Dirt Music

Dirt Music

Andrew McLellan, 11th November 2015
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Dirt MusicA quick scan of his past interviewees is enough to convince anyone Stuart Coupe is something of a bona-fide Australian music legend – never mind a career also spent managing record labels and some of the household names in Australian music.

An avid music journalist, writer, and commentator through all media on all things music, you would be forgiven for thinking he has little time to also present a weekly radio show – let alone two! While the Sydney-based Coupe finds himself at FBi to present Tune Up each Tuesday, on Saturdays he’s at 2SER for Dirt Music to cover the history of roots, country, Americana and blues. It is one of the more recent additions to the Community Radio Network schedule, finding new audiences for someone who has been talking and living the music biz for decades.

We caught up with Stuart to hear about his community radio career to date.

When and where did you first become involved in Community Radio?

I had actually co-hosted a 2SER show called Funk To Punk in the early 1980s, but that was only for a short period of time and I didn’t panel, I only talked. Around September 2003, about a month after FBi officially went on air, Meagan Loader asked me if I’d consider presenting an alt-country/Americana show for six months. That sounded like fun so I did all the training and the all-nighters to get the hang of the studio. Six months became a year - it’s now getting towards the end of 2015 and I’m still there, still loving it. I presented the alt country show Lyricism for a few years, then the ‘this is your life through music’ show titled Out Of The Box, before suggesting Tune Up which is a cover versions show (that I’m guessing has been going for 8/9 years now!). I still love recalling counting in the first New Year on FBi in 2003 going in to 2004.

Can you tell us about how the program idea for Dirt Music came about, and how you became involved in 2SER?

 I love cover versions but when Andrew Khedoori and Anthony Dockrill at 2SER asked if I would meet for coffee one day and suggested I do (again, initially a short lived) show leading up to Bluesfest that was a wide ranging ‘real/authentic’ music show I was excited. It was meant to be just a few months but obviously they implied that it might continue if they were happy and I was enjoying it. And again, some years later I’m still happily there and the show has gone from one to two hours. The idea was really to take what we seem to call roots music and build a show around that - with no real genre restrictions. So a typical show can and does include blues, soul, jazz, reggae, Americana, funk, rock’n’roll . . . whatever feels right as I’m doing the show. Yes, I pinched the name from the Tim Winton novel - and also it’s the name of one of Hugo Race’s bands.

You’ve done a lot of really high profile interviews, who have been some of your memorable guests?

Outside of community radio I start with Bob Dylan (twice) and work backwards, but on Dirt Music, boy, there’s been Jackson Browne, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, Rickie Lee Jones, George Clinton, Chick Corea, Dave Alvin, Mike Scott - lots and lots of really great artists. In terms of a highlight I think it’s hard to top Justin Townes Earle on FBi. It was his second or maybe third appearance on the show so we knew each other a bit. I always ask the guests to sing a cover live in the studio. Justin did an amazing, breathtaking, version of Dreams by Fleetwood Mac. I thought it was special and it was as a week later his record company asked for a recording as Justin and his management wanted to hear it again. They loved it so much that it was included as a bonus track on the Australia and New Zealand versions of his Absent Fathers album - with a nice cover reference to FBi. That was pretty cool.

Are there folks on your wishlist that you love to get a chance to interview and feature on the program?

Bob Dylan! Neil Young. I’ve put out the request for Jeff Tweedy when he’s in Australia next March. In all honesty there’s dozens of them - just people who I love whose stories and music I’d love to share with listeners. I’m a huge fan of Robert Forster and when he came on the show he told some of the best stories about Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt which were a delight to put to air.  But a third interview with Bob Dylan live in the 2SER studios - that would be something. I’m not ruling it out! In this caper you just never know!

Can you talk a little about Roots music, what it means to you as a genre and your own personal take on it?

 I’m really not sure what it is to be honest - I think I just know it when I hear it. I sort of define it as anything that doesn’t feel fake, facile or fashion-driven - which is why what I play on Dirt Music ranges all over the music spectrum. I mean, reggae covers of disco songs - that’s roots music right? I suspect I push the standard definition of ‘roots’ music on Dirt Music and I’ll keep doing that until someone tells me to stop - and then I may or may not listen to them!

I know you’re personally into lots of different styles of music, does doing a genre show mean you listen less to other types of music?

I guess I sort of answered that in the previous response. For most of my life I’ve had a mantra that there’s nothing wrong with loving Hank Williams and ABBA - at the same time. I listen to pretty much anything and whilst it hasn’t happened yeat I can really imagine a Dirt Music show that includes both Hank Williams and ABBA. Please don’t argue with me that ABBA are an authentic Swedish roots band . . . 

What does the future hold for Dirt Music?

Going from two to three hours and then a whole afternoon maybe. I’m not sure. I love doing the show and it’s a pleasure and a privilege to have the opportunity each week to go on the radio and talk with people about music and play a whole bunch of seemingly disparate songs and try and make them all hang together as a show. It’s a weekly juggling act that I find thrilling. I’m lucky to have the opportunity. I often ask friends ‘what’s not to like about having a radio show?'.

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