Cashion, Oklahoma (population 832) isn’t the first place you’d associate with the musical awakening of one of Australia’s rising stars. Indeed you’d think that Australia’s latest folk ingénue would have had her musical seeds sown amongst the creative community centered around Terrigal on New South Wales’ Central Coast where she grew up. After all, it’s where this worldly gypsy finds herself coming back to after tiring of life in the ‘big smoke’ in the big city which she admits ‘is just not for me at the moment’.
Unusually, Anabelle Kay had her musical awakening in the tiny town of Cashion in the US Midwest, a place so small you could be forgiven for wondering where the tumbleweeds are floating down the main street most days. As Kay explains, it was living there for several years in her teens that she met her greatest muse and inspiration.
Elaborating, Kay says; ‘ Oklahoma had a big influence on my music – it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gone there. I had my heart set on becoming a sports superstar but if I hadn’t have met this particular girl in Cashion I became great friends with it wouldn’t have come to pass. Her encouragement led to me performing for the first time which just wouldn’t have happened while I was living in Terrigal.’
Despite the somewhat unorthodox musical birth, in a place most people have often only attributed to two types of music – country and western – Kay finds herself receiving plaudits from the music industry and fans alike. Similarities to seminal artists such as Joan Baez, Gillian Welch, Karen Dalton and Laura Marling are bandied around, and in picking up play on Triple J, FBi, 2SER, Double J, ABC 702 and PBS, while also soundtracking TV programs such as Home & Away, Neighbours, and Winners & Losers she’s been picking up fans at a rapid pace.
It was from the furthest you can get from Oklahoma, however, that Kay has spent her time most recently; Once again in isolation, living and working with indigenous communities up in Gove in the Northern Territory, a near spiritual experience that gave rise to the songs in her latest EP ” I Think I’m Lost, My Love”.
As she notes, while she was ‘working for a community club working and booking bands – flying bands from Sydney and so on up to Nhulunbuy- ‘I took it upon myself to try and get original bands happening’ she also found herself a regular on stage at the local community club where various legendary members of the local Yolngu community including the legendary Saltwater Band would come and jam. Naturally she couldn’t help but join in and it was during these jam sessions that the songs that would form I Think I’m Lost, My Love received their first outings. As Kay explains, ‘the experience of collaborating with locals was profound – most of songs on the EP were written after a jam the previous night’.
The songs, ranging from haunting and plaintive ballads to accusatory denunciations of past lovers; run the gamut of human emotion and inevitably leave a bruise across every listener – the artist’s experience shared with everyone. There are no casual fans here.
Following the recent release of I Think I’m Lost, My Love, and after a trip to Nashville for shows and select co-writing sessions with a handpicked coterie of music industry greats, Kay is heading back to Australia where her shows are ranging from the solo and intimate to gatherings akin to group therapy sessions, joined by her hometown musical compadres who first played with her on the Central Coast of NSW following that life changing stint in Oklahoma.