(Cover Photo by Michelle Stancil)
The Hussy Hicks duo of Julz Parker and Leesa Gentz are from East Australia, but they have adopted Mobile as their second home and are currently here for six weeks playing shows with their good friends Kristy Lee and Eric Erdman.
Julz and Leesa met in 2006 through mutual friends when they both came home from tours with other bands and they have been playing together for eight years. Their influences are from family record collections of old blues and country, and from their travels playing gigs around the world combining Australian roots edge with european gypsy guitar, arabic rhythms, and optimistic social commentaries.
“We got along immediately,” Leesa says. “Julz had just gotten back from London and I had been working on cruise ships, but I finished up because I was over it. We ended up back home with no ties. We didn’t know what to do next so we jammed a bit and hung out.”
How did you get started in music?
Julz: I started playing guitar when I was 7 and started gigging in clubs when I was 13. My dad took me me to jam nights and he would play rhythm guitar. He taught me a couple of chords and the first time I played a song with chords was “Helpless” by Neil Young with the chords D-A-G.
Leesa: I started signing lessons when I was nine and my sister, and I started entering in horrible talent competitions when I was ten. We would dress up in big dresses with big hair. Kristy and I sang together for years and started getting gigs in pubs. Mom and Dad would drive and dad would set up the PA. I was 12 and Kristy was 14 and we must have been woeful. My parents may regret it and now wish I have a normal job, but making $50 a night was better than what anyone else was making.
Julz: We are still making more than most high school students.
Leesa: We have an incredible ability to live on next to nothing.
How did you find Mobile?
Julz: Our Mobile hook up came from meeting Kristy 10 years ago at a festival and we thought she was amazing. We became friends and she got us to come play here. Our first gig was at The Garage. We try to get back here every year or 18 months.
Mobile is like another hometown for us. It is fantastic here and we are overwhelmed by how welcome people are and how well they treat us. It is inspiring. We have to learned to make a few different sounds here and southern it up when we play with Kirsty Lee.
How did touring begin beyond Australia?
Julz: It started with a few connections and we used those and hustled. We actually paid for lawyer fees to move to the U.S, probably Atlanta, but then Europe started working out. We haven’t focused on breaking our music into America so much as trying to have good experiences and keep writing and using it as inspiration for recording.
Leesa: Music opens so many doors. We rarely travel unless it is for our music but it gives us the chance to scratch below the surface wherever we go. We also absorb music from wherever we go.
Touring is more of a soul thing than a business thing. Both of us have been in situations where we have been involved in bands and record companies. That is not what we want to chase. We want to chase good experiences, good people, and good gigs. Better songs and better music.
How is your music different in Europe and Australia than in the U.S.?
Julz: In Europe and Australia we have at least a bass player and usually a drummer, and I play electric. It is more jammy and blues. In the U.S., it is just the two of us and it is a more scaled-down version of what we do.
When we started, we played acoustic most of the time, but now that we have better gigs in Australia, we have the luxury of playing with more people.
Leesa: We still drive all night and sleep in the van, but sometimes we get to festivals and they put us in a nice house.
Julz: Sometimes we stay in an Italian vineyard with a 3-course banquet and other times we are covered in grease changing a tire on the side of the road and hoping we can put enough petrol in the car to get to the next gig.
Sometimes Leesa sings into Julz’s guitar. How did that start?
Leesa: I started looking for an affected microphone as a second mic. Julz has a mic on her guitar and we started playing with it.
Julz: It’s real touchy. Sometimes it works and sounds amazing and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s like Adderall for me. If you’ve got a busy mind, this will get your attention. There is no need to medicate. Play a stop box, pedals, and pick out the harmonies.
You have recorded three studio albums and two live albums. How do the songs begin?
Leesa: There is no set way for us. Sometimes we jot down a few lines
We wrote our last album, The London Sessions, while we were staying with squatters in Amsterdam. Every day we took took our guitars to the canal and just played. We jammed and watched the boats go by or sat by the railroad tracks as it was raining and those became the songs on the album. Sometimes I tell Julz I have a song in my head and she will write the chords, or we just go to each other with a finished song and Julz will add her magic and I will add harmonies.
Julz: The last album, Postcards and Previews, we recorded with a bunch of friends and that led to touring with a full band. There was just enough of a touch of the blues to open the doors to blues festivals.
You only have a few weeks left in Mobile. What is next?
Julz: We don’t have many plans for after Mobile. We have a short run in Germany and Kristy is coming back to tour with us in March. We want to focus on a new album and we have a lot of creative ideas that we want to work through.
Leesa: It is always good to go back home. For fun we play music, go to the beach, cook dinner, and have friends over. We love to jam with Julz’s brothers at her parents house. We have have learned to cherish time with our special people because we are away so much. We don’t take that time for granted.