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Valley benefit gig for sick songwriter

The Brisbane music community will be gathering at The Zoo in Fortitude Valley to raise funds towards Danny Widdicombe’s treatment.
The Brisbane music community will be gathering at The Zoo in Fortitude Valley to raise funds towards Danny Widdicombe’s treatment.

WRITING and recording an album is a creative feat most of us will never achieve.

The fat that two-time ARIA nominee and member of The Wilson Pickers Danny Widdicombe worked on his new album Find Someone while battling leukaemia is almost impossible to imagine.

Tonight, the Brisbane music community will be gathering at The Zoo in Fortitude Valley to raise funds towards Widdicombe's treatment and celebrate the launch of his third solo album.

Powderfinger's Ian Haug will host the benefit gig, which will feature performances by The Gin Club, The Wilson Pickers, Tylea and Evil Eddie.

Group Entertainment Editor Seanna Cronin chatted to Widdicombe ahead of tonight's show.

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Q: How did your battle with leukaemia affect your songwriting and performances on this album?

A: I think that everything you do in life influences the music and lyrics you write. The books you read, your relationships, the music you listen to. I've been dealing with leukaemia since 1995 so it's always there in the background. Most of this album was written when I was well just before I left for Berlin earlier this year. I also wrote and recorded a couple of tracks in the apartment in Berlin that I rented with my fellow GW McLennan Fellowship winner, Andrew Morris. I didn't know it then, but the leukaemia had relapsed already so it's interesting to look back and see that those two songs are slower, thoughtful and contemplative which reflected the diseased state of my body at that time.

I recorded some overdubs within the radiation room at the Royal Brisbane Hospital between bouts of chemo and that made the performances very emotional because I didn't know at that stage if I'd survive the treatment.

Q:  Was working on the album during your time in hospital therapeutic?

A: It became clear that I wasn't going to be able to mix the album myself in hospital. I received an offer from my good friends Tylea and Lachlan 'Magoo' Goold to help finish producing and mixing the album in their beautiful Applewood studios. Every morning, Magoo would email a new mix of a track from the album and even if I was too sick to get out of bed, my beautiful wife (who sat by my side every day for six weeks) would put the headphones on my head and set up my portable studio equipment and play me the music. This was the most cathartic part of continuing the process of finishing an album while dealing with the reality of intense chemotherapy and its side effects - knowing that I had a friend spending all his days trying to make my album sound as good as he possibly could.

Q:  Musically, how does Find Someone compare to your previous releases?

A: At first glance it's totally different. The first track is inspired by the use of electronics that German music is famous for - then there's rock, neo-folk, psychedelic pop, roots groove and more. But underneath it all it's still just me trying to make the music I want to hear. Why stick to one genre? When we have our iPod on shuffle at home we get to hear a Staple Singers track followed by Andrew Bird and then maybe Frank Sinatra might come on. I love to listen to music like that. My new album to me is like writing my own songs for a radio station - you never know what's coming up next.

Q:  What does it mean to you to have so many of your musician friends helping you out both on the album and at the upcoming fundraiser?

A: The support shown by the music community for my family and I has been overwhelming. It's really touching when you see how many people have been involved in making the album launch / benefit night come together. Without the support and generosity of family and friends I don't know how people would survive these sorts of setbacks.

The Danny Widdicombe Album Launch and Fundraiser takes place at The Zoo tonight. Doors open at 8pm. Tickets available at www.thezoo.com.au.



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