The National Folk Festival’s Good Folk headliner and multi-award winner, Fanny Lumsden, appreciates the irony. The traumatic year of bushfires and COVID-19 was, from a career perspective, her best yet.
The success of the 2021 Golden Guitar Female Artist of the Year’s album Fallow, despite being released on the day the “music industry was cancelled”, surpassed her understandably altered expectations, considering that touring to promote it was out of the question.
But the power of the internet, which kept Australia going during its various lockdowns and socially restricted times, combined with the creative juggernaut that is the Lumsden family enterprise – husband Dan Freeman not only plays in the band but is a graphic designer and video editor, and her brother Thomas also joins her on stage – ensured it found its way to her growing audience.
It helped that Lumsden’s fine melodies, strong harmonies and astute storytelling about real people and situations resonated in a time when many were forced to reassess their lives and what had meaning for them.
People are looking for real experiences and something authentic, she tells me on the phone from her Snowy Mountains redoubt at Tooma, where the Lumsden production house is run.
“They want to feel something that they’re feeling in themselves,” she says.
Not that Fallow, recorded in a stone cottage at home, was conceived as that. That would be far too contrived for someone whose creative process could best be described as organic.
Fallow was two years in the making, and its mountain and deeply personal themes only became apparent as the package of songs took form.
“People assume I wrote the album during COVID,” Lumsden says. “But we spent the last two years making the album, the artwork, and the film clip.
“We worked our arses off to get the album out. That’s where my creativity went. We made a documentary and clips.”
It’s a concept that keeps on giving, and she is just about to launch a new project called Deep in the Fallow, digging deeper into the songs.
“It’s now a creation I want to share,” she says. “I just kept making stuff around our album.
“We put a lot of work into creating the world around the album, artwork, clips, everything that comes with the album. I’m not ready to leave that world yet.”
Why go that extra creative mile?
“I love it. I just don’t like to whip out a song and put it out. There’s so much depth to it,” Lumsden says.
“I think the stories that you can tell and other people’s stories that you can access and all the things you can do around songs for me have so much meaning; I think you can communicate them in so many different ways.”
By the end of last year, Lumsden and her band managed to hit the road, jumping through burning hoops as she puts it, to complete a national tour, complete with her two children to make it a genuine family affair.
It’s a life she reflects on ruefully. “Like, in a caravan in western NSW, how the hell did I get here?” she says.
That Fallow tour will basically be the show she will bring to Queanbeyan at Easter, celebrating the album’s songs, a few old ones and some new numbers written over the summer.
Not a fan of genres, Lumsden says she floats between country and folk, and at least one reviewer has compared her work with Dolly Parton and Gillian Welch.
“I’ll take that!” she says.
Some call it Australiana, a label she’s not unhappy with, considering her deep connections to the land and community.
“I definitely think about Australia and my experiences within it,” she says.
But she is also a bit of a showgirl.
“I love putting on a really fun show,” she says. “I just like putting that all together with a big experience.”
And she says after 2020, people just want to let their hair down.
Fanny Lumsden and her band play the Bicentennial Hall, Queanbeyan, on Saturday, 3 April at 8:30 pm, supported by Montgomery Church.
To learn more, visit the National Folk Festival.