I didn’t know that ‘Pollyanna’ had transformed from the children’s literary figure into a noun with this wider scope of definition. In your personal understanding of the term – and seeing yourself as a Pollyanna of sorts as you describe, remaining positive through particularly tough life changes – is there a naiveté to the state? Or does your version have one foot on the ground?
It’s a little of column A and a little of column B. I’ve found with anything to do with creativity you need to keep a little slice of innocent pie in your mind, a certain childlike state if you want to create. Creatives are often people who haven’t really grown up, so typically they get to 27 and have to break up or break through. But on the other side, if you don’t evolve as a person or an artist then you foreclose and you can’t keep creating, and to evolve you need to have at least one foot on the ground. It’s often a painful experience, so people usually don’t go willingly. If you’re really lucky, you get to keep that one slice of innocent pie with one foot on the ground at the same time – sometimes all you need is a positive attitude.
You’ve said you want the All Your Devotion shows to be “real and raw” – do you find it more vulnerable performing with less instrumental accompaniment, or does it give you confidence that you’re going to be heard clearly and thoroughly?
It’s definitely more intimidating to be in a small room with just an acoustic guitar than to be on a stadium stage with all the bells and whistles. What the small stages do allow you to do though, is tell the stories behind the songs… It’s more like telling a great story at a dinner party. If you’re up there with all your band mates waiting for you to count in the next song then it just feels self-indulgent. In the right place at the right time, the stories become just as important as the songs.
The chorus lyrics of the gorgeous Surrender are “try to surrender” – which seems like an oxymoron, because surrendering is considered an act of letting go. Do you think sometimes it takes more effort to stop ourselves being stubborn than it does to be stubborn in the first place?
I think it’s a constant struggle to tell yourself to just relax and let go. Surrender was written about that point we all come to with lovers, friends or family where you’re given a choice – to stubbornly stick to your guns, or just surrender. A kind of holding hands and jumping off a cliff together.
Christmas Lights is very wholesome and very evocative. What’s your favourite carol, and what do you love about Christmas?
My favourite Christmas song – I’m not sure if it counts as a carol – is Dean Martin singing Baby It’s Cold Outside. It’s pretty hard to not get excited about Christmas no matter your religious beliefs – or lack thereof. The kooky thing about the modern world is how we take all these traditions and mash them together until new mutant versions evolve, and one of them is the Christmas lights. In East Fremantle where I live there’s a family who decorate their whole house inside and out with Christmas lights and decorations, then they open their doors to anyone who wants to come and visit. Often, you’ll wander in and they’re all sitting down to dinner or watching TV. Sometimes the local news services will do a news broadcast from the house. It’s both beautiful and completely wacky, but that’s Christmas in a nutshell for me.
The piano which begins beautiful closer When You Run is slightly out of tune and a bit briny – it sounds super old. Is it yours? Where does it live?
That’s an old piano at John Castle’s studio. I sat down and had this little piano melody in my head. So as not to forget it, I recorded it on my iPhone. When I got home I only had 11 completed songs for my album, so I sat down to write a closing song for it. I loved the wonky sound of that iPhone recording so much that I put it at the start of the song… I love how it’s the first recording of that idea.
All Your Devotion is out September 28 via Inertia.
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