Top End singer Tracey Bunn has transformed herself from a country rocker to a folk festival favourite.
Story By David Hancock
"The transition from a Toe Sucking Cowgirl to a folk-festival chanteuse has been demanding for singer Tracey Bunn; years of constant touring left the Top End musician burnt out, divorced and ready to opt out of the music industry. But she has found solace in songwriting and performing at small folk festivals around Australia.
As the Toe Sucking Cowgirls, Tracey and Gleny Rae were the ultimate country music party-girl duet; they forsook the city lights to take their music out bush and circumnavigated Australia many times, playing at pubs, community halls, rodeos, race meetings and campdrafts. Their high-energy music, and willingness to swap anecdotes and connect with their audiences – not to mention an ability to drink long after a gig – made them popular performers.
“We were constantly touring for six years,” Tracey says. “It was generally Darwin across to Queensland, down the east coast, across to Adelaide and up the centre, then to the Kimberley. We got out to some really remote places that hadn’t seen entertainment for years.
“We did that because we really wanted to see the country. That is the beauty of being able to play music and have all your life packed up into a van – we could just go, although I must say it had its challenges.”
Touring took its toll in the end. When the Toe Sucking Cowgirls split in 2006, Tracey’s marriage to a Katherine farmer also took a nosedive. The couple had married in 2005 and settled at Daly River, 230 kilometres south-west of Darwin, but farming, family life and music didn’t mix.
After the split with the band and her marriage finished up, Tracey didn’t pick up a guitar for nearly two years. She went back to her trade of hairdressing and enjoyed the solitude of her home on 8 hectares at Daly River. “Daly River has amazing energy,” she says. “It is where I can write. It is peaceful and I have a beautiful view of the escarpment. I am up on a hill; I can see the storms rolling in and I have wildlife all around – dingoes, buffalo, bandicoots, wallabies and all sorts of animals and birds coming in and out of the yard. A little paradise.”
In 2007-8 Tracey began writing songs again and gradually started to perform solo. She targeted small folk festivals rather than the large music festivals such as Tamworth, Port Fairy and Woodford, where the Toe Sucking Cowgirls had played. “Small festivals have audiences who really appreciate your songs,” she says. “You get to meet some incredible musicians and invite them up on stage, or just jam with them until early in the morning."
This Story is from Issue #103
Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2015