LANKS (Will Cuming)

 

Lanks

Will Cuming, aka LANKS, is an Australian songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.  His debut album twentyseven is full of sweet, melodic layers and sometimes reflective moods of an artist expecting more from life and himself, as he moves through his late 20’s.  Songs such as ‘Yours’ and ‘Comfortable’ are cruisy and easily accessible, whereas the title track ‘twentyseven’ has an urgent and driving rhythm.  Although this release is a debut, it arrives on the back of three EP’s which have garnered loads of attention, leading to festival requests, a record deal and various collaborations.

Will and I spoke over email, due to his album promotion and tour preparation commitments.  I was keen to hear how he writes his folk/electronic driven songs.

Do you remember the first song you wrote?

Yes. I mean, there were a few when I was playing the flute originally but the first proper ones were as soon as I started playing the guitar at 12 years old. There’s a riff from one of those songs that I still want to rework now into a new song. That’d be pretty cool, collaborating with my 12-year-old self.

You’re a multi-instrumentalist, coming across as an electronic singer/songwriter.  Do you write song ideas on varying instruments, depending on your mood or inspiration at the time?

Absolutely. Whatever is feeling good at the time or even just a musical chairs approach where I jump from instruments when I feel like it. That’s a good approach. My brain has a different approach with these instruments and the language on each has small differences that can help unlock good ideas.

Guitar and piano seem more prominent on older tracks, while the new songs on ‘twentyseven’ seem to have more electronic layers.  Were the electronic elements added in the studio or written while the songs were in their early stages?

Actually, the twentyseven LP was one of those bodies of work that I approached with production and song writing simultaneously evolving, and I love how it influenced the outcome. It was like composing with an orchestra in front of you instead of just you and a piano and then arranging the parts out for orchestra later. I was searching for sounds and sometimes they were from guitars and sometimes they weren’t. The next body of work will probably be completely different.

Have you done much co-writing? If so, who with and how did you find the process?

Over the past 2 years I have done a whole lot of co-writing but on twentyseven I wrote every track by myself, except for two songs that producers worked with me on (circles and yours).

I love co-writing and have explored that process a lot for other people’s work that I have been involved with (Woodes, Tia Gostelow, and more) and have a lot of new work in the bag that I did in that way. It honestly is the best experience, as I feel inspired by all the amazing artists I get to be in the room with and learn from.

We met through the Push Songs mentorship program.  Does being around other song writers have a positive influence?

Huge influence. I spent so much time doing things on my own in the past few years (until recently) and that was an important phase of exploration. It helped me find myself a bit.
But now my improvement has been very rapid (especially since making this album actually) and I am very happy with that. It’s been an amazing period of growth post the LP and I’m pretty excited about some of the new work coming out.

Do you have any writing routines? For example, a coffee before sitting down with an instrument, or find that things flow better late at night?

I don’t drink coffee, which most musicians find incredibly odd for some reason. I don’t have any routines really, except to do it a lot. Just write as much as I can and explore a lot outside of pre song writing sessions too. I am definitely a morning person when it comes to anything also. Though most rules (especially that one) are often broken and great results come from it.

You have featured other singers on your songs.  Do you write with these artists in mind? For example Ngaiire on the song My Own Mystery, or Airling on the song April.

They’ve all been different! April was a song that Hannah (Airling) just really loved and connected to and wanted to sing on. It was a special part of our connection and friendship that I still feel when I hear it.

My Own Mystery was written but I wanted to add the other perspective and my partner Tacey asked if Ngaiire could play the role of her. I love Ngaiire so it was such an amazing honour to have her on a track I wrote.

I think future features etc will end up being more collaborative than those ones, but it’s just different every time.

Do you have any recurring writing struggles? Some examples other writers have mentioned are finishing choruses, writing lyrics or coming up with song titles.

I certainly have in the past, but I’ve really enjoyed overcoming those deficiencies. It’s very rewarding.

I used to struggle with lyrics a lot because they were so vague and I felt like I got lucky every time they all lined up. It paralysed me when I needed to edit them or improve them. But then I started just writing 10 verses when I needed 2 and it opened it up a bit.

Then I used to struggle with finishing off songs but slowly overcame that through doing sessions where time deadlines pushed me.

Actually, a lot of the answers I find are in collaboration. We think we need to do everything ourselves but getting someone in who’s good at your weaknesses is really smart.  And you often learn from them so you rely on it less later, which seems counter-intuitive but, essentially we are all each other’s teachers so it’s like working alongside someone who can show you how to do things.

How is it working with another producer, being a producer yourself?  I would imagine it would be heaps of fun creatively.

When the session is good it is awesome. I seem to only have really good sessions mostly. You hear horror stories but I haven’t had a lot of those so from my perspective it’s all good. If you bring the right attitude and are prepared to work hard and not have an ego that prevents good team work then you should have a very rewarding experience.

How much is improvised on the spot when recording?

It’s hard to answer this question. It depends on the context. Some bands will have rehearsed a lot to record something and other times you are recording as you write so there are imperfections everywhere, but you may grow attached to them and keep them.

I studied music improvisation at VCA for my uni course so improvisation is a big part of my studio process and I love it. It’s a very, very easy way to bring human-ness to music created on computers where we can take shortcuts so easily (like not re-recording multiple choruses etc etc)

Who did you look up to in the Australian music scene growing up?

Big Scary. And I still do. That little musical family is such an inspiring hub of giving and supportive artists. They are all amazing but they aren’t arrogant at all, and they’re all very thoughtful and constructive with their words and thoughts. Big love to them.

If you could choose anyone to write a song with, who would it be and why?

This is such a hard question! It’d be pretty cool to write with one of those huge writers like Julia Michaels or someone like that. I’d love to see her process, that’d be really cool.

How do you know when a song is finished? How do you finish a song?

I used to think it never was! But not as much anymore. I think when there is a full fleshed form that makes sense and all the sections are written. And then production-wise it can go pretty deep but there kind of comes a point where you hit your wall and that’s where I like to get someone (Andrei Eremin for me) to come in and help getting all the production cleaned up and editing it basically. Then it gets mixed and mastered and you usually (ok, sometimes not true) don’t go back from there. There are always exceptions.

