Tattletale Saints tell tales of Nashville

Band back in one of their favourite venues: The Dome in Gisborne.

Band back in one of their favourite venues: The Dome in Gisborne.

TELLING ALL: Auckland duo Cy Winstanley and Vanessa McGowan of Tattletale Saints. Portrait by Anna Webber

LIVING in the country music capital of the world has been an interesting experience for Vanessa McGowan and Cy Winstanley of Auckland duo Tattletale Saints.

“It sort of feels like a small town but you have the same density of musicians as say New York living in this little town,” said McGowan, who plays double bass and sings backing vocals.

“It’s weird at first when you’re used to being in a place where you tell people you’re a touring musician and they don’t know what that is or ask what your other job is.”

“It’s a bit of a random example, but to join a gym, in most places you would go and show your income records.

“Over there you can just show your bank slips and say these are the gigs I’m doing. It’s nice to be somewhere where your job is actually understood.”

The move to Nashville happened “a bit randomly”, McGowan said.

The duo wanted to record an album and had a list of producers they wanted to work with.

Grammy-award winning bluegrass producer Tim O’Brien was top of the list.

“We had a mutual friend so we made this kind of video show reel where we introduced ourselves and played four songs.

“We sent it to our friend to send to Tim. We didn’t think he would get back to us.”

O’Brien did more than just get back to the pair, he convinced them to move from Auckland to Nashville, Tennessee.

“We originally thought we could entice him to come here (to New Zealand) but he turned around and said, ‘hey, I have a really great studio, why don’t you come over’?”

McGowan and Winstanley worked out it would cost almost the same to move to Nashville as it would to bring O’Brien over, so they packed their bags and moved to the country music mecca.

They recorded their debut album How Red is the Blood and won Folk Album of the Year at the New Zealand Music Awards the next year.

Now they are back in their homeland, touring their self-titled second album which was produced by Nashville-based Josh Kaler.

“It is very different to the last album. That album was very acoustic. Now we have electric guitars, drums and Tim plays the pedal steel guitar on it. Melodically this album has a much fuller sound,” McGowan said.

“It’s still a country Americano kind of thing and it has that indie folk side but it kind of has this rock element coming through.”

Having played together as a duo for nine years, McGowan and Winstanley have had a long time to perfect their sound.

“When we were in Australia we counted back and realised we’ve probably played about 500 gigs together,” McGowan said.

“We are just really great friends. We do fight about stuff because we’re in a really close environment but we have got ways of working it out when things arise.

“We just know each other really well and we love playing together.”

The two first met in Auckland’s Queen City Band when they were both still at high school.

“We had both been playing music for quite a long time but we decided to get serious about our instruments around about the same time,” McGowan said.

“I was 15 or 16 and Cy was a year younger.”

Now they are well out of high school and visiting 17 New Zealand towns as part of their Tattletale Saints tour.

“We take the show and we put it into the most appropriate venue in the town. Sometimes the locations are just spectacular,” McGowan said.

The tour includes a return visit to Gisborne’s Dome Room, one of McGowan’s favourite venues.

“The Dome is absolutely one of our favourite venues. It’s a great space, the stage is covered in fairy lights and (manager) Sally Shanks does the most amazing job.”

LIVING in the country music capital of the world has been an interesting experience for Vanessa McGowan and Cy Winstanley of Auckland duo Tattletale Saints.

“It sort of feels like a small town but you have the same density of musicians as say New York living in this little town,” said McGowan, who plays double bass and sings backing vocals.

“It’s weird at first when you’re used to being in a place where you tell people you’re a touring musician and they don’t know what that is or ask what your other job is.”

“It’s a bit of a random example, but to join a gym, in most places you would go and show your income records.

“Over there you can just show your bank slips and say these are the gigs I’m doing. It’s nice to be somewhere where your job is actually understood.”

The move to Nashville happened “a bit randomly”, McGowan said.

The duo wanted to record an album and had a list of producers they wanted to work with.

Grammy-award winning bluegrass producer Tim O’Brien was top of the list.

“We had a mutual friend so we made this kind of video show reel where we introduced ourselves and played four songs.

“We sent it to our friend to send to Tim. We didn’t think he would get back to us.”

O’Brien did more than just get back to the pair, he convinced them to move from Auckland to Nashville, Tennessee.

“We originally thought we could entice him to come here (to New Zealand) but he turned around and said, ‘hey, I have a really great studio, why don’t you come over’?”

McGowan and Winstanley worked out it would cost almost the same to move to Nashville as it would to bring O’Brien over, so they packed their bags and moved to the country music mecca.

They recorded their debut album How Red is the Blood and won Folk Album of the Year at the New Zealand Music Awards the next year.

Now they are back in their homeland, touring their self-titled second album which was produced by Nashville-based Josh Kaler.

“It is very different to the last album. That album was very acoustic. Now we have electric guitars, drums and Tim plays the pedal steel guitar on it. Melodically this album has a much fuller sound,” McGowan said.

“It’s still a country Americano kind of thing and it has that indie folk side but it kind of has this rock element coming through.”

Having played together as a duo for nine years, McGowan and Winstanley have had a long time to perfect their sound.

“When we were in Australia we counted back and realised we’ve probably played about 500 gigs together,” McGowan said.

“We are just really great friends. We do fight about stuff because we’re in a really close environment but we have got ways of working it out when things arise.

“We just know each other really well and we love playing together.”

The two first met in Auckland’s Queen City Band when they were both still at high school.

“We had both been playing music for quite a long time but we decided to get serious about our instruments around about the same time,” McGowan said.

“I was 15 or 16 and Cy was a year younger.”

Now they are well out of high school and visiting 17 New Zealand towns as part of their Tattletale Saints tour.

“We take the show and we put it into the most appropriate venue in the town. Sometimes the locations are just spectacular,” McGowan said.

The tour includes a return visit to Gisborne’s Dome Room, one of McGowan’s favourite venues.

“The Dome is absolutely one of our favourite venues. It’s a great space, the stage is covered in fairy lights and (manager) Sally Shanks does the most amazing job.”

Tattletale Saints at the Dome Room on February 5 (8pm).

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