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Confessions, Heartbreak & No Regrets: Donna Simpson Looks Back On 25 Years Of The Waifs

Written by Emmy Mack on September 3, 2018

Although The Waifs are undeniably an Aussie music institution, it’s still difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that they’ve been blessing us with their iconic brand of green-and-gold-blooded folk rock for 25 incredible years.

Just as incredibly, a quarter-century after the trio first formed in the Western Australian port city of Albany, they’re still going strong, unleashing their eighth studio album — the aptly-named Ironbark — in 2017 and celebrating their love affair with regional Australia with a humungous tour in honour of their silver jubilee.

That tour continues later this month with a string of rural dates, including stops at Caloundra Music Festival and Dashville Skyline. And before The Waifs jump back in the tour van, their co-vocalist, acoustic guitarist and all-around boss lady Donna Simpson sat down with Music Feeds for a look back on the past 25 years, dishing up some trademark brutally truthful insights into some of her personal highlights, lowlights, f*ck-ups, hangovers, heartbreaks, triumphs and confessions as a member of one of Australia’s most beloved bands.

Read what she had to say below.

Music Feeds: Do you have a favourite gig ever?

Donna Simpson: I’d say The Port Fairy Folk Festival.

MF: How about a favourite song you’ve ever written?

DS: It’s called, ‘The Strangest Thing’. It’s a song I wrote that’s never been played live but is on the Ironbark Album. The rest the band was in the studio laying down another track, I went off and sat under a big old tree and poured my guts out.

It’s was heartbreaking yet so cathartic.

It’s about the love of my life, father of two of my boys. We thought we were completely unbreakable, Now we’re like strangers, and that’s the strangest thing.

MF: What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?

DS: Oh crap, how long is a piece of string?

Well, I’ve fallen offstage and cracked my head open twice; walked on stage in the USA thinking I was still in Canada and told the audience how I preferred Canadian audiences; had an emotional breakdown at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney onstage in front of 2,500 friends/fans; opened a Bob Dylan show with my guitar not plugged in….. is that enough??

MF: Have you ever made a mistake that ended up being a valuable learning experience?

DS: When I was at the alter on my wedding day, everything inside was screaming No!!

Don’t do it!!!

It’s too soon!!!!

but I said “I Do”

It’s been a very valuable learning experience.

MF: What would you say was your biggest “pinch-me” moment over the past 25 years?

DS: Hearing ‘London Still’ on Triple J’s hottest 100 come in at number 3 when I thought we had totally missed out.

MF: One of the achievements you’re most proud of?

DS: Raising three beautiful boys as a single parent.

MF: A regrettable fashion moment?

DS: Vikki and I wore matching suede tassel jackets on stage one time.

MF: Wildest after-party?

DS: I can’t tell you as I would come across as a chronic name dropper if I were to mention all of the movie stars, politicians and rock gods I’ve partied with.

MF: Worst hangover?

DS: Yes….

Hospital.

No details required.

MF: Have you ever had a moment during the band’s career when you felt genuinely star-struck?

DS: Yeah, We We’re playing the Cambridge folk festival in the Uk around 2003.

Stephen Hawking was sitting side of stage watching us play.

I kept thinking to myself, Geez that guy looks familiar.

Then it hit me.

I was star struck

MF: Have you ever done anything naughty over the years that you’d perhaps like to confess to / apologise for now?

DS: I used to write poetry on the walls of my hotel rooms behind the pictures and then put the picture back up on the wall.

I’ve done it hundreds, maybe thousands of times.

MF: If you could go back and do it all again, is there anything you’d change?

Not a damn thing. I feel very blessed to have had this incredible journey of making music with my best friends for the past 25 years.

MF: What would you go back and tell yourself 25 years ago if you had the chance?

DS: Don’t wear matching outfits with your sister on stage.

Catch The Waifs performing live across the nation in honour of their 25th anniversary and new album ‘Ironbark’ later this month. Details here

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