Hi! What inspired the creation of “Last Looks Back”, and how did you decide on the blend of indie, alternative, and singer-songwriter styles for your debut EP?

Last year I had the strong desire to release material that I had been working on in my home studio in Melbourne. A chance meeting with Ben Coe, later to be my Mastering Engineer, convinced me that it was time to commit to the idea. I already recorded material, so I went with the best six with the intention of releasing an independent EP. 

Stylistically speaking, I tend not to write with a genre in mind. The songs come out as they do, with all the subconscious and unconscious influences therein. Since going solo I’ve found describing my music problematic, so Indie, Alternative and Singer Songwriter are ambiguous at best. When I play solo shows, people have labelled  me as “Folk”,as I play the acoustic guitar when I sing. “Folk” as I understand it means ‘of the people’, another meaningless tag. I think genres and subgenres are great at the extreme end (eg Death Metal!), but I think a ton of music fits into the aforementioned genres, but these are quite diverse in themselves.

Three of the songs were written back in the 1990’s, I’d always loved them so I reworked them and gave them a new lease on life.  The rest were written in the last few years, and dealt with my past experiences.  Once I realised the themes evident in my selection, the title came easy.

The single “Richmond” paints a vivid picture of 1980s inner-city life. Can you tell us more about the personal experiences or stories that inspired this track?

Back in the 1980’s drug use was commonplace amongst the music scene, and I was no exception. I remembered crossing a busy wide intersection when it hit me that my current relationship was over. I broke down crying and was barely able to walk the rest of the way. That memory kick started off the lyrics, which then focused on the wasted time and effort of chasing that escape drugs can offer, having all my wisdom teeth ripped out at one time, and living in a bungalow next to a train station. The bungalow still stands some forty years later. I don’t believe anyone is living in it, and I have included shots of it in my video release.

“Green Abyss” is described as an upbeat tale of self-rescue. Could you delve into the writing process for this song and how you tackled the theme of overcoming personal struggles?

This song arose out of the ashes of a breakdown I went through in the mid 1990’s. My life was turned upside down and my (green) crutch became a voyage into the abyss. The triumph of surviving my ‘dark night of the soul’ inspired me to write a more upbeat rock song despite the subject of the lyrics.

The ghost ship’s journey in “Black Hull” is a fascinating concept. What sparked the idea for this song, and how did you approach its storytelling?

This track was originally written by my friend and bandmate Peter James Dart. He and I are in a book club, and last year we tackled Cormac McCarthy’s “The Passenger”. Pete loved the evocative prose of McCarthy and staying with the maritime tragedy theme, came up with his own story of a ghost pirate ship cast adrift to parts unknown. My role was editing the lyrics, coming up with the vocal melody and adding a bridge.

“Darkside” is a deeply personal confession to lost parents. How did you navigate the emotional process of writing and sharing such a personal piece of your life through music?

Looking back, I see that the major events of my early adult life were shaped by long held grief over the loss of my parents at a relatively early age (as a 15yo then 21yo).  I consider this song as a harbinger of the breakdown that was soon to follow the writing of this in the mid 1990’s. My backing band “The First Born” did a great version of this at the EP Launch in February.

“Anonymous Tip” stands out with its reggae-ish backing. What motivated you to explore this genre, and how does it complement the song’s escapist plot?

Escapism has always been a vital part of my life, whether it be travelling, film, books or music. This was another song from last century albeit in the form of a sweet country ballad. Experimenting in my home studio and the endless possibilities that lie within, I sought out brass and string lines to add a point of difference. This led me to include these sounds on other tracks on the EP.  I’ve never dipped my toes into reggae, but being a bass player, it was fun to write a funky bass line.  However I couldn’t escape my rock roots, hence the rock out at the song’s end. 

Your closing track “Looking Back” nods to early 70s orchestrated rock, like Elton John’s work. Who would you say are your biggest musical influences, and how have they shaped your sound?

“Looking Back” was another track written in the past which went under great renovation. The use of orchestral instruments with “Anonymous Tip’ was taken further and I spent a lot of time experimenting with layers and sounds. I gave the example of Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water” LP from the early 70’s as a reference which was one of the first LP’s I became familiar with as a pre- teenager.  Procul Harum’s “Conquistador” another example. Emotive strings, soaring brass, tempestuous keyboards really add the the emotion of a track.

While these influences shaped an aspect of the songs on the EP, they are not that influential when it comes to songwriting. My biggest influences growing up were Lou Reed/Velvets, the Stones and Punk/New Wave late 70’s early 80’s.

Really I have had diverse influences since those heady days.  My favourites include The Smiths, Roddy Frame/Aztec Camera, Frank Sinatra, Ron Sexsmith, Fiona Apple, K.D. Lang, Hank Williams, Shaun Colvin,Tiny Ruins, Jen Cloher, The Jam, Aimee Mann, The Go-Betweens, Rufus Wainwright the list goes on….

How did your collaboration with Lilith Lane and Ben Coe come about for the mixing and mastering of the EP, and what was it like working with them?

Lilith Lane is a well respected musician in her own right and experienced producer/engineer who was recommended by a friend. We started off with a day tracking vocals at another studio which was quite daunting for me, but Lilith guided me through with aplomb. Mixing was done over the next few weeks with a bit of back and forth emailing. I found this challenging, but eventually it was completed just before mastering in the last week of last year.

Ben Coe I met earlier in the year when I bought a piece of studio equipment he was selling online. I met him at his home studio and there was a great rapport. Ben, a film/TV composer as well as Sound Engineer is interested in the creative process and interviews other musicians on his Podcast channel. When I described my situation he suggested starting with an EP and putting a deposit down and locking in dates to Master the EP six months down the track.  It was what I needed to hear and got the ball rolling.

I attended the mastering session alongside Ben and was invaluable both in instruction into the dark art of mastering, and affirming my preference in working side by side with any type of mixing session.

 Following “Last Look Back”, what are your future plans? Are there any themes or musical styles you’re eager to explore in your upcoming projects?

I’ll continue to work on and release videos and promote myself through live performance and radio play/interviews in the short term.

I have many songs in contention for the next EP. Thematically I’d like a break from the past and look at being a bit less personal and more observational about my world! I feel that I’ve only just begun!!

The difference this time round will be more collaboration with my “First Born” bandmates and other musician friends. I’ll continue to play solo and the occasional full band shows through the year.