Jeb Cardwell is the son of well know broadcaster Roger Cardwell and brother of singer/songwriter Abbie Cardwell – though also a musician, songwriter and guitar repairer in their own right.
As part of ‘radionotes’ tour of Melbourne last year, had the chance to drop past Cardwell’s workshop for a conversation.
To listen, click the green ‘play’ triangle… [note: may take few seconds to load]
(Transcript of the Jeb Cardwell chat below, check to delivery in audio)
IMAGE CREDIT: Josh Owen
SHOW NOTES: Jeb Cardwell episode
Where to find the show to subscribe/follow:
….and many more. Search “radionotes Podcast” in your favourite podcatcher.
FEATURE GUEST: Jeb Cardwell
- Official Website
- Melbourne Guitar Repair (official site)
- Dreaming of You – Single (iTunes)
- Abbie Cardwell (official site)
- Salvi Guitars (official site)
- Hold The Woodpile Down – Roger Cardwell singing (YouTube)
- Here’s Parry – TV show feat. Roger Cardwell (YouTube)
- Guiding Star – Abbie Cardwell (Official Music Clip)
- Terry Dartnell
- Melbourne Guitar Repair– Instagram
Theatre – worth seeing from where I sit:
[Radio Production – notes: Jeb Cardwell is the feature chat for the full episode, there is a few minutes either end if you wish to get a long track on. Suggest music: Cardwell’s latest Single]
Theme/Music: Martin Kennedy and All India Radio
Web-design/tech: Steve Davis
Voice: Tammy Weller
You can make direct contact with the podcast – on the Contact Page
(for direct quotes check to audio, first version of transcript by Fannie W at REV)
Tammy Weller [Introduction]:
“Killer guitarist” is how Jeff Lang describes JEB CARDWELL.
Who has played on releases of and still tours with Kasey Chambers
Brother of talented singer Abbie Cardwell and son of legend broadcaster Roger Cardwell.
Jeb’s day job is running Melbourne Guitar Repair, where a variety of musicians trust him with their precious stringed instruments.
John during radionotes’ tour of Melbourne dropped into Cardwell’s work space, surrounded by to be and recently repaired guitars and a desk adorned with tuning forks, pliers and other key tools of the trade.
Let’s enter the workshop…
John Murch: Jeb Cardwell welcome to radionotes.
Jeb Cardwell: Thanks John.
John Murch: Thank you very much for inviting us into your space as well. Let’s start off at that point. We are in the Melbourne Guitar Repair workshop in Brunswick, in Melbourne. This is your daily work environment.
Jeb Cardwell: It is, currently. I try to come in here five days a week, usually Tuesday to Saturday. Sundays and Mondays I just don’t work at Monday. My week’s Tuesday to Saturday.
John Murch: Yeah. When you work for yourself, you can pretty much do what you want.
Jeb Cardwell: That’s the beauty of it.
John Murch: Where are you at at the moment? So in terms of this working environment, the work life one could call it, where are you at? Who are you working with? Are we talking about top notch Australian musicians or everyday people?
Jeb Cardwell: It’s both. I’ll get a lot of people just like it’s hard play in their bedroom. I look on the website to find a local guitar repair in their area. I get pretty much first hit a lot, which is great ’cause I called it Melbourne Guitar Repair, which was Steve Salvi’s idea actually.
John Murch: You know Steve Salvi from Adelaide?
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. He said, “Call it Melbourne Guitar Repair. That’s it.”
John Murch: Opposite The Wheaseaf Hotel?
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah, on George Street.
John Murch: Right next to the Deli?
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. That’s it. We’re really good friends, best friends. He started years before I started so I still on the phone to him a lot, especially in the beginning, “And how do you do this?” It’s a competition either because obviously two different markets, two different states, doing similar same-ish work. Absolutely. Yeah. Steve actually makes guitars, I don’t. I’ve just doing repairs and that keeps me busy enough because, I mean, Melbourne has a lot of guitars in it. It actually blows me away as how many guitars just keep coming in here and never slows down. Occasionally, I’ll get a low, which is great, then I’m able to catch up. But usually it’s flat out. I’ve had to employ someone to come in at a minimum of one day a week.
John Murch: Adelaide has the International Adelaide Guitar Festival, what’s the equivalent here in Melbourne? What community or what event is equivalent that you’ve been able to tap into?
Jeb Cardwell: Well, that’s a good question because yeah, the Adelaide Guitar Festival is great because it’s not about just going down to look at guitars on the wall or in popup stores, that’s what the one is here. The guitar show is just like going to maybe NAMM in America. You just go and check out all the latest guitars and the retail stores put up a popup booth and that’s what it is. And there’s a couple of bands playing, a couple of live acts. But, the guitar festival is whole another thing altogether.
John Murch: So, Adelaide might be having a good thing there.
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. Adelaide’s got the guitar festival. There’s nothing here, that I know of, that is on that scale, that that’s good. Yeah. It’s more of just a guitar show.
John Murch: Who or whom gave you your first guitar?
Jeb Cardwell: Funny enough it was my stepfather, not my father, who is the music in the family. It was my stepfather. After my mom and father separated, she met someone, when I was about seven years old. He had a three quarter sized Yamaha nylon string. It was his idea. He just said … I mean, the closest I came to playing guitar at seven years old was mimicking playing guitar with my tennis racket.
