ireland in September 2014 and globally in October 2014.

In 2013, Hozier became an internet sensation after Take Me To Church became a hit on YouTube.

The video was posted 11 months ago and has gathered to date almost 36 million views worldwide.

Take Me to Church was nominated at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards for Song of the Year in 2015.

He performed the songs with Annie Lennox at the 2015 Grammy Awards.


Mavis Staples

MAVIS STAPLES, 75, is an American rhythm and blues and gospel singer, actress and civil rights activist who recorded with The Staple Singers, her family's band.

Mavis Staples began her career with her family group in 1950.

Inspired by family patriarch Roebuck 'Pops' Staples' close friendship with Martin Luther King Jr, by the mid-1960s The Staple Singers became the spiritual and musical voices of the civil rights movement.

They covered contemporary pop hits with positive messages, including Bob Dylan's A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall and a version of Stephen Stills' For What It's Worth.

During a 2008 appearance on America's National Public Radio news show, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me, Mavis Staples was asked about her past personal relationship with Bob Dylan.

She admitted he had asked her father for her hand in marriage.


Beth Hart

BETH HART was last year's talk of the town.

Her voice takes everyone by surprise.

After her mind blowing performances at Bluesfest's 25th anniversary, Beth Hart is back.

She turns the art of singing into an out-of-body experience. She is simply world class.

Then there are her A-list collaborations with the likes of Jeff Beck, Slash, Buddy Guy and Joe Bonamassa.


Melbourne Ska Orchestra

ASSEMBLED from some of Australia's pre-eminent names in ska and reggae, and headed up by inimitable frontman Nicky Bomba (Bustamento, John Butler Trio), the soaring popularity of the Melbourne Ska Orchestra is fast cementing itself as a fixture in Australia's musical landscape.

The 26 (often stretching to 34) piece multi-ARIA nominated collective has acquired an impressive, ever-growing overseas fan base.


Paolo Nutini

THE Scotsman with the Italian name is coming back to Bluesfest and has become a truly stellar writer and musician. 


His chart-topping album Caustic Love, released in April last year, has received rave reviews, including "the best UK R&B album since the 1970s blue-eyed soul heyday of Rod Stewart and Joe Cocker" by The Independent (UK).

Paolo Nutini delivers a range of genres including rock, soul, folk and blues, with a stunning voice that delivers raw emotion.

This talented young man will be joined onstage by his accomplished nine-piece band.

In late July 2014, the BBC referred to him as "arguably Scotland's biggest musician right now".

The mighty Melbourne Ska Orchestra continues its feat for worldwide ska domination.


The Gipsy Kings 

THEIRS is a music that extends through generations, to the sounds of their ancestors, and reflects the eclectic and peripatetic history of the gitanos, Spanish Romani people who fled the Catalonia region during the Spanish Civil War.

The band started out in Arles, a town in southern France, during the 1970s, when brothers Nicolas and Andre Reyes, the sons of flamenco artist Jose Reyes, teamed up with their cousins Jacques, Maurice, and Tonino Baliardo.

Los Reyes (Spanish surname meaning The Kings) travelled around France, playing at weddings, festivals and in the streets.

Because they lived so much like gypsies, the band adopted the name Gipsy Kings. Later, they were hired to add colour to upper-class parties in such places as St Tropez.

They became popular with their self-titled first album, Gipsy Kings, which included the songs Djobi Djoba, Bamboléo, and the romantic ballad Un Amor (One Love).

In 1989, the Gipsy Kings was released in the United States and spent 40 weeks on the charts, one of few Spanish language albums to do so.

Melding deep-heated flamenco, rumba, salsa and pop to the tune of 25 million albums sold, the Grammy Award-winning hit-makers will be celebrating their 25th anniversary at Bluesfest in their very own, blistering tradition.

The Gipsy Kings are returning to Australia after five years.

Featured in blockbuster movies like The Big Lebowski, Toy Story 3 and hit TV series Glee, the band has embraced Western classics by Bob Marley, the Doobie Brothers and The Eagles with globe-hopping grace, whilst also embracing dramatic cues from Brazilian and Caribbean culture.

Now the Gipsy Kings return with Savor Flamenco, their ninth studio album and first new release in six years.

The project marks the first time in their storied career that the Kings have produced themselves and written all of the material.

The group has been fronted for 25 years by the two songwriters and producers Nicolas Reyes and Tonino Baliardo, both coming to Bluesfest 2015.


Keb' Mo'

THREE-TIME Grammy winner, visionary roots music storyteller and Bluesfest favourite Keb' Mo' has just had his most successful release in almost 20 years, the new album BLUESAmericana.

The album marks the 20th anniversary of his debut, Keb' Mo', and also the second time Keb' has undergone a personal transformation.

Over the past two decades Keb' has cultivated a reputation as a modern master of American roots music through the understated excellence of his live and studio performances.

His songs have been recorded by B.B. King, Buddy Guy, the Dixie Chicks, Joe Cocker and Robert Palmer, and his playing inspired leading instrument maker Gibson Brands to issue the Keb' Mo' Signature Bluesmaster acoustic guitar.