With an audience of 1.8 billion people estimated to tune into its live worldwide broadcast, the tournament being held at the Sydney Showground Stadium has been touted as the largest women’s sporting event ever staged in Australia. For the critically-acclaimed Harts – a guitar-god of sorts who scored the opening ceremony gig by impressing the T20 committee with his cover of the forgotten 1977 hit You’ve Gotta Get Up and Dance by Countdown-era rockers Supercharge, the official theme song used throughout the tournament’s advertising campaign – it’s an opportunity to show what he can do beyond the usual gig-spaces of a touring indie musician.
“For an artist like me to be invited to play at something so high-profile, it’s an amazing thing. And it’s something I’m really open to branching into, more of that broader entertainment,” he says. “The atmosphere of a stadium gig is very different but I love the big production value, the lights, the dancers; it’s an amazing thing to be a part of.”
The performance coincides with Harts’ new single Twenty Somethin and his upcoming live tour Harts Plays Hendrix, a special show celebrating the legacy of Jimi Hendrix, 50 years on from his death. The musician says the idea behind the Hendrix shows came from the positive response he’d get when he used to end gigs with a blazing cover of Purple Haze.
“In the early days I didn’t have that much material so when I got called up for an encore there was nothing to play so I’d throw in a Hendrix cover,” he says. “Fans would come up to me after the shows and say it was amazing. That really started to fuel this idea of doing the Hendrix shows, putting my spin on the Hendrix catalogue especially for younger generations who maybe haven’t been exposed to his music.”
There was also another notable voice who inspired the project: late-pop icon Prince, a fan who took Harts under his wing and invited him to hang out and jam at his Paisley Park mansion, before his death in April 2016.
“When I say the fans originated [the idea behind Harts Plays Hendrix], he was one of the fans!” says Hart. “I remember he told me one day, ‘You play like Hendrix, man.’ That was such a beautiful compliment. He loved my playing style and he wanted to encourage me to keep playing guitar in an increasingly guitar-less music industry.”
His time spent with His Royal Badness still seems surreal, says Hart.
“He never came across as the legend he was, he was so down-to-earth and humble with his approach to music and his approach to other artists. And it was really encouraging for someone like me who’d gone through a lot of different relationships in the industry, record deals gone bad, all sorts of things I was dealing with,” he says. “It was one of those things that comes at you from the universe and you’ve just gotta take it like divine intervention, you know what I mean? Because that’s what it was, it was just a blessing.”