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Boyes and the Blues

FIONA BOYES MAY HAVE BEEN late to pick up the guitar, but that hasn’t stopped her forging a career as one of Australia’s most respected blues musicians.

She burst on to the international stage in 2003 as the first female and non-American to win the International Blues Challenge, and has gone from strength to strength. In recent years, the Melbourne fingerpicking legend has hit the top of the charts with her latest album Voodoo in the Shadows.

It all started back in the Melbourne ‘burbs when she heard about an open mic night when she was still fresh and learning.

“I hadn’t been playing for very long when I heard about this open night on the other side of the city and thought, great, I won’t know anyone there, so I borrowed a car and a guitar and drove over. I couldn’t leave the guitar in the car in case someone stole it, so when I walked in they said ‘oh, you’re here to play’.”

Boyes played a few songs, soon realising the venue picked their favourite performer from each open mic night for a play-off. The grand prize? A guitar.

“I ended up going in the play-off and winning, which was great as at that point I didn’t own a guitar,” she laughs.

“The competition wasn’t about who was the hottest player, it was about encouraging talent. I tell them it’s their fault – they encouraged me and set me loose on the world!”

Boyes is grabbing her cigar-box guitars and her band, Tim Neal and Mark Grunden, ready for the inaugural Darwin Blues Rock Festival. The line-up includes Chris Finnen, Harry Brus, Dillion James Band, Bernie Bremon and The Lost and Found, and festival organiser 8-Ball Aitken.

“One of the really fun things about festival gigs is that there’s a bunch of other musicians, so it’s a chance to catch up with old mates and make new ones. In the last set of the night we’ll all jump up and play together, because blues has a jamming tradition, and that’s really exciting because we don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s a time for people to let loose and play hard,” Boyes says. 

Darwin Blues Rock Festival SAT 19 OCT | 4-10.30PM PINT CLUB, MARRARA | $40 PRESALE | $50 DOOR |

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