P.E.I. singer-songwriter Irish Mythen talks about her recent Australia tour and shares some stories, excited about March 4 concert at home

Sally Cole scole@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 19, 2016

Fans of Irish Mythen are familiar with hearing stories in her songs.

The popular performing artist writes and sings about love, loss and loneliness, as well as hope for the future and her Irish roots.

Fans who hear her play back home at The Mack in Charlottetown on March 4 are not only going to hear many of her stories in song, but spoken stories about her recent life-changing trip to Australia.

"It was phenomenal, unbelievable, humbling and devastatingly beautiful," says Mythen, who returned home to P.E.I. briefly last week.

While in the Land Down Under, she appeared as part of the Australian Festival of Small Halls, Australian Music Week, the Mullum Music Festival, the Woodford Folk Festival and the Illawarra Folk Festival.

During her tour, the Australian press recognized Mythen for her powerhouse voice, witty banter, positive stage presence and message. The Australian fan base recognized her for her ability to touch each of them with her songs.

Now, after 92 days away, 54 performances, 36 broken guitar strings and 10,751 km in a vehicle, three "unforgettable" experiences stand out in her memory.

The first was performing at the Woodford Folk Festival where motorists, wanting to see her show, blocked the road to the festival. The traffic jam caused a delay in her show.

"It was unbelievable."

Then, when she finally got onto the stage and started strumming the opening chords to Tullamore Blues to the crowd, something surprising happened.

"I said, ‘I'm going to teach you the words of this song.' But then the whole crowd sang the song back to me before I could teach them."

Realizing they already knew her music was "overwhelming."

"I had only been at the festival for three days. And there were so many amazing performers there. I didn't think I had that much of an impact.

"But when you have 5,000 people singing your song back to you, it's amazing. For the first time in my life, I broke down and cried on stage. Then I looked out and saw other people crying. It was a real moment for me."

The second experience was performing in Tambo, a town in Central West Queensland, Australia, about eight hours west of Brisbane.

"There's nothing there . . . . It's the Australian outback," says Irish who was on tour with the Aussie band Starboard Cannons.

Soon after arriving at the hall to set up, they were met by the mayor.

"He told us a story. Every year, Tambo and the neighbouring towns get drought relief. They receive money so they can buy water and get it shipped in. They hadn't had rain in four years."

But, several months before, the citizens had held a town meeting and decided that the town needed a little lift.

"They moved to use some of the money, instead of getting water, to bring the show to Tambo. It was a unanimous decision. They all said yes and so we gave the (best) show of the tour at that place."

The third highlight of her trip was getting to hug a koala bear.

"That's one off my bucket list. She was very strong. She had talons and they kept digging into my arm. But I just kept smiling," says Mythen, adding her return to P.E.I. this time is short lived.

This past Wednesday she flew to Kansas City for the 2016 Folk Alliance. It's an international folk conference with over 2,500 delegates and over 3,000 artists. Mythen was selected as an official showcase artist and international panelist for the event.

"One of the panels is about diversity in music. The other one is about touring Australia and New Zealand. It's a pretty big honour. I'm the only non-Australian to be doing this," says Mythen who will kick off an 11-date eastern tour in Charlottetown March 4, upon her return to Canada.

And the gigs keep coming.

Halfway through her Australian tour, which was extended due to the demand for additional concerts, Mythen received a call asking her to come back to Australia for Bluesfest.

"The magazine, "Rolling Stone" calls Bluesfest one of the three biggest festivals in the world, so I'm on that."

And, if that wasn't exciting enough, Mythen was asked to go on an Australian tour with an America rock singer.

"So I'm opening for Melissa Etheridge."

After she returns home from Australia, she's on P.E.I. for a few days before flying to the U.K. to do with the BBC folk band of the year, the Young'uns.

"So it's huge," says Mythen, who knows that fame can be fleeting.

"I've been very aware that it's been a 20-year overnight success, so I'm literally trying to grab on with both hands and go with it. For me, it's important."

But she's also a realist.

"I know it's not going to last. But now, things are going upward and I'm a good climber."

scole@theguardian.pe.ca

@SallyForth57

Fast five

- Favourite Australian food: Beef meat pies andpavlova.

-  Favourite Australian expression: “Yeah, yeah, nah mate.” This is the way Aussies say no to something.

- Favourite Aussie pastimes: Surfing, going to the beach.

-  Favourite Aussie musicians: John Butler, Starboard Cannons and Liz Stringer

- Favourite activity in Australia: Talking about P.E.I. during her concerts. She performs in front of a P.E.I. flag.

Website: Go to http://www.irishmythen.com.