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Talking strings and sliding doors with Julia Zemiro

Festivals

RocKwiz and Home Delivery TV show host Julia Zemiro will bring her engaging interview talents to this year’s Adelaide Guitar Festival in a series of free conversations with musicians about “music, artistry and everything in between”.

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“I’m interested in those points in your life where you go left or you go right – it’s that sliding-door thing,” Zemiro, who will also host the festival finale, tells InDaily.

“I really want to get those magic moments where music all of a sudden made sense and turned them on, and also what keeps them going.”

The “In Conversation with Julia” line-up – part of the full Adelaide Guitar Festival program launched today – features English rockabilly, country and blues guitar legend Albert Lee, American guitarist and composer Kaki King and “genre-bending” New York avant-garde musician and collaborator Marc Ribot.

Actor and television presenter Zemiro is best-known for hosting shows such as the ABC’s Home Delivery and SBS music quiz show RocKwiz, and will take a similar approach to drawing out the stories of her festival guests.

She will also be able to draw on an appreciation and understanding of the strings gained from three years spent learning guitar in her youth.

“I had this wonderful teacher called Raymond and we did classical guitar … but I guess my mum thought it was more of a good thing than I did … I certainly developed an ear for music and rhythm and learnt a whole bunch of skills but I never followed it through.”

Zemiro muses that if she’d learned to play music by the contemporary bands and artists she liked, she might have kept playing. One of those sliding-door scenarios, perhaps.

There will be plenty of scope for interesting conversations with her guitarist guests: Ribot, for example, has collaborated with the likes of Tom Waits and Elvis Costello, and is known for his activism on issues such as artists’ rights. Lee, who has toured with the Everly Brothers, grew up in a Romani family in England, and King was apparently first introduced to the guitar at just four years old.

“Sometimes the more you specifically say I love that story about the dog or that story about your guitar being stolen, they completely forget to talk about it, so my thing is to have a bit of a plan but be prepared to go off that plan and listen in the moment…” Zemiro says of her interview technique.

“It’s more about making a connection with them and the audience so they feel like they [the audience members] come away knowing something they didn’t know about that person.”

Zemiro is thrilled that the Guitar Festival will bring her back to Adelaide, which she first visited as part of a Bell Shakespeare schools tour in the mid-1990s and has returned to numerous times for RocKwiz live shows and Home Delivery interviews.

She was here most recently interviewing Barossa food legend Maggie Beer for the second episode of the new season of Home Delivery, which began last night on the ABC.

Home Delivery sees Zemiro walking notable people through their former lives, including visiting significant places – childhood homes and schools. Former guests have included Mount Gambier-born Kasey Chambers, whom she says “plays a guitar like nothing else” – “I spent two days with her and she’s just the real deal”.

When it comes to her personal guitar heroes, Zemiro has “always been a bit of a girl-with-a-guitar girl”.

Think Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and the Indigo Girls, as well as contemporary Australian musicians such as Sarah McLeod (from Superjesus), Abbe May and Adalita (Magic Dirt). May will perform at the Guitar Festival and host a concert celebrating female guitarists.

“People love the energy of a woman with a guitar just going for it,” Zemiro says.

“That’s why I’m excited we’ve got Kaki King as part of this [conversations] line-up … there’s something really powerful behind it.”

Albert Lee and The Turner Brown Band will perform at the Festival Theatre on August 11, Kaki King will present her show The Neck is a Bridge to the Body the same evening at the Dunstan Playhouse, and Marc Ribot will play at the Dunstan Playhouse on August 12. Julia Zemiro will host conversations with each of the artists on the same dates as their performances.

The 2018 Adelaide Guitar Festival will take place from August 9-12, with other highlights including Tommy Emmanuel & Friends, South African guitarist Derek Gripper (appearing in the festival finale), Celtic guitarist Tony McManus and Spanish flamenco musician Pedro Javier Gonzalez. The program also showcases South Australian musicians including Wanderers, Kelly Menhennett, and Hana & Jessie-Lee.

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