IF you play music for the love of it, taking four years to make an album probably doesn’t seem like a long time.
For Cornstalk, a six-piece original roots rock band from Newcastle, it’s been worth it. Last month, on the back of their debut album, Pennies Fall, the band won Best Blues and Roots band at the Australian Independent Music Awards.
“We’ve all got families, day jobs,” says band leader Chris Hamall. “Everything took it’s sweet-arse time. In the end it was about getting an album out, getting the quality out. We didn’t looked at it as a rushed process.”
The other band members are Shayne Hamall (Chris’ brother) of Cardiff Heights, Kane Starkey of Warners Bay, Lyle Goodman of Port Stephens, Ben Pettet of Kotara and Evan Doyle of Cardiff.
“The way the music industry is these days, it’s almost not about the money, it’s about getting to play,” Hamall says. The band will celebrate the CD with a show at the Cambridge on January 21 and is aiming for slots at several blues festivals next year.
Music was always in the Hamalls’ blood. Their father Rex Hamall, now 70, was an award-winning country music performer.
It’s almost not about the money, it's about getting to play.Cornstalk leader Chris Hamall
Cornstalk began as a three-piece acoustic covers band 10 years ago with Chris, Clinton Edwards and Nikola Fisher. Over the years, various guitar players came and went as the band established its own sound. The group won a band comp in 2009 and the prize was an opening slot at a show headlined by The Beautiful Girls.
Cornstalk put out an EP, got songs on independent music compilation CDs and earned commercial radio airtime. They scored a film clip on Video Hits with The Good Life. Their music video Great Love was ranked number 8 in 2013 AIMAS Awards.
Cornstalk’s name originally came from a reference found when band members were scanning through an old dictionary. Under cornstalk, it said “tall skinny men from NSW”, according to Hamall. Research unveiled a reference to an Indian chief called Cornstalk in the US prior to the American Revolution. Cornstalk was killed by American militiamen in an act of betrayal. Legend has it there is a “curse of Cornstalk” to this day.
The band’s music is moulded from classic American southern rock. Hamall likens it to “cross the Black Crowes with Alice in Chains”, a la southern rock/grunge.
“My lead guitar player comes from a heavier background,” he says. “But when it comes to harmony, we have a good crack at the Seattle sound.”
At the end of the day, Cornstalk has its own category of music.
Hamall says; “My idea of playing music, I want people to feel, whether good, bad, sad, joyful – that’s the gift of music.”
Winning a major award at MusicOz, as the independent awards are known, was an encouraging sign that the band has been on the right track for a long time.
“Longevity will get you anywhere, my dad says,” Hamall says. “Longevity gets you the gold card. Despite knockbacks, knockdowns, you’ve got to believe in yourself.”