Exclusive: Catherine Alcorn shares her travel diary of some of America’s most famous music sites

Ahead of her new show Cathartic, Award-winning cabaret artist Catherine Alcorn toured around the US visiting some of the country’s most famous music sites. During the tour Catherine kept a travel diary so she could share the experience exclusively with the AU. Read about all of her exciting adventures below!

Carthartic will be a one night only performance Wednesday 23rd November at Sydney’s Slide. For more information and to book visit slide.com.au

For years I’ve day dreamed about taking a trip across the USA to all of the iconic music cities, so when a work opportunity in LA came up late last year, my partner Cameron and I planned a road trip, and it was life changing.

Photos by Catherine Alcorn

INSTA @misscatherinealcorn 

VEGAS BABY!

Admittedly, I didn’t even see a show because we only had 24 hours. Instead, our friends we met last year at the Sydney Opera House bar during Club Swizzle, took us to the old Vegas including The Peppermill and the most authentic SpeakEasy I’ve ever been to. Code words, decibel checks and enough seating for 12 people only!

 Peppermill

Blue velvet booths, low lighting and crooner tunes. Welcome to the Peppermill. This joint is where Frank and Sammy Davis Jnr used to drink after their gigs. The electric blue fire pit is one of the most pimping things I’ve seen.

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The Laundry

This was, hands down, the most authentic and legit Speakeasy I’ve ever been to. Popcorn in crystal, gin for days and decibel level checks every few minutes. Located “somewhere” in Vegas. I’d tell you how to get there but I can’t remember because cocktails, and I’d have to kill you.

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SAUSILITO

 The Record Plant

Are you ready for this? I’m standing outside (squint and you’ll see me) the Record Plant studios in Sausalito where none other than Fleetwood Mac’s RUMOURS was recorded. It’s now a wellness centre (cool, but bring back the music!) and were were kindly invited to take a walk through to the round room where the band made their magic.

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The Round Room

The history of this studio is immense. Fleetwood Mac, Prince, Mariah Carey and so many more influential artists recorded right here! We couldn’t do anything but sit and take it all in. You may or may not have found me on my hands and knees at one point.

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LOS ANGELES

The band at work in LA! We were honoured to connect and work with local musicians and all ‘round legends Matt Hankle (drums), Kim Key (bass) and Zach Provost (keys).

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AUSTIN

On our last night in Music City, and on a friend’s recommendation from his trip at least 10 years ago!, we headed the last true dance halls in Texas, The Broken Spoke, and we were pretty sure we found one of the happiest place on earth complete with THE BEST BURGER IN ALL THE LAND.

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Dinner, dancing, live music and not a mobile phone or TV in sight. Young and old took to the boot scooting floor and I did the two step with a stranger. It was the best time. We were lucky enough to catch The Dale Watson band in a rare appearance (pictured)

Meet Mr James White, owner of the Broken Spoke. I introduced myself and we chatted for a while about music and life. “I opened this place when I was 25 years old and I’m living my dream” he told me. The Spoke has been running for 52 years and ya’ll are welcome anytime.

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NEW ORLEANS

Music. Soul. Food. Repeat. We didn’t want to leave. From the mind blowing musicianship from the buskers to the waitresses who wail on a Sunday morning while serving you eggs and grits to the best steak we reckon we’ve ever hard (and that’s difficult for an Aussie to admit), NOLA served up every experience we were anticipating and more.

This is my kind of street art. The gents busk on this corner of Frenchmen St 365 days a year.

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Raided the Louisiana Music Factory in the French Quarter and found these gems!

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@louisanamusicfactory

Songwriter Sam played the Blues for us downstairs in The Apple Barrell while we drank bloody Mary’s and waited to be seated for dinner upstairs at Adolfos.

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After dinner we came back downstairs for more of everything and I overhead an Aussie woman behind me. I introduced myself and met Sue from Brisbane and her mate Roberto, who happened to be the percussionist from a little band called THE EAGLES. No biggie.

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Our mate Sam gave us a hot local tip to check out this band up the road. His instructions to get there were, quote: “Walk three blocks and turn right for two more. Now, you want to walk a fair bit quicker on those last two.” We got an UBER.

