Geoff Achison and The Souldiggers – CraftFest
Geoff Achison is an award winning blues-roots artist from Australia known for his energetic live performances and unique guitar mastery. Geoff began his apprenticeship with legendary Australian blues stylist ‘Dutch’ Tilders establishing himself as a fine lead guitarist before striking out with his own. He was an independent music pioneer releasing music on his own record label in the early 90s and touring throughout the USA, UK & Europe. Geoff’s music has been compared favourably to Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers Band having a solid foundation in the blues whilst embracing a variety of electric & acoustic styles. His songwriting is original and thoughtful with a wry sense of humour reminiscent at times of Randy Newman, JJ Cale or Mose Allison. He has won awards for his guitar playing, songwriting and live performances and was honoured in 2011 as official Patron Of the Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society.
Geoff Achison was born on Phillip Island, the third of five siblings, and raised in the Victorian country town of Malmsbury. His parents were music lovers and when Geoff famously discovered a forgotten old guitar beneath the stairwell, his trumpet-playing father enthusiastically found him a guitar teacher. His first gigs were with his father’s dance band where he displayed promise enough to attract the attention of local jazz musician Alan Watson. Through his new mentor he was exposed to jazz and improvisation. At Watson’s suggestion Geoff temporarily switched to bass-guitar which provided him with a greater understanding of the rhythm section. After gaining valuable experience as a bassist Geoff developed a keen interest in American blues and returned to the six-stringed guitar with renewed vigour. He focused on the groove and sought to develop his own musical voice with an inventive, rhythmic style. In rural isolation, he was mostly unaware of the electronic effects employed by some guitarists and devised some of his own techniques to emulate the sounds of echo/delay, tremolo and wah-wah pedals which added to his unique playing style.
In 1987 Geoff made the move to Melbourne and soon established himself on the scene playing incendiary lead guitar for popular Australian blues performer ‘Dutch’ Tilders. After several years loyal service Geoff struck out on his own recording his debut album ‘Big Machine’ in 1994. He represented Melbourne at the ‘International Blues Challenge’ in Memphis TN winning the coveted ‘Albert King Award’ in 1995. Encouraged, he set his sights on the world market and successfully established international touring routes chiefly in the USA and UK. To overcome the difficulties of bringing a band from Australia, Geoff traveled alone playing solo shows to break the ice and hiring local musicians to form a backing group when required. On his first extended overseas trip, Geoff received a beautiful Gibson guitar from the famous American company, lived in London, England for several months and recorded an album of original music in Portland, Oregon. Upon his return to Melbourne, Geoff was able to recruit an all-star band which featured some of Australia’s most celebrated musicians. With Mal Logan on keys, Roger McLachlan on bass and Gerry Pantazis on drums, Geoff was finally able to realise his musical vision with The Souldiggers and built the group’s reputation with exciting and spontaneous live performances.
Equally adept with either electric or acoustic guitar, Geoff can provide the full electrifying experience with his outstanding blues/rock combo The Souldiggers or play a complete show highlighting his superb solo acoustic guitar skills and soulful vocal style. Geoff is an all-round musician who delights in entertaining the crowd but has also been described as a ‘guitarists guitarist’. He is one of those artists that can rock the house with brilliant intensity but also able to silence the crowd with beautiful, delicate phrasing. His music is firmly steeped in the blues but Geoff also injects funk, soul, jazz and even classical styles into the mix. He calls it ‘Bluesic’ meaning that the blues provides the foundation for making all manner of sounds with the hope that the message gets through.
As a song-writer, Geoff explores a myriad of themes from love & loss to politics & philosophy and often with his wry sense of humour shining through. Vocally, Geoff has been compared favourably to the gruff voiced Joe Cocker, Warren Haynes and Paul Weller. An extraordinary guitarist who plays quite unlike anyone else, Geoff has been a driving force on the Australian blues/roots scene inspiring and influencing many of his younger compatriots. Besides his music awards he has been honoured in ‘Australian Guitar Magazine’s’ Top 50 Guitarists, True Fire’s ‘100 Guitarists You Should Know’ and he is also Official Patron of the ‘Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society’.
Watson & Tilders are sadly no longer around, but Geoff’s success serves, in part at least, as testament to their positive influence on the younger generation. Geoff Achison’s journey continues these days with himself an elder statesman of the vibrant local scene and a firm favourite with those in-the-know on the international stage.