Melbourne’s Jordie Lane Talks Small Crowds, Medicine Hat and Gram Parsons

Jordie Lane has amassed a reasonable following in his hometown of Melbourne, playing sold out shows at 800-capacity venues. His recent show at The Media Club on the last night of his month-long cross-Canada tour was a slightly quieter affair. With at best two dozen people attending, even the small venue seemed a little empty.

The Australian folk singer has pulled in crowds across the country playing both the Calgary and Winnipeg folk festivals. From Halifax to Vancouver, Lane has been touring with no expectations of where he was going geographically or what kind of venues he’d be playing in.

“We were just happy to play,” he says, adding that the small towns had been great to him.

“In Medicine Hat, we were only meant to do one show but they put a second show on and that sold out. We had a day off two days later, so they invited us back for a third show. It was unexpected that we’d have a demand there.”

With his finger-picked guitar and soulful voice, it’s clear the people of Medicine Hat have good taste in folk singers. Calling Lane a folk singer is the obvious choice, with strong influences from the likes of Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons. But there’s a lot more going on than just a guy with a guitar. Lane manages to paint pictures which evoke dusty country roads and wide open skies. Wearing his heart on his sleeve, his hauntingly beautiful voice carries the songs to a level deeper than many musicians can muster.

The lack of a crowd at The Media Club didn’t bother him even though Lane says it’s much harder to play to very small crowds.

“A thousand people give you all their energy, it’s easy. It falls back out of you, back to them and back to you. If it’s only five people watching, you’ve almost got to create it all yourself. It’s harder because you’re exerting more energy, but I hate doing a show when I feel like I haven’t given it everything.”

“One thing I noticed in the U.S. is that even the really big artists still go and play a small little coffee house or a little bar – they’ll do it as a secret show or whatever – but they’re still going and doing that. Sometimes when I’m back home, it feels like artists get to a certain level and they think they can never go back to that playing-in-the-bar-to-five-people thing. But that was always the most exciting thing for me when I started out, it’s that there was no pressure and it was just about hoping that, even if it was just the barman liking something that you did, then it felt worth it.“

Lane’s fourth album, Live at the Wheaty, was released in Canada last month and is a recording of a live show played in Adelaide last April. Lane does have an album’s worth of material recorded but is unsure at present as to how it will be released.

“There are two definite halves to the album, and I had two producers I really wanted to work with so instead of just choosing one, I chose both producers.” Recording half in Nashville last May and the rest in Lane’s new adopted city of L.A., he’s unsure whether the two will come together as an LP or whether they’ll be released as two EPs. With no confirmed label for a North American or European release, Lane decided to come to Canada to play some shows.

Lane’s obsession with Gram Parsons is obvious as he takes the stage in a ’60s polkadot shirt and green corduroy jacket. Lane spent a lot of time in Joshua Tree, California, boxing himself up in the motel room where Gram Parsons died to record half his album. Lane’s only backing is Clare Reynolds, who’s dressed like a ’70s Bond femme fatale, singing and banging a guitar case as a bass drum. The pair performs with elegance, passion, and total and utter class. The two dozen Media Club spectators clap with enthusiasm at the end of each song, and stand bewildered by the beauty during each finely crafted tune. There’s no encore and no audience requests –  just Lane and Reynolds crafting stories to music and doing it all rather well.

Regardless of Lane’s inability to draw a crowd (yet) in Vancouver, the singer’s performance outstripped many a man with a guitar and many an artist with a much, much larger crowd.