When the Greencards were told they were going to
tour minor league baseball parks with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson in 2005, they weren’t initially excited.
“When our agent told Carol (Young), they said, ‘You’re going to do the Bob and Willie tour,’ ” said Young’s band mate, Kym Warner. “And she just thought of a couple of DJs — the Bob&Willie Show. A couple of DJs from Wisconsin or something.”
But when they learned it was the two folk and country legends, the Greencards knew it was a huge break.
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“Sometimes, you get a call from your agent, and they’ll say, ‘Hey, listen — you’re in line for this,’ and you think, ‘Wow, that would be great.’ ” Warner said. “And sometimes it comes off and sometimes it doesn’t. But this one, thankfully, our agent never told us about. Because you don’t want to hear, ‘You might get the Bob Dylan tour’ only to find you didn’t get it.”
The Grammy-nominated Greencards will perform in Paso Robles on Sunday in what is to be the final performance in the long-running Cambria Hoot series. Hoot creator Steve See, who had promoted shows locally for more than 35 years, died of melanoma last week.
Young had two top-40 country-style hits in Australia, where Warner was an acclaimed mandolin player. Wanting to shift toward acoustic music, she and Warner moved to Austin, Texas, to pursue progressive bluegrass. Initially, they were joined by Englishman Eamon McLoughlin, who has since left the band. The Greencards, whose music combines bluegrass, Americana and folk, now live in Nashville.
We spoke to Warner about their music, baseball, and fellow Aussies Men at Work, who were recently sued by a publishing company owning the rights to a 1930s school song borrowed in their song “Down Under.”
Q: Your dad played banjo. How did that influence you growing up?
A: He was probably my first and probably strongest influence. If he wasn’t a musician I don’t know whether I would have been. Dad plays and still does. We still play together now.
Q: I just interviewed Bela Fleck. Are you a fan of his as well?
A: Yeah, very much. Very much. The New Grass Revival band was probably musically the most influential thing. When I heard that, that was it for me. It was like the heavens opened and it was like “Aaaaah, this is what I want to do.” I want to be that good and be in that band.
Q: The lyrics to your songs don’t really specify a place.
Are you guys thinking about Australia when you write the songs or someplace else?
A: In the very early stages of writing I was really skeptical to throw in any real Americanisms or use American towns. But we’ve lived here for nearly 10 years now. And when you write, I think part of it should be things you live and breathe and the people you meet and places you go that influence you.
We’ve got a song called “Chico Calling” on the last record ( “Fascination”) that Carol and Jedd Hughes wrote that’s specifically about the town Chico out there in California.
Q: I imagine that with as much touring as you guys do you probably see more of the country than most Americans.
A: Yeah, it’s funny. And I felt good about that in Australia, too — that I saw more of Australia than most Australians. I felt lucky that I saw every little area of Australia.
Q: Is Men at Work still popular over there?
A: Yeah, I just saw Colin Hay playing a festival. We did a festival in Byron Bay a couple of weeks ago, and he was one of the acts in the show, so it was great to see him. He did a bunch of those great Men at Work songs.
Q: What was up with that lawsuit?
A: I just don’t quite get it. I think it’s somebody trying to cash in, really, thinking, “Hmm, I can claim some money off this guy.” It’s rubbish, really. Everyone knows what it is. He never shied away from saying it was that. I just think it’s a tribute to it, really — a tribute to that piece of Australian folk.
Q: Are you guys baseball fans after touring the minor league parks?
A: Carol will tell you that I’m a big sports fan anyway. I’m mainly into Australian football, cricket and soccer. But I’ve always been an American football fan. I’m a Yankees fan in baseball. It’s more of a “Seinfeld” reason that I’m a Yankees fan. I’ve gotten quite into it in the last 10 years.
Q: I read that Bob Dylan didn’t actually talk to you guys until the very end.
A: I actually came to find out that’s not that unusual. I remember his guitar tech at the time had been with him for 13 years and he hadn’t really spoken to him for eight. And I knew plenty of people who hadn’t spoken to him at all.
But it was the second to last night, I think, and he came up and said he enjoyed it.
Q: I noticed you guys don’t have any dates in Arizona. But I was thinking your band name could have special significance there now days.
A: Yeah, we are a little skeptical about driving through.