Melinda Schneider doesn’t have to look far to find a great woman of country. She was raised by one.
Mary Schneider is 85 years old and can still yodel with the best of them. She will be joining her daughter on stage for the Great Women Of Country tour, which brings to life the album of the same name released by Melinda and Beccy Cole in 2014.
The concert is Melinda Schneider’s heartfelt homage to the singers, songs and songwriters who have helped to shape her career – the likes of Tammy Wynette, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parson and Dolly Parton.
“Yes, mum will be my special guest at the New Lambton show. She released a new album back in October, two days after her 85th birthday,” Schneider tells Weekender.
“She can’t really tour or do big long shows any more so it’s nice to be able to invite her along and she can come up and sing a couple of duets and a couple of songs on her own. After all, she’s the one who introduced me to a lot of these wonderful songs from the great women of country.”
Schneider describes her mother as “an absolute inspiration” and laughs at the memory of the time she went on the Howard Stern show in the US. He was intrigued by her combination of scat singing and yodelling and described her to listeners as the “Ella Fitzgerald of yodelling”.
“It was my idea to throw her into that lion’s den but he was lovely, actually, very respectful. I was there as a buffer, to step in if he asked her anything about yodelling and sex in the same sentence.”
Schneider has won six Golden Guitars to date and has a swag of songwriting awards. The artists she admires and has been influenced by all defied convention through their lyrics – and did it with humour.
“The females are the ones who were groundbreaking, really. What about Loretta Lynn’s The Pill in the ’60s? It was a very different time to be speaking up about birth control,” she says.
“A lot of my songs have got that ‘I love you, you’re perfect, now change’, or ‘Sometimes it takes balls to be a woman’. I was always drawn to songs about being held back, or being held down, as a woman.”
Schneider is vocal, too, about the “cringe factor” that she believes taints the image of mainstream country music in Australia.
“Sadly, I think the music industry in general is quite snobby about mainstream country music. They like the Americana stuff and rootsy, alternative music. But if it’s mainstream, I don’t think it garners the same respect. And it should,” she says. “It’s a little bit of a beef for me.”
She is working on a new album that is due for release later this year and is, she says, “an album for women”.
“I became a mum five years ago and I feel like I’ve experienced all these things that I used to write about without actually knowing what it felt like to go through them. I can write about that stuff now, and with more authority.”