 

LANKS Tour dates:

FRI, 03 AUG | JIVE, ADELAIDE SA (with MANE)
SAT 04 AUG |  MOJOS, FREMANTLE WA (with Chelsea Cullen)
THU 09 AUG | BLACK BEAR LODGE, BRISBANE QLD
FRI 10 AUG | KINGSCLIFF TAVERN NSW
SAT 11 AUG | SOLBAR, MAROOCHYDORE QLD
THU 16 AUG | CAMBRIDGE HOTEL, NEWCASTLE NSW
FRI 17 AUG | THE LANSDOWNE, SYDNEY NSW
SAT 18 AUG | UNI BAR (STRATTON ROOM), WOLLONGONG NSW
SUN 19 AUG | TRANSIT BAR, CANBERRA ACT
THU 23 AUG |  SOOKI LOUNGE, BELGRAVE VIC
FRI 24 AUG | THE BRIDGE HOTEL, CASTLEMAINE VIC (with Eliza Hull)
SAT 25 AUG | NORTHCOTE SOCIAL CLUB, MELBOURNE VIC (SOLD OUT)
SUN 26 AUG | NORTHCOTE SOCIAL CLUB, MELBOURNE VIC (2ND SHOW)

Supported by Tyne-James Organ (full tour) and Essie Holt (all shows except Adelaide, Fremantle and Castlemaine).

Tickets available from  lanksmusic.com/tour

Liz Stringer

 

“Well you’ll have a better life. You’ll have a better life, you mark our words. Have a better life, you’ll all get what you all deserve. Oh man, this is too f*****  up.  In anybody’s language it ain’t good enough. ‘Cos I’ve been here almost fifteen years. In anybody’s language, this is fight or fear” Anybody’s Language – Liz Stringer

Liz Stringer is a traveller at heart, offering insight into the ongoing cultural and political issues facing regional Australia and the world.  Her songs insist us not to turn a blind eye, as she hasn’t been able to, while touring the county and overseas limitless times.  She’s a straight talker – no bullshit, yet laughing easily when we meet on a cold Melbourne night, portraying her understanding of the complexity of human behaviour, which she explores in her song writing.

Do you remember the first song you wrote?

Yeah I remember the first full song that I wrote. Probably when I was 15.  Before that i’d written lots of little sort-of songs, but not fully formed.

Do you remember what it was about?

My mum had died a year earlier, so I wrote it about that which was pretty full on.  That was the first one I wrote and definitely the first I recorded, about a year later or something.

That’s pretty young.

Yeah I was using it as a cathartic process, I guess I felt like I had to say something, although I don’t think it was a conscious process.  I just did it you know?

You seem to share a lot of personal stories in your songs, intimately telling someone a story with a melancholy feel.  Is there a sense of therapy with your writing?

(There) is but it’s not always actually my story.  I grew up with the kind of old Irish folk tradition- sort of adopting voices instead of writing from my own perspective. It’s funny, i’m just writing a lot recently, the last 6-8 months and writing a lot more personally than I have for a long time.  I guess it’s more the story telling that im interested in but there’s natural catharsis that happens when you’re writing about somebody else.  I think that it is used as a form of therapy, or just as a form of expression or exercising kind of emotional demons.   People do that in different ways and that’s how I do it I think.

Sometimes more in retrospect, you’ll listen to it a bit down the track and go ‘I was actually writing about such and such’.  Also as i’m going through different stuff it can take on different meaning.  Which is what everyone does as a listener, you take what you need from it – and I do that with the songs i’ve written.  I think that I write in the darker end of the human experience spectrum because it’s a bigger palette than the happy bit and also what im interested in.  I find it really beautiful and it moves me and moves things around in me that singing songs about being happy and in love don’t do.  And that’s not because I haven’t been in love or i’m not a happy person but that’s just where – as a creative person – that’s where I find the best colour.

Are you more drawn to other people’s songs that are melancholic?

Yeah I would think so.  I think my only criteria for liking songs is authenticity.  If I feel like they’re telling the truth in whatever they’re singing about, in whatever form that is – not  necessarily literally – the way that they get across what they’re trying to get across, then I like it.  I dunno, it’s such a funny thought to think that we’re meant to be happy all the time because we’re just not. And that’s not a bad thing, that’s just part of the human experience – it’s that area that people respond to the most, because that’s where everyone is most of the time- and its art and music and thought and the luxurious things we can do that’s aside from just surviving – is working out what it is to be human.  And I write a lot of stuff that’s musically upbeat, rock n roll stuff, so it’s not about being depressing or deliberately morose, I just think it’s about discussing and tapping into areas that I feel have the most common ground, (and) is probably what I listen to.

Those other emotions are often harder to put into words, and easier to get across a feeling in a creative way.

Yeah, totally.

A song that has resonated with me is ‘Anybody’s Language’.  It comes across as a personal song, but easy for people to relate to in a communal or political way – even without the audience knowing the origin of the story. How did that song come about?

It came about from being on tour and particularly just over the years, on the Hume for example, how many towns had been bypassed and what that’s done to certain communities.  And then, I think it was during the Abbott time or just before, I guess it was my only attempt at singing about what I felt like was wrong. That people are so easily shat on and given gambling and booze and all this other shit to distract them for the fact they’re getting f***ed by the people they vote in.  It’s a very abstract song – basically imagery – doesn’t really have a narrative or anything, just a loose idea.  Then funnily enough later when I was involved with the James Price Point fight, north of Broome – a bunch of musicians were there to play for the ones defending the land, so the stuff that i’d written, the pipes on the beach line – i don’t think I even knew about James Price Point at that stage, but that then became relevant.  I didn’t get that line for that experience, but it fit it well.

You relate it to that?

Yeah I do, and I introduce it as that, but chronologically it doesn’t work.  But I knew of offshore gas hubs, and the barrier reef and desecration of the natural environment of Australia, particularly in the Kimberley – I think that’s probably where it was bubbling.

I guess with the sentiment there’s a lot of ongoing things that can relate to the feel of that song.

Yeah, totally. Because it’s such a depressing state of affairs.  For someone that was lucky enough to be born into a family that had enough money to educate, clothe and feed me – that’s not everyone’s experience. That’s the other thing about being a songwriter or observer. I feel like it’s important to be able to understand other perspectives.  I mean my people are pretty f***ed as well.  We’re not rich, but I am compared to someone who grew up with nothing, you know what I mean.

Yeah the more you travel, the more you meet people and realize.

Totally, particularly since touring.  You don’t have to go far out of the north of Melbourne to tap into the vein of racist, misogynist Australia. I wrote a song about this on my last record, you just have to understand that that’s their experience of the world – I mean we’re all getting f***ed, that’s what that song’s about.

I used to get really angry at people who had different political views to me, just couldn’t understand it.   But I think the older i’ve got I realise it’s more about listening to each other and not judging each other and saying well that’s how you grew up, and this is how I grew up – that’s how I know what I know, and you know what you know. No-ones better than everyone else.

