Judy Small is an Australian folk music
icon. Her songs are sung all over the English-speaking world in
concert halls, at political rallies and around campfires, and after
more than 30 years in the music business she is still going strong,
although she sings less frequently since she went back to her second
love, the law in 1997.
Judy grew up in the small seaside
town of Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, and was inspired as a
youngster by the folk music boom of the 1960s. When she got her
first guitar at the age of 14, it wasn't the Beatles or The Beach
Boys she wanted to emulate: it was those big-voiced women like Joan
Baez, Mary Travers of Peter Paul and Mary, and Judith Durham of
The Seekers, who sang songs about real people and real
Judy left her home town in 1972 when she moved
to Sydney to study. She obtained a Masters Degree in Psychology and
during the next ten years she performed locally at folk clubs, wine
bars and concerts, gaining a reputation as a powerful interpreter of
both traditional and contemporary songs. She started writing her own
material to fill gaps in her repertoire, when there weren't songs
already written which said what she wanted to say.
Her first album "A Natural Selection" was
released independently in 1982, the result of twelve months'
fundraising by a group of Judy's friends calling themselves "Good
Things Enterprises". She also burst onto the international stage in
that year, playing at the Vancouver Folk Festival at the invitation
of Eric Bogle. It became clear that Judy's musical career was taking
over and she left her public service job to take up the challenge of
being a full-time singer-songwriter.
From that point on, Judy went from strength
to strength as an internationally acclaimed performer and recording
artist. In the 16 years that she was on the road full time,
she regularly toured in the United States, Canada, the
United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand. In 1990, Judy
received the prestigious "Mo" Award for Australian Folk Performer of
the Year and in 1997 was the Port Fairy Folk Festival Artist of the
Year. She was also invited to Beijing for the United Nations Women's
Conference NGO Forum in 1995, where she sang to thousands of women
from all over the world.
As a performer, Judy Small is unique. Her
powerfully political performances are spiced with humour. Her
concerts in December 2006, which were recorded for her brand new
live CD (out now), were named "Best club/pub gig of 2006" by
Australia's Rhythms Magazine. She says that if audiences come away
thinking about issues, then that is a worthwhile performance, but
only if they come away feeling as though they've had a really good
night out is it a successful performance.
Her songs have been recorded by artists such as
Ronnie Gilbert, Eric Bogle, The McCalmans, The Corries, Charlie King
and Priscilla Herdman and several have been translated into a number
She has released twelve albums, and has
hundreds of songs and a song book to her credit.
In recent years, Judy has cut back her
performing schedule to take on the world of the law. She is a family
lawyer in Melbourne working for Victoria Legal Aid. But she is
far from retired from singing and writing songs.
Judy loves being able to combine two of the
loves of her life, music and the law. In both fields she sees
herself as working for peace, social justice and equality.
Judy Small, the "grande dame" of Australian folk
music is as passionate as ever about her music.