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Harvey Fresh

Contemporary country artist, Belle Harvey, has a new single up her sleeve and a long-awaited solo album due for release. Actually, ‘long-awaited’ is something of an understatement.

Contemporary country artist, Belle Harvey, has a new single up her sleeve and a long-awaited solo album due for release. Actually, ‘long-awaited’ is something of an understatement.

Come April, Belle Harvey, will release her debut solo album, Something Of Myself. By then it will be over two years since it was recorded.

Harvey, perhaps best known as the bass player in Ruby Boots, says it's not so much that she's patient, more a case that she wants to make sure the album is as good as possible and has the best opportunity to reach a large audience.

Since tracking her album on the New South Wales Central Coast, her producer and frequent co-writer, Bill Chambers, has recorded and released his own album, Cold Trail. That doesn't bother Harvey one bit.

“I have learned a lot from Ruby Boots and The Waifs. Don't be rushed. You have one chance to get it right. It's there forever. I don't want to look back on it and regret certain parts. I am so proud of it. Bill is too.” She pauses to let out a laugh, “He keeps telling me to hurry up and get it out.” When the most laid back man in Australian music tells you to get a move along, you know you really are taking your time.

Fair-haired Harvey's been making music almost as long as she can remember. She recalls that growing up there was an old small Spanish guitar laying around their Albany home. Her two older siblings had both played for a little while and so when Belle reached for the six-string, her mother expected, given her other children's experiences, it would be a passing phase.

Far from being a fleeting curiosity, the instrument would become a lifelong friend. At the time Harvey picked up the guitar she was already playing clarinet and saxophone, but the guitar offered something unique: the opportunity not just to play, but to write.

Looking back, decades later, Harvey says the desire to write songs came almost immediately.

“It was the thing that kept me going through everything in life.  I found myself learning songs by Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge and Crowded House. Tom Petty was another massive influence.” All these artists can still be heard in her music today. 

There was one other band that had major influence over her. Harvey was fresh out of school and employed with environmental group Green Skills when a co-worker offered to take her to the Port Theatre to see a then still local band, The Waifs.

“I was already playing music. I walked in and it was packed. The first chords of Take It In played and I was in awe. I was hooked for life.  I found myself learning all their songs and writing songs that were more folk-oriented.” She loved that she had found a local inspiration. She was more than impressed that a band from Albany could pull great crowds in the town. “That was the light bulb moment where I thought, 'this is what I want to do. And I can do it’.

She was soon playing as many gigs in her hometown as she could manage. A duo, The Flaming Sheilas – named by English/Aussie blues legend Lez Karski – was formed and Harvey would regularly play up to five nights a week. A chance meeting with guitarist/songwriter Brendan Gaspar again changed her direction. 

“We had met at a musical barbecue.  The Flaming Sheilas had played and Brendan was there playing upside down, back-to front-bass. He was awesome.” An invitation to join the Sheilas as bass player was quickly delivered and accepted. The other Sheila left shortly after. Gaspar, now on guitar, suggested he and Harvey keep working together, completing a number of already scheduled dates including one at the Nannup Music Festival.

As that was the name of the band on the bill, Harvey and Gaspar hit the Nannup stage as The Flaming Sheilas. A fair amount of good-natured ribbing aimed in Gaspar's direction suggested that maybe a change of moniker should be in order. With Mr Karski nowhere in sight, this time they would have to come up with one themselves.

On the drive back to Albany after the festival, the pair began discussing a man who seemed to have spent much of the weekend telling all who would listen about the story of his life. And so Arons Crusade was born.

The Crusade were already making regular trips to Perth to play when they decided to move to the city in 2009. An album was released under their name before a rebranding was considered in order.

“I was also doing some solo gigs and was hard to market it. Doing it as Belle Harvey is much more beneficial.”

Gaspar remains a crucial contributor to 'Belle Harvey', their musical bond still solid. 

While playing around Perth, taking every gig offered, Harvey crossed paths with Bex Chilcott and was invited to join Ruby Boots on bass. Harvey fit right in, but not before a little 'front person adjustment' was made. After more than a decade she was no longer the person in the spotlight.

“It took a bit to get used to it. I was used to giving banter and...,” she smiles at the memory, “I did have a microphone for harmonies and the like. In my first few shows with Boots I was told to peg it back a bit. It was hard to switch between the two things at first but now it is easy. I think it was good for me to learn what is required in any situation to make the show the best it can be.”

Ruby Boots has been an inspiration in many ways. A notorious hard worker, Boots knows what she wants and is prepared to give her all to give herself the best chance of success. Harvey has been taking notes.

“We all know how live music has gone in last seven to 10 years.  A couple of years ago, I wasn’t so sure and wondered what I was doing. I used to ask myself out loud 'Should I be doing this?' At the point I am now,” she concludes, “I can see a path.”

Belle Harvey's new single, Drive, will be released late February. Her album, Something Of Myself, will follow in April.

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