Henry paints his wagon

"I'm not very good at sitting still," he admits.

When he's not on the road with his band Wagons or touring his new solo album Expecting Company, Henry is constantly online, tending his Twitter patch ("It releases another nervous tic. I like to have relationships with people who are interested in what I'm doing"), or being interviewed.

"I felt like I was working for the ABC yesterday. Interviews for Radio National and Triple J all day. I used to work for the ABC TV's Art Nation, which I haven't done for a while. Music's kind of taken over, everything else is on the backburner, but I'm hoping to get back into that eventually."

But he says his busy schedule doesn't tire him out.

"It's not like I have a high pressure accountancy job. I'm only expected to perform for one hour a night. I don't mind expending a lot of energy while this lasts, I'm loving it."

His all-conquering band, Wagons have had a deliriously blessed career, playing every major festival in Australia and star-studded tours across the US with the likes of Lucinda Williams, Justin Townes Earle, Will Oldham, John Hiatt and Jolie Holland.

"We have spent quite a bit of time in the US over the past couple of years. I got to chow down on lots of sweet and sour meatballs, salted caramel and other American treats. I've got seven different Elvis Presley cookbooks. It's left its mark on my belt-buckle."

His solo album came about after down-time from touring proved too much for him.

"I was supposed to have two months off, but I ended up knocking this thing out as a kind of a school project.

"I played everything, had to orchestrate the partnerships and make all the decisions. I felt like a mad scientist locked up in an attic, building Frankenstein."

What emerged is a slick record with high-profile guest artists, including Alison Mosshart (The Kills), the Go Betweens' Robert Forster and The Grates' Patience Hodgson. It ends up sounding a lot like the country-pop operatics of '60s duo Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood.

"I'm a big fan; any comparison to those epic legends is welcome. If you dig making music you may as well shoot for the stars. My songwriting does seem to lean in that direction, I'm a big fan of bombast and drama. That's the strength of the country music narrative, to unfold a dramatic tale and I love its ability to do that."

The tale of Henry Wagons' life might have been lifted from such a narrative, the Melbourne Age naming him as one of Australia's 100 most influential people in 2009.

"They never specified whether that was positive or negative," Henry muses.

"You'd think I'd be able to get some more supermarket coupons, or the keys to the city, but there's no tangible reward. It's just something weird to put on the CV."

He has his own ideas about the rewards of international touring.

"My dream is to be a fat bombastic cabaret singer in Las Vegas, with an orchestra of crusty old men in some kind of rat-pack act, living the dream."

Henry Wagons plays the Lismore City Bowlo on November 15 from 8pm. Support from Ruthie-Ma-

Toothie. Tickets are $15 presale on www.eventfinder.

com.au or $20 at the door.


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