New Ambassador Taasha Coates on bringing lost Albert E. Brumley songs to life in Austin

Tuesday, 29 Nov 2016

We’re thrilled to announce that Taasha Coates is our newest APRA AMCOS Ambassador. Known as the voice of ARIA Award winners The Audreys, the Adelaide singer/songwriter recently released her debut solo album, and spent some time in Austin, Texas, working on a very special project. 

Alongside fellow South Australian songwriters Kelly Menhennet and Dan Crannitch, Taasha headed to the US to collaborate with American artists on the unfinished material of the late composer Albert E. Brumley - the gospel music songwriter behind the most recoded song of all time, I’ll Fly Away.

Through the House of Songs, an international songwriter exchange program, the writers created seven songs in two days, and performed them in front of Albert Brumley’s family.

"It was absolutely amazing,” says Taasha of the experience, which saw the writers given material discovered in an old suitcase to use as the starting point for their songwriting.

“It was from the 20s and 30s, pirate map kind of stuff. All brown, the paper was really worn, and there were bits that mice had eaten.

“In there, amongst all the photographs and love letters, was a bunch of lyrics. And also a manuscript, all unfinished. So that was the stuff we used to finish off these songs,” she says.

Scribbles on a napkin became a love song, while lyrics written into a margin were analysed and repurposed. Taasha says she loved working to tight deadlines with a group of writers she’d only just met. 

“It really pushes you out of your comfort zone, but as a songwriter I think that can be really rewarding. I think you can come up with things in that space that you might not come up with on your own. You're sort of trying to step up,” she says. 

At the end of the sessions in Austin, the songwriters flew to Arkansas to meet Albert’s family, including his granddaughter Betsy Brumley, who put the project together. They also visited Powell, where Albert lived, worked and raised his children, and the Ozark Mountains.

“When we were up in the Ozarks, we went to this amazing glass chapel,” says Taasha. “It was where we first played the songs to his family - his grandchildren, and one of his sons. It was really moving and beautiful. People cried.”

A camera crew was on hand to capture the journey, and a documentary about the project will screen at the 2017 Adelaide Film Festival. Learn more about the project in the Channel Seven news story below.

Taasha, who became an APRA AMCOS member in 2005, is the first woman from South Australia to join the Ambassador program. She has been part of numerous Songwriter Speaks sessions in South Australia, and recently participated in the BIGSOUND SongHubs with writers and producers including Oh Pep!, John Castle and Victor Van Vugt. For Taasha, APRA AMCOS plays a key role in connecting songwriters.

“So much of it is bringing people together which is what I think is the most important thing - apart from the obvious, which is actually collecting royalties for us! It’s about creating opportunities for people to meet, to write. It's great,” says Taasha (pictured below at BIGSOUND SongHubs with BANFF and Victor Van Vugt).

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