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March 5, 2015

WOMADelaide: Emma Donovan and The Putbacks

Emma Donovan and The Putbacks bring a uniquely and powerfully Australian take on blues and soul to Womad with a set full of surprises.

Rehearsals for Emma Donovan and The Putbacks’ sets at WOMADelaide have been constantly interrupted as each band member gets distracted by looking at the festival’s program.


Emma Donovan and The Putbacks play WOMADelaide at 9.30pm on Sunday at the Zoo Stage and at 1pm on Monday at the Internode Centre Stage.

“I’m definitely going to go and see First Aid Kit, I love their new album,” says Emma. ” And definitely Youssou N’dour – though I think he’s playing on the main stage when we do our second gig, but I’m a big fan of his.”

Luckily, the lapses in concentration aren’t a huge problem, as Emma says their Womad sets will be more about having fun and responding to the audience than meticulous preparation.

Playing mostly tracks from their debut album, Dawn, the group are also considering throwing in a few re-arrangements of old songs from Emma’s childhood home on the North Coast of NSW.

“I’ve chucked in a couple songs from up home – I brought in a beautiful Gumbaynggirr song from my Grandfather’s side, it’s one I’ve got lots of different recordings of from our language centre up there called Muurrbay,” she says.

“There’s about five versions of different mob singing this one song about the Warrell Creek and when an old storm and wind blew over there. I had a recording of my Grandmother’s Grandmother singing it – so my great, great Grandmother singing it – and I sung it to the Putbacks last rehearsal and we thought, why not do it for Womad?”

Incorporating songs in language into her repertoire is just one way Emma and The Putbacks are shaping a distinctly Australian sound even whilst working in the more traditionally American genres of soul and blues.

Citing early influences from her Mother’s very USA-heavy record collection, Emma says she has enjoyed incorporating Australian artists into her playlist over the last decade and developing her own music alongside theirs.

“If I’d had an iTunes library when I was 16 or 17 that would all have been American. I was in the midst of all these RnB, pop, soul and all that – but now when I look at it there are so many albums that I’ve been playing from Australia – Blue King Brown is in there, Leah Flanagan’s beautiful album too, Liz Stringer’s there – and they’re songs are so beautiful, I love them.”

Emma says Womad is the perfect place to continue discovering more artists from her own backyard, and is hoping audience members will be adventurous too.

“I’m pretty proud of Womad’s indigenous line-up that they have,” she says. “Womad is always the festival that really does the hard work to find amazing indigenous artists. Every time I go they’ve introduced me to someone new.”



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