The Mott's are my relatives on my grandmother's side of the family, so I've always had an affinity with Port Fairy.- Josh Pyke
THE historic Mott's Cottage in Port Fairy holds a special place in ARIA-award-winning singer-songwriter Josh Pyke's heart.
"I have ancestry down there," Pyke told The Standard. "The Mott's are my relatives on my grandmother's side of the family, so I've always had an affinity with Port Fairy."
He said it was this family connection that drew him to perform at the upcoming Port Fairy Folk Festival for the first time. "I thought it would be cool to bring it full circle," Pyke said. "I've played in Warrnambool and the surrounds and have visited the Port Fairy cottage."
Pyke performed at The Loft in Warrnambool in 2012 and at the Whalers Hotel in 2016. "I've always wanted to play at Port Fairy Folk Festival," he said.
"The line-up is great. There's Billy Bragg and other artists I'm keen to see.
"I've played a few folk festivals and the crowds are respectful and enthusiastic about the craft of folk storytelling."
The Port Fairy branch of the National Trust of Australia are the gatekeepers of the heritage listed residence.
Mott's Cottage was built between 1843 and 1851 by William Bird who was a blacksmith. He built a two-room cottage at the front of the property. William Ashby was believed to have built a wing - a four room cottage - behind the residence.
It was then rented out to a number of people, before it became a boarding house in 1876, where the trust believed there was four apartments.
In 1883 the property was purchased by local stonemason John Hooper, whose daughter ran the boarding house.
Sarah Jane and William Mott purchased the property in 1918, living there with their five children.
Before residing in the cottage, they lived next door at a separate property. They lived in the cottage for 26 years.
In 1944, it was sold to Samuel Pettingill, a grazier. Then it was sold again in 1950 to Thomas H Bartlett.
From 1972, the property has been in the hands of the National Trust of Victoria.
William's parents, William and Mary Evans also lived in the region, at Gipps Street in 1876.
All together members of the extended Mott family have lived across 11 locations in Port Fairy.
Mott's Cottage is open from 2pm to 4pm on the first and third Saturday of the month and every Saturday during school holidays, for visitors to learn about its history.
Pyke said his solo set at Port Fairy Folk Festival would include tracks across his catalogue, featuring stomp box, harmonica and looping.
The 45-year-old's career spans more than 23 years. He has made seven albums, with the latest studio record, To Find Happiness, released in March, 2022. He has won four ARIA Awards.
"I always try and play stuff from the full catalogue," Pyke said. "I like to play the songs that work in that connection to the audience.
"I believe when you play festivals you should give the crowd what they want, so I like to play what they know so they can sing along and have that crowd feel."
He is also one quarter of Australian super group Basement Birds, alongside Jebediah's Kevin Mitchell (who also performs solo under the moniker Bob Evans), Eskimo Joe frontman Kav Temperley and Autopilot's Steve Parkin. It was formed in 2009.
"We'd all relish the opportunity to come back together but it's like trying to herd cats," Pyke said. "We're always working on different timelines - it's a miracle we got it done in the first place."
In 2019, Pyke also began his career as a children's author, with the release of Lights Out Leonard.
As part of Folkie, Pyke will read his books at the Flag Circle. He said writing books was very different to song writing.
"With writing children's books, I always have an idea first so it's a bit more structured," he said.
"Whereas, when I'm writing songs I'm sitting around waiting for lightning to strike, so it's quite different.
"I love the process of writing kids books. I should have another one coming out this year and two next year. I'm always writing."
Pyke is also working on new music.
"I'm always working on new songs," he said. "I've written a whole bunch of new songs.
"My team are working on a special tour for at the end of the year, but I can't give out any details on it."
The Port Fairy Folk Festival runs on the Labour Day weekend from March 10 to 13.
The final artists joining the Folkie line up are: CW Stoneking and His Primitive Horn Orchestra, Apolline, Atomic Entourage, Scott Cook, Skyscraper Stan and The Commission Flats, Tin Shed Singers, Startijenn, O'Little Sister, Sweet Talk, Ausecuma Beats, Frank Sultana, Foggy Notion, Tom West and The Southern Ocean Sea Band.
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