It is somewhat apropos that on her latest release, Anne McCue returns to her roots.


McCue will play Club Cafe on July 29.

The swing/jazz sound of “Blue Sky Thinkin’” harkens back to the very music that caught the ears of McCue early on and sparked the interest of the young girl growing up in Sydney, Australia.

While jazz and swing music was a first love, McCue grew up to play lead guitar in various bands with various styles around Australia.

She released her first EP, “Laughing” in 1996. She would then join Eden AKA, an Australian female trio that had just signed a
record deal with Columbia Records. McCue spent 1998 and 99 touring the U.S. and Canada as part of the Lilith Fair.

McCue released her first solo album, “Amazing Ordinary Things,” in 1999. The album was released in Canada and Japan but garnered the attention of the right people, namely Lucinda Williams, who would invite McCue to open for her on tour.

The tour with Williams led to McCue releasing “Live: Ballad of an Outlaw Woman” in 2002. Two years later, she would release “Roll,” which featured a distinct Williams influence.

McCue made the move to Nashville in 2007, before the city became the Mecca for the hip and trendy. In 2008, she was voted Fold Artist of the Year by the Roots Music Association. The same year, she released “East of Electric,” a decidedly non-electric affair. She would follow that up in 2010 with “Broken Promise Land.”

She would release a string of singles in the intervening years and founded “Songs on the Wire,” a radio show on East Nashville Radio in 2014.

After a thrift store find of a box set of swing records, McCue decided to go back to her first love of jazz/swing on her 2015 release, “Blue Sky Thinkin’.”

The Swerve Magazine recently spoke with McCue about her eclectic and electric past and what the future holds.

The Swerve Magazine: It has been two years since "Blue Sky Thinkin'," any plans for a new album? Are you currently working on new material? If so, will it be in the same vein as "Blue Sky" or do you see yourself going back to your electric past?

Anne McCue: I have written a lot of songs in the past two years, but I'm not sure any will be on the new album! Yes, I'm thinking about the new album every day, and gradually it is taking shape in my mind. I think I am going to go back to where I started - a folk-singer-songwriter-rock-pop blend. I've been listening to Neil Young and getting inspiration. He is so soulful and was one of my earliest influences. The way his voice sounds through a microphone is just an incredible sound - his guitars too. No-one else has that sound.


I've been thinking about that aspect of it. Who am I? What do I really sound like with just a guitar and a microphone? How can I capture it? I'm going to try different microphones and see what sounds best to my ears. Then I will perhaps add stuff to those live performances.

SM: How did the early love of jazz inform your later career as the electric guitar player?

AM: I think it's mainly those blue notes that I love. I love the old jazz when they just used one microphone to record it, before it got all slick and taught in college - when jazz was still tied to the blues and was a primal music form, rather than an intellectual one. Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt are two guitarists I heard in my early '20s, and I don't think anyone has ever beaten their tone. Tone and phrasing. Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, John Lee Hooker - I love those too. Mix it all together, and that's what I'm doing.

SM: I read that a find in a Pennsylvania thrift store inspired you on your creative path to "Blue Sky," what was it in those old jazz/swing records you found that lit that spark of creation?

MA: Yes, I found an old Reader's Digest Box Set called 'The Swing Years' in a Thrift Store and bought it for $1.00. In perfect condition! Well, we had the same box set when I was a kid, and I recorded all of my favourite songs onto a cassette and spent a whole summer listening to that and The Byrds. So when I found it again, that pure love of music came back to me and I went with it. That's how “Blue Sky Thinkin'” came about.

SM: How did you find fans' reaction to the change in the style of your music? Were they receptive? Was there blowback?

AM: I would say most of them loved it. I only got one email from someone who said I should go back to my roots. The funny thing is that pre-World War II music is my roots - that's what I listened to when I was a kid. So I was going back to my roots. I think if people come and hear the songs live they get it.

SM: How important, considering fan reaction, is it for the artist to keep growing and evolving? Do you find yourself getting anxious to move on to something new after you've accomplished what you wanted? Is there a constant need to be in the creative process?

AM: Yes, I'm afraid I have to keep moving stylistically because that is who I am. Unfortunately, the music business loves the one trick ponies who sound the same every time because there has been this assumption that started sometime in the '90s that the people out there are too stupid to understand all different kinds of music. So there is this pervasive homogeneity and copy-catting that's been going on for 20 years. You can hear it in Bro Country. It's just the same song over and over, with slightly different lyrics.


People who sound the same as each other get signed to the big labels. But on the radio station I work at - WXNA in Nashville - we play all different genres, and deep cuts from albums past and present and people like it and they get it. They are not being treated like dopes like they are on the mainstream radio. The audience out there has intelligent ears, if only they can be exposed to the music!

SM: You have lived in Sydney, L.A., and Nashville, are these cities as musically diverse as they would seem? Where have you felt the creative connectivity the most?

AM: Sydney had a terrific music scene in the '80s - one of the best I would say and I got to see a lot of incredible bands in my teens. But this healthy music scene was killed by the legalization of slot machines in the '90s. Most of the venues disappeared. But Sydney is coming back strong now—getting back on it's feet musically. Melbourne was the music city all those years and still has a great scene. That's where I started playing. I played there for 12 years (plus a year in Vietnam playing music too) before I came to the U.S. in the early 2000s.


I think it's hard to have a strong music scene in L.A. because the city is so spread out and the traffic is terrible. But when I got there I went to the open mics. That was a good place to try out new songs and make friends. It was a great scene in and of itself - the open mic circuit. That was the most positive feeling I ever felt about my music. Everyone was so encouraging. Plus that was when Sin City was going there - a music jam every Wednesday night at Molly Malone's. Lucinda used to come, and I got to play with her - it was a great Americana scene then. Right now, Nashville is the place to be for all kinds of music. I feel like I'm in the right place.

SM: You had moved to Nashville before it became the 'hip' place to be, how has the city changed over your time there? For the better? For the worse? How has it affected you creatively?

AM: The city is totally different now. I cried the first time I saw the new convention city. The old town is gone. They keep tearing stuff down. There are 20 cranes at any one time over the city. It's been a crazy growth spurt. But exciting too. A lot of good organic food –which is a big difference and great music everywhere. All kinds! I recommend it. I just hope they start thinking about a public transport system, and really soon! When I first got here it felt like a big country town, now it feels like a city! I'm inspired here—especially working at the radio station and having my own show - Songs On The Wire. It has really brought back my pure love of music!