Alan Fletcher, singer/songwriter and Neighbours’ Dr Karl Kennedy catches up with Brian Peel for a special interview.
How and where did it all begin for you Alan? We’re use to seeing you on the television playing Dr Karl Kennedy on Neighbours but we have to ask, what drew your interest to the music industry?
I started playing music at a young age. As an actor I performed in music theatre and regularly appeared in concerts singing, predominately, swing music. In 2004 I met and formed a band with two Melbourne musicians Tommy Rando and Chris Hawker. This band called Waiting Room became very popular with UK fans of Neighbours in Australia and the UK, performing every week in Melbourne and touring the UK ten times over eight years.
In 2019 I finally rekindled my music aspirations when I met performers and producers Lachlan Bryan and Damian Cafarella. They mentored my journey into Americana and produced my EP Dispatches and the album The Point.
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?
I have been writing about life and love for many years and, as a performer, I passionate about story telling. Music is arguably one of the most powerful and popular methods of spreading emotional and philosophical insights. Comedy writing is also a passion of mine.
You’ve reached the highest or highs playing one of Neighbours’ most iconic characters on TV. Looking at your career as a musician and artist, what goals have you set for yourself over the coming years?
My principal goal in music is to develop an audience that are as passionate about my songs as they might be about Neighbours. And, of course, I am also aiming to draw in an audience that are unaware of my acting.
We know Neighbours has now been given a lifeline. Thank goodness for that! What can we expect from you in the coming months and are there any plans to tour your music?
Yes, so wonderful that Neighbours is returning though will limit my ability to tour a little. I am embarking on a 14-date tour of the UK on March 26 this year to promote the album. My next opportunity to tour will be in September. I am currently looking at that possibility.
Tell us a bit about your latest release and how would you best describe your music?
I am very proud of the album the Point. Reviews have been incredibly supportive. The album reflects all my styles and interests in Americana/Alt-Country. The album has seven songs that gently reflect on life and love and my take on the world. My desire to put a smile on the listener’s face are reflected in the songs How Good is Bed and Somebody. The latter is a duet with my wife Jennifer Hansen with marital harmony as the central theme. I also have a cover of John Prine’s classic Fish and Whistle as a mark of respect to the performer who is my principal inspiration. The last track, called Jack, is a true bush ballad tribute to my grandfather.
Your wife Jennifer is a budding writer herself. A very talented one if I do say so myself! Have you tapped into her knowledge and used that to inspire your creative process.
Yes indeed. Jen is a gifted piano player who performs with me, sings with me and I draw on her inspiration and writing skills to develop all my songs
There are some artists who write songs with lyrics that have significant meaning to particular moments in their life or journey. Is it the same for you and your music?
Very much so. I draw heavily on my own life experiences for at least 50% of my songs. The other 50% is fictional content drawn from my general thoughts about relationships and living.
Success, what is the secret to it as Alan Fletcher the actor and Alan Fletcher the artist?
The key to success for me is to not take myself too seriously and to set achievable goals. I don’t seek stardom or awards. I am striving to be an artist that tells authentic stories that the listener can relate to.
Neighbours has delivered some major highlights over the years and we know there’s a fair bit that Dr Karl Kennedy has been a part of too. What has been your biggest or favourite career highlight so far?
Neighbours has been a significant part of my life and career for almost 30 years. However, picking highlights in a 45-year career is difficult. The mini-series Sword of Honour, in which I played a professional soldier whose life was tragically destroyed by the Vietnam War, is a treasured career highlight.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
Elvis Costello’s song writing has a diversity that has inspired me since he first appeared on the scene back in the 1970s. John Prine is my principal inspiration in Americana. I admire and aspire to emulate the talents of writers like Jason Isbell, Steve Poltz, Guy Clark, and Roney Crowell to randomly select from the huge number of stars I follow.
Does Fletch have any new projects in the pipeline?
Writing and recording and recording for my next album will consume all my time in 2023 as well as Neighbours of course!
So good to have Neighbours back. What was going through your head when the announcement came through that it had been picked up again?
Firstly, utter shock that the show could be re-booted so quickly. Secondly, I thought of all the fans of the show who had been so gutted it had ended. It was wonderful that all my fan interactions changed from grief to joy.
The music industry is constantly changing, where do you see yourself in a few years?
Hopefully, I will be seen as a respected member of the Country music/ Americana scene in Australia and the UK.
What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work as an actor and musician?
My favourite part of working as an actor and musician is to experience positive audience feedback about my work. My least favourite part is trying to sell tickets for live shows in an incredibly tight market.
Name a few of your favourite Australian artists.
Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes, Shane Nicholson Don Walker, Melody Moko, Catherine Britt, The Pleasures, The Weeping Willows, Greta Ziller, Henry Wagons, James Ellis and the Jealous Guys, Lyn Bowtell, Kasey Chambers …… I could go on for ever but I have to put Slim Dusty in the mix!
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?
The Country music industry is fantastic because it is so egalitarian. Country artists are incredibly hard-working and moistly very unpretentious. It is a joy to experience the industry coming together every year in Tamworth. Social media is a very tricky medium. The algorithms that control what content people see can be harsh on anything that appears to advertise music or gigs. I have been told by experts that SM platforms favour paid advertisements over unpromoted posts.
Internationally, the people know you as Alan Fletcher the man from Neighbours! Now that you have some great body of musical works behind you, what would you like to do to establish yourself on the international stage as a musician and connect with fans in a different way?
The primary way to connect with fans in a way that doesn’t rely on Neighbours is convince people that my musical credentials are solid. So, performing live has to be the priority.
Do you wish to collaborate with others on any of your future music projects? Who is on your wish-list?
Currently I am collaborating with Lachlan Bryan and Damian Cafarella in what is the most satisfying musical and personal relationship imaginable. I am also collaborating with the bass player from the Wildes, Shaun Ryan, who is a wonderful writer and I’m also working with an Irish musician Gary Quinn. At some stage I would dearly love to work with the brilliant Shane Nicholson.
What advice do you give for other artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Simply believe in your quest and pursue it with all your energy.
A message for your all fans. How do you like to interact with your followers and fans?
I am in constant contact with fans by email through my website and on my Facebook page and Instagram account. I consider direct contact with fans to be of primary importance in my line of work.
Any last words? How good is Jen’s spag bol?
Just to express my deep gratitude to everyone who continues to support my work. AND Jen’s spag bol is almost as good as mine!