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Damn we’re glad we did. It led us to King James and The Special Men.

Subscribe to them immediately at @specialmennola

NASHVILLE

We stayed (I insisted) in Nashville for five glorious nights. We’re now planning the move over!

On our first night in Nashville, our AIRBNB host Jeff invited us down to a gig he was playing at his East Nashville local, The Family Wash. This is a snap of The Wash’s owner James and his band.

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We were luck to catch Tom Mason’s amazing guitar solo that night!

FOLLOW: @familywash

Day one in Nashville and straight to the Country Music Hall of Fame!

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@officialcmhof

At RCA Studio B in Nashville. Studio B was built specifically for Elvis so that he didn’t have to travel to NYC or LA every time he wanted to record.

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See that blue cross on the floor? That was called the ‘sweet spot’ in the main studio where all of the artists used to record their vocals. Dolly Parton sang “I Will Always Love You” and “Joelene” from that very spot. I mean, COME ON!

All of the rhinestones and sequins you’d ever need can be found in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Fact.

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Soaking it all in. That piano behind me is the original and hasn’t been moved since Studio B was built. Elvis wrote over 200 songs on that instrument. Stop it.

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Here I am, thrilled to have actually gotten in to The Bluebird Cafe! The venue notoriously sells out after 10 minutes of shows going on sale and I forgot to book tickets. For months before our trip I was scoring the website deciding which artist we wanted to see and was always drawn back to Kris Hughes. The venue holds about 12 walk up tix for the 9pm show, and we were fortunate enough to make the cut and even be seated behind the band.

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The format of this particular night at The Bluebird was presented in the round. Kris Hughes hosted and invited three of her singer/songwriter pals Tommy Womack, Will Kimbrough and Jonathan Byrd to play with her. They move around the circle each playing a song and sharing a story each. Here’s Tommy performing his track Nashville off his new album NAMASTE. Tommy mentioned he only likes to perform this particular track live because it needs a live energy behind it. It was the ultimate songwriters masterclass.

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http://www.tommywomack.com

@bluebirdcafetn

@tommy.womack

@jonathanbyrd

@will_kimbrough

@mygirltheriver

Then this happened. Half way through the set, Jonathan Byrd stood up to do his next song acapella and asked me to hold his guitar. I propped the guitar up on my lap for safe keeping, and then Kris Hughes gestured to me to play something! These are those moments you don’t let go of, so, heart pounding, I strummed away, improvised some lyrics and sang a little summin’ sum.

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Catching up with my school mate Clair Wyndham and her beautiful baby boy Alfie who moved to Nashville nearly 10 years ago where she is working as a successful singer/songwriter.

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@claire_wyndagram

When inspiration strikes. Songwriting in Jeff’s beautiful lounge room.

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Our amazing AIRBNB host and new friend Jeff.

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Catching a show at the Grand Ole Opry. So many amazing singer songwriters, and Billy Ray Cyrus played too!

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Legends Connie Smith, Billy Ray and Crystal Gayle played on this night, but it was Ashley Campbell who moved me to tears. I legit lost it during her song “Remembering” and she was the bloody opening act!

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@ashcambanjo

CHICAGO

Chicago was our last stop before heading home.

with 5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche writers Andrew Hobgood and Evan Linder at The Den Theatre, Chicago.

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Last year I was cast in the Australian premiere of the off Broadway play 5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche so when I was in town I hit up the writers and we met! It was so lovely to hear stories of the original production and to meet these clever humans.

At Division St Station with my signed, original 5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche script. I couldn’t wait to get home to show the Australian cast who were going into our Melbourne Fringe Festival season days later. Actually forgot to take it to Melbourne with me but, details.

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For MONTHS leading up to our trip, Cam dreamt of walking into his idol Buddy Guy’s blues club, Buddy sitting at the bar and them chatting over a drink. It happened.

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A packed house on a Monday evening in Chicago at Buddy Guy’s Blues Bar.

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Our final destination. Legendary live music venue Kingston Mines. 2 bands, 7 nights a week, 365 days of the year. Playing that night was Giles Corey and The Mike Wheeler Band.

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