Who are The BordererS
“The passion in The BordererS music comes from growing up in really tough and bigoted areas of Glasgow and Belfast.
The dream was to escape that life and start again. Australia gave us that chance.”
Jim Paterson, The BordererS
Jim and Alex arrived in Australia from Glasgow and Belfast respectively, not knowing each other, but they just happened to meet by chance in a recording studio in Adelaide. She was married with a 3 year old child and he was a backpacker. How would this work out, you would think?
More than two decades later The BordererS are electrifying audiences across Australia and the world with their fusion of Celtic rock, zydeco, African, folk, gospel and whatever style of music that happens to take their fancy.
As singer/songwriter/guitarist Jim Paterson says:
“We like the fact that The Beatles had nearly every possible style of music on their albums, so we go along with that philosophy.”
With so many rhythms and vibes radiating from the stage, it’s impossible to stay still. Jim and Alex are renowned for their unbelievably high-energy shows and think nothing of performing high kicks on stage and sprinting through the audience encouraging dance marathons.
“To us, music is just a ball of fun, especially when you’re performing your own material. It feels great to come off stage after running for hours, completely soaking with sweat and adrenaline. That’s a great day’s work.”
Their all-ages audiences get inspired too. If they’re not laughing along to a crazy anecdote they’re stomping in time, shouting out lyrics, waving hands in the air or dancing like there’s no tomorrow.
The secret is the great faith Jim and Alex have in their fans. “When you demand they get up, and believe that they will, then they usually do,” Jim says. “Alex and I are already dancing so that makes it easier and with the added effect of really great beats and brilliant musicians. It all happens quite naturally”
“We sometimes write songs with a groove that we know will work. It’s called working backwards – knowing what you want the audience to do, and then creating it.”
The BordererS also help create a better world for the next generation. Jim and Alex support mental health, suicide prevention and domestic violence initiatives, performing at fundraisers and spending hours each week adding their names to online petitions.
Ever ambitious, they’re branching out now to writing a musical, starting up a side band, pitching their songs to famous artists and performing at intimate house concerts.
Picking highlights from their 20+ year career is like walking through a garden of riches.
They’ve recorded with African, Indian and American soul and gospel singers, performed at Womad in England on the day Princess Diana died, entertained 30,000 people on New Year’s Eve in Melbourne’s Federation Square and 750,000 at Adelaide’s Skyshow, and rocked Byron Bay’s Blues & Roots Festival, Port Fairy’s Folk Festival, and the famous Skagen Festival in Denmark.
“Performing with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra was really scary but memorable too,” Jim muses. “I believed that the whole orchestra was following me and I was petrified I’d stuff it up, until the conductor mentioned they were actually following him!”
With ten albums also under their belt it’s clear The BordererS are a much-loved, admired and sought-after act. And for that, Jim and Alex owe their thanks to Australia:
“We got away from the bigotry and violence of Scotland and Ireland to live in a country where that sort of thing doesn’t really exist. We love that about Australia.”
We relish the prospect of working with multicultural musicians and Australian icons. Many big bands from Australia’s past have Scottish and Irish roots (Jimmy Barnes, Doc Neeson) so we also feel that we’re following in that tradition.
Getting to Know Us
Many people talk about the energy of The BordererS - how would you describe that energy?
It’s been mentioned constantly for the whole 22 years. To us, music is just a ball of fun, and especially when you are performing your own original material. We can’t stay still onstage as the music just makes us want to move.
How do you conjure it up, where does it come from?
We’re not sure where it comes from but I personally ( Jim ) prefer to watch bands that have a lot of energy like Bruce Springsteen, The Stones, AC/DC etc…
Why is it such a vital ingredient to your live performances?
It’s a vital ingredient as it sets us apart from lot’s of other groups. It’s also quite good knowing that you can move at 53 exactly the way that you did at 23. ( You just need to go to the gym more often, and eat really healthily ) It feels great to come off a stage after running for hours and being completely soaking with sweat. Feels like you’ve done a great day’s work. The adrenaline feels good too.
‘Fun’ is also something that characterises The BordererS – how does your sense of fun come out in your music and your live shows?
The sense of fun comes out in our music by the musical styles and sometimes with the lyrical content. Celtic, Zydeco and African are all really happy vibes too. We like to sing songs with positive messages and to make people feel like they’ve had the best night out of their lives. When you involve a crowd, then they feel special. We also like to go out into the audience a lot too and get them participating ( Hands in the air, clapping, shouting things back etc… )
Many artists take their music very seriously – their songs could hardly be described as fun – so why do you choose having fun as another vital ingredient?
Life can be so depressing, so why not entertain folk rather than bringing them down. We love real entertainers like Al Jolson, Elvis, Dolly Parton etc… plus guys like Morecambe and Wise / Laurel and Hardy. Good clean fun that you can bring the whole family to. I can’t stand that modern entertainers have to swear and wear just bras and pants onstage (and that’s just the blokes I’m talking about ) Telling stories and anecdotes are a big thing for us, and we try to learn from pros like Eric Bogle and Colin Hay. The show can just be as entertaining even without the music.