John Murch: I thought that was pretty cool.
Jeb Cardwell: I just think the guitar was pretty cool.
John Murch: The Roger Federer of the music world.
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah, yeah. Then he said, “You know what, you should learn guitar. I’ll tell you what, if you want to stick out lessons for three months, if you stick them out for three months, you can have my guitar.” And I did, probably didn’t have the right teacher. I didn’t really enjoy it, though I picked it up well enough. It wasn’t really hard. I mean, it was hard-ish but it wasn’t totally off putting, but I just, it didn’t really grab me. And so after three months I stopped. I got the guitar of course, ’cause I stuck it out for three months. But because I had that guitar in my bedroom for the next few years, despite not learning anything, I’d still pick it up occasionally and learn those basic chords that I was able to remember. ‘D’, ‘G’, ‘E’, ‘A’.
John Murch: Within those three months.
Jeb Cardwell: So, I always kept those … Actually I did forget some, but in the end I think I never forgot ‘D’ and ‘G’. I’m pretty sure I never ever got ‘D’, ‘G’ and ‘A’. Yeah, it wasn’t till I was 15 that a light bulb went off, the penny dropped, whatever you call it, I just-
John Murch: What was happening at the start of those three months? What was the relations with the stepfather like? I guess what I’m inquiring about is, was it a new level of engagement or was it an ongoing level of engagement between the two of you?
Jeb Cardwell: I’d known him for a while before he suggested that. So, at the start of the three months-
John Murch: Trying to get a vibe of why would a stepfather, say, mate.
Jeb Cardwell: Technically not related.
John Murch: As a step parent, I think you should do this.
Jeb Cardwell: Because by that time he had been around for a while. To be honest, I can’t remember, but it feels like, from memory, that he had been around for a while, and suggesting something like that was totally normal. He, essentially, in the end became like a second father. So, by then that was already developing.
John Murch: Did he have a musical background in him?
Jeb Cardwell: No.
John Murch: Right. So, he was very …
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah, yeah. It was my blood father that had the musical background that used to play guitar to me when I was a kid before I was seven. Obviously, he liked the guitar because he still hang onto it, and yeah, he had had a few lessons, but he couldn’t really, he couldn’t play. I never remember him playing. So, that was really good of him. He didn’t see any, I think, talent in me for the guitar, it was just an idea. It was that, “Hey, I’ve got this guitar, guitar’s pretty cool, why don’t you try to learn it?”
John Murch: What was the response when you got around to playing him a song I would think?
Jeb Cardwell: Oh, well, I actually, to be honest, I don’t remember what happened in that respect. When I was seven years old I gave up the guitar. I had a couple of chords. I probably played them in front of him. We can jump forward a bit where I did actually play him a song, years later.
John Murch: Oh yeah.
Jeb Cardwell: My sister and I actually played a song for him when I would have been 19, 20. Around there, maybe 21.
John Murch: 12, 13 years later.
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. Yeah. And it wasn’t until then that I actually played him a song that I knew how to play the guitar then. So I picked up the guitar, again, when I was 15 or 16. Then Abbie and I played him a song. Because, he’s an academic, or was an academic, he’s not with us anymore, but he wanted me to go to university, and I didn’t want to go and I pursued the guitar. I already knew when I was-
John Murch: I’m sure he be cursing the guy that gave you a guitar, “Who was that guy that gave you a guitar that you don’t want to do academia? I don’t know, this guy.”
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah, yeah. So, yeah. When I turned 16 and I heard the blues, I wanted to play the guitar. There was no doubt about it. I knew what I wanted to do in life. It was fantastic. But, of course that’s going against the social norm, what you do, you go to school, you have a break, you go to uni, you get an education, you get something that can make you some money and give you some security so that you don’t grow older without any money. And that was his thinking, “You’ve got to go to uni, you’ve got to get … You’re bright.” He thought I was bright. He says, “You’re really bright. You’re wasting it if you don’t go to uni.” Of course I channeled my circle of brightness into other areas, and it worked out well for me. And when I played him that song, when my sister and I played him a song, he could see that, I think, that we had something and it wasn’t just a fleeting fad with us, and he backed off then.
Jeb Cardwell: I think around that time I did say on the phone once in a heated conversation, on the phone with my mom and stepfather were on the other end. I was in Adelaide they were in Brisbane, and they were, again, saying, “You should go and study.” I was, I think it’s about 21. Yeah. And I was like, “You know what, I’m never going to go and study. I’m going to play the guitar. This is what I want to do. That’s it. So just leave me alone. I’ve had enough.” Yeah. Actually it got to that point. I think it was after then that we played the song in front of him.
John Murch: Now this time you were with your sister in Adelaide?
Jeb Cardwell: Yes.
John Murch: Living with your biological father?
Jeb Cardwell: Well, yes. Yes and no. That was a rocky period for my sister and I. Yeah. It’s funny because, I have to give you a quick overview otherwise it won’t make sense. When I was seven, Abbie is three years younger, so she was four, my mother and father split up. She met Terry within a year I think. He is a philosopher. He got a contract at Singapore University, so we went to go and live there. By the time I arrived in Singapore, I was nine actually, and I turned 10 within about three months of being there. He got a three year contract.
