Australian Guitar - - Feature -

Mia Dyson is jet­lagged. The Dayles­ford-born singer, song­writer, gui­tarist and ARIA win­ner has just flown in from the States as she speaks to Aus­tralian-Gui­tar – and boy, are her arms tired! She’s just com­pleted a tour sup­port­ing long­time friend Jen Clo­her, and is hugely en­thu­si­as­tic about the shows them­selves.

“This was one of the most fun tours I can re­mem­ber do­ing,” she says. “It ran like a dream.” She’s sur­pris­ingly tran­quil for some­one whose body is still run­ning on a dif­fer­ent time­zone, but Dyson is adamant about get­ting through her in­ter­views. “I need to stay awake un­til at least nine o’clock,” she laughs. “This is def­i­nitely help­ing.”

It helps that Dyson is ex­cit­edly dis­cussing her sixth stu­dio al­bum. With the lav­ish ti­tle of

If I Only Said So Far I Take it Back( hence forth SoFar), the LP marks a few key changes and de­par­tures from her typ­i­cal fare. For one, it marks a fully-fledged col­lab­o­ra­tion with her hus­band, Karl Lin­der. Lin­der co-wrote all of the lyrics for SoFar, leav­ing Dyson to fo­cus on the par­tic­u­lars of the mu­sic sur­round­ing them.

“It started out with me try­ing to put one of his po­ems to mu­sic,” Dyson says. “When that went well, we de­cided to see what would hap­pen if we worked from scratch. Once we started, we never looked back.” She adds that hav­ing Lin­der on­board as a col­lab­o­ra­tor has com­pletely ex­panded her hori­zons, and given her a greater con­fi­dence in work­ing with oth­ers.

“I’ve tried to co-write with peo­ple in the past, but it never re­ally re­sulted in any­thing I wanted to record,” she says. “I had kind of re­solved that co-writ­ing wasn’t re­ally for me. With Karl, though, it’s be­come this weird, mag­i­cal thing. For lack of a bet­ter term, he’s re­ally poetic as a lyri­cist; whereas I’ve found that I write lyrics that are a lot more di­rect. When we come to­gether, it’s a real con­trast of ideas. When I’m not on the road, we try and write to­gether every sin­gle day.”

SoFar was recorded at Port­side Sound, a stu­dio lo­cated in Mus­cle Shoals, which can be found in the north-east reaches of Alabama. The area has a rich his­tory of mu­sic, hav­ing as­sisted in cre­at­ing records by the likes of Bob Dy­lan, Paul Si­mon and Aretha Franklin through its lo­cal com­mu­nity of mu­si­cians and its stu­dios. The tra­di­tion is car­ried on to­day through peo­ple like John Paul White, for­merly of The Civil Wars, as well as pro­ducer and Alabama Shakes key­boardist Ben Tan­ner. It was the lat­ter that in­vited Dyson to the area, with hopes that she would con­sider work­ing there when it came time to record.

“I met John through some mu­tual friends, and I found out about the whole area where he was liv­ing and work­ing,” she says. “John, Ben and a bunch of other guys have a stu­dio down there. They have a la­bel. They make and pro­duce records to­gether. They have a fan­tas­tic com­mu­nity, and I was so drawn to Mus­cle Shoals. I felt the magic of that place – it’s an in­cred­i­ble well­spring of mu­si­cal his­tory. When I went down there, I felt that pres­ence.”

Be­fore long, Dyson was at work on the al­bum. Although White could not com­mit to pro­duc­ing it due to on­go­ing com­mit­ments with his solo ca­reer, Tan­ner stepped up as a co-pro­ducer along­side Dyson’s long-serv­ing Amer­i­can drum­mer, Erin Syd­ney. Hav­ing both a fresh face and an old com­pan­ion to bounce ideas off was in­cred­i­bly fruit­ful for Dyson, who at­tests to both of their abil­i­ties as col­lab­o­ra­tors and pro­duc­ers.

“I loved Ben from the sec­ond we met – we re­ally hit it off,” she says. “I was in love with the sound Ben was get­ting as a pro­ducer, so to be able to ex­plore that with him per­son­ally was a to­tal joy. It was good to have both of them around. Sid and I have this great un­der­stand­ing that comes with our col­lab­o­ra­tion, but we’re also very open to out­side ideas. We’d learned the songs for the record and we’d re­hearsed them, but we also knew not too get too at­tached to any of the ar­range­ments. We wanted to leave plenty of room for Ben, so that his per­spec­tive was able to be a part of the songs as well. The three of us col­lab­o­rated re­ally well to­gether.”

Dyson also speaks fondly of the end­less ar­ray of in­stru­ments and equip­ment that she found while work­ing on the record. Although typ­i­cally play­ing her hand­made elec­tric gui­tar, made by her fa­ther Jim Dyson, she found a joy­ful lib­er­a­tion in be­ing able to ex­per­i­ment with a wide ar­ray of gear in the record­ing process.

“It’s so dif­fer­ent to Aus­tralian stu­dios,” she says. “In Aus­tralia, you pretty much just have the record­ing equip­ment set up in the room and that’s it. Over in the States, there’s a zil­lion gui­tars, ped­als, key­boards and all these weird in­stru­ments I’ve never heard of. Es­pe­cially in Mus­cle Shoals. For every song we had, we tried to find a dif­fer­ent sound. Up un­til [2012 al­bum]

The Mo­ment, that would have been so for­eign to me. I had my Jim Dyson gui­tar and my Gold­en­tone amp, and that was it. I loved it, but I was very for­tu­nate to go ex­plor­ing.”

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