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4 April 2014 : Oh so much god damn learning… 

After nearly 20 years, I’m getting guitar lessons again and I’m finally learning music theory to boot(geez it hurts the brain!). My good mate and phenomenal guitarist Dylan Ryche is my taskmaster on 'the skype' from Toronto. Very excited to look back at what the hell I’ve been writing all these years from a different perspective. I’m slowly overcoming my fear of learning languages and am back on the Vietnamese lessons too. Physics and maths were always where my intuitive skills lay. I almost failed high school English; I just could never understand why I would need to write 4 pages worth to answer a question that I could easily summarise in a sentence or two.  
Music is a language, but it’s also very mathematical. I always thought that part of it would lead me in to its depths, but the very sight of letters seemed to make it impossible for my brain to calculate the interval between a B and an E within 32 seconds, even though I completed advanced linear algebra, vector calculus and nuclear physics at university. Very strange. Letters, for some reason, scared me. Turn them into numbers and I’m away, but don’t ask me to transpose a song from the key of G to the key of Eb if you want to play it before tomorrow.
 
It seems kind of fitting that I’m now learning one of the most difficult languages for English-speakers to learn. Where English only has one tone, Vietnamese has 6 tones and a few extra vowel sounds. This means that any, and almost every, word can have up to six different meanings depending on the inflection and tone used. The opportunities for hilarious mispronunciations are endless. Ask a work colleague if she is busy, and end up asking for a condom instead, etc.
 
If this wasn’t enough to keep my brain guessing, I’ve just started getting singing lessons as well. From a Vietnamese teacher, classically trained, who doesn’t speak a word of English and is teaching me Italian opera songs and Vietnamese folk songs. The whole learning how to breathe properly for singing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, I’d say. The idea is that you need to relax all you chest and throat and belly and back, breathe not into your chest, but into your belly and the down into your lower back, pushing your diaphragm down as far as it can go. Then to breathe out you need to push down with your diaphragm further into your lower back…such a head fuck. It’s made a bit more difficult in that I had an Australian football injury as a 14 year old where I fractured my back and had some minor nerve damage. So now when I breathe deep down into my back it presses on all that old injured area and reignites a fire of nerve and muscle pain through my legs and up to my neck. But it’s coming along slowly and bit by bit becoming less and less painful. I’ll be singing like Pavarotti in no time.
 
The album is oh so close! Stay tuned!
 

26 February 2014 : Album Cover and a Cave 

The album artwork is done and I am the first person to play guitar in the world’s largest cave. I can rest contented now. 
It’s been the longest album cover design process in the history of the world, but it’s been worth it. A few technical and contractual issues with the graphic designer, but all systems go now. Can’t wait to share some of the images with you.
 
February has been a big month. I was also extremely privileged to be one of the first 100 people to get to trek and camp through the world’s largest cave in central Vietnam. The Son Doong cave is hidden in the misty mountains near Phong Nha in Quang Binh province. It was only discovered and explored a few years ago and only opened to the public in late 2013. It’s a beautifully fragile ecosystem with ancient forests 150m down inside the cave in places where the roof has caved in. In parts the cave is more than 200m high and 180m wide; a truly enormous space. It was humbling to be wandering around in such a place.
 

With some guidance from Ben at the Phong Nha homestay, a font of local area knowledge, I bought a locally made guitar from Hue and trekked with it through the jungle and the cave for 4 days. The porters slowly became more and more enamoured with the instrument around the campfire each evening. They figured they could play practically any song they wanted simply by strumming the open guitar with no fingers or chords in the same strumming pattern that may or may not have had anything to do with the rhythm of the song. By some stroke of luck, our grumpy English tour guide managed to restrain himself from smashing the guitar over the porters’ heads when they decided to play a delightful ballad at 6am one morning. There’s amazing acoustics in that cave.
 

 
The holy guitar remains in the last campsite of the trek, so keep an eye out if you ever happen to head down that way. And maybe take a spare string or two.


 

27 October 2013 : Giggin again 

The album cover photo shoot is finished. A huge thank you to Maddie and Trish for their brilliant, creative thoughts and execution of the plan on a rare clear Hanoi night. And following a few month hiatus I’ve finally started gigging again, doing some solo shows and open mic nights around town. There’s a real vibrant music community here with lots of talented people. I’ve never seen so many really decent acts at an open mic night with the crowd engaged the whole time. There’s not a great amount of venues to play in Hanoi and the scene that would come listen to Freddie McLennan’s music is mostly expats, and there’s actually not a huge expat community here, so opportunities are a bit limited. 