Jeb Cardwell: So, I was living with mom, so I went with mom to Singapore. Dad was one of those things where I saw dad once a fortnight, and he stayed in Adelaide, he didn’t want us to go, but we went to Singapore. I’m so glad I went. I love it. I didn’t like it at first, but I love it now and I love going back to Asian countries. And I went to primary school there. I went to a local school. I started out in an American school with all the other expats, but the education level wasn’t so good, my stepfather and my mother thought, so they pulled me out and they put me in a local school. I was the only Caucasian in the whole school. So, with Abbie, because we never were at school at the same time because they had morning and afternoon shifts for the odd and even years. So, Abbie and I were always odd and even. We never at school together, we was the only Caucasians at school.
John Murch: That ‘hi Ralph, hi Sam’ thing
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah, yeah. We’re the only Caucasians at school.
John Murch: And this is in Singapore?
Jeb Cardwell: This is in Singapore, yeah. Singapore for three years. And within that time I visited my dad in Australia a few times. After the three year contract was up with Terry’s university, I went back to Australia. I was 13 then, and lived with dad for six months. I was in year eight, I went to Brighton High School. It was the school of music. Dad wanted me to go there because it was local, plus he was into music. By then I hadn’t started the guitar. Yeah. He said, “You should go to Brighton High School.” Oh, hang on. I’m stuffing this up. No, I think I just went there because it was local. It was the second time I went to Brighton High School. It was for the music aspect of it.
John Murch: So the first time-
Jeb Cardwell: Because it was local. It is complicated. So, yeah. I went there for six months. In the meantime, my mom and stepfather, they went straight from Singapore to England, because they’re both English. My mom’s English. Yeah. His contract run out, he couldn’t get another contract, so he went to England. We lived in Hampshire, which is down south of England. I could see the Isle of Wight if I climbed a tree. We were that close to the coast.
Jeb Cardwell: Six months with dad. He was with his fourth wife then, and she, let’s say it nicely she, Abbie and I didn’t really get along. It didn’t work out. We had to leave, and so we went to England. I didn’t want to go. 13, started my life with my mates. After Singapore I’d established some new mates, but again, I had to go, go to England. That was horrible. By that time, yeah, I was nearly 14. So, got to England in Hampshire. They picked us up from Heathrow and we drove a while to get to East Boldre, it was called. And they all down there, little Florence, East Boldre. And the cattle grids, ponies, cows, roaming around and just miles of heath.
Jeb Cardwell: It was like the middle of nowhere, it was winter. And I’d just come from South Australia summer, a totally different vibe. I was living in Glendale summer in Adelaide. I hated it. It was like being sent to jail. I spent three years in England. One thing that I did like about it was, I was heavily into medieval knights and stuff, and that was the home for all that stuff pretty much. So yeah, there was some good aspects about living in Hampshire and Brighton. We lived in Brighton, Sussex as well.
John Murch: We’re still a few years off from you actually picking up the guitar again. So I want to ask, between then picking up the guitar, when did the blues grab you?
Jeb Cardwell: Well, it’s funny you say that because as soon as I said Brighton, Sussex, that was the point. So, we spent nearly two years in Hampshire, then we moved to Brighton, Sussex, because Terry couldn’t get a job. He had to retrain, and he retrained in artificial intelligence, in AI. During that time, we had to go to Brighton. I went to high school in Brighton. I made a friend called Chris, who loved Chuck Berry. Said, “Yeah, Chuck Berry.”
Jeb Cardwell: I like rock and roll, and mom had the Rolling Stones and stuff. I grew up listening to great music. Tony [Day 00:15:23], Carly Simon, James Taylor, Rolling Stones, JJ Cale, ’cause my dad loved that stuff, and mom did too. Chuck Berry, I’d heard of Chuck Berry and he goes, “Yeah, this is so cool, the guitar sound. I want to try and learn,” I was like, “Yeah. I’ll try to learn that too.” So, we used to just tinker on his and guitar he had. I knew ‘D’ and ‘G’ from when I was seven years old. But the more I focused on the guitar the more I liked it. And a friend at school said, everyone in those days, in the ’80s, was into giving tapes of music to each other. Yeah, mixed tapes and stuff.
Jeb Cardwell: I mate of mine said, “Oh Rick, can you really love this stuff that my dad has got?” So, he gave me a whole heap of stuff on this tape. I put it on not knowing what the band was called or the song, because he didn’t write it down. I just remember hearing how cool it was. But it wasn’t until I really, when I really decided I wanted to learn guitar, the house we were renting in Brighton, Sussex had a record collection in it because the owners had gone off to Africa and we were just renting it short term, and they left everything in there. And I was rifling through the records and putting on music because of my interest started to redevelop a guitar.
Jeb Cardwell: I pulled out this old beat up single. On the ‘A’ side of it had Josh White, an American negro folk singer. And on the other side it had Big Bill Broonzy. Now, I put on the Big Bill Broonzy and I remember I was sitting in front of the stereo, a Marantz one.
John Murch: You got to do quality.
Jeb Cardwell: And I had the headphones on. It was just me. And I listened to it, and it literally blew my mind. I thought, “This is absolutely incredible.” I almost cried.
John Murch: And it’s just a seven inch, isn’t it?
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah.
John Murch: Headphone, seven inch. One good.
