Chatting with Darcy McNulty about the Amy tribute show

January 22, 2018
One of the most anticipated events of the Amy Winehouse program, the tribute show, is coming up on 4 February. To get into the groove, we chatted with the show's Musical Director, Darcy McNulty (Jazz Party / Clairy Browne & The Bangin Rackettes), who'll be heading up an all star band featuring many of Melbourne’s finest musicians.

You’ll be heading up the flagship music event of our Amy program. How does it feel to be involved in this incredible tribute show?
I’m lucky to have so many incredible musicians in the one show – most of my favourites in Melbourne – and dig into these great songs. Amy was a once in a generation artist. It’s obvious what a great singer she was, but I feel she’s still underrated as a songwriter. She had no fear, she was poetic and really funny. And herself.

We’re partnering with St Kilda Festival for this show. What can people expect from the night?
I’m not going to say too much about the show but we’re all excited. There will be music from her two studio albums and the song list on her mixtape featured in the exhibition. These may be songs that people will know already and not necessarily relate to Amy, but to see them in the show mixed with her original material could help to give some more insight into Amy as an artist and where she absorbed influence. Some material will be reworked to show case the individual performers themselves whilst highlighting Amy’s skill as a songwriter and some will stay close to the original source, because her arrangements we’re incredible.

As a musician, what does Amy Winehouse mean to you? Has she been an influence in your work, and how do you think she left a mark on the jazz scene?
She left her mark on the entire music scene. She’s timeless. One of the all-time greats. She’s influenced me in a million ways, but the first thing I’d say is the brutal honesty combined with humour and eloquence in her lyrics. Not many songwriters have that. John Lennon did. There’s not many. The appreciation and absolute love and respect for the old school, the greats, marrying that with her own style and other contemporary influences. It wasn’t about what was cool at the time, it was about her love of music.

What most excites you about the tribute show and the other artists involved?
We’re getting the opportunity to hear some of Australia’s finest and most interesting artists perform songs from one of the greatest. You’ve got Husky Gawenda (Husky) Kylie Auldist (The Bamboos) Elana Stone (All Our Exes Live in Texas) Loretta Miller (Jazz Party) Rita Satch and Alma Zygier all together with a world class band. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Memo Music Hall is also a beautiful old venue with great acoustics so I’m looking forward to performing there too.

How did your personal musical evolution come about?
I’ve been playing Jazz gigs since I was a teenager. I never went to university to learn music. I grew up listening to the greats Like Miles Davis and Duke Ellington and a million others, Amy included. I lived in Brisbane for a while and played everywhere and anywhere. From weddings to Jazz clubs to festivals. Then I moved to Melbourne and Clairy Brown and the Bangin Rackettes came along who I wrote songs for alongside Jules Pascoe (Jazz Party, Husky, Jaala) as well as playing Baritone Sax. We toured the US and Europe multiple times… When that band finished up I decided I wanted to do my own thing, so Jazz Party was born.

What is your favourite Amy Winehouse song, or favourite thing you have discovered about Amy Winehouse from being involved in our exhibition program?
My favourite Amy song at the moment is her singing Moon River with her high school big band. You hear it at the start of the documentary “AMY”. It’s incredibly moving, just a beautiful song. Hearing a 16 year old sing like that… She was just on a different level to most musicians even then. Her phrasing is sophisticated and beautiful and she totally conveys the feeling of the song even though she doesn’t know the lyrics that well! She sounds like Sarah Vaughan! That blew me away the first time I heard it.


Wow! Thanks Darcy. We can’t wait for the tribute. If you haven’t grabbed your tickets yet, click here, as this will be an event not to be missed!