Vietnamese music tastes, particularly in Hanoi, tend to be older style ballads, love songs and sugary pop (obviously that’s a generalization). And tastes and trends move quite slowly in this part of the world as well. I am, however, extremely grateful to have been introduced to youtube karaoke, where you write the name of any song you can think of and give it to the diligent attendant who searches the electronic ether for any karaoke version available and brings it up on the screen in your room. Oh! to be unbound from the shackles of the karaoke song book!! I hope this format sweeps the world.
 

14 August 2013 : Ok, ok, ok… 

Yes, it’s been ages. But there’s life to be lived and amazing beaches and forests to visit in a new country. I’m now making some progress on the album cover concept and design, looking forward to doing a photo shoot soon.

5 June 2013 : All good things … 

So, the album’s done (just a few minor mixing tweaks to finish) and now I’m in Hanoi. I’d suggest it’s time to take a deep breath, but the smog is pretty gosh darn thick today. It’s a beautiful city though, thoroughly enjoying exploring and meeting new people already. But back to the album, damn it was fun. The Duck was an engineering genius, Tim showed his true animal form on the drums, and the amount of wine and cheese consumed throughout the duration was most satisfactory, considering I had to finish off my collection of reds before moving countries.

Stay tuned for more album news.

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22 April 2013 : Farewell, but not before another album! 

Well, Cam is pissing off to Vietnam for some kind of ‘job’ over there and tearing the band asunder. But the imminent demise of this Freddie McLennan phase has spurred a flurry of activity, particularly in the album creation department. We’re going back to the studio!! We’ve got two weeks booked in May for recording and mixing at Infidel Studios in Queanbeyan. Can’t wait to get stuck into it!

9 April 2013 : Promotion Locomotion… 

Apparently the digital age is upon us. The quandary of a modern day musician – whether to go totally digital or still get some CDs printed as well…  
The album has been selling well, mostly digital, the hard copies are mostly for sale at gigs. We’ve also decided to use them to try a now old-fashioned technique of sending them around to a bunch of independent and local radio stations all around Australia. It’s been an interesting process, trying to find relevant programs and presenters on each of about 60 radio stations that would want to play our songs. We’ve had some good responses and some stations giving a few songs a spin, but it’s a bit of a black hole to send off a bunch of albums at not insubstantial cost and sit around and wait to see what happens.
 
Obviously a band can’t just sit around and wait to see what happens and expect everyone to start listening to their music. Groundswell, momentum, hype, promotion across a bunch of different mediums is required (unless you’re a freak – you know who you are). And at the top of the list is playing live. A lot. A band’s most valuable commodity is its ability to entertain a live crowd and get people talking about you. Easier said than done.
 
Many a movie shows the hilariously entertaining demise of bands trying work out the finer points of how to share the groupies or deal with their first bad review that happens to be in Rolling Stone magazine. It’s a cut-throat business and keeping a band together and agreeing on how often to practice and perform and where the limits of an eastern European tour should be are difficult conversations for the closest knit bunch of troubadours. Deciding how often to perform can also be a delicate business when living in a town with less people than the average stock count of a Northern Territory cattle farm. Market over-saturation is a real concern when there’s only 3 or 4 decent live music venues suitable for your band in your home town.
 
Hence, it comes with regret, sadness as well as hope and excitement, to tell you that Cam is moving to the greener pastures of Hanoi in the next couple of months to try his hand in the soon-to-be booming V-pop scene. He also happens to have got an Environmental Engineering job there, which will help pay the bills until things kick off.
 
So stay tuned for details of our last few gigs in C-town! There’s also some talk of another Freddie McLennan album in the works in the not too distant future…
 

23 February 2013 : Grazias amigos! 

Such a great turn out and good vibes all round. Thanks for coming out to the album launch on Thursday! Beth & Ben were delightful in kicking off the night and I can’t thank my door biatches enough, especially John, who unwittingly asked my mother if she’d like me to sign her bosom. Good form, goooood form!  
Thanks to The Front for having us and being the most chilled place to play music in the Nation’s capital.
 
Buy my album 'Time Will Tell' here!
 

 

2 February 2013 : Ready, set, drop! 

Album launch locked in! At the Front Gallery and Bar on Thursday 21 Feb with local songsters Beth & Ben. CDs are being printed as I write, thanks to some amazing artwork by Rebecca Lane. Put it in your diaries people!