Kaelan Barowsky; Supplied

Home Music Music Features

Samantha Fish & Hussy Hicks Can’t Wait for Blues on Broadbeach

Rolling Stone AU/NZ got the blues acts together for a fun conversation before they head to Blues on Broadbeach 2024

Next month, Gold Coast’s Blues on Broadbeach festival will be shaking with heavy-hitting blues rock acts from around the world.

Among the impressive artists on the lineup, Samantha Fish, along with her collaborator Jesse Dayton, will be bringing their ongoing Death Wish Blues album to the festival stage, kicking off an Australian tour along the way (see full dates here).

And who better to get them ready for their visit than Gold Coast locals and fellow blues duo Hussy Hicks?

Comprised of Julz Parker and Leesa Gentz, Hussy Hicks have earned a strong reputation on the Australian live circuit, in no small part due to their ability to traverse many genres, from rollicking blues and roots anthems to wistful alt-country and folk tales to even 80s-indebted power ballads.

In the latest Rolling Stone AU/NZ artist-on-artist interview, Fish and Parker found common ground in a fun back-and-forth. It helped that Parker had recently seen Fish play at a Colorado guitar festival, setting the stage for their conversation. 

And both Samantha Fish and Hussy Hicks are united by a shared musical vision: they should simply rock out, and their music should showcase their profound passion for the sounds of blues, roots, and rock.

Read their full conversation below, and catch both acts live at Blues on Broadbeach 2024, returning to the Gold Coast for four unforgettable days of music from May 16th to 19th.

Check out the full program at bluesonbroadbeach.com

Julz Parker: Is this your first time coming to Blues on Broadbeach? It’s a great festival, one of our local staples.

Samantha Fish: Yeah.

Parker: Are there any of the artists on the bill that you’re excited about seeing if you get a chance?

Fish: Isn’t Ana [Popović] on there? I haven’t seen Melissa Etheridge yet – she’s fantastic, obviously! I live in New Orleans now and I’ve been hip to Jon Cleary since I lived in Kansas City. I love him. He is so great; his band is so, so tight. We just did a cruise with them, The Big Easy Cruise, and he was easily one of my favourites performing just because his band is so incredible. Ana, she’s virtuosic on the guitar man, she’s a great player. It sounds like it’s gonna be a solid lineup. Then you’ve got us. Who knows what people are going to say about that, but I’m excited to be there.

Parker: Your album with Jesse is great. When we recorded our 2020 album, Gather Up the People, Mavis Staples’ “We’ll Never Turn Back” was just a weird touchstone for us even though it didn’t end up sounding like that in any way, so I was wondering, in the making of Death Wish Blues with Jesse was there something that you kept coming back to as an influence?

Fish: We definitely had a ‘North Star’ that we just kept coming back to and it was our first time collaborating and writing together. We just had to keep checking in with each other going, ‘Okay, is this in line with what we’re trying to do? Does this feel right?’

We wanted it to be this really rough and raw, almost funk-rock influenced blues album. Then some surprising influences came into play. Once we got into the studio, there’s like this Bee Gees-esque song on the record, with the backing vocals – I think we’d all seen that documentary [The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart] right at the same time so we just kept talking about this song and these harmonies and how it kind of felt in this pocket here.

But yeah, there are little moments like that all over the record where I can kind of recall that yeah, we definitely were just trying to create chaos in the mix of like this conversation back and forth. 

Parker: There are beautiful tones across the record and even just from a sonic point of view, the use of distortions across vocals and the guitars is really beautiful. And while we’re on the album, I love the baritone sounds – is the baritone gonna make the tour this trip?

Fish: I wish! I’ve been trying to get Jesse to play that baritone almost every night. You know, he’s like me, a creature of habit, and he’s got this amazing King guitar that’s a custom build and is totally him – it’s like an extension of who he is. I brought my baritone out – I have this beautiful silver sparkle baritone that I thought would be perfect for our show – it made a couple of shows but it didn’t stick around very long.

I’m going to use it at some point in mine because I love the texture of it, but it really lends itself well when you’ve got two guitar players and sonically you’re trying to, like, create some space. I think it’s a really exciting texture, and I think on the record, it just gives that song “Dangerous People” such a cool, effortless feeling. So yeah, I love the baritone. 

Parker: I understand your first collaboration was The Stardust Sessions, a collection of covers. Were there any unexpected benefits or problems you came across extending this collaboration to your own tunes?

Fish: That was our first studio session, writing session, the whole nine yards. He came to my city where I’m living in New Orleans and we were supposed to write together, so we rented this studio, this writing room, and I think both of us were like deer in the headlights, we didn’t know where to start.

So we really sat in this room for, like, two or three days just getting to know each other better, talking about music influences, and my manager called and said, ‘Hey, come up with a few covers. You’re going into the studio tomorrow, so we wanna see what you guys sound like together. Also send me the songs you guys have written.’ And I said, ‘Oh, we haven’t written a single song.’