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. I was just so moved deeply with this guy, Big Bill Broonzy, African American again. He was big around ’50s. ’50s, ’60s, mainly, maybe late ’40s, I don’t know. What I was listening to was a recording I think from the ’50s. Yeah. Heard it, was moved incredibly, and I just couldn’t imagine how one man and one guitar could do that to you or just sound so amazing, and so much feeling in his fingers as well as his voice, and the harmony between his voice and his fingers. The phrasing and the dance that the fingers and the voice did, and the soulful playing as well as the soulful singing, but also eerie at the same time. He was able to convey all those amazing African American blues artists, something deep down inside, you got it. I got it.
John Murch: You’re in Brighton when this happened?
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah.
John Murch: But not old enough necessarily to go out.
Jeb Cardwell: I didn’t have a-
John Murch: Kids.
Jeb Cardwell: No, no. I just heard Big Bill Broonzy and that was it.
John Murch: Brighton for me, Gary Adamson, and his work, I’ve spoken to him, and he has this deep infinity with what Brighton represents. Never been there, you’ve been there. Did the area for which you’re in then educate you more about this music?
Jeb Cardwell: No. Not at all.
John Murch: What happened?
Jeb Cardwell: I was 15 at that time. So, when I discovered Big Bill Broonzy yeah, I was 15. No, I was just in my own little pocket. I didn’t go out to nightclubs or anything, I wasn’t old enough. All I had was my small circle of school friends. Literally I hung out with maybe two friends from that school. They were brothers and we all love the guitar.
John Murch: So the education from that and a few records, very few records, maybe-
Jeb Cardwell: Very few. Yeah.
John Murch: Was your education with the brothers, with other people that you’re playing with?
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. Well, I wasn’t even playing guitar. I couldn’t even really play. But yeah, the other brothers, Chris and Dave that I was hanging out with, Chris was the one that was really into the guitar more. I discovered Big Bill Broonzy on my own from rifling through records, but I discovered Chuck Berry through Chris, and then the other guy I mentioned that gave me the tape. Because I was expressing an interest in guitar, he gave me that tape. I had no idea who was on it, but I would put it on and it blew my mind as well. Robert Johnson was on there. I’d already heard Big Bill Broonzy. I might’ve had the same reaction, I’m sure I would have if I’d heard Robert Johnson first, but I heard Big Bill Broonzy first. Had that amazing reaction.
Jeb Cardwell: On the other side was Led Zeppelin. It was funny because Led Zeppelin influence, especially Jimmy Page by Robert Johnson. And I was listening to, on one side, I don’t think my friend who dubbed all the songs onto the tape knew what he had done, but he had given me the beginning and the end of what you get after blues on one tape. It was funny. I loved it all.
John Murch: And you had to fill in the turning over section.
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. Well, I didn’t know it was Robert Johnson, I discovered it later that I had been listening to Robert Johnson and Led Zeppelin. It wasn’t till I discovered who I’d been listening to, nearly two years later. I thought, “One day I will find out and I will buy this music.”
John Murch: And by this time you mentioned you went to Brighton High for a second time, have you now come back to Australia?
Jeb Cardwell: Okay. So, I’m in England listening to the tape I didn’t know it was Robert Johnson and Led Zeppelin. And then it was time to leave England because well, I wanted to go and live with my dad.
John Murch: Fourth wife or not.
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah, yeah. That’s right. I wanted to go and live with him, because it was just that thing that his son wants to hang out with his dad. I was older by now, I was 15. I knew he had had guitars too, and I knew he had a music history. He was a country and western compare. So, I’ve got to go and live with my dad, and I missed him too. So, Wendy and Terry, my mom Wendy and Terry, wanted to go and buy some property in Australia. They wanted to go back to Australia as well, and he was looking for a contract there at Griffith University in Brisbane, which he got, and they went to Griffith University in Brisbane. I went to live with dad in Adelaide, so did Abbie, despite him being with that horrible fourth wife.
Jeb Cardwell: I mean, she had a good points, but overall, she made it awful for us. I went back to Brighton High. I had music school. Yeah, this was year 10. It was always a musical school, I think. You’re in a guitar, day I landed I grabbed dad’s guitar, I started playing until literally till I had blisters. I just wouldn’t stop. And I didn’t have a teacher. There was no YouTube. I would just-
John Murch: I’m just imagining his eyes, “My son’s home and he’s into music.”
Jeb Cardwell: Big time. I was just teaching myself whatever, I just made up, but I had feel. That’s what grabbed me about the blues, it’s the feel. From listening to it without really … I see that nylon string guitar. It was three quarter size, it had nylon strings. It sounded it’s terrible. I just couldn’t wait to get dad’s steel string out when I got there and I thought, “I’ll be able to play some real blues when I get there.”
John Murch: It was the-
Jeb Cardwell: When I get a steel string. That’s when I really started playing. But yeah, he said, “You got to go to the music school, Brighton High School.” So, I’m trying to get into a music school starting at year 10 when, those days, probably still the same, all kids studying music as a subject, ’cause not all of the kids did, but I wanted to. You had to have been playing an instrument for a while or have been learning music.
Jeb Cardwell: So, we went to the school. I see the head of the music department. I have no real music background, but he walked into our room, lifted up the piano, hit a note, said, “Sing that note that I just played,” and I did. And then did it again, he goes, “Right, you can learn music.” So he said, “But the problem is, you’ve got no theory.” And everyone’s grade eight in theory. So he said, “Over the summer you have to …” He gave me the master theory books from grade one to seven or eight, and I completed and finished all of those during the summer holidays, that the kids were on. So when the summer holidays were over, I started year 10. Yeah, that was it.