I know it’s not as black and white as we think – but then sometimes it is black and white!

Totally! Some things are just wrong.  But we’re all united under one fact that is we’re getting f***ed by corporations.  Basically the law is that if you have enough money you can do whatever the f**k you want. It’s just what happens and that’s supremely depressing to me (laughs).

Lots of material to write songs from.

Absolutely, infinite. On-going.

I was thinking about how you said with Anybody’s Language, you started then added to it later. Do you have any song writing routines?

No I don’t have any routine.  I really am pretty um, what’s the word – pretty relaxed about it.  Which I don’t think has necessarily served me that well.  At the moment i’m in a period of song writing, and have been for the last 8 months to a year which co-incindently coincided with me not drinking booze for that amount of time.

Cold turkey?

Mmm Hmm.  I just thought I needed a rest. Began with a month, now it’s gonna be a year.  And that apparently has been really good for my song writing, which is interesting.  Because many of my contemporaries in the music world, drink too much. I needed to recalibrate that, it sucks my creativity and I realise that so I had a period before that of not really writing a lot.  And kind of feeling like well maybe now I have to put some sort of practice in place.  But now the way I do it is generally have a guitar around the house and I play guitar alot and i write songs almost daily which is what I used to do.  And that’s another reason.  I’m not going to not drink booze again, but im gonna be careful, because i realise you need energy and you need to be clear and present and able to accept the flow of whatever’s going on.  And maybe it works for some people but it doesn’t work for me and that’s been a real revelation.

The same with performing?

Yeah performing sober – oh my god.. the same thing with everything.  I realise that (with) performing, there’s so many natural highs that are going on  and it’s such a euphoric intense experience that you just totally squash when you drink.  I mean early on I used to drink a lot and play, then the last 2 years i’d have two or three drinks which wasn’t a lot for me.  But that’s actually something that I think, that I won’t drink on tour.  Just at the end of runs, or weeks if I have a few days off because really, i’m so much more open and sing better, I perform better, im more present and clear. It’s ridiculous that it’s such a revelation.

I used to perform a bit and could only have a couple at the most – after that i’d make heaps of mistakes, wouldn’t care and it just wasn’t good.

Do you have that thing where you felt like the signal was taking longer to get to my hands?

Yeah slow – it just never worked for me and I couldn’t understand how people could perform well.

I’ve known people that are incredible when they are but I know that i’m not.  I was talking to someone about this yesterday – I don’t subscribe to the idea or myth in the music industry still about the romanticism of the f***ed up artist.  I’ve seen incredible people not change their ability to play, but it’s like I was getting to the point where I was like ‘F**k I have to perform’, and now partly because I don’t drink, and have nothing else to do with my time, I get really excited about it and look forward to it and I really enjoy it which is good because it’s my job and a very intense process.  I don’t want to turn this whole interview into drinking but for the creative process for me, it’s completely changed and just stripped away all of the block– im at my most creative.  Better at performing, better at writing, everything.

And so many positive things coming out of it to prove it.

Totally – the writing is very clearly on the wall to prove how much better it is for me.  1st October, Grand Final day, will be a year so im gonna see.  Just re-introduce it slowly and see how I go. But i’m gonna be very careful around that because that’s something I don’t wanna shut off again.

It’s really hard for me to come back to Melbourne and not drink, because I spend time in other countries and it’s just not the same.  I’ve spent most of my adult life here getting smashed, so there’s a lot of association for me.  Im really happy for it not to be a thing in my life.

Have you done much co-writing?

I just started in the last little bit.  It’s funny, I really resisted it – it just didn’t enter into my thought process – it felt like it was just gonna complicate matters, like ‘I can write songs, I don’t have to worry about someone else fu**ing it up’ (laughs).  ‘This is not a democracy! I’m the dictator of this thing’ but then I started.  Dyson, Stringer, Cloher the band with Mia and Jen – we’ve written a bunch of stuff together.  I wrote with this Canadian band called the East Pointers.  They just recorded a song we wrote together.  It’s gonna be on their new record and they’re really pumped about it, which is great… and I just wrote with Linda Bull, Vika and Linda are putting a record out later in the year – that was really fun.  I’m much more into it than I used to be and when I go to the States and Canada in a few weeks i’m seeking out people to do that with.  I’m gonna go to New York and write a bunch with a friend of mine there.

Is it a bit of a writing tour, or are you playing as well?

I’m playing for most of the time but not as full on as the last few years.  I’ve got a couple of two week blocks where i’m not doing much.  One in Nashville at the end, i’m gonna search out some people there.  Cos it’s such a massive thing there.. whether or not anything comes out of it, it’s just a good exercise.  I’ve found it’s been a really fun, informative way to spend time.  That’s the other thing, having irons in the fire like that and that’s ultimately my job, that’s my skill, to write songs so I should use it.  But yeah, is a very new thing.

So you’ve been doing the ’String-Along’ shows, starting last night. Any song writing surprises, any surprises in general?

Yeah did the first one.  It was really good.  We had about 30 or 40 people there.  It was great – it was a real pilot season for me.  I’ve never done this before.

At the Gasometer?

At the Gasometer.  And Micks doing one – Mick (Thomas) and I are old buddies so that’ll be fun.  Deborah Conway is next week and Neil Murray.  So it’s really an indulgent thing for me cos I enjoy talking about songs and about industry stuff and people’s experience.  I had Dr Lou Bennett on last night and she was great.  The work she’s doing around songs and language, it’s just amazing.  In the same way that co-writing is so collaborative, im interested in all these people who’ve done really diverse stuff, and within the music world use their skills to do such a broad range of things – which is necessary to sustain a career, but it’s also necessary to take yourself away from your own shit, like pushing your own songs. They’ve all run projects, all been in different bands, all played at festivals.  I mean, you know how much Mick’s done – its really inspiring for me and interesting.  The feedback last night was overwhelmingly positive – they were like ‘its so great to watch you interview people who are knowledgable about something, talk about what their exited and interested about’.  Even if there’s not a direct line into the conversation for everyone at all points, it’s still two friends talking about stuff that for us is very obvious maybe, but for punters not at all.  So I’m hoping it builds, there’s already a lot of interest for Mick’s show at the end of the month and i’m hoping that people come and enjoy it because it’s really fun.

So you play some songs and chat.