Someone once described The BordererS as “If you put folk, Celtic, world and dance into a blender, it may come out sounding pretty much like this combo”. Is that accurate? If not, how would you describe The BordererS sound?
We’ve never heard that one Chris, but we may use it on our website. It’s so hard to describe the BordererS sound as we’ve written in so many styles. The industry think that we are Andy Stewart soundalikes and only perform traditional Scottish & Irish tunes, not knowing that the band has recorded with African, Indian and American Soul singers plus Gospel Choirs etc…. The BordererS have also recorded with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Eclectic never sounds right either. We liked the fact that the Beatles had nearly every possible styles of music on their albums and go along with that philosophy. It all bottles down to liking so many different types of music and feeling inspired to write songs depending what you feel like that day.
Many artists around the world decide to use their talents/skills for good causes. You’ve chosen to support suicide prevention and awareness because of your son. What other causes or social justice issues does The BordererS support and why?
I spend an hour each day filling in online petitions because I feel so strongly about social justice. The 1% are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Democracy doesn’t really exist anymore and the only way to fight back is through millions of people adding their names to online petitions. Being an E-Activist is very important to me. We also support Domestic Violence groups, as Alex has said that she’ll beat me up if we don’t (only kidding ) We also do shows for Mental Health, the Variety Club and many others…
What difference does your support make?
We help raise a lot of money for organisations and hopefully entertain people at the actual
Over 20 years of writing, performing and touring – how does The BordererS keep the fire in the belly going?
I’m extremely ambitious and constantly want to improve the songs, the production, the look etc…. A good, hot curry also keeps the fire in the belly going. No seriously, I’m excited about working on a new musical. I also want someone famous to do one of our songs, so we are constantly pitching songs to artists. I’m even thinking of putting together a side project. A rock band, a bit like Thin Lizzy. Fans have said that the latest album is their favourite, so that keeps you going too…
Why do you think you appeal to such a wide age group?
You mean 40 to 80 year olds? That age group love old fashioned entertainment and having a great night out. When teenagers and twenty something witness the band at a big festival, then they realise that we’re not boring fuddy duddy’s and really get into it too. They love the Rock Energy! We love performing for really young kids too, as they have no inhibitions and love that you involve them. Adults usually need a few glasses of wine before the let their hair down. Making people laugh helps you appeal to a wide age group and when we look into the audience, all you see is smiley, happy faces. They also get that look that says: “I can’t believe what’s happening here”
What’s your secret to getting people up and dancing?
When you demand that they get up and believe that they will, then it usually does. Some bands ask timidly, whereas because Alex & I are already dancing, it makes it a bit easier too. You need really great grooves too and brilliant musicians. We watch other groups to see what they do to make people dance and we sometimes write songs with a groove that we know will work. It’s called working backwards. Know what you want the audience to do, and then go about creating it.
Name some standout performances that you remember – your favourites, the biggest shows, the most memorable etc…
Performing at Womad in England the day that Lady Diana died was a standout.
We also loved performing on New Year’s Eve in Federation Sq in front of 30,000 people
Carols by Candlelight is always great fun and you get to entertain whole families
The scariest concert was in front of 750,000 at the Adelaide Skyshow, and we only had to do one song.Performing with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra was really scary, but memorable too. I believed that the whole orchestra was following me ( and I was petrified that I would stuff it up ) until the conductor mentioned that they were actually following him.
Festival highlights have been the Byron Bay Blues & Roots Festival, any Port Fairy Festival and the Skagen Festival in Denmark. Funily enough, some little House Concerts have been just as memorable and standout in our books. Playing in the basement of someone’s house in Laura, Vic which was done out like the bar in “Cheers” or the Climate Change Scientists house in Asheville, North Carolina was so momentous because we were running two hours late after running out of petrol in the Smoky Mountains.
Where is The BordererS heading now? What’s your game plan from here on in?
The BordererS are now heading to the gym. Only kidding. The band are just about to unveil their new updated website. There is also a single going out to all the country radio stations in a couple of weeks. The video to go along with it is just about finished too. We’ve found a digital media person and are working on future strategies for the band. The plan is to make future videos to go along with songs from the new album “Caledonia Man” We want to tour in Europe and Canada in 2017 and to have a famous artist have a hit single with one of our songs. Finishing the musical is also a priority and lastly, I want to learn how to play the piano better.
What is uniquely Australian about The BordererS? I mean, a similar band with members of Irish and Scottish heritage must exist elsewhere in the world, but what does being an Australian mean?
We got away from the bigotry and violence of Scotland & Ireland and live in a country where that sort of thing doesn’t really exist. We love that about Australia. We stay clear of Rebel songs and relish the prospect of working with multi-cultural musicians and Australian icons. Most of the big bands from Australia’s past were born in Scotland & Ireland ( Jimmy Barnes, Doc Neeson etc.. ) so we feel that we are just following in that tradition.
The passion in the music comes from growing up in really hard and dodgy areas of Glasgow and Belfast. The dream was to escape that life and start again. Australia gives you that chance. Thank you also to Jon Corney for suggesting Adelaide. That was the best move of my life.