Fiona McBain started her career in music straight out of school in 1988 with a residency at the Sydney Harbour Oyster Bar every Sunday afternoon singing with jazz group Body and Soul. Fiona always loved jazz music and had grown up listening to her parents recordings of artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstong, Billie Holiday and Oscar Peterson.
Fiona sang at various clubs in Sydney including the Harbouside Brasserie and Soup Plus but eventually she started writing her own songs and wanted to branch out as a singer/songwriter. Long story short, in 1998, after working in two careers ...music and the tv/film industry, Fiona picked up her guitar and went to NYC. Not planning on staying but ever eager to return, Fiona started gigging the various clubs for songwriters in NYC. She played at legendary places such as Gaslight, The Bottom Line, The Bitter End, and other east and west village places such as The Village Underground, The Living Room and 9C.
It was at 9C, a divey little bar on Ave C and 9th St that Fiona began her Sunday night residencies in 1999. 9C had been known as a downtown honkey-tonk and lured alt-country folks to play all night for drinks and tips. It was definitely a scene and it was there that Fiona became inspired by American blue-grass and country music... real old country. Fiona dived into this music and listened intensely to recordings by The Stanley Brothers, Charlie Rich, Gram Parsons, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, and George Jones - trying to learn from their craft, their voices, harmonies and songwriting. Meeting up with various musicians, the Sunday residency soon became a sit-in for many where everyone played and sang songs they knew.. This developed into what was known as the Sunday School for Sinners as many people came and played old spiritual songs and country songs which everyone could join in on.
Then, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Sunday sessions became a necessity. The gathering of people and the comfort of hearing and singing songs of hope, love and loss. A group of 6 or 7 musicians came back every Sunday, Fiona made all the calls and wrote out the lyric sheets and charts. This was the band that eventually became Ollabelle and was signed to T Bone Burnett's record label on Sony Music in 2003.
Ollabelle toured the USA for many years supporting acts like Ryan Adams, Diana Krall, Levon Helm, Elvis Costello, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant as well as on their own at festivals and venues across America and Canada and Europe promoting their own recordings. Ollabelle made 3 studio recordings and a live recording.
In 2007, Fiona made a CD with NYC bass player Mike Visceglia. The project was named "Then There Were Two". Mike V was a longtime music-director and collaborator with Suzanne Vega and it was his idea to make a recording of cover songs featuring only electric bass and voice.
Another of Fiona's musical projects, "The Big Bright" self-released their lush and dreamy 2014 recording of 80s new-wave covers called "I Slept Thru the 80s". Their music has been featured on tv shows CBS's "Criminal Intent" as well as "Charmed" in the USA. They have also written for and been featured in commercials for Tena products.
Fiona's latest musical collaboration is with her long-time friend, singer Liz Tormes (who is also in The Big Bright). Their new CD will be released very soon and the current working title is "Brooklyn-Sydney".
During all this time. Fiona has worked as a sound recordist in NYC on documentaries and commercials for 20 years. She is also a parent to a 9 year old!
Fiona is currently back in Australia for an extended period to be near family but she spends time between Brooklyn, NY and Sydney, Australia.