Dou­ble dose of Gal­lagher

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE ’N’ LOUD -

ASURE-FIRE way to stand out in to­day’s musical crowd, dou­ble al­bums at­tract dou­ble the at­ten­tion they used to. Bren­dan Gal­lagher laughs. He can’t ar­gue – he’s en­joy­ing a fly­ing start for his lat­est solo re­lease, the dou­ble al­bum Wine Is­land, which brings him to the Coast for a show at The Sound­lounge to­mor­row night.

‘‘As a mu­si­cian, you al­ways try to fig­ure out how you can make enough money to make records,’’ he says.

‘‘You have all these ideas you have to work on. At the mo­ment, I’m lik­ing what I do. I don’t sub­scribe to that An­tipodean bull­shit that once you’re 30 you’re f. . .ed.

‘‘As artists get older, if you’ve learned from your ex­pe­ri­ences, you should get bet­ter.’’

In Gal­lagher’s case, wis­dom has been gleaned from 30 years’ of first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence in al­most ev­ery as­pect of mu­sic. He’s a two-time ARIA win­ner, mul­ti­in­stru­men­tal­ist (gui­tar, pi­ano, drums, per­cus­sion and bouzouki), singer and song­writer ( Se­cret Coun­try, The Men Who Ran Away From The Cir­cus), pro­ducer, en­gi­neer and mixer (he’s twid­dled the knobs on more than 20 al­bums), au­thor (he’s up to the third edi­tion of his 1994 gui­tarist’s book, The Open Tun­ing Chord Book For Gui­tar owned by ev­ery­one from David Bowie to Peter Buck and PJ Har­vey), com­poser (shorts by Rachel Perkins and War­wick Thorn­ton, TV do­cos and Aussie film Sub­di­vi­sion) and some­time mu­sic teacher/am­bas­sador. Any­thing he hasn’t done? He says he’s con­tem­plated crowd-sourc­ing funds to make mu­sic, but is yet to take the plunge.

‘‘I have mixed feel­ings about it. On one hand, I think if you’re go­ing to do some­thing mu­si­cally, you should take the risk and put your money lit­er­ally where your mouth is – make a dou­ble al­bum,’’ he dead­pans.

‘‘You should take a risk be­cause that’s what you do. Peo­ple close to me have been say­ing ‘you gotta do it’ be­cause it’s about fund­ing and build­ing a tribe.’’

And therein, says Gal­lagher, lies the co­nun­drum in be­ing Bren­dan. Award-win­ning front­man of Karma County, Gal­lagher worked closely with the late in­dige­nous mu­si­cian Jimmy Lit­tle (he wrote Lit­tle’s hit Mes­sen­ger) and has recorded with David Bowie but is used to peo­ple know­ing/lov­ing his mu­sic, not its cre­ator.

‘‘What other peo­ple tell me . . .’’ he drawls, as if wait­ing for a drum­roll, ‘‘is I’m known in the in­dus­try but not in the gen­eral pub­lic so much. Peo­ple get con­fused be­cause, is it Jimmy Lit­tle or (his side pro­ject) The Dead Marines.’’

And that’s not all. There’s also Mil­lion­aire$, Gal­lagher’s indie su­pergroup with David McCor­mack (Cus­tard), Jim El­liott (Cruel Sea) and Michael Galeazzi (Karma County) and B!G Bren­dan with (Reels drum­mer) John Boy Bliss.

‘‘I’m wear­ing too many hats and I don’t have any com­mer­cial trac­tion. I get told that a lot of peo­ple ap­par­ently know my mu­sic but don’t know that it’s me.’’

First hand, in fact. Gal­lagher re­cently en­listed the help of a dig­i­tal strate­gist: ‘‘He was a 30-some­thing guy. He seemed in­ter­ested, checked out my web­site and said I’ll get back to you . . . (boom tish!). When he got back to me he said: ‘I know your mu­sic, I just didn’t know that was you’.

‘‘I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced this be­fore. Peo­ple come up to me at gigs and say, ‘you know that Se­cret Coun­try song you played, who wrote it?’. And I say ‘I wrote it. It’s mine’.’’

Still, he’s not com­plain­ing. Gal­lagher is par­tic­u­larly grate­ful for the role the ABC has played in help­ing take his con­su­mate com­po­si­tions to na­tional au­di­ences, both young (Triple J) and old (Ra­dio Na­tional) – even if they don’t al­ways know who he is.

ABC Ra­dio, mu­sic afi­ciona­dos and fans have also em­braced new disc(s) Wine Is­land, a funky, bluesy and gritty col­lec­tion with traces of coun­try.

Topped off with Gal­lagher’s sig­na­ture wit – the ti­tle track is about in­flat­ing a wine cask blad­der into a ‘‘sil­ver pil­low’’ – the al­bum oozes songcraft.

‘‘I never re­ally sub­scribed to the idea you do what the mar­ket wants. You do what you want,’’ Gal­lagher says.

‘‘I had cou­ple of dif­fer­ent sorts of songs per­co­lat­ing in my mind. I thought, ‘I could do some­thing with these lit­tle dit­ties’. They were catchy and fun and re­minded me of early rock rhythms – like (US indie rock duo) The Goons.

‘‘The other side – I al­ways have a few songs in the bank. When an idea turns up, you run with it. I’ve al­ways liked those ideas of in­ter­est­ing lit­tle sub-sit­u­a­tions and songcraft – like Jimmy Webb. I had that kind of stuff and thought I can’t put these two kinds of mu­sic on the same record.’’

Hence the dou­ble. Gal­lagher calls the rockin’ Disc 1 ( Bianco) a nod to his for­ma­tive years as a player and says Disc 2 ( Rosso) sits in a more gen­tle, spa­cious world.‘‘No one does dou­ble al­bums,’’ Gal­lagher says, proud and de­fi­ant. Which isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. Is there such a thing as too much mu­sic? ‘‘Yes. And there’s a lot of stuff parad­ing as mu­sic,’’ Gal­lagher says.

‘‘It may be an elit­ist view but it’s plain as the nose on my face that the en­try level into the (mu­sic) busi­ness is very low at the mo­ment.

‘‘There’s only so many peo­ple who are any good at this,’’ Gal­lagher de­clares. Easy to say when you’re one of them!

– SUZANNE SIMONOT

Bren­dan Gal­lagher and The Still­sons play The Sound­lounge, Cur­rumbin RSL, to­mor­row night.

Liv­ing musical trea­sure Bren­dan Gal­lagher

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