How do you usually write the lyrics of your songs?
Usually with the power of my mind.
In terms of medium I sometimes handwrite and sometimes write on my phone, on an app called Evernote where you can type and record at the same time. I’m increasingly moving away from the digital and more towards analog in my practice though. I will write anywhere and any time, so long as I have something to write with.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing in songwriting?
Genuine, empathic connection to what you’re writing.
Are you ever scared of revealing aspects of your personal life/experience to strangers through your music?
Not really. The only things I don’t reveal are things that might impact people in my life that the songs are about.
What is the best lyric that you ever wrote (the most meaningful for you)?
This is my favourite:
‘you have a soft spot
for my soft spots
confer some softness
upon my hard mind
I wish to be present
my desire deters that
I have a thirst
and maybe no one can quench it
I watched Nick Cave’s long legs
and their steps stoked my
I will never be a swannish dark man
with an ever darkening voice
I am bright and awful
garish and young
and trying to be coarse and dexterous
and something I’m not.’
What inspired “Ready”, part of your latest album “Complex”?
The track was inspired by the feeling of dissatisfaction I think people in many different industries feel when their work output or professional ability isn’t met by commensurate results rendered back. That was the initial inspiration, though I now perceive it through the lens of activism and those who are most disadvantaged by the political systems we are presently enduring.
Do you remember the day you wrote “Because I Love You”?
Yeah, kind of! I was with Tony and he was next door trying to toy with some instrumental basis to work with that day and I was in the next room hanging out and waiting, and I remember he played a piano part which I then rearranged into the part you hear now. I remember finding it funny, looking at it from the broad perspective of how all music is created, because Tony worked for a couple of hours to get to the idea he got to and then I stomped all over it in minutes and offered a new idea and that’s the one we went with, not to say that Tony’s efforts were for nought, but in fact the opposite of that: art is the process of creating and destroying constantly and carefully, and I absolutely would never have gotten to the part I wrote if Tony hadn’t gone through the rigorous and brain-wracking experimentation he undertook. And of course, the rest of the day was magical. We knew the song was fun and amazing while we were making it, because we were having so much fun. Tony I think totally smashed the arrangement, it’s so good.
And “Till It Kills Me”?
I think we actually did ’Til It Kills Me‘ a couple days after BCILY. It was a similar process, except that Tony had layered up this flute part that I thought was amazing and I wanted to pick up that thread. I started writing the topline and it all sort of fell together magically again. I remember Tony trying to write the guitar part for the chorus and he played this progression that sounded to me like Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings motif and I was obsessed, so we workshopped that for a bit and then once we got the chords into a place that I liked, I started writing the chorus. It all came to me fairly quickly. Writing about all this makes me miss Tony (he lives in LA now).
Is there a link/a common theme among the songs of the new album?
Me. Me is the common theme. Honestly my albums could just be called Life of Montaigne 2, 3, 4…
What is the best suggestion your producer gave you?
Which one? There are 8 on this record.
What are your plans for the next months?
Carrying on practising my singing, writing, language learning, and football, and keeping up with all the emails and activism and other career demands on me, like getting ready for shows or press stuff like this and what have you.
To conclude the interview a short Q/A session, please answer the first thing that comes to your mind:
- Define in one word your album “Complex”: Complex.
- The best show you ever played: I really enjoyed my show at the Factory Theatre on the For Your Love tour in Sydney earlier this year.
- The one thing that you must have in your backstage rider: NO BOTTLED WATER OR PLASTIC, please. I know that’s a “must not have”, but I think it’s all the same.
- The soundtrack of your childhood: Lots of Michael Jackson, Bowie, hip hop, R&B and soul, all provided by my dad. I as a kid was very into pop music like Delta Goodrem, Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera etc.
- Your favourite song lyrically speaking, but not written by you: I Trawl The Megahertz by Paddy McAloon, or Take This Waltz by Leonard Cohen, or Party by Aldous Harding. There’s lots.
- Last question is “unusual”, we want to know your best relationship advice: I am categorically not the right person to ask for advice on love relationships.