Jethro Pickett

Part of the 'Harmonies of the Huon' Series

Jethro Pickett is a Cygnet-based musician and producer. He’s softly spoken – but still waters can run deep.

‘I started my musical journey as a ten-year-old, taking lessons in bass at Wilmot near Devonport,’ Jethro says. ‘Then my teacher started a kids’ band and I was hooked.’

Jethro lives in a desirable waterfront location, with his father having transformed a 1913 apple packing shed in Petchey’s Bay into a unique home.

‘There were once around 75 similar sheds in the Huon Valley, with most large orchards owning one,’ Jethro explains. ‘They are extremely rare now – I know of only one other at Police Point.’

As well as apple packing sheds, these riverside buildings also served as ferry terminals, in the days when river traffic moved goods and human cargo around the valley. Small ferries did the school run from Port Huon to Wattle Grove and crossed the Huon River from Franklin to Cradoc through the Egg Island canal.

Large river steamers such as Rowitta, Dover, Excella and Cartela carried both passengers and cargo for longer distances from Hobart, down the River Derwent and into the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, servicing Bruny Island and the Huon Valley.

Jethro’s shed belonged to Calvert’s apple orchard on Dillons Hill Road and it included a long wharf where boats like the SS Huon and the May Queen would stop and make a day trip to Hobart – much quicker than the lengthy trip by horse of coach, which could take days.

‘My shed has upstairs rooms and was home to four families, who lived and packed apples here,’ Jethro says.

When I call in it’s a beautiful autumn day, with sunlight bouncing off the Huon River just outside the living room window. Jethro’s guitars are propped up around the room. I’m transported to another time as the waves gently lap under the 120-year-old boards. I wonder about the fascinating lives these families would have lived, sharing an apple shed and jetty with children and animals – it must have felt like Noah’s ark!

There’s a large, sheltered deck outside, secluded from the road which runs past the house. A diving board protrudes out into the river. There’s not many houses where you can cast out from the back porch and do a spot of fishing!

It’s a wonderful and creative environment to live in, with a similar feeling to a boat as the water laps around and under you.

‘Sometimes if a storm blows in from Antarctica and it’s really howling at night, the waves can keep you awake!’ Jethro explains. ‘The biggest problem is replacing the piers. Traditionally they used swamp gums and celery pines, which would last 100 years.’

Jethro is skilled in piano, guitar, slide guitar and vocals. He is in demand as a professional session musician and can receive an email request to travel anywhere in Australia or overseas. He travels to Melbourne every few weeks for work, but he prefers playing live.

‘Sometimes I get offered a job but I can’t leave the house, I need to sit here and look at the water,’ he laughs.

He is currently touring Australia with Huon Valley performer Claire Anne Taylor and will be away for four weeks, playing gigs from Newcastle to Brisbane. Jethro says touring and performing live is exciting but can be a drag when you have too much down time, so the band indulge in a game or two of tennis where they can.

‘Claire Anne works extremely hard and her success is well deserved,’ he says. ‘Her voice has something unique and special, and people can relate to her music.’

Jethro says that there are definite benefits to music sharing platforms like YouTube.

‘There’s a re-democratisation of music and there are not as many gate keepers,’ he explains. ‘Musicians can build their own audience from the ground up, which used to be impossible without major financial support. The downside is that there are something like 40,000 new songs loaded each day on Spotify, so you may be really talented but if you can’t master social media you can get lost in the noise.’

I ask Jethro about the contemporary music scene in the Huon Valley.

‘It’s a very connected musical community,’ he tells me. ‘Many musicians I know came to the Cygnet Folk Festival ten years ago and decided to stay, attracted by the peaceful Huon lifestyle.
When life isn’t so busy and you don’t have as many social contacts, you have the time and head space to reflect and create. And there’s no doubt that the Folk Festival has significant trickle-down benefits for young musicians,’ he says.

Harmonies of the Huon: Exploring the melodies and musings of Huon Valley artists‘ is a Creative Huon series in collaboration with Huon Valley Council and Huon Valley Tas, showcasing the Huon Valley’s musical talents, their inspiration and journeys.

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