PODCAST: Hayseed Dixie are on the highway to the Muster
JOHN Wheeler is best known as the creator and frontman of the internationally known "rockgrass” band Hayseed Dixie who will take the stage at this year's Gympie Muster.
He also performs solo and has produced and performed on albums by many other artists.
He has been given high praise by rock 'n' roll royalty but has some unusual musical influences.
Matt Collins:AC/DC is one of Australia's greatest musical exports. Your band Hayseed Dixie's first album was a series of AC/DC covers. Tell me about your earliest influences with the Aussie band.
John Wheeler:I was born in 1970 and from the time that I was old enough to remember, I can't remember a time when AC/DC wasn't a thing in the southeast part of the United States. The first concert I ever went to was when I was about nine or 10 years old. It was a Hank Williams Jr concert. He had an album out at the time called, Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound. Half the audience at that concert were wearing AC/DC t-shirts. It was kind of the same people.
MC:When you first brought out the album of AC/DC covers, did you expect it would go so well?
JW:No, I thought we were making a record people would play at their barbecues. I never expected to make a cent from it, that wasn't why we did it. I never thought it would turn into a career, I never thought we were going to play live shows.
MC:You were originally playing in universities. When did you know it was going to really take off?
JW:Pretty fast, when the record came out it sold 100,000 in the US in the first six weeks.
MC:Do you feel there is an element of artistic licence that you feel is restricted by playing so many covers?
JW:I don't know, ask Pavarotti that. Ask Miles Davis. Ask someone who conducts a symphony orchestra, every symphony orchestra in the world is a cover band. The way I look at it is the bluegrass tradition is you always play your interpretation of the standards. Same as the jazz tradition. Everyone wants to see what you are going to do with the standards.
MC:Is there a song you haven't covered that would be right up there that you would like to do?
JW:Man, there are so many. We are about to do a new record and I am saying to the band, it might be because I have a 10-year-old daughter, but I would like to do a Taylor Swift song. Like that new song she has done where she says "you need to calm down”. I would really like to sing that. We need to get over all this hate towards each other in the world and bring back the party.
MC:Has there ever been an artist who has come up to you to say they really liked what you had done with their song?
JW:Everyone has been very gracious and respectful. I was at a festival once where Robert Plant was the headliner. We were much earlier on the bill. He came up to me and said, "Man, I really like what you did with that version of Black Dog”. And I said, "That's probably the highest compliment that I am ever going to get”. He said, "No, I have been singing that song for almost 40 years and I heard your version and I realised it was kind of a good melody, so thanks”. I thought that was really cool.
MC:Are there any songs you play that you get tired of?
JW:Probably all of them. Because by the time you make a record you have played it over and over, then you have got to record it, then you do the video, then you've got to listen to it in the mix down. So by the time the record gets released, you have heard it more than you ever want to hear it. But I will say this - when you walk on the stage and you see people having a good time, the song becomes a vehicle for me to deliver everybody a good time. And I never get tired of watching people party.