He was probably not too pleased with us but I think we needed that Stardust Sessions, so we went into the studio and we chose those songs because they kind of embodied the sound and the things that we wanted, our ‘North Star’, the style we [were] going after.

Once we got through that, it was like the floodgates opened creatively between us. I think neither of us said “no” to a lot of things. We both were trying to keep positive flows going. I think collaboration opened both [of] us up in a way to do things that maybe we wouldn’t normally on our own. We didn’t have this pressure or onus of a solo record where it has to be 100% me. With a collaboration you’re like, ‘This could be me because I’m doing something different and I can explore,’ and we tried different things that we both fell in love with.

Parker: So, you’re coming to the Gold Coast, and Blues on Broadbeach is right on the beach. Have you played many festivals right on the beach? 

Fish: I’ve done some beach festivals before – we just played Jamaica, the Island Exodus, with Government Mule and that was pretty cool. Florida has a lot of beach festivals and so does California but nothing in Australia yet, so that’s just going to be extremely exciting. 

Parker: In your spare time are you more likely to go to the beach for a walk or a swim, go out to the hinterland and look at a waterfall, do a hike, or end up in Surfers Paradise in a nightclub till 3am?

Fish: It depends on how many days that I’m gonna be there. If I can do all of that, I’m going to. I’m a surf and a sand kind of chick, but if you told me there’s a rainforest/waterfall situation with nature, that’s pretty hard to beat. I’m open to all kinds of experiences… dancin’ in a nightclub? Only if no one’s watching! I love a good dive bar. 

Parker: There are a few good dive bars within walking distance of the festival. I mean Broadbeach will be full of full bars for the festival, and then there are great dive bars up in Surfers and Southport. Burleigh Point is a lovely place to go for a walk. It’s really accessible, just fifteen minutes down the beach from Broadbeach. You can walk through the headland and there are old geological things and native turkeys and stuff.

Fish: Awesome. I love it. And I’ve heard good things about Hussy Hicks. I’m so excited, I really can’t wait. It’s quickly becoming one of my favourite things, coming down to Australia.

Parker: Who, for you, has the guitar tone that cuts into your soul as an artist?

Fish: I talk about B.B. King a lot and I don’t sound like him, obviously, but there’s just something about his tone that’s just unmistakeable, and the way that he would play off of his voice, it was so conversational. I mean, he’s one of my all-time favourite blues guitar players. And as far as contemporaries go I think Derek Trucks is a guy whose guitar tone is so unique to him – when he rolls a solo he makes me want to cry, he’s so emotive. 

Parker: Now, I’m a guitar geek so I’m really intrigued to know – do you have anything where you really dissected and got your head around a song?

Fish: I was a big fan of Keith Richards, so I wanted to know, like, who did Keith Richards listen to? I’d listen to him and I’d find out he loved Muddy Waters. A lot of my favourite rock ’n’ rollers were into blues guitar players. But I remember this song, Freddie King’s “Same Old Blues”, something about that chord progression, I just had to know how he did that, how he emoted in that way.

I was learning the intro part – I think it’s just a piano playing solo – but I ended up playing it with my trio for years and I never nailed it, obviously. I don’t think anybody can play like Freddie King, but there was just something about [it]. There’s like a hesitation, almost like he anticipates the note – it was a feel that I wanted to absorb so badly. And in sitting there and just feeding that into my head for so long I found my own way to play it, which is what you do, right? 

Parker: What about a big classic rock one that might not be cool anymore, but that’s okay?

Fish: I wanted to learn “American Girl” so bad, that’s such an anthem, and I felt like that told the story of my life and everybody I knew. I love Tom Petty and [Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers member] Mike Campbell has written some of the most iconic guitar riffs ever, and they’re so understated. I just think he’s amazing.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by hussyhicks (@hussyhicks)

Parker: I was not aware of how amazing he was until we played – speaking of beach festivals – the Hang Out Festival in Gulf Shores, and Tom Petty was playing. I always knew that I liked Tom Petty but I had no idea until he started and we were in the hammocks backstage and I’m listening and [the] sound of guitar was amazing – it was iconic and anthemic.

You don’t even know that you know that many Tom Petty songs and you don’t even know that you sing all those guitar parts. They’re just so integral and I realised what a huge gap in my knowledge not realising how great he was.”

Fish: It’s wild because the songs are iconic and the words are iconic but then when you match just as iconic guitar riffs – like it’s just hooks after hooks after hooks – yeah, you’re singing all of the parts. For me that’s the earmark of a really great songwriter. I read this quote about Tom Petty, and it’s so true, you go see him [and] he has like 30,000 people in the crowd singing for 30,000 different reasons to one song. His songs just had a way of affecting people and just really connecting to their life and their story. And then add iconic guitar riffs on top, it’s like – one of my favourite bands of all time.

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine