Russell Morris rushed out of the local Post Office to take the call for this interview. The music industry veteran was lagging behind his schedule due to a customer in front of him paying their bills. Funny how relatable an Aussie music icon can be. From The Real Thing to his latest offering Sharkmouth, Morris has always got down to business, and now he’s never been more excited to come back to Mornington.

Having released Sharkmouth in 2012, Morris explains the story behind the album. “I wanted to do an album going back to the way we used to do it,” he says. “Joe Camilleri, Ross Wilson and The Angels – we all started out by playing blues music. I didn’t have much success for thirty years but, I didn’t do it as a project to be successful. What I had to do was write songs about my own roots. My grandmother lived until she was ninety-three and would tell me a lot of stories about when we grew up in Richmond. I wanted to tell people that I lived and breathed and actually walked on this earth.”

When asked about comparisons between releasing his debut album and Sharkmouth, he admits, “It’s very hard to break a record these days. Most commercial radio stations have target demographics, so they will only play music that applies to them and everything else gets ignored. Demographics have made it hard for heavy rock bands and blues artists. The ABC and independent community blues stations have played Sharkmouth so they have to take all the credit because they’ve been marvellous.”

Morris’ most notable hit, The Real Thing, was produced by Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum and, looking back, all involved knew they were onto something at the time. “We were convinced that it was a really good record and we thought it was going to work, but it was like riding a wild stallion; we were not prepared for what was about to happen and it just really took off massively. It was an amazing experience for both good and bad, but I am very grateful that it did happen.”

Continuing on with memories from those days, Morris tells of one funny story that will forever be in his mind. “We played 3 shows at the Randwick Racecourse in the morning, afternoon and night. By the time the third show came around, the fans had completely surrounded the stage. The police were really nervous that the show could get out of hand. After the third song, they told us that we have to pull the plug and then dragged me back to the car. It wasn’t until we’d driven off that I said, “Hang on, where’s Molly? As I looked back, all these kids were running up to the car surrounding him, clutching to his briefcase and he was screaming at them to stop! stop! When he finally got in the car, we were still surrounded by people getting on the roof and everywhere. We had to drive out and, from memory, the driver even ran over someone’s leg and we had to pay for the hospital bill (laughs). The security was hopeless.”

For most of the last decade he performed with the late Jim Keays and the late Darryl Cotton as the trio of Cotton Keays & Morris. He says of the trio, “To do different shows was like taking a holiday, it was really good. It’s great to break it up a little and do shows with other people, as well as your own shows cause it’s all a matter of keeping yourself interested and really enjoying what you are doing.”

The ARIA Hall Of Fame inductee is quite obviously excited about his upcoming appearance at Mornington Racecourse, in 2014, as part of The Red Hot Summer Tour extravaganza. “Everyone will get their money’s worth because every act on that show is a great act,” he says. “I have worked with them all during live shows and it will be a really fabulous day. I love the Mornington Peninsula, particularly all those wineries!”

 Morris will play songs from The Real Thing, Sharkmouth and possibly even two songs from an album that he will start recording this month. The Red Hot Summer Tour features Russell Morris alongside Suzi Quatro, The Angels, The Black Sorrows and Shannon Noll at Mornington Racecourse on Saturday January 25. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

ALEX CHISHOLM

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