Yeah it’s a 3 part set – I play songs at the start of the night, then we chat and they play songs at the end.  I’ve asked them to pick songs based on certain categories ive given them, but it’s pretty loose.  Its so nice for me to have access to these people who are all friends of mine, but to have a more formal ‘I wanna pick your brains about stuff’ I think that’s what makes it good for the audience, that I am interested.  Im asking questions that are based on knowledge around that person, not just ‘whats your favourite pub?’ (laughs) ‘What was the name of your first band?’ I want to get further into stuff.  I’ve already had interest from other venues in Victoria wanting to put it on –and i’m like ‘just hang on a second I don’t know if its gonna work’.  It’s not a new format, or new idea but it hasn’t been done here very much.

There’s a need for that in Melbourne – things pop up here and there, then it’s quiet.

And there’s SO many artists.  This is exactly where it should be happening, because there’s so many people doing really interesting stuff.  To get access to the backend to how that works, and go this is what it is to do what we’re doing and because I feel like everyone’s leading really interesting lives in the creative field, whether or not they’re wildly successful or not – and that’s something I talk about with them – what success is.

It’s very individual – to work in the corporate world it’s like A to B to C, but being creative it’s not like that.  There’s similarities but everyone’s doing a different thing in their own way.

Exactly. There’s no direct way, there’s no system where you’re like ‘now you’re qualified for this job, now you get into this pay wave’.

You need to be self motivated.

That’s a terrifying idea – the trade off for having all this autonomy and freedom, is that you also take 100% responsibility for everything.  And that can be lonely and frightening and depressing, but the wins and the positive stuff is just so incredible.  And that’s the sort of shit you don’t get working in a structured industry or environment.  Its fu**ing rollercoaster.  And everyone experiences those set of feelings but in completely different contexts.

How do you know when a song is finished?

Good question.  What I say to song writing students is you have to keep drafting.  Songs are such a cool medium because you have finite number of words and every word has to earn it place to be there. It’s a drafting process – keep going and going, trim all the fat off it and when you can’t change anything else – every word has to be there – that’s when you’re done.  For me that’s how it works.

So really focussed on lyric and melody.

Yeah musically things happen way quicker for me.  If i play it a dozen times it probably sorts itself out.  Lyrics take way longer and that’s always a thing I finish second so um yeah god there’s some songs (looking back ) i think ‘why the f**k did you stop there you idiot?’ there’s this great song on my first record, I just wish that I… it was inexperience that’s what it was and not doing what i just said to do – keep making every word earn its place.  It’s such an embarrassing one – it’s so lazy – and it’s such a great song – potentially..

So you feel like the essence is good, but wish you trimmed it back?

Yeah trimmed it back, made the lines better and taken out some of the trite imagery.

I bet you’re the harshest critic on that song.

Oh yeah absolutely..  I don’t know actually (laughs). Im not particularly critical about other people’s lyrics – well I know what I like and I think a good lyricist, I can forgive certain things because the overall way they use language and way they craft a song is so good, its like whatever, doesn’t even matter.

Example?

Mick Thomas is a great lyricist – he plays with language a lot. Deb Conway is an amazing songwriter. Um i’m obsessed with this guy called His Golden Messenger at the moment – amazing dude. He’s Southern American – think he lives in New York now – he writes this beautiful stuff thats very imagery rich. I’m not sure what he’s singing about (laughs) but the way he uses language feels authentic, very idiosyncratic.  And that’s the other thing I say to students – cleche’s are shit…the more of your own voice you adopt the better your lyrics are gonna be.  You don’t have to be smart – sometimes it’s gonna take away from the emotional impact of the song. It’s not about having  massive vocabulary, although that helps.

I’m learning this Dylan song at the moment – there’s not many lyrics in it. It goes for about ten minutes (laughs), but its just perfect, how it should be, there’s nothing that doesn’t belong there and there’s nothing that’s missing.

If you don’t have anything to say don’t say it. Don’t take up people s listening space.  Maybe that’s what separates artists from people that just do it.  This is wandering into dangerous territory…

Like any individual voice or way of seeing the world and expressing that, and connecting across to the audience.

Totally, as opposed to maybe a voice that isn’t saying it in a way that hasn’t been said before.  Like Paul Kelly for example, its like ‘Holy f**k that exactly what that feels like!’

I know…

That’s the sign of a good writer, it opens up these parts of your mind – and he’s very idiosyncratic, uses language thats his own experience of the world but it makes it bizarrely more accessible.

That’s what’s so special, to know someone else has felt that way – and someone that you don’t know.  He’ll use everyday words but it’s the way he uses them.

Totally, he’s not using unnecisary frilly language.  Its simplistic, the way he uses words is really skilful and in him..

And the complexity of families.

Exactly. And that’s what works. The fact he can observe and be ‘what is it I feel about this situation’’

He’s staying with his own ideas.

Being able to articulate that and someone else to understand is brilliant.

Image by: Lisa Sorgini

Liz’s Website

Anybody’s Language

Liz Stringer – String Along shows

 

Mark Seymour

Mark Seymour recognised his difficulty with song writing, after Hunters and Collectors disbanded in 1998.  Suddenly faced with writing alone, and having a family to support, he says “The criteria were pretty strong, so gradually I figured it out.  The problem wasn’t so much I was looking for a style, I didn’t really understand how to relax with my own dialogue.  It took a couple of records and asking – who do I like, who do I admire? and referencing the long tradition of music written in isolation – artists who work with bands, but you can hear there’s a singular storyteller behind it all.”

Initially known to the public as the passionate and driven performer of Hunters and Collectors, he has in more recent times been seen anywhere from reforming with the Hunters at the AFL Grand Final, as a guest panelist on ABC TV’s  Q and A, playing numerous pub gigs with his band The Undertow, to penning an auto biography, Thirteen Tonne Theory: Life Inside Hunters and Collectors.  Now, 2017 sees the release of ‘ROLL BACK THE STONE: 1985 – 2016‘ a live collection of 24 songs handpicked from the last 30 years.

Mark is clearly a thinker, and during our conversation he’s down to earth, focused and open – often willing to delve into the more curious aspects of successful songwriting and the creative process.

It would’ve been a trip down memory lane, choosing which songs to record from the last 30 years.  What was the process like?

Well the songs are all part of our live repertoire, so I didn’t have to kind of go back and listen to things I hadn’t for a long time. The touring has definitely escalated with this band (The Undertow).  We do a lot of regional and interstate, just generally travelling around Australia, so i’ve become interested in developing an attitude about songs that i’ve written over a long period of time, and incorporated that into the experience.  But it’s been a very gradual ‘ah let’s try that song out’ you know, so in the end it was just a matter of picking. There’s about 36, and I had to pick 24 for a double album.

I notice there’s quite a few songs from Mayday.  Is that because they’ve become a part of the live set more recently?

