Birth of a duo… & the first five years

BRINGING JAY TWELVE-THOUSAND MILES TO MEET…

When UK singer-songwriter Jay Turner left his native shores for a 4-month solo tour of Australia and New Zealand in January 1995, he never dreamed his life would be so dramatically altered.

Whilst playing at Victoria’s Port Fairy Folk Festival in March that year, Jay met Brisbane-based singer-songwriter Catherine Mundy backstage after seeing her perform in acclaimed acappella trio, Sister Moon Ensemble.

“I was mightily impressed by Sister Moon’s show and instantly recognised a common passion and commitment in both our approaches to songwriting and live performance, ” recounts Jay.

During lively conversations and late-night vocal jam sessions at the National Folk Festival in Canberra a month later, Jay also discovered that Catherine played piano, violin, and shared his love of theatre.  Their friendship and mutual admiration was developing apace.

“Jay’s songs stayed with me for long after I heard him in concert at the festival.  I found I couldn’t stop harmonising to them in my head!”

FOUNDING OF A NEW MUSICAL ENTITY…

First Publicity Photo, by Phil Ashton. At the Cockatoo Cafe, Dunnolly, in the old gold fields of Victoria, Australia (1995) "the venue of one of our first duo gigs".

By July 1995 these newly discovered ‘soul mates’ were together in Brisbane, co-composing and demo-taping songs.  As Sister Moon’s work was coming to its agreed end, it seemed a natural step for the pair to form a vocal-instrumental duo.

“We decided that Mundy-Turner’s repertoire would be completely original.  Our focus was the uniting of two songwriters who come from radically diverse musical and geographical backgrounds.  We liked the ‘Zen’ idea of the Yin and the Yang, male and female, different yet equal, balancing each other and creating an entity greater than its component parts.”

In October 1995 Cath and Jay were offered the fabulous opportunity to take part in an inspirational gospel-singing tour of African-American churches in the Southern States of the USA, led by singer-conductor-composer & gospel-acappella guru Tony Backhouse.  More songwriting took place culminating in Cath & Jay’s first official recording together, live at the legendary Sun Studio, Memphis.

The next month Cath joined Jay in New Zealand for his final tour as a solo artist, adding her distinctive harmonies and violin-playing to his songs, plus “previewing” some of their new co-penned material.  The duo was gradually taking shape.

WEDDING, WOODFORD & THE FAR NORTH…

Back in Australia in December 1995, Jay and Catherine were married in Woodford, north of Brisbane, on the opening night of Woodford Folk Festival.  This, the country’s largest folk festival, was their first official booking as Mundy-Turner.  During the festival they released the Sun Studio recordings as EP CD “The Sun Sessions” and performed for the first time with Cath on piano.

For the next six months, the duo toured extensively to festivals and clubs in Australia and New Zealand, until settling in Cairns, Far North Queensland.  There the duo entered into a period of creative development, both in songwriting and as performers.

“Living in Cairns for 20 months was wonderful for us.  The intense tropical atmosphere and the demanding nature of the local gigs (4 x 45 minute sets a night) honed the dynamics of our live shows and really cemented our identity as an act.  We stubbornly refused to play covers.  We were totally dedicated to developing a reputation for strong original material.”

TRAMPING THE BOARDS & THE CORRS SUPPORT

Supporting The Corrs, 1997

Supporting Irish popchart band The Corrs, Brisbane Entertainment Centre, 1997

The pair became immediately involved with Cairns’ only professional theatre company Just Us Theatre Ensemble (JUTE), co-composing and playing live scores for Shakespeare in the Park 1996.

During 1997 they were core actors/performers in the JUTE troupe, co-devising and performing several street theatre shows.   Lead roles followed, in Kathryn Ash’s new comedy Digging In and an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello called Lust & Loathing, Jay playing ‘Othello’ to Catherine’s ‘Desdemona’ on the outdoor amphitheatre stage at Cairns’ Tanks Art Centre.

“He got to pretend-smother me with a pillow every night during the Othello season.  LOL!! “

In January 1997, Mundy-Turner were invited to support multi-platinum Irish pop band The Corrs throughout the Queensland leg of their Australian tour to critical and audience plaudits, playing Cairns Convention Centre (2 nights), Townsville Entertainment Centre & the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

Later that year, Cath & Jay were selected to be showcased at the APRA “Composer Exposer” in Brisbane and again at the Pacific Circle Music Convention in Sydney.

FIRST TWO ALBUMS, THE UK, ROLF HARRIS, SUNNIE AWARD…

The duo’s debut album, High Life, was launched in late March 1998 to a sell-out audience at Cairns’ Rondo Theatre, two days prior to their first European Tour as a duo.

The six month tour of clubs and festivals in the UK and Italy was a great sucess, resulting in the UK’s Jacey Bedford Tour Management taking on Mundy-Turner’s future UK Tour bookings.

The duo were invited to support Rolf Harris for two shows in 1999 at Stroud Festival  – an especial highlight for Cath who traces Rolf as her earliest musical influence.

“At the age of five, I got a Rolf Harris ‘All Together Now’ album – my first ever record, vinyl (of course!).  ‘The Court of King Caractacus’ was my fave song and was always my party piece – still is.  I told Rolf this between shows at Stroud Fest.  At the second show, Rolf unexpectedly invited me on stage to perform it with him!   I was on stage like a shot.”

High Life was honoured in August 1999 by the Queensland Recording Association “Sunnie Awards” as the Best Folk/Ethnic Album of 1998-1999.  Two songs from the High Life album (Get There From Here & the title track) were nationally play-listed by ABC Radio.  The track Get There From Here was also selected for ABC’s compilation album Music From The Far North (2000).

The following year their second album entitled Naked was honoured as a Sunnie Award finalist for both Best Folk/Ethnic Album and Best Song 2000.

By then the duo had settled into a pattern of touring the UK for 3-6 months of every year and in 2001 began to look at moving base to England….

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