Malmsbury made: Geoff Achison a blues ‘hall of famer’

Blues-roots legend Geoff Achison has helped put his hometown of Malmsbury on the map.
The guitarist and singer-songwriter has seen international success and more recently been inducted to the Blues Music Victoria Hall of Fame.
His new status recognises him as one of the significant contributors to blues music in Victoria and he was amazed to receive the honour with the likes of Phil Manning.
“I’ve been a young enthusiastic guitar geek and now I look at the music industry as an ‘old codger’… but I wouldn’t have put myself up there [with the greats] yet,” he said.
“In my mind there’s a hierarchy of great Australian musicians that have helped make our music what it is. It has a particular sound and flavour to it that comes from years of writing and producing original material.”
There’s no doubt Geoff’s regional Victoria upbringing helped shape his music.
He was one of five children growing up in Malmsbury’s old railway station with parents who adored music – his father a member of the Kyneton Municipal Brass Band.
When Geoff discovered a forgotten old guitar beneath the stairwell as a teen, his trumpet-playing father wasted no time in finding him a teacher.
He was 13 when he tested his talent with his father’s dance band, and Geoff attracted the attention of eccentric local jazz musician Alan Watson who exposed him to a new world of jazz, improvisation and a stint playing bass guitar, but it was blues that stole his heart.
“From the moment I heard the blues – that’s when I knew,” Geoff said.
“It was a John Mayall song that he recorded in 1966 – a year after I was born. Within four bars of hearing that song I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Geoff moved to Melbourne where he met legendary Australian bluesman ‘Dutch’ Tilders in 1987 and established himself as a fine lead guitarist before striking out on his own.
He released his debut album in the early 90s and began touring throughout the USA, UK and Europe, but never forgot his roots.
“Travelling the US and going down south to venues and juke joints for the first time, I was super nervous,” he said.
“But I soon discovered that, to others, the fact that I am from a little town in regional Australia and playing blues guitar? They think it’s exotic, they think it’s exciting.”
Malmsbury is where his parents still reside and Geoff says it’s “still the home of [his] heart”.
Upon his return to Melbourne, Geoff was able to recruit an all-star group that featured some of Australia’s most celebrated musicians named The Souldiggers – “a tip of the hat to the Blue Breakers,” Geoff said.
“We weren’t trying to be the best or impress ‘the right people’ – we just wanted to make music that we enjoyed and that others could enjoy too,” he said.
“I count myself as lucky that I have been able to continue doing something I enjoy.”
Gigs are now beginning to return to Geoff’s schedule after a coronavirus pause since mid-March. Fans may have seen the release of some new songs and videos during that time but they will get to experience an official relaunch at The Fyrefly in St Kilda on February 5.

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