Man for all seasons Paul Kelly.................
Paul Kelly tours his song cycle across the land, writes Toni Mason
TOURING a new record is a task demanded of Australian musicians – and after 19 studio albums, Paul Kelly is no stranger to the road.
However, the singer and songwriter many Australian musicians revere hasn’t had a new album to tour for a while, taking a five-year break after his 2007 album, Stolen Apples, which was both a critical and commercial success.
Kelly says the gap in making music was because of his book: How To Make Gravy: A to Z, A Mongrel Memoir. He says putting together the stories around the 100 of his songs that comprise How To Make Gravy, which took him about two years to write, shut down the creative part of Kelly that makes music.
‘‘It was sort of like another part of the brain for writing froze,’’ Kelly says.
While some of his fans may have favourite tunes on his newest release, Spring and Fall, Kelly himself can’t separate any out because of the way the album was put together. Essentially charting the life of a romantic relationship, it juxtaposes songs of discovery with songs of regret and loss.
‘‘I sort of think of it as one long song, or one long story,’’ Kelly says.
‘‘We divide it up into side one and side two . . . side two gets a bit dark but that could be my favourite because I like playing the darker songs.’’
Kelly says the idea for the album came after he looked at three songs he had already written – When A Woman Loves A Man, which evokes new love; the looking-for-infidelity tune Someone New and the break-up song Cold as Canada.
‘‘I realised I had three points along a storyline. I had the beginning of love, I had the turning point and I had the leave-taking song.’’
Kelly says all that remained was to write the rest of the tracks that would fit within the story arc of a relationship that flowers, blooms and dies.
While this album virtually demands the listener follow the song cycle from beginning to end, Kelly denies he’s rebelling in any way against the notion of downloading selected album tracks.
‘‘I do it as much as anyone; I like to be able to listen to a couple of tracks off someone’s album,’’ he says.
‘‘When I was younger and I liked a particular song by an artist but it wasn’t a single, I would have to go and buy the record, and the record might only have a couple of good songs on it.’’
When Kelly takes Spring and Fall on the road accompanied by his nephew Dan Kelly (who co-wrote some of the songs), his fans will hear the album in its stripped-back entirety.
He says the sparseness of the musical arrangements was in his mind from the start.
‘‘I wanted to keep the songs short because if you’re asking the listeners to listen to something as one piece you want to keep the momentum going,’’ he says.
‘‘We don’t have long intros, we don’t have extended musical sections, we don’t have a lot of distractions around the melody and the lyrics.’’
On this tour, Kelly says he and his five-piece band, which now boasts a female rhythm section, will play a two-hour set. It will begin with the song cycle of Spring and Fall before he brings out some older tunes.
Kelly says he’s looking forward to the tour, especially heading north to the Gold Coast.
‘‘I think we just wanted to get out of Melbourne during the winter,’’ he says, laughing.
Spring and Fall is out now. Paul Kelly and Urthboy play The Arts Centre Gold Coast on July 30 and QPAC, in Brisbane, on August 1.
Paul Kelly is touring with a five-piece band that includes a new female rhythm section.