I think the material is better.  I’ve had periods of time when my song writing hasn’t been particularly good.  I just think my strike rate in the last few years has definitely improved. Especially having developed the relationship with this band, we don’t go into the studio unless the songs are actually cooking.  I write very simply now, and let words and phrasing carry the day. So there’s more of an emphasis on storytelling, which makes it much easier to just bed the songs down, the instrumentation can afford to be a lot simpler and more transparent, telling a yarn that holds people’s interest.

Essentially the songs start with Human Frailty onward – there’s several Hunters records I didn’t even look at.  There’s one song off a previous record I tried to play and it just sounded like shit, just couldn’t play it. A lot of that early Hunters stuff wasn’t really song writing as such, it was feel, groove, kinda big industrial landscape music with some interesting images thrown in.  That’s how I used to write.

And more band co-writing going on then?

No, well there’s a bit of a myth surrounding Hunters and Collectors, that fits nicely into some sort of political niche.  Pretty much I was driving, I was dragging the thing along.  The guys were great players, and really had a way – I mean Hunters and Collectors were an incredibly exciting band to play in – but the song writing was quite a specific thing.  Just gradually as time went by I began to realise ‘ok there’s certain types of songs I wanna explore’. I became more and more interested in simple structure and story telling.  Once you start to orientate writing around what words reveal, it’s not so much that (the instrumentation) takes a back seat,  but there are certain genres that writing just doesn’t fit with.  Early Hunters was funk, blues, long jams – songs that would take 9 minutes when there wasn’t any singing going on. So I just didn’t go there.

With your solo records, do you feel like the writing has naturally changed into a folk/country style, or was that a conscious thing?

Probably just natural.  There are a lot of genre’s – folk, country, blues, r&b – there’s so many different influences, especially in the last couple of records, that all lend themselves to lyric focused song writing. I remember when I went solo just after Hunters finished.  Just the stuff I was thinking about, ‘how can I make this sound…?’.  Trying to reveal to yourself what the fundamental tone of the song is gonna be. So that I can pick a guitar up start playing and you can go ‘I didn’t know he was going… oh that’s interesting!’  So there’s an emotional connection being created in that space.  In order to be able to anticipate that moment, you’ve gotta know what to go to in your own mind.  Finding that is an incredibly societal and communal experience, its why song writing exists.  And to be able to find that sweet spot, with the tool kit you’ve got, and suddenly not having this huge band around you and the whole experience of playing in front of tens of thousands of people – suddenly i’m alone (thinking) ‘how do I make that work?’  Well, I just didn’t know where to go.

Straight after the band?

Yeah.  I made a couple of records and they’re fine, nothing wrong with them,  just not that compelling, and as I got older I had to keep doing it. But in terms of genre, I’ve never really gone ‘i’m gonna play that style of music now’.

When the Hunters have supported Springsteen or similar artists, has that influenced your song writing in any way?

Um, I really like Bruce Springsteen.  The odd thing about him is I don’t know if his records sound any good (laughs).

More of a live thing.

Yeah, it’s funny when you listen – cos he’s made so many (and) covered such a huge range of years and production styles – because production changes from one generation to the next, and sounds change.

Yeah the 80’s to now.

That’s right.  But there were specific Bruce Springsteen records that I really loved.

Which ones?

Well I really love the Ghost of Tom Joad, and I love Nabraska – I love the acoustic records.  I love The Rising, um Born to Run’s ok.

The live thing, I mean seeing him play is a completely different trip. He’s putting on a show.  There’s something very American about it like “Yeaaah!” (laughs).  It’s totally unique and its great and incredibly positive.  He’s had a massive resurgence, he’s much bigger now than he was – a live touring animal.

Yeah he just keeps going.

Yeah.  The other thing I do is I just buy as many records of anyone who’s really endured, put them on one playlist on iTunes and put it on shuffle. So you hear songs from different eras pop up.

And a quiet ballad that might be the 11th album track, which you might not’ve paid much attention can stand out.

Yeah.

 So, political ideas in songs.  You touched on it before – when you’re sitting at home and playing, does the melody come first, or do you go ‘i’m really passionate about this thing that’s happening.’ 

It’s a difficult question to answer succinctly.  I write words all the time, constantly.  I keep a diary (laughs), my book of lies.  I’ve got a song called The Book of Lies (laughs again).

Why book of lies? Wouldn’t it be a book of truth?

You lie to yourself.  It’s an interesting thing, I write all the time, but I tend to try and distill emotions first.  I just have the guitar in my lap and sort of strum it really gently, and just croon over it. You’ll find those moments that emerge in a song, so I know that the emotional dynamics are going to emerge.  I try to write the words very quietly, and they just come into the music.  They’re already there, sitting on the desk.

Are you a notebook person, or put stuff in your phone?

I’ve got stuff everywhere.  So it’s just a really gradual distilling of feeling, really.  I’ve written a song (recently) called ‘The Sun will Rise for You’.  I’m writing music for this play.

Can you say what the play is?

It’s called LAMB. It’s about this farming family.  But the interesting thing about that is there’s all these people in it who.. the mother dies, and people return to the farm to put her in the ground, so there’s all these issues arising between siblings, so that story’s just there. I go, ‘so what happens between siblings? Whats the really elemental, fundamental basic thing that goes on between these people, and like the way a father might talk to his son.  How would a father perceive his son late in life?’ or imagine what that might be like.

 And what you could relate that to, in your own life?

That’s exactly right.  I’ve spent a lot of time with my father in the last few years, and had all of these sort of revelations about him, lots of things i’ve unearthed – by accident! (laughs).  I thought ‘I wonder what he thinks of me, wonder what he thinks of me really’ you know.  ‘How would he perceive me as a son’. And how can I inhabit that character in a song.  I mean, its speculation.  Putting all that aside, how could you write a song that could express that feeling – I don’t necessarily own it, but because i’ve been through that process already, it will inevitably have emotional weight because i’ve had all those thoughts.  So when I actually come to sit down, (hums a melody) ‘is that working?’

So it still resonates, because you’re feeling as you’re writing it in some way.

That’s right.  So you might end up with a story that’s out there somewhere, but it’s still got a kind of shape to it, that someone else could come to it from whatever situation they’re in.

And I guess siblings and father-son dynamics, everyone can relate to in different ways.

It’s inescapable.

I loved Holy Grail as a teen, and I realised you would now have a whole lot of different ages in your audience, particularly with your daughter performing with you.  Do they react differently to different songs?

 Punters?

 Yeah punters, or just people you know.  Any surprises?

Oh yeah, god yeah.