John Murch: Was there a suggestion that you had at least the instrument of the voice and the guitar would come and then the theory could be studied as well?
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. I think the teacher’s way of thinking was that, anybody that can hear something and replicate it vocally, has got an ear for music. Yeah. If he’d played it like a, “aaaa,” and I’d gone, “uuuh,” he would have like, “No.” Yeah.
John Murch: We’re currently in conversation with Jeb Cardwell in his guitar studio here in Melbourne, in Brunswick, around that area. Let’s talk about your father, if you don’t mind. I actually hear of many, particularly those of the radio generation as myself, his name is Roger Cardwell. We possibly would know him as the radio broadcaster, the announcer. In fact there was, Greg Clark was talking about him on another podcast recently as being that era of commercial radio obviously. But he was also a father and he was also a husband to a couple of wives as well.
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah.
John Murch: We’ve picked that up.
Jeb Cardwell: He was married five times.
John Murch: Five times?
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. Technically he’s still married to the fifth though they have separated.
John Murch: Okay.
Jeb Cardwell: Sorry dad. It’s all right. It’s all right.
John Murch: Jeb, what was it like, you’ve mentioned the story already of having the stepfather and spending a lot of time overseas, I guess with the stepfather, but what was it like being in the circle, the sphere, of Roger?
Jeb Cardwell: We’ve said a lot about Terry Dartnall, is his name. Actually before we move on to my father, Terry Dartnall was a very successful lecturer in AI.
John Murch: Are we talking artificial intelligence before it was cool?
Jeb Cardwell: Yes, before it was cool. And he’s really intelligent, philosophical guy ’cause he’s a philosopher. He’s naturally going into AI seemed like a good thing to do because, can computers think themselves? That’s a philosophical question in itself. You can go on and on and on and debate until the cows come home. And he was really good at that. He wrote books on it. So, he’s known in the AI world, I think internationally as well. Anyway-
John Murch: Before we do, do you get a sense that your intelligence, say for things of that nature, comes through your music sometimes as well? Do you tap into those conversations that you had with him?
Jeb Cardwell: I do. I think if I hadn’t spent years with Terry, perhaps I may not think about life in the same way. He liked to debate. He loved it. He’d have a few wines. He liked to smoke pot, though in England he didn’t do it. But, he’d have a few wines and he and I would debate. I found it, it was enjoyable as well. I found it really interesting. Yeah. To think about things. Just think about things. Ask why, ask about the outcomes of things.
John Murch: I have a feeling Terry might come up when we talk about songwriting, if we get to that section in today’s conversation. Back to Roger though, Roger the father for you.
Jeb Cardwell: Admired and respected my dad, ’cause he was a real, I don’t know, had that deep voice.
John Murch: He was a real father.
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. I don’t know how to say it, but yeah, he had that real stereotypical father persona. And you think, “Wow, how do you get to be a Roger Cardwell?” I discovered, as I’ve got older, people like my dad are pretty rare. He’s not actually the norm. It’s funny. Being around him, yeah, was great. Just to have that influence.
John Murch: Talk to us about finding out that he’s not so ordinary.
Jeb Cardwell: No, ’cause at the time he would have seem that special, but now he obviously … At that time, no, he did seem special to me. He was a man’s man. He reminded me of a James Bond character, like Sean Connery. My father is such a father, he’s such a man. It may, a lot shorter, just different personality, you think, “Wow, am I ever going to get to be anything like my father in that, I don’t know, outward …”
Jeb Cardwell: As I’ve got older I’ve discovered that, yeah, my dad, like I said before, it’s a rare thing. Well, everybody’s individual but there’s not many people like my dad, there’s a whole lot more people like me. Maybe there are, maybe it’s because we’re so different. I attract and travel around in a different type of circle. I attract like minded people. Maybe dad attracted like minded people in his world.
John Murch: How did you find communicating with him? What were the conversations like?
Jeb Cardwell: Well, communicating with dad was, it was pretty easy, really. You see, dad never had a father, so he wasn’t very good at being one, really. He did the best he could, but he also didn’t know what to do. I mean, I’m sure many people have been in the same boat where they’ve got a father that’s not so great. We were all learning, dad didn’t have a father, so how can I expect him to be this great father. I mean, I admired and respected him, but he could have done things a lot bet better in hindsight. But at the time, when I moved back from England and I was with him, I was just really excited and over the moon to be with him and to be introduced to that, reintroduced to that world of radio and TV, because I really liked that too. Maybe because it’s similar to, the aspects of it are similar to music. A lot of his friends could play guitar.
John Murch: Well, let’s recap the story and as we said, Terry may have been the person who gave you your first guitar, but it was father Roger who had the musical background, and where the music started maturing well.
Jeb Cardwell: That’s right. Well see, on my 21st birthday, he invited all his friends around and my guitar teacher, we’ll have to backtrack a bit about him, and we’d all just jam and play guitar. He knew, like I said, he knew a lot of musos because a lot of people in the entertainment industry they can play a bit of a tune, whether they don’t do it, they might not do it as a living, but yeah, a lot of them can either play guitar, piano, bass or something. So yeah, my 21st was fantastic. We had all these guitarists come around and amongst them was my teacher. ‘Cause when I moved back from England, I was teaching myself. I had no frigging idea.
