How our life has changed through music

If Vicki and Jamie Blechynden’s music resonates with a rare, indefinable truth, it’s almost certainly because of the “extraordinary life” they have shared.

The Tanunda couple’s journey has been filled with shattering lows and phenomenal highs that continue to inspire their music, their professional aspirations and their desire to pay it forward.

Vicki explains the profound personal trauma that changed them indescribably; the loss of their daughters, Estelle, at 12 days old and Temperance, at 10 weeks and one day.

“Through that experience we got a lot of inspiration and also experienced a very strong sense of support from the community that we never knew existed,” says Vicki.

“It really highlighted for us how precious it is to have a community like ours and it’s another element of our being in the music industry – that desire to give back to our community in some way.”

The pair is singularly committed to raising the profile of the live music scene in the Barossa and providing a platform for original artists.

And if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s these passionate and prodigious musicians.

Jamie has no fewer than six instruments in his repertoire and 20 years’ experience in the music industry, having cut his teeth on blues, jazz and concert music.

He went on to tour nationally with blues band, The Grasscutters and folk/jazz band, Psea and has composed and recorded music for film and television, including SBS documentary, Going Bush and the ABC’s Australian Story.

Vicki, meanwhile, is a musical chameleon, applying her skills wherever they are needed including composing and performing original music for their acoustic Americana-styled band, Very Jane.

Then there’s full-time and part-time work, parenting (Bobbie is 4 and Ellouise is 2) and half-a-dozen side projects, including the weekly open mic nights at the Weintal.

Vicki and Jamie Blechynden with daughters Bobbie & Ellouise Photo by What Pete Shot

Between them, they are singer, song writer, performer, producer, recording engineer and, perhaps most tellingly, entrepreneur.

Cue the Song Room acoustic sessions nine years ago.

“We released an album called The Song Room in 2008,” recalls Vicki. “We did the CD launch at the (Barossa Regional) Gallery and had this great response.

“We were supported by friends of ours, The Huckleberry Swedes, seasoned performers who have travelled all over the world, and they commented they loved the space and would love to do it again.”

And so the Song Room series was born, a masterstroke that brought international acts and Australian musical royalty to the Barossa’s doorstep; among them, Mick Thomas (Weddings, Parties, Anything), Shane Howard (Goanna), Neil Murray and Jim Moginie (Midnight Oil), The Baker Suite, Bill and Casey Chambers, Liz Stringer, Jen Cloher and Mia Dyson.

Patrons stepping into the visually and acoustically spectacular setting of the Tanunda Soldiers’ Memorial Hall are met with an intimate and intoxicating blend of wine and music by candlelight.

“We see these touring artists who have been on the road for weeks and months come in, and it’s not just another gig for them,” says Vicki.

“We have never had to source the musicians or acts ourselves; they have always come to us and we are particular about the quality.

“Quite often it’s this gig that will determine whether or not they come to South Australia.”

That’s not to say it’s all wine and skittles for the couple, they will single-handedly co-ordinate the event management, from marketing and ticketing right down to candlesticks, home-made supper and white linen tablecloths.

“My poor mother takes them home and washes and irons them for us,” laughs Vicki.

“I’ll make the artists a home-cooked meal and we have musicians stay at our house – in fact mum had Jim (Moginie) and Neil (Murray) at her place and she cooked them a meal when they got home from the gig!

“It’s hard, hard work. I think that’s why we want more people to come, and more importantly, to know this calibre of music is on their doorstep.”

The Song Room experiment has also provided great industry contacts for Jamie’s other great love, sound recording and mastering.

‘Stella One Studio’ is his custom-built, “technically mind-blowing” studio, and his next big project.

“The studio started as a result of producing and recording our own music and evolved into a client-based studio,” says Jamie.

Vicki & Jamie Blechynden, Photo by What Pete Shot

“Every project is different, and so is every personality.

“We don’t always record in the studio; we recorded Sam Brittain’s first album in the long room in Chateau Tanunda at night when they shut the cellar door.

“Sometimes the artist will have a strong picture of what they want to achieve; others are a blank canvas and they have a bunch of songs without a vision to bring them together.

“Then I have a creative licence to bring my own ideas to life – I love that.”

Jamie acknowledges the obvious challenges of a digital age dominated by GarageBand experts and overnight online sensations.

“Kids are playing ipads, not guitars,” he says. “There’s no apprenticeship, no honing your skills.

“There needs to be passion for the process. I’m all for people buying recording gear and having some technical knowledge – I reckon that’s a wise thing to do – but when it comes to being your best, you want to be surrounded by people with the passion, the tools and the experience.”


Vicki & Jamie Blechynden, Photo by What Pete Shot