Songs celebrating life and death

The topic might sound grim but Fanny Lumsden is keeping it upbeat, she tells Tom McKinlay.

It is clear, the dudes in the video for Fanny Lumsden’s celebratory song When I Die have absolutely no idea what they they doing.

The big one with the backblocks beard looks a total stranger to a six string. Reason for that, he is.

He’s central to proceedings all the same.

That’s Brett, Lumsden explains. "Who is a local here."

That would be Tooma, on the west side of the Snowy Mountains, on the Victoria and New South Wales border.

"And he pulled me up in the local pub one day, and he said, ‘Oi, Fanny, how much to play at me funeral’," the Australian country music songstress says.

"And I told him, just offhand, because I was at the pub, ‘I don’t know, how about two loads of wood and a cow’.

"Anyway, six months later, he rocked up to my house with the first down payment, of a load of wood."

Brett’s plan for the funeral, Lumsden explains, is that his ashes will be loaded into shotgun shells, then everyone will gather on the side of the hill above where he lives and he’ll be spread liberally over the valley below, as the sun sets.

"I’ll be at the back there, like, just ringing out a couple of songs — a bunch of Monty Python classics amongst others."

Lumsden loved the whole idea, so wrote When I Die.

"Which actually sounds ominous, but it’s a very happy song. It’s more like the fireworks ending rather than the, you know, the morbidity that the title suggests."

Then, when it came time to film the video Brett clearly had to be in it. But on the day there were some others hanging around. Lumsden’s Dad, a couple of neighbours. So they’re in there too, playing like they’ve never seen a music video in their lives.

Lumsden is bringing that song and the rest of the tunes on her latest album Hey Dawn to a couple of gigs in the South, the first on Friday at the Tussock Country music festival, in Gore.

The album holds to the upbeat feeling of When I Die — think Patty Griffin doing Dolly Parton.

"I just wanted to make the songs feel good," Lumsden says.

So, that had to extend to even those songs whose content could have gone in another direction altogether.

Lumsden is mining a rich vein of form again with Hey Dawn, a multi-award winner in Australia, following up on previous album, the well received Fallow.

It’s meant recent years have been on the road, whether around Australia in a caravan or further afield — most recently the UK — doing country halls and bigger venues.

Her New Zealand return mixes both, a community hall in Kurow and a show at the Tussock Country music festival in Gore.

"We can’t wait. We absolutely loved it last year we had such a fun time."

The gigs

 - St James Theatre, Gore, Friday, May 31

 - Kurow Hall, Saturday, June 1