John Murch: So you’ve got ‘D’, ‘G’, passion, teaching yourself?
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. I’ve watched a movie called Crossroads.
John Murch: Britney Spears, fantastic.
Jeb Cardwell: No, this is the one in the ’80s, that Ralph Macchio, the Karate Kid was in, and the guy who played Joe Brown or whatever, it was played by Joe Seneca. Anyway, it was about the journey to go and find the so called, was it the 40th song? Robert Johnson recorded 39 songs and apparently there’s the lost song, which is the 40th. So, the movie is based around this kid who goes to Juilliard, learns classical music but loves the blues. Should really be focusing on classical but doesn’t ’cause he loves the blues. He goes on this journey with Robert Johnson, a harmonica player, down south to Mississippi in search of the lost song.
Jeb Cardwell: Well, I watched that movie and then the blues in it, the blues guitar playing, and the blues music just was fantastic. And I didn’t have a teacher. So, it was VHS in those days, I’d stop, pause, rewind, Ralph Macchio playing the guitar. He was coached, so he can’t play the guitar, but he was coached so well that I could actually learn from watching his fingers. And I taught myself this piece of music that Ralph Macchio plays sitting on his bed in his room. Goes for about two to three minutes. And I told myself, “This is the best I could.” It would impress my dad. And his wife at the time, I really needed a teacher, a blues mentor. I wanted a blues mentor.
Jeb Cardwell: I went to see Leo Kottke play. So I was maybe 16, just come back from England. I’d probably been in Adelaide for a year, go to this concert. I think it was Her Majesty’s, Leo Kottke was playing. There was a support. I had no idea who it was. I went with my dad’s wife. The first that came out and he was led on the stage by somebody because his eyesight was really bad. And he had a stick. He sat down and played the acoustic guitar and it blew my mind, because he was playing blues. It was Chris Finnen, and he was 30 something then. Probably early 30s, mid 30. Leo Kottke came on after and I was like, “Ah, Leo Kottke, whatever. Who cares?” It was Chris Finnen got me playing the proper blues. Though Leo Kottke now would, yeah, that’d be something, ’cause he’s amazing as well. I’ve actually got a few of his albums and I’ve lent some of these 12 string songs.
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. Chris Finnen left the stage. At the end of the show, Leo Kottke, my dad’s wife said, “Do you want to … We should go backstage and try and meet him. Try and meet him, meet Chris Finnen.” I said, “Nah. All right.” She talked me into it. So, that was a good thing that she did. This is something positive about it. We went down the side of the building and there was a bouncer there and we said, “Ah, we want to meet Chris Finnen,” and he went, “Yeah, sure. I think he’s just backstage,” ’cause the back of the stage was right near the exit door. So, I was let through backstage and Leo Kottke was there and I got introduced to him and shook his hand, said, “Great gig,” and he was like, “Whatever.”
Jeb Cardwell: And Chris Finnen was there. Chris Finnen puts out his hand, I go, “Ah, that was fantastic. That was amazing.” But the idea was that I would ask him for lessons. I was about to say it and he goes, “Oh, great. Do you want lessons?” And I went, “Yeah. Yes, please.” He lived a couple of streets away in the city, and I went for lessons with him. I started the week after. Once a week he’d recorded on the tape. Those types I still have. He moved house.
Jeb Cardwell: I think for a year I saw him at his location in the city, then he had to move out further north, I think it was. And so that means I had to catch two buses; one from Brighton or Grinnell, into the city, and then another one out all the way down northeast road to [Wupworth 00:36:45] to go and have my weekly lessons. But I did it, ’cause I was so passionate about it and I’d get on the bus with my hard case. I wait at the bus stop playing guitar, I get the other end, have the lesson, put it on tape, wait at the bus stop, play a guitar while waiting for the bus. I did this for about three years in total. Oh no, maybe not three, maybe two. And then, I had to stop because life just got too busy. I was getting older. It happens. After a year, I was playing guitar, had a band at school.
John Murch: So, that’s two years being trained by Chris Finnen?
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He was the perfect mentor for me because he was a feel player. And I was heavily a feel player. I just played all I needed to know. I needed to just hear how the notes should be played and I would play it like that. I would play the note over and over and over and over and over, one note, until it sounded like Chris’ note, or until it sounded close to Chris’ note.
John Murch: It sounds like he was invested in you as well because that interaction where he asked you if you wanted a guitar lesson.
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah, yeah.
John Murch: It seems that he-
Jeb Cardwell: Oh no, it was meant to be.
John Murch: A vibe, a feel that he could do something with you, musically, and obviously over the years has.
Jeb Cardwell: It would be nice to think that. I also think that he needed some cash as well. So, that would have been part of it.
John Murch: Yup, “You want lessons? Great, just a little bit, will you?”
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah . It was meant to be. I mean, the luckiest guy in the world, really, I will key in the world, to have Chris Finnen as their mentor. I got the blues mentor. I got manifested this blues mentor. Perhaps if manifestation is something people would say that it’s not possible, but I think it is. And yeah, so I’ve got this blues mentor and he put it on tape. And for years after, even though I didn’t have lessons with Chris, I had those tapes. So as my knowledge of guitar playing got better and my ear became more mature, I could pick out things that I missed before. And so I learn off those tapes for over five, eight years maybe, after. I just keep churning out those tapes, I’d hear new sh*t all the time. It was at least five years after stopping lessons for Chris. I was still learning off …
John Murch: At the same time your father would have known this was happening, he would have been kept informed.
