Girls in boots follow man in black

US-BOUND: The Johnnys with Suzi Fray centre, Jo Taylor left, and Liala Gianstefani, right.
US-BOUND: The Johnnys with Suzi Fray centre, Jo Taylor left, and Liala Gianstefani, right.

The world's only all-girl Johnny Cash band, Nelson's The Johnnys, are packing up their guitars and drum kit and heading to the fourth annual Johnny Cash Music Festival in Ventura, California in June.

Individually the Johnnys have a strong track record in music in Nelson and on the West Coast.

But the trio, vocalist and lead guitarist Suzi Fray (AKA Johnny), plus fellow Nelsonian Jo Taylor (AKA JT) on bass and West Coaster Liala Gianstefani (AKA Fancypants) on drums, only started playing together in June last year.

This week Suzi took a break from her recording studio to talk to The Leader.

How did you feel when you got invited to the Johnny Cash Music Festival?
Elated and amazed at what you can create when you really believe it, and honoured!

How did you end up talking to Johnny Cash's daughter Cindy and what was that like?
I was talking with Ross Emery the promoter and he unexpectedly called her and we had a conference call as she is one of the organisers.
Again I felt honoured and it was quite surreal.
She was lovely and said she was excited that we were coming and we talked about her dad a bit. She said he was a shy man with a great sense of humour.

How did you first get into Johnny Cash's music?
My dad was a fan. I specifically remember hearing Sunday Morning Coming Down which is still my dad's favourite Cash song and one of mine now too.

What is it about his music that connects with so many people?
People relate to the very human themes and transparency of the lyrics, the honesty, the love, the heartache and the fun, also his great melodic hooks are easy to sing to.

What's your favourite Johnny Cash song?
Tough question, there are so many but the one I am enjoying singing a lot at the moment is Folsom Prison Blues.
It's really fun and upbeat and audiences love it! I also love Give My Love to Rose.

What are some of the more interesting experiences you've had playing with the band so far?
All the different kinds of people we get to meet, gold miners, dairy farmers, school teachers, factory workers, Germans, Americans, 18-year-olds, 85-year-olds ... we even had a dead man called Deano in Whataroa on the West Coast.
He had died quite recently, had been cremated and his wife brought him in his little box and had him sitting on the table. He was a huge Cash fan, apparently. Now that probably won't ever happen again!

You've been part of the Nelson music scene in bands like Queerfish and Yellow Seven for some time now, how do you think it's changed over the years?
It's easier and more affordable to record your material and get it out to the world.
I have a wee home studio where I am currently recording an album.
It's only costing my time at the moment, when I find some that is!

What's one thing not a lot of people know about you?

I was born in Bermuda.

What's the best advice anyone has ever given you?

Believe in yourself, the universe will take care of the rest.

What do you think Johnny Cash would make of The Johnnys?
Hmmmm .... that's a question I often ponder but based on the reaction so far of our hardest critics, his fans, ... I'm pretty sure he would love us! Boots and all