Tasmanian musicians challenge the COVID blues with great songs – and a baby boom

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Pete Cornelius will always be “the kid” to many fans of Tasmanian music, but for the Songs of Solitude project, Lockdown Lowdown, he was truly a father figure.

Out of the darkness of COVID-19 lockdowns and an on-hold music industry, his collaboration plan produced a hit album, sold-out shows and a very close bond between some of Tasmania’s top musicians .

Kyle Lizotte and Cho Billing prepare to take the stage at Kindred Hall.(

ABCs of Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves

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Now the former guitarist prodigy feels like the patriarch in the midst of musician friends who have almost become family.

“Claire (Ann Taylor) had a baby during COVID, Dan (Lizotte) from Halfway to Forth had one too and our drummer, Beau (Thomas) and our bassist, Hamish (Houston).

“So they’re all very fresh parents. My youngest is five now, so I can’t even trade stories on the road.

“I feel like the old man in the script, you know, ‘I remember when we used to change diapers,’ that sort of thing.”

The worst case for musos

The global pandemic has set up the complete nightmare scenario for musicians in 2020. No crowds, so no paid concerts, no festival networking, no chance to voice, perform and receive commentary. For some, no income.

Blues guitarist on stage struggles to bend a note as his band hangs behind
Hobart blues legend Billy Whitton leads the group, delighting the crowd.(

ABCs of Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves

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Cornelius invited songwriters and performers from all corners of the state to creatively respond to the crisis.

The main group was Beau Thomas (drums, vocals), Randall Muir (keyboards), Hamish Houston (bass), Dave Wilson (guitar) and Cornelius himself.

They have anchored and contributed to recordings of songs by Claire Anne Taylor, Halfway to Forth (Kyle and Dan Lizotte), Hobart blues legend Billy Whitton and dynamic songwriter and performer Dudley Billing.

three musicians in a recording studio situation, with headphones and in the middle of noise barriers
Pete Cornelius (center), guitarist Dave Wilson and keyboardist Randall Muir during a recording session in St Mary’s.(

Provided: Big Shed Studios

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Billing, from Sisters Beach, is a musical institution in the northwest corner of Tassie and he says the Lockdown Lowdown album was a chance to play with heroes and friends.

“Pete probably recruited more on souls rather than those with the hottest chops back then,” Billing said.

“I’m not sure exactly how he got out of it, but what we do know is that when we’re all in a room together we all feel very comfortable in each other’s company. . “

Guitarist and bassist concentrated on their playing, lit by spotlights on stage.
Dudley and Cho Billing help launch the Lockdown Lowdown album.(

ABCs of Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves

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The project was supported by Arts Tasmania and focused on recording sessions at St Marys District School Performing Arts Center in October.

Create an album, a tour and babies

Each song was a true collaboration between the musicians in the studio and captured the state of mind and emotional responses of each songwriter during the era of COVID-19 restrictions and concerns.

“Tonight is our last show but I don’t think it’s over yet. I think we have to do it again,” Cornelius said under a sky full of stars outside the sold-out Kindred Hall. .

“I think he’s got legs because every crowd has been willing to come back, they’ve been on our side and supported what we’re doing. Ultimately I wish I could take him on the road, between the states.

The drummer with his eyes closed is clearly immersed in the music
Drummer Beau Thomas has anchored a sort of local supergroup for the recordings and live tour of Lockdown Lowdown.(

ABCs of Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves

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Beau Thomas says there has been a lot of baby sharing and wriggling on the road and his daughter Ira is already showing musical potential at 10 months.

“She hits a lot of things and she can throw an E flat on the piano. She’s pretty good,” he said with a proud smile.

Renowned singer and songwriter Claire Ann Taylor had her baby boy, Van, at the Kindred Hall show. She said the tour was one of the most enjoyable of her career.

“It has been one of the most positive and upbeat musical experiences I have had,” she said outside Kindred Hall’s back door.

“Every show, before and after, is all about smiles and encouragement and I think you can feel it on stage.

Rock group and singer with maracas singing loudly
Halfway to Forth’s Pete Cornelius and Dan Lizotte lead the group through a “Sympathy for the Devil” encore at Kindred Hall.(

ABCs of Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves

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The singer agrees with Pete Cornelius that there could be more to come from the project, maybe another album, definitely another collaboration.

“I thought today what it would be like to take music on the road as Van got older,” she said.

“I was lucky to have a baby on a cruise who ignites to the sound of music.

“I hope he falls in love with the music and is happy to be dragged across the country, but we’ll see.”

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