Fanny Lumsden's star still rising amid bushfire and COVID lockdown

MOUNTAIN TOP: Despite restrictions on touring, Fanny Lumsden's career is on the rise since the release of her acclaimed alt-country pop crossover album Fallow in March.
MOUNTAIN TOP: Despite restrictions on touring, Fanny Lumsden's career is on the rise since the release of her acclaimed alt-country pop crossover album Fallow in March.

FANNY Lumsden is sitting on her porch which boasts a panoramic view of the spectacular Tooma Valley on the western slopes of the Snowy Mountains.

Anybody who's watched Lumsden's recent mini-documentary Mountain Mama Take Me Home: Fallow & The Tooma Valley will be mesmerised by the rolling forested hills and deep valleys.

Tooma Valley doesn't quite look the same at the moment.

On New Year's Eve last year Lumsden, her husband Dan Freeman and their one-year-old son, Walter, were forced to flee their property as bushfire swept in from two directions. Luckily their house was unscathed, but nine months on the land is still healing from the devastation.

"It looks pretty green now but it's a slow process," Lumsden says, just days after completing a rural fire brigade course to prepare for the coming summer.

"There's so many big beautiful trees that are dead or having to be bulldozed because they're deemed to be not safe anymore.

"Just sitting on my porch now and looking out, all the trees on the hills are like sticks."

Mountain Mama Take Me Home: Fallow & The Tooma Valley by Fanny Lumsden

COVID-19 has meant Lumsden has spent far more time than usual, looking out across the valley. Her critically-acclaimed third album Fallow was released in March as the pandemic shut the world down.

The album's blend of alt-country, pop and folk generated the greatest reviews of Lumsden's career and delivered her first top-10 debut in the mainstream ARIA charts. But the independent and self-managed artist has been unable to take full advantage of the success.

"I've tried not to focus on the negative side of stuff," she says. "I'm fairly optimistic. But it's been totally frustrating.

"We had venues lined up that were the biggest I've ever done because it was a theatre-based tour that we'd booked. We were riding this really great wave on the back of the Country Halls Tour and I put a new record out and everything was going guns blazing.

"It has been really frustrating. It has been really great that people have been able to connect with it still and we have a tour booked for November."

Throughout the lockdown Lumsden regularly performed via livestream, but it wasn't until August 28 that she made her onstage return at the Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre in front of a seated audience of 180.

"I was so excited," she says. "It was ridiculous. I walked out on stage and in that first moment I tripped over a lead onstage. It was hilarious.

"I was just a bit too enthusiastic. The audience was wonderful and everyone was so excited to be in a room together and share some live music and experience something that isn't through a screen."

Lumsden's second performance will be on Saturday on night two of Dashville's Sky Ball concert series in the Hunter Valley.

Many of the punters in Wagga would have suspected Lumsden's trip was part of the act. One of the most endearing qualities and secrets behind her success is her quirky sense of humour.

Lumsden's "I Love Fanny" t-shirts are a popular item and her social media accounts are littered with images of the 33-year-old hamming it up in crazy wigs and fancy dress.

GENUINE: Fanny Lumsden's quirky sense of humour is a large factor in her appeal.

GENUINE: Fanny Lumsden's quirky sense of humour is a large factor in her appeal.

There's no image consultant. Just genuine Fanny.

It also doesn't hurt that Lumsden and Freeman oversee the entire running of her career; everything from the writing and producing of their documentary to running their label Red Dirt Road Records.

But it's all become more challenging as Lumsden's career has continued its upward trajectory from her albums Small Town Big Shot (2015) to Real Class Act (2017) to Fallow.

"Running the business and the management side, I really love it, because we really have a grasp on how we do it and it's not a novel way," she says. "We have a lot of elements which aren't typical in a music career.

"We like to run it a certain way and love the independence. Also there's the ability to make decisions on the fly and benefit and make the most of opportunities. I like learning more about it. It's hugely time consuming, so I'm working on new ways to make my time more efficient and not waste time on doing things I don't need to."

Lumsden hopes, in turn, that provides time to write the follow-up to Fallow.

"So I haven't really done much writing," she says. "I am feeling much more inspired now and in this second half of the year I will get back to writing again."

Catch Fanny Lumsden on Saturday at Dashville's Sky Ball in the Hunter Valley. The Fallow Tour then visits the Street Theatre, Canberra (November 7); Athenium Theatre, Junee (November 28) and the Griffith Regional Theatre (November 29).

This story Fanny Lumsden's year of fires, boom and frustration first appeared on Newcastle Herald.