ABC Radio National presenter Fran Kelly at Bluesfest 2017.
ABC Radio National presenter Fran Kelly at Bluesfest 2017. Javier Encalada

Why was Fran Kelly terrified of Patti Smith?

FRAN Kelly is an ABC radio presenter, current affairs journalist and political correspondent who has hosted Radio National's Breakfast since March 2005.

She has faced Prime Ministers and all kinds of politicians, but Kelly admitted she has never been so nervous than before talking to Patti Smith, ahead of her Bluesfest shows.

"I was terrified," she said.

"No one scares me at an interview. Over the 12 years I have been doing this program, and the many years I have been doing politics I have interviewed US presidents, every Prime Minister and big stars, but of Patti Smith I was terrified, so I read all the books before I did it.

"The morning of the interview we are all ready to go, we have publicised the interview, I have been tweeting about it all morning, and then I get a phone call from Bluesfest telling me Patti is not answering the phone!

"My producer Marina kept ringing, so at some point I get her in my ear saying 'we've got Patti on the phone!'

"Patti was really apologetic for not picking up the phone in time, but it was a lovely interview because I grew up with Patti Smith, she's an icon, and I always thought she was this tough, hardcore person, with hardcore values, but on the interview she was so sweet, and generous, lovely and soft."

"We got a massive response from our audience abut that interview.

"It was the same with Carlos Santana, absolutely gorgeous."

Kelly said both Carlos Santana and Jimmy Buffet both sincerely love Bluesfest and the Byron Bay area.

"I was struck by that," she said.

"This is my third day, and the same guy that has checked my bag on the way in has the same cheeky humour he had on Thursday.

"I had no idea the festival was so big, but also the depth of it. I passed by the Buskers tent and the woman playing on it was brilliant. Everyone you turn there is great music on offer."

Kelly is a frequent visitor to the Northern Rivers but this is her first Bluesfest experience.

"(It's) My first Bluesfest, unbelievably. I have wanted to come for decades," she said.

"We come a fair bit to the Byron hinterland, we have friends here. I know it's a cliche and everyone says it but it's like a spiritual home.

"We often think: Is this when we will come a bit later in life?"


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