Double dose of Gallagher
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