Jeb Cardwell: Yes. Yeah. Dad knew. He would invite Chris to the birthdays. That 21st birthday was a world of guitarists came. Doug Ashdown who was a famous ’70s folk singer songwriter. Had a hit, ‘Winter in America’. Doug Ashdown would come around, Chris Finnen, Mark Rivet, who also had Rivet studios down by Pepper studios. They’re not there anymore. But, Mark Rivet was an amazing guitarist. So, I was very lucky. From 21, I think for the next three or four years or something, I would have a guitar party for my birthday, and just be surrounded by all these great guitarists. It was all about guitar for me, and it still is. I mean, I’ve got Melbourne Guitar Repair, I’m in two bands, I’m recording my album. I still play music. Music is my passion. If I could play it for a living, I would. That’s a guitar.
John Murch: When did songwriting come about for you?
Jeb Cardwell: Songwriting, right, okay. Now this is funny, because now I often say to myself, “Geez, maybe I should have focused more on songwriting.” That’s where the money is, really.
John Murch: You have an album out, they will have songwriting on it. What was it a necessity to express yourself? Where did-
Jeb Cardwell: Oh well, it goes back to that time where I heard Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Johnson, the singing and the guitar, to get that. I ultimately wanted to do that, but I had to learn the guitar first. I would play in my room, play the guitar. I try singing along, it was very difficult to sing and play the guitar, but I wanted to do it. I had the guitar and I’d try and sing. I was 18 when I plucked up the courage to ask for a gig. I’d been singing in my bedroom along with the guitar. I thought I was good enough to go and do a gig, and I was. And I made a demo tape.
Jeb Cardwell: My guitar playing was whoa, better than most singing. I still think that my singing is a lot better now. So, I made a demo type. I went down to Moby Dick’s Tavern in, where is it now? Henley, Henley beach. ‘Cause I called the guy first, the owner, and I said, “I’m looking for a gig, blah blah blah,” and he goes, “Yeah, come on down.” Same day, said, “Come down today.” So I took my guitar down there, my tape, I was nervous as hell. I thought I was going to have to play guitar in front of him, but he just put it on the tape and he heard it and he goes, “That’s pretty good. When do you want to play, do you want to play tomorrow night.” I was like, “Holy shit.”
Jeb Cardwell: So I got a gig, I went, I was the most nervous I’ve ever, ever been in my life. But I did that gig and felt amazing, and people enjoyed it. And it became a residency. In the end, I wasn’t nervous at all. After a few months, I was drinking and playing, bloody no problem. I was 18 when I was doing that. Started a band with Abbie, Blue Jay, and we recorded an album, and then I was in and out of bands, and I’m jamming with people. It was all about the guitar and performing and playing. You want to be famous and all that stuff and you’re trying to make it, searching.
John Murch: How did you craft your songs from them? So, you were singing, you’re-
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah, the craft. Yeah. So Abbie and I, I was 23 or 24 when we started Blue Jay. All right. That’s when I tried my hand at crafting a song, and I crafted a couple that made it on the album, and Abbie and I crafted some together. Abbie, by that stage, had actually been writing herself. She was self taught guitarist like me, but she didn’t go more into the wow guitar playing factor, she used it more to accompany her beautiful voice and her really good talent for songwriting, an amazing talent. Whereas I was the guitar and I’ve developed songwriting, I’m still developing songwriting.
Jeb Cardwell: I’m happy with the songs on this album. I love them. They’re great. And I think they’re good, but I’m not prolific. I don’t churn out songs. I sit on one. Sometimes one will come quick, sometimes it’ll take ages. I mean, there’s some songs on this album that have matured and developed, seriously, six years. And now listen to them and they’ve changed and they’re better than when I would write them six years ago. There’s a point where you go to put them down, otherwise they’ll just keep changing, and they might change for the worst, but I feel they’ve changed for the better.
John Murch: We’ll hopefully speak to Abbie in her own capacity one day, but I want to ask you while you’re here, just one question about her, and that’s the brotherly pride. We’ve spoken about the father, the stepfather-
Jeb Cardwell: Got blown away with what she’s done. I admire Abbie’s skill and perseverance as well. She knows the industry as good as anyone, because she’s been at the point of nearly making it, getting knocked back, nearly making it, getting knocked back. It’s happened multiple times. She’s had all the knock backs, I’ve hardly had any knock backs because I haven’t put myself out there like Abbie. I’ve mainly been the hired gun, guitarist guy. It’s an easier road. Being a performer, solo songwriter and trying to make it, that’s hard. I’m only going to giving that a go now in my 40s. Abbie’s been doing it for about 20 years.
Jeb Cardwell: So, I admire her. Her voice is beautiful, and her songwriting is very clever. I mean, she honing the craft. She does courses, online courses, and she is giving courses now herself. She’s right into what makes a song really, really good. Some people may get lucky and churn out a song. Some songwriters have a natural talent for writing a song and making it great without even realizing what they’ve done. Abbie could tell that person why that song is great, and why maybe it could be tweaked a bit better.
John Murch: The body of work that is the album. Debut album is a solo album? I’m trying to remember.
