Published in The Music (WA) | 09.04.14 | Issue # 33
TO BE FRANK
Hate mail and getting kicked off stage midset is all in a day’s work for country music’s most misunderstood son, Franky Walnut. The man behind the akubra, guitarist-turned-comedian Keir Nuttall discusses the project with Daniel Cribb.
“It kind of happened accidently,” Keir Nuttall explains the origins of his alter-ego Franky Walnut. Better known as Kate Miller-Heidke’s husband and guitarist, it was while Nuttall was writing with her that comedy songs surfaced, slowly collecting on the sidelines until there were enough to do something with. “I did an EP of five of the [album] songs – rougher recordings, and when I played with Kate at the Port Fairy Folk Festival I did the Franky Walnut thing in the middle, and the CD sold really, really well, and then it turned out that the pressing factory had made a mistake and it was Shannon Noll on the CDs instead of Franky Walnut,” he laughs.
The first real interaction many had with Walnut was at Miller-Heidke’s Heavenly Sounds tour in 2013. Unfortunately, he was pulled last minute from all the capital city church shows, after it was pointed out maybe some of his material wouldn’t be suitable.
“A lot of the time it gets misunderstood if I get booked in the wrong venue. Like I got booked to play the Beach Hotel in Byron and got kicked off the stage halfway through because they just thought I was a really bad country performer. They really didn’t get it,” he laughs.
He plays the role so well even long-time fans don’t make the connection. “At one point, at one of [Kate’s] shows, a guy marched into the lobby like five minutes into my set and demanded that the staff pull me off stage because it was smutty and disgusting, and said, ‘Kate Miller-Heidke does not want this person. He’s misrepresenting her, he’s smutty and terrible,’ and the staff guy goes, ‘That’s her husband,’ and the guy goes, ‘I don’t care who it is, he’s got to go off stage!’ and he ended up demanding his money back and him and his wife got their tickets refunded.”
As simple-minded as the character of Franky Walnut may be, influenced by the likes of John Williamson, Rodney Rude, Louis CK and more, Nuttall, with a little help from multi-instrumentalist Sally Campbell, hit the nail on the head with his debut, The Franky Walnut Reflective Drink Coaster. Realising musical comedy is such a fast-moving beast he’s already put the wheels in motion for album number two. “[Campbell] actually has a background in bush bands and stuff, so she made it sound like genuine bush music. Although the new stuff that I’m doing for the second record has got a lot more different styles of music – like there’s a metal song and a hip hop song… I want to expand out from [country] – that’s still going to be a big backbone of it – but, I don’t even really like country music,” he admits, laughing. “So to keep doing it is going to drive me nuts.”