Deborah Conway is known to a generation or two as one of Australia’s finest solo artists and singer songwriters. Starting out, Conway earned her indie-cred fronting Do-Re-Mi in the 1980’s.

Now Conway is about to tour the country with fellow vocalist and country star Darren Coggan starting out in Sydney on July 19 and the moving on to Brisbane (July 20), Adelaide (July 24) and Perth (July 27).

The pair will interpret the songs of American songwriting royalty, Carole King and James Taylor in a new show, The Music of Carole King & James Taylor.

Prior to her solo success, Carole King had been a jobbing Brill Building songsmith, alongside her husband Gerry Goffin, turning out hits for everyone from Aretha Franklin to The Animals.

Deborah Conway distinctly remembers the first time she heard a Carole King song, even though she wasn’t aware who had penned the tune.

“It was The Monkees singing Pleasant Valley Sunday on their TV show,”  Conway recalls. “I loved the song; I bopped around our lounge room in my pajamas dancing to it. I was probably seven or eight. I thought The Monkees wrote their own music. It was the first Carole King song I’d heard.”

The world, and Deborah Conway, largely fell in love with King on the release of her 1971 breakthrough album Tapestry. The record featured future radio staples I Feel The Earth Move, It’s Too Late, So Far Away and her own interpretations of songs she wrote for others like Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (The Shirelles) and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Aretha Franklin).

“When Carole released Tapestry, I would have heard a track or two on the radio,” explains Conway. “I do vividly remember clutching a few dollars in my hand and walking down to our local record store to buy the album. It was the first 12inch vinyl I bought with my own money.

“I loved it, I played it daily for months, I knew every word, every piano lick, every nuance of every melody. I alternated listening and singing along. It was eventually replaced on the high rotation of my turntable with Simon & Garfunkel, another life-long romance for me.”

By the time Conway was writing her own music, Carole King had become a distant love. The embers still burned, but the inspiration to write her own material was nourished by others.

“By the time I was 14 Carole King wasn’t exerting the same kind of mesmeric power over me,” Conway says. “I had fallen in love with Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan and they became my new North Star. I picked up a guitar at 18 and Carole, being a piano player, didn’t feature so much in this new musical adventure I was stepping into.

“By the time I was writing songs I was still listening to Paul Simon, Dylan and Joni (Mitchell), David Bowie, Jonathan Richmond and bands like Talking Heads, Blonde, The Pretenders, Tom Waits and Dan Hicks, alongside many others. I guess I had so thoroughly imbibed Tapestry that I had no need to play it physically, I could play it virtually in my head.”

What appeals to Conway now about the combined forces of Carole King and James Taylor is chemistry and something so intangible it’s almost impossible to lay a finger on.

“Their music conjures a simpler time for me,” she explains. “There is something about hearing those voices blend together that is like dipping luxuriously into a warm bath; there’s a feeling of deep contentment that all is momentarily right with the world.”

Having Darren Coggan on board is a natural fit, but the pair only got to know each other when they signed on for the project.

“We met for the first time at the show’s publicity shoot,” Conway says. “The second time we met, Darren came to a club I was playing at for another photo shoot. Willy Zygier and I had just sound checked, the mics were set up and Darren had his guitar with him. I suggested we play a song together. We ran through You’ve Got A Friend. Fortunately, we sounded pretty good together.”

Looking over a proposed set list, the show is studded with highlights. Asking Conway to pick a favourite Carole King song is as daunting as it sounds.

“Today’s favourite?” Conway muses. “It’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, sometime soon Conway will be releasing more of her own original material.

“Willy and I have been have been very busy performing our musical theatrical show, Songs From The Book Of Life, based on my recently released memoir, Book of Life,” she says. “So, what with concerts, the national theatre shows and writer’s festivals, I have had a full dance card. But in the background, we have also been beavering away on new songs, which we’re getting close to recording. Stay tuned.”

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