Well that’s a really good question. Look punters as soon as they hear a song they know, they are relieved. Which is nice, you know.  But I did a show last Saturday down at Lakes Entrance, it was a Jimmy Barnes support.  He’s just got hits coming out of his arse, it’s just wall to wall – every song, everyone knows everything.  It’s nuts. I had a 90 minute set which was great, and thought i’d have to play a lot of material i’ve written in the last 4-5 years, which only some of them might know. But the weird thing is, the actual integrity of the song, that it’s structured in a certain way and if it just has an intrinsic mood that works, it goes through.  You can see.  A lot of the time i’ll do supports like that and only get 45, 50 minutes anyway, and you’re not really testing material.  But when you’re in that situation.. that was a bit of a revelation for me.

Was that some of the songs from Mayday?

Last two records.  A song like Westgate for example, I mean that got no radio – my solo stuff doesn’t get radio. As soon as Hunters ended, it was over (laughs).  But a song like Westgate – you can just see they’re going ‘its a story’ (laughs) ‘its about a bridge in Melbourne..’ ‘Then he climbed up the tower, then he climbed down again, and got his feet dirty’ (laughs).  And people love it, and that works.

They’ll think about it when they’re driving over the Westgate too.

Yeah (laughs). But there’s a certain kinda inevitability to it. I have commercial constraints but that’s nothing, compared to the fact that people don’t buy records anymore.  They listen to Spotify, so i’ve gotta play.  In the last few years i’ve thought ‘live’ is it.  That’s how i’m making my money.  Um, so i’ve gotta make the songs work in this environment, i’ve gotta write songs and construct them a certain way, that they’re gonna have an inherent dramatic power. And that’s the 60’s!  When the stakes were incredibly high. I mean you think about all those iconic groups from that era, they just toured their arses off.  And you’ve just gotta remind yourself of that. I had a little light bulb moment.

They would record live too, didn’t they?

That used to be a common thing.  Remember that Crosby Stills Nash Album 4 way street?

Bit before my time.

(Laughs) That was a live album, by this folk/rock band from California, the West Coast.  And that album sold millions and millions of records, and it was live and really clunky!

But you got the feel of it though.

 Incredible.

 How do you know when a song is finished?

 You don’t, really.

 How do you get to that point?

Probably when i’ve completed the lyric. This thing i’m working on at the moment, I keep messing with the tempo and some of the shapes. I might swap it around, either way it works..i dunno. But the lyric is finished.  Once the lyric’s done, i’ll go ‘ok well can’t do any more.  I know if I pick the guitar up now and play it – this guy over here – he’s not gonna know that that chord works better than that chord.’  He’ll just go ‘oh this blokes father’s talking about his son’.  But that said, you get a band to play, something will shift.  Once you put bass in and a snare drum, (you) can kinda go ‘oh well maybe we don’t need that bit now, ditch it’.

 In the studio?

 Or just rehearsal, things just shift.  Which is fine.

 And hearing it from other people’s ears.

Well just physically playing it.  The landscape.  Like Ryan Adams recording the Taylor Swift record. Hearing it, I didn’t know it was a Taylor Swift record. The mood is utterly different.  And that’s kind of incredible really. It’s her melody and her words, I think it’s great. I mean it’s a very clever gesture to make and he’s making a point about song writing, and I just think there’s a stroke of genius in that.

Mark Seymour Tour:

2017 Tour Dates

Mark’s Website

Hunters live at the 2013 AFL Grand Final

Westgate

Ashley Naylor

Influenced by bands such as The Who and The Easybeats, Ashley Naylor already had a keen interest in power pop when starting his first band as a teenager, which ultimately led to forming his current band EVEN, still going “22 years strong”.

Ashley is keen to talk about his “absolute favorite thing”, song writing.  This is affirming, considering he also divides his time between family and being a sought after guitarist for Paul Kelly, Rockwiz and Dan Sultan, among others. He’s articulate and thoughtful, ready for a chat at the end of a Melbourne heat wave, where it’s just cool enough inside our local front bar.

Do you remember the first song you wrote?

I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me that.  It might’ve been with the first band I was in, the Swarm.  The lyricist and singer was Francis Leach, the radio broadcaster.  He finished singing about 1991.  Every now and then I get Frank out and do a song with him at a party or a function or gig.   I think one of the first songs we ever wrote was probably mid 80’s.  I would’ve just written the tune and handed it over to Frances in the way Johnny Marr would to Morrissey (laughs).

So you already had that connection with him and the band, and you started writing.

Yeah we were a song writing partnership for about 5 years. We’d like to finish the songs we started as teenagers, in terms of actually recording them properly one day.  We did a couple of seven inch singles but the band never made an album so it’s one of my unfinished things hanging over my head. I’d like to record them properly, now I have the resources.

So it was after that you wrote your own songs and lyrics?

Yeah probably 91, 92, started writing lyrics and chords together.  Circumstance might’ve dictated that, because Frances left to work for Triple J in Sydney.  It was a very exciting thing for him, and pretty much put an end to the band as it was.  We went on as a trio for a couple of gigs and what would become EVEN was formed out of the ashes.  I still play with Matt the drummer from EVEN, we’ve been playing together 31 years.

Your solo stuff as well?

My solo stuff I play all the stuff.

Then with gigs is it solo acoustic?

My stuff is a fluid thing. If there’s someone else on the bill they might play on some songs, or I might put together a band for that night.  Generally I can get out with a guitar and get over the line.  I’ve kind of been hardened by years of indifference – stroke – great support, so i’m not afraid to get up there on my own.

Sometimes it’s easier?

The beauty of a solo gig is you’re free.  It’s like going for a bush walk, for as long as you want, wherever you want, as long as you know how to get back home.  That’s the key I think at a gig – know how to wrap it up, not just to wander aimlessly, which I have habit of doing – probably doing it right now.  One thing i’ve learnt from the Paul Kelly’s of this world, the Dan Sultans and guys i’ve been playing with over the years – get a set list a few days before – not scrambling the night before the show.  I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s good to put thought into the way it flows, having peaks and valleys and all that stuff.  That’s one of my current things, trying to balance songs in such a way, like a narrative, a set that makes musical sense in a way that you finish strong.  These are things i’m learning even as i’m hurtling towards 50 at an alarming rate.

When writing with EVEN, are you bringing songs to the band, or do they come about from jamming?

Mostly the former.  I formed the band as an outlet for my songs.  Essentially the band started as me demoing the songs on my own.  Then I brought Matt in to play drums, and I played bass and did all the vocals so it was a massive ego trip for me – full indulgent ego trip. Then we were lucky enough to have Wally join us playing bass.  Great singer, very supportive and wasn’t pushing songs down my throat so it gave me freedom to keep writing for the band.  We’re about one song away from finishing the 7th album, or 8th.

