Is Bernard really related to the Fanning of Grafton fame?
IT WAS a disappointing start to an interview, not because Bernard Fanning wasn't accommodating. He certainly was that, squeezing in a phone chat from the studio where he was putting the finishing touches on his next album, a few days short of his Saraton Theatre show.
It was more the fact that we weren't going to be able to claim him as a 'local'. The Fanning name is synonymous with Grafton - Fanning Avenue, Fanning House, Fanning Corner - all named after the family whose patriarch served as a high-profile council alderman in the 1960s as well as being appointed deputy mayor and later mayor.
Raymond William Fanning was also a successful businessman and community stalwart - operating a dry cleaning business on the corner that bears his surname - and earned numerous accolades for his service to the city.
So when the possibility of Bernard Fanning perhaps having some family link to the Jacaranda City was suggested, the award-winning musician was intrigued but said it probably wasn't likely.
"No, don't think they would be relations. Maybe Mick Fanning's relation," he said."My family are all from North Queensland. We're not dirty blues like you guys."
Despite this revelation, and the fact he's never played in Grafton before, Fanning wasn't uneducated about the place.
"My main experience of Grafton has always been driving through on the way to somewhere else," he said.
"I remember it's the Clarence though, that massive river you have there, and a bridge that's got three bends or something, hasn't it?
"I know it's a really stunning area but, no I've never played there and Powderfinger never played there. We always played in Coffs so Grafton was probably too close."
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Fanning said he was looking forward to finally performing in Grafton, the last concert on his very successful Sooner Or Later tour with Kasey Chambers.
"Everyone tells me that theatre there is really beautiful," Fanning said.
"I guess my only real connection with Grafton is my friendship with Troy Cassar-Daley. He told me that the theatre in Grafton is awesome."
Most of Fanning's shows on this tour have been in theatres which seems to be a trend with high-profile musicians of late but it wasn't something Fanning said was intentional.
"I'm not really avoiding hotels but I think the hotel and pub scene, for original music, it kind of died a long time ago," he said.
"They've turned into these havens for pokies. Live music used to sustain lots of pubs but they don't seem to subscribe to that any more.
"The last few national tours I've done in cities have been in theatres. I really like that environment. A lot of my music now is pretty quiet so I like that idea of it being a pretty quiet environment to play in.
"A lot of people think that the big, dirty rock moments that are really loud and everyone is yelling and singing and playing at the same time are the most powerful, but to me it's actually the quieter stuff that gets played that is the most powerful because the release of tension after that is really significant.
"They are definitely more personal (shows) where everyone is basically concentrating on the same thing. They're not concentrating on their bourbon."
Fanning said this tour with friend and colleague Kasey Chambers has been a great experience both musically and personally.
"In the past I suppose Kasey was a little more country than me but my music, especially since I wrote Tea and Sympathy and wrote the last record (Civil Dusk), has certainly headed in that direction more than in a rock direction," he said.
"I guess we are both coming from a very similar place. You could call her music Americana and that's maybe what my last record might be getting towards for want of a much better term because it's a disgracefully broad ridiculous name for a genre.
"We're both into writing songs that communicate an idea really clearly, music you can perform with just an acoustic guitar and singer. We both have bands and have worked with each other and write the same way. I feel if you can't put the song together by yourself it's not generally going to be a really great song.
"Kasey's songwriting style is very stripped back, basic stuff which is pretty similar to how I do it."
Being "good mates" also means their stage rapport is very relaxed and natural, with plenty of banter.
"She never shuts up on stage, she's going to break someone's ears one day," Fanning said.
"We both don't mind a chat actually, although I'd be more inclined to call it crapping on rather than story-telling.
"We have a great time together and really enjoy each other's company and music.
"In fact everyone gets on really well, the band, the crew, it's just a big happy family at the moment and the audience has been really loving the mix of it. It's been really warmly received."
- Don't miss Bernard Fanning and Kasey Chambers live at Grafton's Saraton Theatre on Saturday night February 25. Tickets available online or at theatre.