Joe Camilleri is Australian music royalty. With 47 albums under his belt, including 28 as a member of The Black Sorrows, his name is as iconic as Ross Wilson, Daryl Braithwaite and John Farnham (who he is currently touring with).
You might think then, that press is just another mindless task for the renowned guitarist. But that’s not the case for the affable and lovely man who I talked to over the phone. In fact, when I congratulated him on The Black Sorrows ARIA Award nomination for Best Blues & Roots Album with Endless Sleep, he was wholly unflustered and humbled by the event.
“It’s always a nice thing. The red flag goes up and everybody says, ‘Oh…is Joe still working out here?’ But you know, we do 150 shows a year, and so making records is just part of the thing I do and love. It’s cool that somebody has the time to listen to it and critique it on that level,” he says.
While the Australian music industry has changed significantly since Joe’s entrance in 1975, his passion for music has not. “Winning an award today in the climate of the record industry in 2015 doesn’t have the same emphasis as it did, probably in the ’80s or the ’90s, where if we probably won the award we’d probably sold 40 thousand records on the back of it. It doesn’t work that way. You know, you can win the award and still be in Balukaville,” he explains. “It’s kind of a nice thing. I don’t make music for that, you know, I just make music because it’s soul food for me. “
After chatting with Joe, it seemed natural to identify him on a first name basis. And it became clear that rather than relishing in the success of his past, he chooses to embrace the possibilities ahead. “My thing is to write the best song that I can write with my co writer Nick Smith, and once again, as honest as it can be. And then, without any trickery. You should have a reasonable record whether it’s out on time is always irrelevant.”
As Joe says, “I never stop, love,” and you immediately sense that as he talks about the pros and cons of touring. “We got back from Europe and we did 23 shows in 25 days in Europe…so you kind of come back to Australia a couple of inches shorter,” he laughs. “It’s a thing that I love. It’s my work. My livelihood and also I love it, so I love my job. I’m really quite fortunate. “
As he talks about the intensity of travelling between shows, he shares some exciting news with me. ”I’ve had a good week. My daughter’s just had her first child. She’s one day old.” Obviously in love with being a grandfather, he opens up more. “The world has got everything in it…but of course, there’s nothing like a new life. People put down their arms and they welcome a child to the universe.”
The biggest fan of his own band there is, “These guys could be playing with anybody, and they choose to play with me,” and in the constant pursuit of making new music, 2016 looks to be the most exciting year yet for Joe Camilleri.
Aside from the release of Joe’s upcoming 48th album, The Black Sorrows will return to Europe with new representation, and after chatting with him it is abundantly clear that bigger things are yet to come from this iconic musician. “I think it’s a new frontier for me. You know, I’ve got an opportunity to be the best I can.”
Joe Camilleri’s Black Sorrows are playing at 13th Beach Golf Links for Karingal’s Music to a Tee concert on Friday 4 December.