As Iva Davies prepares for a series of tour dates next year to mark the 40th anniversary of Icehouse’s first live shows, he’s just a little bit excited.
Not only has it been a long time since the band members, who remain firm friends, have played together on stage for an extensive period of time – 16 years, in fact – Davies, 61, is thrilled that so much has changed for them since he began in the 1970s.
“Because Icehouse has taken a really long break, it feels quite novel to be performing again. And as so much has changed technologically we really feel that the show is so much better than anything we offered in the late ’80s,” he says.
Iva Davies began his musical life as a classical musician and gained a scholarship at the NSW Conservatorium of Music playing the oboe, an instrument he had a “love/hate” relationship with.
It wasn’t until the mid-70s that he fronted a pub rock band called Flowers, which changed its name in 1981 to become Icehouse.
Songs such Hey Little Girl, We Can Get Together, Crazy and Electric Blue made up a long catalogue of hits. Icehouse has had 28 platinum albums, eight top 10 albums and more than 30 Top 40 singles.
'Electric Blue' reached #1 on the Australian singles chart in 1987
The 40th Live Tour begins in NSW on January 7 and will continue round the country until the end of April. One thing Davies has noticed when Icehouse performs live nowadays is that his audience is made up of both very young new fans and very loyal older followers. “It’s quite bizarre,” he says.
“We were invited to play at a festival called Homebake at one stage and we were told the audience would be made up largely of 20-year-olds,” he recalls. “I thought that was insane as most of them weren’t even born when our albums came out – and I was terrified. We were playing in front of around 20,000 people and in the front row were 18-year-olds who knew every word to every song all the way through. It was extraordinary.”
Iva Davies is not your run-of-the mill pop star. It’s never been just about the melody for him, he has always focused on crafting thoughtful lyrics and in some cases was probably ahead of his time. “I don’t think people are aware that one of the songs I wrote on Man of Colours, 'Anybody’s War', is about domestic violence,” he says.
He adds that one of his best-loved songs, Great Southern Land, is one that pays homage to the land rather than its inhabitants. “I wanted to get to the soul of the place, really,” he says. “I’m really happy that it has become one of our anthemic songs, though I am more mystified than anything,” he says. “The reaction to the song has been extraordinary right from when we first played the demo and I’ve been in shock every since.”
This is typical Iva Davies. Despite huge success over many decades, he has never been a chest-beating bragger trumpeting his talents. That’s not to say he isn’t hugely proud of his achievements and made a point of telling WYZA twice during the interview that Man of Colours is the best-selling local album by any Australia band ever to this day.
While he may be the frontman to one of our most loved bands, Davies has always been an intensely private person: you won’t see stories or photos of him splashed in the media. There is the odd music interview and the last “splash” was about the breakup of his 20-year marriage to dancer Tonia Kelly in 2010. They have two grown-up children, a son, Evan, who is a guitarist, and a daughter, Brynn, who is a music journalist.
Iva Davies is not your run-of-the mill pop star
“I’ve always flown under the radar,” says Davies of his low-key approach to celebrity. “There was a period in my life at the height of our success with Man of Colours where I had to have a security guard with me 24/7 for two years. I couldn’t go anywhere.” It wasn’t an experience he relished.
He has lived in the same area of Sydney for 26 years on the Northern Beaches and says that the locals don’t bother him much, nor do people rush up and ask him for his autograph. “I might walk into a shop and someone might comment that they saw me on the telly, but that’s about it,” he says. “[My fame] isn’t really an issue.”
In his free time, Davies says he likes to have a laugh with friends. “I’ve become the person I always said I wouldn’t be and I’ve taken up golf,” he says. “I have exactly the right temperament for golf because I don’t take it seriously and I’m incredibly bad at it and I do a lot of laughing while playing.”
Davies toured with David Bowie in the '80s during his Serious Moonlight tour. How did he feel about Bowie’s death in 2016? “It was a shock,” he says. “I remember exactly where I was when it [the news] came through. My tour manager received a text message. I thought David Bowie had an incredible life and packed so much into it. So in a sense I could be philosophical about it.”
Icehouse will be kicking off their live shows in January 2017
So how is Davies approaching his more senior years? “I don’t think my attitude to life has changed all that much,” he says. “Though when I’m performing it’s difficult to remind myself that I’m not 26 anymore. The show is quite physical and exhausting; it certainly isn’t an old man’s show.”
To find out more about Icehouse’s 2017 tour dates, go to icehouse-ivadavies.com.
(Featured image © Cybele Malinowski)
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