Accomplished guitarist and vocalist Mark Turner and jazz/blues singer Jessie Gordon have known each other for many years since he was a mere slip of a 12-year-old and she was a willowy redhead avoiding the sun at all opportunities. Over 20 years of friendship have ensued, with music as the cornerstone of their lives. Like Fringe World in previous years, the pair are frequently spotted throughout the program, but this year they are also teaming up for two special shows, including Best Friends at The Ellington Jazz Club from Thursday, January 27 to Sunday, January 30, an intimate night of music celebrating their friendship; while Songs From The Hill is a nod to their shared experience growing up in the Perth Hills, showing at Moana Hall from Monday, January 31 to Thursday, February 3. BRAYDEN EDWARDS spoke to Mark Turner and Jessie Gordon to find out about their enduring musical friendship.

The pair of you have a long history of performing together…how did this partnership begin and how has it changed over time?

Jessie: We met when I was 15 and Mark was 12 and we were both performing in the Kalamunda Youth Swing Band. We were so young. We played in that band together for years and learned so much about music and performance through it. We got to travel together and go touring, it was an amazing way to experience being a young musician!

You’re teaming up for the show Songs from the Hill celebrating the Perth Hills and growing up there. What do you think is your most enduring childhood memory about the place?

Mark: One of Jessie’s favourite memories is sitting on her parents’ verandah which overlooks Jorgensen National Park. She has a vivid image of herself just watching the eucalypts gently moving in the breeze and hearing the unique sound of an Australian summer: crickets clicking, magpies and kookaburras calling, those sounds are synonymous with the dry heat of her childhood summers.

And is there a particular song you feel ’takes you back’ to those times?

Both: We wrote a song together called The Hill which speaks directly to that experience! It’s a peaceful, lilting kind of song and lots of our audience who grew up in the hills find it quite transporting. One of our favourite lines is “no place to be, time just drifting along, the years ahead held in our hands. Today I’ve been thinking about what I would give, to be back on the hill where we lived.”

What kind of music have the two of you connected with most over the years? What do you think your key musical similarities and differences are?

Jessie: We have over twenty years of friendship so there’s a pretty broad range of music we’ve covered in that time! We have both really bonded over big band jazz and swing music as well as soul and folk music. Mark definitely brings along the beautifully orchestrated Disney music while I’m more interested in old world gospel. That tracks pretty well with our personal differences too, Mark is more La La Land / La Vie En Rose while I tolerate a little more fire and brimstone, perhaps as a result of an American father who grew up in the deep south.

What are you looking forward to most about being back on stage at Fringe?

Both: We’re so looking forward to seeing our Fringe audience. It’s a different crowd to the rest of the year, people are a little more energetic and engaged and willing to really go with you when you take risks, which we love doing!

And are there any other shows you have on at Fringe, other than Best Friends and Songs from the Hill, that we should look out for?

Both: So many!

Mark: We are both also in Dirty Jazz and Clean Living at The Ellington Jazz Club. Jessie is also performing in Wild Womxn with Simone Craddock, I Like Bananas with Libby Hammer, The Bell by Candlelight with Lucky Oceans and Bill Lawrie, The Rodgers and Hart Songbook with Adrian Galante and Sassafras Swings.

Jessie: Mark is also presenting a brand new show called Romance and Fairytales, he’s in Spectacular Spectacular with the Perth Cabaret Collective and he’s also in a Velvet Playboys show at Freo Social and a Billy Joel show with Adam Hall!

Are you likely to team up again for any more shows in the future? Do you have more ideas for shows that still might become a reality?

Both: We have been doing weekly gigs together at the achingly beautiful Moana Hall for the past few months and after Fringe winds up I think we want to go back to that. We’ve curated a really intimate and gorgeous experience there and it’s become important and powerful for us both. We share our original music, we see and spend time with each other, we create a community around us and it’s all in this magical space.

And there are always ideas percolating about new songs to write, new shows to put together. The wonderful thing about working with your best friend is that we are constantly impressed and inspired by each other.

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