Aural storyteller William Crighton has delivered another collection of gorgeously vivid, roughhewn and dynamic tracks on Water and Dust; we put some questions to the astonishing Riverina singer-songwriter.
Your potent live shows were instrumental in your career’s momentum; you said to us in 2016 (backstage at BIGSOUND) that the live setting “invigorates” you, and “inspires something new every night.” How did you cope during lockdown, unable to hone these songs in front of different people with different perspectives?
Lockdown’s been tough for everyone. I’ve been able to do a few shows but nothing compared to what we’d usually do. Inspiration is always there though – you just have to find it in other places.
You’ve said that you think all of the songs on Water and Dust have hope within them; there’s even hope within the harrowing, beautiful Killara. At the song’s conclusion, you say Killara leaves us with a choice – is that choice as simple as action versus inaction?
Once you find out the truth about something, or get an insight into something that previously you didn’t have, you’re faced with a choice to either live in a delusional state or adjust your thinking to the new information.
Killara has a little convict chain-gang whistle in it, and there’s also a sweet whistled melody in the gorgeous Keep Facing the Sunshine. Why did you decide to include whistling in these two, such differently-styled songs?
A lot of these songs come about whilst doing other things: gardening, running, dishes, driving… Whistling and singing is a natural way to lay something out while your hands are busy. Sometimes those whistled melodies turn into other instrumental parts, but a lot of the time – like in the songs you mention – they stick.
William Barton’s didgeridoo across the whole record is stunning! In Your Country it evokes drum-fills, rolls, and even guitar strum patterns. How did you first come to hear Barton’s work?
William is a brother to me – love him dearly. I met him a few years ago, backstage at an event at Parliament House. It was a natural progression becoming mates and then working together. He brings his spirit to everything he plays on, and that certainly takes the songs to another level.
Your Country includes some of your most direct lyrics about politics, business and our precious natural landscape. What do you do when disappointment turns to rage, and threatens to become overwhelming?
This song is about the power we have to enact change. This is our home, and it’s all of our responsibility to ensure that future generations can exist and flourish. There are a lot of great things about this country, but at the moment our leaders are just hiding the money they’ve stolen, ripping away public services, taking away individual rights, funneling public money to multi-national corporations, and facilitating the destruction of our precious home – all the while giving themselves continual pay rises. No thanks. Next system please.
What is the crazy jawharp instrument we’re hearing in This Is Magic?
It’s the spirit of Cessnock, I suppose.
There is something very romantic, ’50s rock’n’roll, Roy Orbison-esque about the rhythm of After All (Good World). Did this song always exist in this way, with this almost doo-wop sort of beat?
This song has mainly just been solo at the piano. When we were jamming it as a band, it took on another life. I always thought it would sound good as a Roy Orbison song and I nudged it in that direction – glad you got that from it too!
In Stand, you sing: “Don’t stand with the one who is blinding you, you gotta stand with the one who is kind to you.” What advice would you give to someone who finds themselves often taken advantage of by those who would deliberately blind them?
Get away from those who do that to you. Seek and stand with truth.
Water and Dust by William Crighton is out Feb 11 via ABC.
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