Jeb Cardwell: Used to be my debut solo album. I have recorded in bands that I’ve been in, and had a hand in writing those songs, like Johnny Seven.
John Murch: This is personal.
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. These are all my original songs. I think the first one I started writing eight years ago. There’s nothing before that. I mean, after eight years it just to think the song’s good, there’s got to be good. And if you’re still playing them. I’m still playing them. The guys in the band, they love them. They are the ones that said, “Jeb, you got to record these songs.” They’re the ones that got me off my ass.
John Murch: Themes, thematics, for the songs that made it on the-
Jeb Cardwell: There is a ’70s pop rock vibe about it. Yeah. I’ve got keyboard, bass, drums, guitar. But, there’s some Beatles in there. There’s even some really early Elton John stuff in there, there’s some Dire Straits flavors, there’s some JJ Cale flavors in there.
John Murch: Jeb, what’s your proudest moment?
Jeb Cardwell: My proudest moment? Well, that’s a good question. I don’t think I’ve even asked that myself, maybe because I’m too scared to ask it.
John Murch: Yeah, and I haven’t asked musically either, this is broader than the music. It’s about the person that relates to this album.
Jeb Cardwell: Ah, geez. I just recently got married by the way, putting that out there.
John Murch: Well, that was on the tip of my tongue.
Jeb Cardwell: I was proud of myself and my wife when we did that. That was epic. We did it like location wedding in Penang.
John Murch: You were mentioning before about, and I’m very aware that he’s alive and he’s famous, but your father not having a father model, and here you are. Now, he has five wives, here’s is the one.
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah.
John Murch: You’re ready for a lifetime of-
Jeb Cardwell: Oh yeah, absolutely. If anything, dad showed me what not to do. Yeah. So, this is number one and only one. Yeah, for sure. So, I think yeah, that’s one of the most proudest of my life for sure. I was going to say that one, but there is also another couple of times, and they’re music related. One was when Abbie and I released our first album with Yuri on bass. It was our band called Blue Jay. That was our first ever album together. So, that was proud. We’d actually done a bit of a recording at The Gov high marsh on tape. The Blue Jay CD album was the real proud moment. And then the next proud moment after that was-
John Murch: I got to apologise for smiling, I was at The Gov on Tuesday. It’s around seven-ish, eight-sh. Got myself a little carry hop hop. So, it’s just me, two bar staff member and a managery type staff person walking around, that’s it. So, I’m in the front bar and then someone rocks up with a Banjo and then every other family related kind of instrument. No one under the age of 45. And then Richard Tonkin walks in as well and they had a jam session for over an hour. The staff looked to me as if to say, “Oh, do you want to go? Are you feeling out of place with these people?” “No, no. I’ll have dessert. I’ll have a coffee and I’m sitting till late.”
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah. It’s good to hear that Richard’s still doing that. Richard Tonkin was the one that recorded Abbie and I, our tape. Tonkin is great. I mean, they gave us a break as a local artists and they helped us get somewhere, and get gigs.
John Murch: What’s the next 10 years for Jed Cardwell?
Jeb Cardwell: Ultimately my passion is to perform, just live off music. And that would be songwriting and playing music.
John Murch: Where in your workshop at the moment?
Jeb Cardwell: This will still be going and I will be hardly spending any time in here, I’ll have guys coming in here to do it. I have one guy coming in once a week. He’s also pursuing the dream of playing music full time. Yeah, she plays the James Ryan, Josh. He’s still pursuing the dream. But my plan is, to have someone in here probably that isn’t pursuing their dream, they can keep Melbourne Guitar Repair going, so that I can go and pursue the dream, so to speak. But really what really makes me happy is playing music, singing songs, writing songs, recording them. I want to be able to do that for a living.
Jeb Cardwell: I don’t care if I’m not famous, I just want to be able to make a living out of it. So in order to do that, you’ve actually got to go out there and start doing it. And it’s hard when for every muso that wants to do that, it’s hard when you don’t have any money, so you need a day job. This is my day job, Melbourne Guitar Repair, and my big plan is to ultimately pull away from Melbourne Guitar Repair. I’ve got this to a point now where it’s going really well.
John Murch: And you know how blessed you are, but at least it’s something related to what you’re-
Jeb Cardwell: Actually I’m very lucky that I work for myself and I’m working on guitars, and I still go out and do gigs. I play with some famous people like Kasey Chambers now and then, and I’ve recorded an album with her. That was one of the other most proud moments, was when I actually recorded an alb with her and got that album in my hands. It’s like, “Man, I am on the album playing all the Banjo, and the Dobro.” And so I still do-
John Murch: That would have won an ARIA or something?
Jeb Cardwell: It did, yeah.
John Murch: We need to talk again next time you’re in Adelaide maybe.
Jeb Cardwell: Yeah, yeah, sure.
John Murch: Because our hour today is done.
Jeb Cardwell: That’s okay, there’s more to come. But, like I was saying, the plan is to get someone in here to run Melbourne Guitar Repair so I can go off and pursue the dream.
John Murch: Jeb Cardwell, thanks very much for joining radionotes.
Jeb Cardwell: Thank you.
Tammy Weller [Outro]:
Jeb Cardwell. More on him at Jeb Cardwell Dot Com and for his business of strings – Melbourne Guitar Repair Dot Com Dot A U
Latest from Jeb is Single is Dreaming Of You, with an album still to come.