Her appearances on some recent Classic Countdown episodes – yes, I’m still angry they didn’t use Do Re Mi’s Man Overboard in full – prompted a dig into the archives for some words with Deborah Conway. Here’s a home visit from 2004. Ladies bring a plate? Ladies bring a bag of CDs actually.
DEBORAH’S DOMESTIC DEPARTURES
It was shortly before Deborah Conway’s show was to begin at this Newtown venue and odd things were being seen.
The roadies were carrying a glass of wine and plates of Turkish pizza rather than Jim Beam and hot chips. The walls had paintings and a Tracey Moffatt print rather than graffiti. Good god, the toilets were clean. What parallel rock universe was this?
The “venue” was the living room of Angela Ryan and Karen Goitiandia’s Newtown house. The audience was 25 of their friends, one of whom had flown down from Brisbane for the night, who had promised to buy a copy of Conway’s new album Summertown.
In exchange Conway, who first came to fame singing about pubic hairs on her pillow 19 years ago with Do Re Mi, was here to play four songs for them while perched on a dining chair and soaking in this most intimate of intimate venues.
“We didn’t have to tell [the friends] much to get them interested,” said a buzzing Ms Goitiandia as she looked around.
“It’s a lovely thing to do,” Conway beamed. “It’s an idea that of its time: taking it from house to house. This is world domination lounge room by lounge room.”
Four songs later, with whooping and hollering filling the room (and a small voice plaintively but futilely enquiring: “can we ask for an encore?”) Conway took up a permanent marker and began autographing the CDs as flashbulbs continuously went off.
This wasn’t the first living room show for Conway, who is her own management, record company and marketing team with this album she’s recorded with husband Willy Zygier.
She’s done eight in Melbourne already and is open to more offers. Nor does she think she’ll be the last to do it here, much like the USA where it’s a common occurrence in the roots/country and folk underground scenes.
“I think I’m a pioneer. I reckon there’ll be a big take-up of this idea [by other artists],” Conway said, throwing up another concept, that of shopping centre shows in the mould of the soap and teen stars, as an idea which could be worth a revisit.
It may be that commercial necessity is the mother of marketing invention. As is common with many artists in their 30s and 40s who are still producing strong work and have a solid following, Conway is of little interest to major record companies and of absolutely no interest to commercial radio stations, both of which are fixated on teen hits.
Getting around that, “getting into people’s living rooms”, is the key. Hence a recent foray Conway made with the Body Shop chain.
Hearing about the chain’s support for an anti-domestic violence campaign, Conway pointed out to them that a song from her album, Accident’s Happen In The Home, shared the theme.
Soon after not only was she performing at the launch but several thousand CDs of that song were distributed through the Body Shop stores, bearing the campaign’s sticker on one side.
Good marketing? Serendipity? It doesn’t matter really; it works.