Do you find the revival thing of the 90’s and 2000’s is helping with EVEN?

It’s a great question, because we never split up.   We’ve been together for 22 years in various degrees of in and out of the public eye.  We did the Corner on 22nd December, played to a really big crowd which was great for us.  My brother who’s been a mentor since I was a teenager, has taken a really active role helping us get records re-pressed.  20 years since our first album, launched at the Corner, and it was just.. euphoric.  If there was sentimentality towards that era, it was exhibited in full that night. Our record came out ’96 and was really well received at the time so there’s a lot of fondness for it. Now i’m so far removed from the emotions, I can perform it with fun without the 20 something angst I might’ve attached to it.

Is that for the better?

Absolutely.  Obviously there’s something that can’t be replicated like that naievety and all that attitude.  But I think the rawness is what makes it its own beast.  It was just a time capsule and we were influenced by the bands around us, and bands that came before us.

Which bands?

Easybeats, The Who and at the time we were making the record, bands like You Am I were at the peak of their powers.  I was very influenced by You Am I. I was probably shy about it at the time but i’m very open about it now.  REM and The Smiths – a lot of jangly pop bands.  A bit of a classicist, but i’ve grown to accept that and not be apologetic about it.

The song I first knew from that time was Black Umbrella, not sure if that’s the same for others?

Yeah I think that’s similar (for others) – it was the only song that entered the ARIA top 100.

With following albums, and all that going on (radio success), did that influence how you were writing – was there pressure?

I guess there was subconscious expectation to produce music of a certain standard.  We were the judges of what we considered to be worthy.  I’m not the greatest singer in the world, but I pride myself on trying to write good songs, and play them to the best of my ability.   What I can’t do vocally i’ll try and compensate for on guitar.  What I can’t do lyrically, i’ll compensate for musically.   On our fourth album we were unsigned and had a distribution deal with Shock. In a lot of ways I look back on that as my favorite, because we paid for it ourselves, pretty much from the royalties from one of our songs being in Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  Our publisher at the time, David Vodicka (Rubber Records) had a mate in the States who put 70 seconds of one of our songs in a scene, which earned 4 or 5 grand.  We didn’t have enough money to promote it, but that’s another story. So we promoted at gigs, we went overseas, we had Ian McLagan from the Small Faces play on two songs.  It was special record in many ways.

With your solo albums you seem more country influenced.  Is that because it’s what you’re now into? 

A little bit.  Pretty mixed. My county leanings are from the ears and eyes of a rock and roll player, not from a country music purist. Any rhythms or feels from the rootsy world have come via a teenager listening to Hoodoo Gurus, they haven’t come from growing up on George Jones records.  Any flavours that come through, are from listening to the Stones and how white suburban kids translate that music.

Listening to the song Last of The Longhairs sounds quite country, and a bit bluesy.

It’s kind of a loose song.  I’m glad you mentioned it – it had a very long gestation.  Started in my mates lounge room in 2004.  I had a (16 track) digital recording device, early 2000’s thing.  Stupidly, I took it away to W.A, was staying at my mate Kevin’s house. He was working and I had the lounge room to myself. I played acoustic guitar and overdubbed another one.  Then I put on an electric guitar track. I liked it as an instrumental.  Fast forward to about 2010 when I finished off (the album) High Horse. I said ‘right i’ve gotta finish these instrumentals’.

Each verse is a different character – i’ve never really talked about this before.  The first verse is based on Anton Newton from Brian Jonestown Massacre, the second verse is a fictional character and the last verse is about me.  I pose the question – at what point does a man cut his hair?  Willie Nelson has set the standard, with cascading plaits. I grow it out and think ‘don’t cut it, don’t cut’ and then I cut it.  At what point do you stop cutting your hair? (Laughs)

I’m gonna go back and listen to the song now, that way.

It’s a deeper song than that, kind of like celebrating people who pride themselves on not being too mainstream or conformist.  I guess the bottom line is just be free. “one day when the wind blows through it will comfort you”. It’s about wearing you hair long (laughs).

Staying true to yourself.

Yeah it could be the simplest thing, routines or a lifestyle choice that has become something you pride yourself on.

Have you got any song writing rituals, like things flow better after coffee etc?

I can’t be 9-5 songwriter.  I know a lot of great songwriters have been that.  Benny and Bjorn from ABBA and Nick Cave go into their studio or office space and write.

What I like to do is write in solitude, when the house is empty. I write best when there’s no-one around. My first feeling is that (the songs) must stand up as an instrumental, before I put lyrics on them.

You write an instrumental completely first?

Yeah.  It might’ve been different in the past for some songs.  If you stripped the vocals off the EVEN records, i’d like to think that the songs have a tune worthy of being an instrumental.  It might have a guitar line or something but everything revolves around the music for me.

Do you think that’s from playing in bands?

Yeah, my first role in music was to be a side man, and I do get a lot of gigs doing that now – Paul Kelly and Rockwiz.  And I relish that for its’ own rewards.  One thing that’s a ritual is I’ll usually start on an unplugged electrical guitar.  I find it easier to hold the chords.

Touring with Paul Kelly, Rockwiz and others has obviously influenced your song writing?

It has, probably by osmosis. Playing a million songs in Rockwiz, you sort of work out what makes a song tick. At the same time I don’t feel the need for my songs to be traditional.  One thing I really have learnt from Paul is to be organised with your songs, and to also have an unwavering vision.  That’s not to say that people playing on the records I’ve done with Paul, aren’t able to contribute their own flavor to the music, but I appreciate the way he’ll come in with a lyric sheet and chord progression and very rarely divert from that. Obviously Paul’s got a track record and has been writing and performing songs since the late 70’s.  I’ve only been doing my own songs in public for 20 years, you know im still getting used to it (laughs).

It’s a great thing to watch come together.  It’s like assembling IKEA furniture (laughs) – I’ve done two items lately.

That’s a killer!

It’s a killer, but I’ve cracked it now. I cracked the code, internal high fives all over the place.  I’m trying to think of a good analogy – The new EVEN album I call a house of match sticks because it’s taking so frigging long to finish.

So you would more often than not, take a song pretty much finished into the studio?

Time is different now – I can write instrumentals at the drop of a hat, finishing the songs is a lot harder.  I bring instrumentals to the band, then take the rough tapes home and assemble a melody around the chords.  It’s almost like i’m co-writing with myself.  I’m a big fan of the Smiths and the way Johnny Marr would approach his songs is the same – he’d record the instrumental and Morrissey would come and sing on top.   I guess it sounds very Spinal Tap, that i’m co-writing with myself (laughs).  I’m co-writing with my other personality.

