For more years than I need to enumerate, it has been my great pleasure to relish and cogitate upon each new musical work Graeme Connors brings into being…I am an unabashed fan of his dexterity with language and powers of observation – most especially of the human condition – and exploration of the multi-textured themes invariably unearths riches not immediately obvious in the literal topography.
Graeme, conversely, might say our interviews are a devious attempt on my behalf to indulge in psychoanalysing his core philosophies, principles and motivations! We veer into some canyon-deep detours in the source-of-the-song process…but at our age we sometimes forget what we were talking about so our proselytising rarely resolves global issues! It has to be said though, that he does his share in highlighting them.
CU: ‘One Life,’ from the back country lead single, is a luminous, bulls-eye Baby Boomers’ anthem on every level. Every line is on point, an unromanticised yet poetic scrutiny of life as a large percentage of we Australians know it, and why that is no bad thing.
GC: “I turned 60 and went through the Sixty Summers thing, marking that as worthy of celebrating – and then this song came back at me – I stole the opening line from my father who always said, after he turned 50, ‘Oh well, I have lived longer than I’m going to live.’ and from remembering that line, the song wrote itself.
“It was the last song in the whole process and I was still tweaking lyrics at the airport going to Sydney to the studio and musically it was a case of saying to Matt Fell, ‘I don’t know where this is going but I can play you a bit of it…”
“He loved it, and from there it was down to him working his wizardry as only he can, and it was fleshed out and finished like it was ordained from elsewhere!
CU: My standout line is, ‘where the race I run has more to do with stamina than speed’ – SO relatable!
GC: “And curiously to me, younger people resonate with ‘in a place where what I have is more than I can spend.’
CU: Before embarking on the expedition through the album tracks I want to ask what it was about closing song, ‘The Top End of Town,’ that elicited the title ‘from the backcountry’ – I suspect that the journey ‘from the backcountry to the top end of town’ bookends the landscape and characters in every song. We are all trying to get or be somewhere or something else… conditioned to contest and conquer – but on occasion that quest supersedes our wellbeing and happiness.
GC: ‘The Top End Of Town’ is what I describe as “a secular spiritual – and a song that owes more than a nod to combining Lyle Lovett’s eclectic musical style, with the cliches we continue to perpetuate and hand on to our children. About the self-made, success-story people, who by dint of hard work or extraordinary talent find their way from the back country to the top end of town.
“They are the human-interest stories that we are relentlessly fed, myths validated by success and celebrity and if you’ve come from nowhere and you make good then you must be infallible. The stories we tell ourselves about what constitutes a good life and instinctively instill in our children – plus the metaphorical ‘back country’ is the unused artistic creativity that can still be developed but it’s lying fallow; the spiritual nature of the music as opposed to the real Outback or any physical landscape.
CU: So back to ‘Kimberley Frontier’ – you ticked one of my Bucket List items there too and I totally get the ‘frontier’ inference as it is like another world.
GC: “Lyn and I went to the Kimberley on a holiday break – with an eye to the fact that I wasn’t doing much writing and a change in scenery might help. But the best time was just hanging with Alan Pigram who had visited us and our family here in Mackay many years ago and said ‘You have to come to Broome.’ Come Friday, The Pigrams had a gig at Derby and I piled in the car with the band, and what got me was the vision of the dancers just going off front of stage doing these outrageous contortions and the line ‘dancing like goannas over hot sand’ came to me and the night turned into a song – I just wrote it how I saw it.
“What I really admire about Alan is his ‘Whatever’ approach to everything – he might make an album, or he might go fishing. For me it was a case of unplugging – which made me realize how ridiculously plugged in I’d been, and I ticked my bucket list bigtime!
…read the rest in Issue 90