Dave Dondero is an American folk singer on his third tour in Australia.
He calls Duluth, Minnesota, home, but has lived in various parts of America, making a living in the music business for more than two decades.
We caught up with him over a cup of of coffee on his drive south after the Bellingen Music Festival.
Dave, it’s your third visit to Australia. What’s the main attraction for you?
Probably the rainbow lorikeet, but was pretty amazing to almost see the platypus in Yungaburra (I saw the bubbles coming up from the murky water). I do like to see a cuddly echidna as well. I saw one just yesterday. The fauna is my main attraction.
It appears you understand Australia’s coffee culture? What do you drink?
I drink it all day long and usually start with a "flat white" in the morning but switch to the "tall black" in the afternoon.
What intricacies of Australian culture stick in your mind the most?
People are much more polite and surf culture seems to be more prominent.
You’re down here for a month, doing your own driving - what are you listening to at the moment?
I've been listening to a podcast called "Waking up" with Sam Harris.
You’re not stuck on love songs, are you? What makes a good song?
I'm not sure but I'm trying to find out.
How much do you vary your show based on the crowd and the venue?
I try to stick to the same 60 songs but choose 12 out of the 60 and then add in an extra 40 with a medley if need be.
Do you spend much time on or off stage trying to explain American politics to people down here?
I'm no expert on American politics, but I'm not sure it even exists anymore.
How light do you travel? Just one guitar?
I travel with one guitar and one change of clothes.
What is your most requested song? And why?
it varies. I suppose "The Real Tina Turner" is the catchiest one because of the repeating chorus. Seems to get the most requests. But lately "The Presidential Palace of Pornography" is being asked for due to the current dark cloud hanging over the states.
Have you written any songs about Australia? If you did, what do you think subject would be?
I've written a song about it called "Aleuitious and the Typewriter Keys". It was recorded in a couple hours on a hot afternoon in the "Car Hole Studio" in Austin, Texas. We used some fun sounds including those jangly meditation balls, a Mattel Optigan organ and flanged out trumpet. The opening line says "Wrap your laughing gear around this one mate!" which is what some dude said to me when he handed me a bacon and egg sandwich at some coffee shop in Yungaburra. It was keeper line and I had to steal it for the intro. "Kakadoo Bar B Q the Kangaroo" comes from the name brand of some kangaroo meat we bought at the local grocery store in Gympie.
Also in the song: "Oh the dreadful Irukandji i don't want to get them on me." The extremely venomous creature that is found in the waters of North Queensland. They have safety nets to keep out the sharks for swimming but the Irukandji are tiny and can penetrate the nets. If you get stung it will be two weeks of excruciating pain where you'd rather be dead.
And “The Custard Apple and the Brazil Cherry.” Unique additions to any "Brekky'" with yogurt in the morning and muesli. That custard-like center and the tartness of the Brazil Cherry. A nice light way to start the day while travelling in the oncoming summer heat of December in North Queensland. All the way up to Port Douglas we travelled through Bundaberg where they make the rum, the sugar cane growing along the side of the road all the way up past Rockhampton and Cairns. Cairns with the giant public pool by the sea and acres of water to enjoy.
We had stopped at a park to look at some Monitor Lizards and Darren Hanlon [the tour’s main attraction] told me about the Southern Cassowary with its lethal talons. He may have been pulling my leg, but told me these birds were the most dangerous in the world and would run at you and try to claw out your intestines with their razor sharp talons.
We did a lot of driving at night and you could see flames on the horizon. They were burning off the sugar cane fields before harvest. To make it easier to extract the cane they eliminate the leaves. There are brown snakes that live in those fields and I've heard they were deadly. As we drove along the road next to the flaming fields of sugar cane Darren pointed out several of them slithering across the road in front of us to escape the fire. This is what I remember from the last time through Australia. I hope you like the song.
Dondero plays at Frank’s Wild Years in Thirroul on Friday, July 20; MONA in Hobart on July 21, a house show in Launceston on July 22, Old Bar in Melbourne on July 25, Tanswell’s in Beechworth, Victoria, on July 27, Smith’s Alternative in Canberra on July 28, a house show in Candelo on July 29 and the Gasometer Hotel in Melbourne on July 30.
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