The Church Tour 2016 is currently underway. With shows in Napier and Hamilton already wrapped up, the team of Sharon O'Neill, Shona Laing, Debbie Harwood & Hammond Gamble take the tour to Auckland tonight (Friday September 23), before continuing on to Tauranga, Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch.
Earlier this month ahead of the tour, we had the chance to chat to the legendary Hammond Gamble.
How have the rehearsals been going?
They’ve been going sort of over the internet (laughs). We’re going down on the 18th, but prior to that me and the lads are getting together here at some predetermined time to. Sharon lives in Sydney, Debbie lives in Hawkes Bay but she is in San Fransisco at the moment and Shona lives Coromandel way, so it has been a bit awkward in that regard. But I’ve done shows with Shona, and Debbie knows my stuff because she played and sang on the last couple of albums I did, so it’s all working out alright. It will be fine.
In fact just before the phone rang I was looking at some stuff that I’ve got to go over as will be singing some back up vocals. Debbie is also going to do some BVs on my stuff, I’m going to do some stuff with Shona and Sharon… it’s kind of like a bit of a network thing. We’re all doing one or two things on our own, but pretty much we are doing it with the band - Gary Verberne who is a great guitarist, Stephen Small who is a great pianist, and Anthony Grey - another great keyboard player.
So you’ve all known each other for quite some time?
Yeah, I’ve known them for ages really. Stephen has also played on the last two or three albums that I did, but the one I know least is Sharon. But when I say that, in the 70s we all use to get flown down to do TV in a place called Avalon - a dedicated TV studio thing in Wellington. I can remember doing shows in the 70s on things like Grunt Machine or Radio With Pictures…. something like that. So I’d done shows before that Sharon had been on, so it’s not as if we don’t know each other. And we’re similar aged and we come from the same sort of background in a funny sort of a way.
How did you get involved with this year's tour?
I don’t know! (laughs). Debbie had done some stuff, a big show at the zoo, and then I think she approached the promoters of the Church Tour to see if her, myself and Shona could do it together and they said it would be much better if we added Sharon in. And then it was all go.
It might seem a bit odd because I come from a bluesy background really, and I’ve written a lot of ballads too. So my kind of part of it is kind of ballads and blues that I’ve written. It’s not so far removed from the kind of thing that they do, but my stuff is probably less poppy. I’m not really know for having pop hits. Although having said that, I think I have the distinction of having a number 1 twice or something - a song that Murray Grimley wrote called ‘You Make The Whole World Smile’ for Red Nose Day in the 90s. So I’ve had hits in a funny sort of way.
Is this the first time you’ve toured with venues like this?
Not really. It’s the first time I’ve ever done the Church Tour, but I have played some of these venues before… I think with Paul Ubana Jones we played the old St. Pauls in Wellington, and I’ve played the one in Tauranga before, the one in Napier, and I may have played some of the others too. I love doing them too because they sound good. I don’t know why, so many venues sound awful but churches tend to sound pretty good. I first started singing really in church, so I’m pleased we’re doing it. I quite like the idea. The other thing is they aren’t monstrously big either.
What can we expect from your performance over the tour?
I’ll be playing acoustic guitar on some of my stuff, electric guitar on some others. As I mentioned early, I think I’ll be doing half ballads and half blues. Except for one, where I’ll be doing an old song ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’, which lots of people have done.
And of course Shona and Sharon, both APRA Silver Scroll winners, Shona will be doing ‘Soviet Snow’ and things like that… ‘Glad I’m Not A Kennedy’. And Sharon ‘Lucks On My Table’ , ‘Maxine’… ‘Asian Paradise’ I think Debbie’s doing. There are some pretty well know songs. So we’re looking forward to it.
The 2016 Church Tour with Sharon O'Neill, Shona Laing, Debbie Harwood & Hammond Gamble
Tuesday 20 Napier St Johns
Thursday 22 Hamilton Chapel of Christ the King
Friday 23 Auckland Holy Trinity Cathedral
Saturday 24 Tauranga Holy Trinity
Monday 26 Wellington Old St Pauls
Tuesday 27 Wellington Old St Pauls
Thursday 29 Dunedin Knox Church
Friday 30 Christchurch St Michael & All Angels
Saturday 1 Christchurch Cardboard Cathedral