Great North come south


Great North frontman Hayden Donnell got a sore throat just a day out from his national tour.

The bassist Brett Adams busted his finger the second day in, just before the key broke off in the lock of the tour van.

And despite his band’s last two albums both winning the Tui award for best folk album, Donnell’s still labouring in a day job as a journalist.

But when he looks back on these days from some as yet unrealised future, it’ll likely be with fondness and longing anyway.

The Auckland singer songwriter’s on a 12-date tour of the country with an “armada” of talented musicians – wife Rachel, pedal steel guitar player Matt Hutching, Adams and Dianne Swann of The Bads, and Brendan and Alison Turner.

Along with rousing tracks from Tui-winning albums Halves and Up In Smoke, Great North will be debuting new material from an upcoming album tentatively themed around nostalgia for life already lived.

Up In Smoke is about the gradual loss of faith and creeping doubt,” he says.

“The new stuff is a bit more upbeat but kind of like nostalgia for the past. We tend to romanticise the past, put a golden filter on our memories.

“I’m still nutting it out though.”

Donnell says there are five new songs in the set about the freedom of youth, lost friends, and also a drink-drive conviction when he was 17.

“It kind of changed my life – it led to a Christian conversion experience because I was wracked with guilt and looking to atone, and it also capped off a period of my life where I was an idiot.

“But there are other songs that say we were young and free, drank from bottles and didn’t have all these cares and bills.”

The tour comes to The Sherwood this Saturday.

It’s likely one more for listeners than power drinkers, but there’s foot-stomping energy to go with the emotion.

Donnell will be hoping for those prized moments of union with everyone in the room.

“In the best, most honest possible moments on stage you feel the content of the lyrics,” he says.

“It’s hard to get to that level of intimacy because it’s a performance and you’re thinking about doing well, and it’s difficult to just completely relax to the point where you’re not thinking about a dozen other things.

“So yeah you have those moments sometimes, and they’re the ones you look for on stage, where you’re completely invested in the moment and the crowd is completely invested in the moment, but it’s a rare thing.”

Brendan and Alison Turner, and The Bads, will perform their own sets on the tour, but the groups will mix and match, joining each other on stage.

“It’s this house band scenario – Great North will be a five-person band and it’s all pretty flexible.”

Catch Great North, The Bads, Brendan and Alison Turner at The Sherwood this Saturday, 8-11pm. Tickets $5. R18.