Bridie back to finding his voice
David Bridie is stretching his horizons yet again, writes Kathy McCabe
DAVID Bridie has always worn many musical hats. Since launching his illustrious career with Not Drowning Waving 30 years ago, he’s formed the band My Friend The Chocolate Cake.
He has composed and recorded award-winning soundtracks for film and television including Bran Nue Dae, Proof, In A Savage Land, Mabo and The Straits.
The respected musician has also produced artists including Archie Roach and Christine Anu, and has helped shine a light on the music of PNG legend George Telek.
And he has been a solo artist, releasing his fourth record, Wake, earlier this month.
It has been five years since his last hit out on Succumb and Bridie admits he was itching to get back to his day job. While not ungrateful for all the creative opportunities, he was feeling compelled to return to his own music identity.
‘‘I had been doing a whole lot of other stuff with other people and wasn’t enjoying it so much because it needs to fit around other people’s schedules,’’ he says.
‘‘When Not Drowning Waving started, I was writing songs and singing them, and that’s what I enjoy doing, that’s what makes me feel good about what I am doing, even though I am fortunate for all the other opportunities. I needed to do it. I was getting cranky at myself.’’
Bridie, like most artists, also admits to suffering a dose of procrastination.
‘‘I was a bit scared of it, to be honest. The thought had crossed my mind that maybe I won’t do it any more,’’ he says.
His master plan for Wake was to go back to the beginning, writing sparse but lushly cinematic songs focusing on voice and piano, inspired by the solo work of Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan.
‘‘Most of the songs were written on the out-of-tune piano in the living room; it’s tuned now,’’ he says.
‘‘I have to ask my partner’s kids not to play their Coldplay songs on it too hard because it costs $200 to tune it.’’
Bridie says the early tunes were roadtested at the annual music industry conference BIGSOUND last September.
‘‘They were embryonic then, just ideas, and I figured that if they were any good, they would have to be good live,’’ he says.
‘‘I never get nervous at Cake gigs but I think if you care about what you do, there’s going to be a phase where you are nervous about the solo stuff because you want to challenge yourself.’’
After that experiment, some of the songs dictated a different direction, adding layers in the same way Bridie had done with Not Drowning Waving all those years ago.
‘‘I started to enjoy the process of sculpting the songs and have people play on them, especially on songs like Delegate and Stoned In Kabul,’’ he says.
Adding people to his solo endeavours further fleshed out his vision. His old mate John Phillips, The Bamboos’ Kylie Auldist, Powderfinger’s Ian Haug, The Orbweavers’ Marita Dyson, Black-eyed Susan singer Rob Snarski, Even’s Ashley Naylor and longtime collaborator, cellist Helen Mountfort, were among those enlisted for Wake.
‘‘It is a wonderful thing to be able to trust musicians you have known over the years and that I know well enough to not just say ‘that sounds great’ if it doesn’t,’’ he says.
No doubt all of them would have been impressed with his freewheeling imagination on Dr Seuss Is Painting The Sky.
‘‘That weird keyboard sound is so creepy it’s good,’’ he says, laughing. ‘‘Dr Seuss books are just phenomenal. Going back to Dr Seuss is not a bad way to open a record.’’
Now the tough sell on the road begins – including a show on the Coast.
Bridie isn’t so much worried about the loyalty of the fans as he is about remembering his lyrics. He has often counted on the trainspotters in the front rows to fill in when he goes blank.
‘‘I have been known to ask someone in the front mouthing all the words what the next line is,’’ he says.
David Bridie & The Pills and Chris Sheehy play The Loft, on Chevron Island, on July 14 from 4pm.
Cellist Helen Mountfort and singer David Bridie team up again on Wake.