I’m in a band with myself

I’m forming a duo with myself.  This is gold!

 Any recurring challenges with song writing?

I always find myself failing to write soaring choruses.  I take confidence knowing that there’s a lot of songs out there I love, that don’t have  massive choruses. Also I try and write non gender specific lyrics.  That’s one thing I sort of set out to do when the band started.   Occasionally there might be a word alluding to the songwriter being a certain gender. There’s certain subjects I don’t tackle.  I always joke they’re like year 7 poetry, or first year uni philosophy (laughs)

Well that’s the stuff everyone relates to.

What’s those things, Japanese haiku? I’m trying to write pop song haiku’s.  Occasionally i’ll squeeze a fancy word in a song, but I try and limit it.

I always think i’ve got to get away from nature metaphors.

I’m all for nature.  I’m the same, the sun and moon feature heavily in my music.  Sometimes i’m in the mood to write a Brian Jonestown kind of song, like a drone with a minimal melody.  Other times in the mood to write a Ray Davies kind of song.  That’s part of the pain of song writing, that you’re inevitably falling short of your heroes.  And it’s the quest to keep going and try to write amazing songs.  I’m on a quest like every other songwriter.
It seems you put good thought into your song titles – Karmic Flop, Eternal Teen.

I’m really big on titles and I think that comes from my love of The Smiths.  I try to keep it really simple or evocative – hopefully both.  Karmic Flop was a play on words – there’s a Funkadelic song called Cosmic Slop, so that’s my white boy version.  It’s a bizarre phenomenon, naming a song, naming a band and being in a gang that has a name.

How do you know when a song is finished?

I don’t really ever know.  I think with multiple listens once you’ve recorded it, that’s when I realise I’ve got as much out of the song as I could possibly.  I have often in the past dealt with a lot of chaos in my mind, that I like writing very concise, organized music.  That’s not to say people who write chaotic, wild music do that to counteract calm and tranquility – I don’t know.  I think a song is finished when I do get that sense of order.  Given the past chaos, like a lot of people have, writing crafted, organized songs gives me a sense of order in the world.  I don’t know why I don’t do it more often.  It’s something you build and you want it to withstand the world, fashion and trends, and if it with stands those elements to one listener, then it’s worth it.

More a feeling, than something conscious?

Yeah, cause the options are limitless really.

 

Photo credit: Emma – Jane Johnston

www.ashleynaylor.com

www.even.com.au

Last of The Longhairs – YouTube

EVEN – Black Umbrella – YouTube

Nick Barker

nick-barker-2

 

I sat down for a chat with Nick Barker on a Saturday afternoon, over a beer in the west of Melbourne.  He’s very fit for a seasoned musician! I soon find out this is due to surfing and kickboxing with a group of locals, some musicians, around the corner. In his words, he’s been on both sides of the music industry, and in the middle. Starting  in bands (The Wreckery, The Reptiles), then solo projects, co-writing (including being sent to LA at 24 to write for an album) to now revisiting the band dynamic, having formed the Heartache State with fellow songwriter Justin Garner.

We’re at his local bar where he knows the owners – he’s open, warm and passionate about everything.. it feels like we’re in an old neighbourhood, before hipsters and social media.

Do you remember how old you were when you wrote your first song?

About 15, 16. A terrible song about a girl I was in love with. There’s songs I’ve written I don’t even know what they’re about. Everyone asks me what’s a song about that i’ve written and I say “I dunno, you’d have to go and ask me at age…(younger self)!’ If I’m doing an acoustic gig there’s always one song I include that I wrote when I was twenty.

Do you remember what that was about?

No, that’s one of the one’s!

Do you have a particular routine when you’re writing?

Just like a normal morning, you know get up, have a coffee. There’ll come a point where you just get a feeling, a feeling you wouldn’t mind having a little play. I get any idea down I come up with, I record it. I never spend more than 5 minutes, just one little bit, and I just leave it.

At some point I’ll come back to it, driving down the coast, or some other time, listen to the memo’s with my headphones on. For instance this song we’re recording next week for the (Heartache State) album, I was going through some old stuff and found voice memo’s that i’d lost – one of them just started playing out of nowhere. I reckon its one of the strongest songs on the album.

I should be more diligent, should be more prolific etc, but having the benefit of knowing other songwriters and asking the.. i’ve written over 200 songs so I must be doing something right.

Working with Justin, do you each bring in ideas or just come up with stuff jamming?

We can, but we don’t very often. What we’ll do is we’ll text each other ideas. Generally it’s him writing an idea and I’ll work on it, write more of the lyrics. That works well.

It all started when I was going to do a solo record. I had all these ideas, didn’t know what to do and I ended up sending them to Justin. (In the past) he’d written an album full of incredible rock songs, but never wrote a song since then. I’m like ‘You’re mad!’  I loved that album, I was jealous! I even ended up recording a couple of the songs for my solo album.

I said ‘How about we do this album, but i’m not doing it unless you write at least a third of the songs.

In other bands were you always the main song writer?

Yeah in the Reptiles. The Wreckery was Hugo (Race). Then everything I’ve made since then.

You’ve co-written songs with a range of artists in the past, including Tim Rogers. How has that been?

I did a few co-writing workshops, the song writing was ok. I always found it a bit odd. There’s a certain amount of luck, it’s always been a bit of a roll of the dice. Tim Rogers and I have never co-written together. Strangely enough there’s this song on the new album he wrote. We were mucking around, going to do this thing called ‘Shithouse’, and I found an old CD in my garage with ‘Shithouse’ written on it – and there’s a really great song on there. I decided to write some words to it. Tim said he would, but he hadn’t. We’ll be recording it next week.

A song I really love, you performed with Tim, The Other House.

(That song) is from the mid 90’s, the last record on Mushroom then we re-recorded in for Liberation Blue.

Mum was an only child and for some reason I got the job of telling my Grandma when Mum died (in a car accident, when Nick was a teenager). (My Grandma) had a real old worldly stoic thing, said ‘Oh at least she didn’t have any pain’ – was her way of dealing with things. And over the years she lost her mind, and thought she had two houses. The ‘Other House’.

How do you know when a song is finished?

Songs can meander along and have six layers. I had a real thing about middle eights for a long time, it sounded to me like song writing 101, and that the old school song should be 3 and a half minutes. You realize a lot can be said for 3 chords.

https://theheartachestate.com/

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