FOR someone who is firmly in the spotlight as a solo singer-songwriter, Catherine Britt is looking forward to fading into the background in her new band The Hillbilly Killers.
Well, not exactly into the background, but at least she can shuffle a little further back on stage when playing rhythm guitar and singing harmonies, interspersed with lead vocal duties.
Catching up with LIVE after a busy few weeks, including playing a sold-out first gig for The Hillbilly Killers at the Tamworth Country Music Festival and opening CMC Rocks The Hunter with her solo set, Britt explained just why her new side project was so attractive. It wasn't just being able to work with Tim Rogers ("one of my favourite writers ever in the world") and country music "hillbilly daddy" Bill Chambers ("we all know how much I adore Bill Chambers").
"I was looking for a little bit of a challenge and a change. I've been doing my solo thing pretty much my whole life, since I was very young, and I've always dreamed about this side career as a band member, harmony singer, rhythm guitar player," Britt said.
"I guess being outside of the spotlight but still getting to be a part of the music was always such a desire for me as a little thing I do secretly or on the side or whatever. Then [The Hillbilly Killers] came up and I was like, 'Oh my God, my dreams are fulfilled'.
"We all share the lead vocals, so there are times when I'm stepping up and singing lead vocals, but then sometimes I'm just staying back and keeping the rhythm and singing harmonies; that to me is one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done. Being on stage with those guys and bouncing off them is just so easy to do and it makes for such an exciting, fun, really easy to watch show. I'm pretty pumped to get into a groove with the boys on the road."
The band, including Britt, Chambers, Rogers and two other musos, was formed when Chambers approached Britt to form a Hank Williams tribute band. US singer-songwriter Williams is widely regarded as one of - if not the most - influential country music artist of all time.
Though saying yes to being a Hillbilly Killer was a no-brainer, getting the members together to write, practise and record proved much harder. In the two or so years since Chambers approached Britt with the concept, The Hillbilly Killers have all been in the same room only a handful of times thanks to the band's five members living in different cities up and down the east coast.
But The Hillbilly Killers have managed to overcome busy schedules and geographical issues to record an as yet untitled debut album to be released later this year. They are also heading on tour, including playing The Gum Ball from April 25 to 28 at Belford in the Hunter Valley.
"It has been really hard work to make this happen . . . everything has taken so long to get to this point so I'm glad I stuck with it and pursued it because I'm so proud of this album," Britt said. "We've all written the songs ourselves, it's a totally new sound and nothing like anything any of us do solo. It's pretty out there, but it's amazing, I love it."
You can hear the excitement in Britt's voice when she talks about The Hillbilly Killers, and it peaks when she discusses being on stage with big names Rogers and Chambers. The band played their first gig at the Tamworth Country Music Festival. Reflecting the anticipation from fans of country music and the musicians in their solo careers, the room was packed after selling out a few days prior.
"For a relatively new band that was our first show so it was pretty incredible to have that response and the audience just ate it up. It is quite different. At the end of the day we've got Tim Rogers in the band," she said with a laugh, "so, it's always going to be a little bit out there and a little bit rock'n'roll and a little bit crazy. But that's what the band is all about, it's called The Hillbilly Killers for a reason, and it really sums up the band and the music that we're doing."
The Hillbilly Killers play The Gumball alongside a host of acts including The Medics, The Eastern, Money For Rope, Benjalu, Mojo Juju, Mia Dyson, The Beards, Saskwatch and Katalyst. The BYO camping festival runs over three nights at Belford from April 25. Visit thegumball.com.au.