“I didn’t know that ‘February’ had an extra ‘R’ ‘til I was 25,” sings Fanny Lumsden on her recent single Peed in the Pool. “Deadset,” the effervescent Snowy Mountains singer-songwriter confirms of the lyric. “I was working this office job, and writing to somebody, and they kept telling me my ‘February’ was spelled wrong. I was like, ‘This is bullsh-t!’”
Of course, a quick Google corroborated her colleague’s remark.
“‘Wait… what… what?’ I could not believe that that R had existed my whole life and I’d never known it was there,” Lumsden chuckles.
“I think it’s those moments when you can really laugh at yourself, and be honest, which are the times that you connect with people. Because they’re like, ‘Oh my God – same.’”
(Check out Fanny’s Facebook post asking fans for their own mondegreens. Personal fave: the line in Seal’s Kissed By a Rose which goes ‘To me you’re like a growing addiction that I can’t deny,’ someone misheard as ‘I wanna play a game of Pictionary with your mum.’)
While Lumsden’s observational wit has long been a hallmark of her playful country pieces, the musician says her newest album Fallow presents an attempt to connect with some of the more poignant parts of life. Stand-out track This Too Shall Pass was written for Lumsden’s husband and bandmate Dan Stanley’s mother, who passed from cancer recently. “Good or bad, things never last,” go the lyrics, and as a listener you’re reminded of the inherent sadness in happy things because you know they are ephemeral. Could it be possible to find happiness in sad things, in the same way? “Oh my God, what a good concept – I just don’t think we’re wired that way unfortunately!” says Lumsden. “I think [Dan’s mum’s death], and having our baby… every day I’m so intensely inspired by my surroundings, because it’s so beautiful [in the mountains] – I’m like ‘Look at the light through those trees there. Look at that sunset! Dan! Dan!” and everyone says “Shhh…ut up’,” she laughs. “But I got so much joy from all those little things because of all the sadness. Maybe they’re magnified by the sadness. My dad said this thing to me once when I was young and had all this stressful childhood stuff coming up – exams and athletics carnivals – he said, ‘All time passes.’”
Having spent the last several months fiercely engaged in protecting her community from the devastating bushfires around Tooma (“We didn’t have power for 26 days; I was here helping family and friends and other people fight, ‘cause it’s isolated, and for a lot of it we had no air support, no fire trucks, so everyone kind of pitched in”), there’s another layer of perspective to these songs which Lumsden wrote at her home, bringing producer Matt Fell across from Sydney to record. “He’s not super green,” she says of the ARIA and CMAA-decorated multi-instrumentalist, “but we did buy a coffee machine when we brought everyone down here.”
One of the other people in Lumsden’s close-knit crew is her younger brother Thomas, who features on the album’s remarkable title track. A classically-trained vocalist (“I’m not, but he was – and you can tell the difference!”), the blood harmonies he provides across the album showcase his incredible range. The song Fierce, meanwhile, celebrates the feminine strength Lumsden has marshalled from her mother, grandmas and aunties. “They’re all women of the land: strong-willed, but really gracious,” she explains. “My grandma grew up on King Island. She’s one of these forces of nature for me. She passed away last year at 96. She was so progressive and old fashioned at the same time. In the early ’50s she hitchhiked around Europe, she slept in paddocks; when she got married she was nearly 30 which [at that time] was over the hill; she refused to say ‘I obey’ in her vows. And in her 96th year she organised to move herself back to King Island – she hadn’t lived there since she was a young girl – and three weeks later she passed away. She wanted to die there, and she made it happen.”
The jewel in the fam crown is its newest addition: Lumsden and Stanley’s son. Gorgeously stirring track Black and White explains how having a child did something crazy-beautiful to Lumsden’s brain and creativity. “I always used to be bored by ‘emotional drivel’, I used to call it,” she says. “I was like ‘Ugh, God, say something funny or go away! But that was because I hadn’t really accessed that part of myself; I wasn’t able to be honest with myself about how magical and awesome it is. When I was going in to writing these songs, I thought, we’ve been through such an up-and-down few years, I just wanted to share! I’m really conscious about being as honest as I can about whatever I’m going through, because I think it’s a disservice if I’m not. And I know if I’m sharing things honestly, then maybe someone can get something out of it.”
Fallow by Fanny Lumsden is out now via Cooking Vinyl.
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