Have you enjoyed the tour so far?
Yeah, I’m actually really surprised how it’s all going. People have been digging it. I’m slowly getting used to my nerves.
I guess with the low-key tour you’re getting people who are familiar with your stuff and want to support you?
Yeah. It’s so got that vibe. It was a great way to ease into it and just get the comments. It’s been a whole word of mouth tour which has been really effective and really good.
Have you looked at old Magic Dirt songs in a different way and seen whether you can play them solo?
Oh yeah, I’ve been playing three Magic Dirt songs which actually work really well playing them solo.
Are these songs that started off as songs written on guitar?
Yeah. With Magic Dirt the music and lyrics happen at the same time. It’s the same process most of the time. Writing in my bedroom, I’d write a riff and just kinda sing at the same time. Sometimes I’ll write a whole song in my bedroom on a four track or sometimes it will just be a riff with maybe an idea and I’ll take it to the band room where everyone will just jam and add their parts.
So tonight it’s just electric guitar and you?
How does that reflect what you’ve recorded so far?
It’s kinda the same thing. I just went into the studio and just tracked guitar and tracked one vocal and then I’m going to go back and maybe embellish some of it but I want to keep it pretty minimal. I think it will be bolder in that way to just have guitar and vocals. I don’t want to add any band-y stuff — I don’t want a drum kit, no bass, no nothing and see how it sits on the record. Maybe a bit of percussion here and there.
So you’re kinda playing it by ear, really.
Yeah, I am, very much. Just experimenting.
…and it could change from now until it comes out?
Yeah, it could but I don’t think it will change too much. I kinda have ideas to keep evolving with the solo stuff. I’ve got another musician in mind to come in and do some guest stuff on the record. So it’s very much a work in progress I think.
Can this musician be named?
He’s a Melbourne musician and multi-instrumentalist. I don’t know if it’s going to happen. He used to be in a band The Hungry Ghosts — JP Shilo. He’s working with Rowland S. Howard at the moment and he can play a bunch of stuff. He’s a pretty amazing dude. I’ve asked him on MySpace and said (imitates typing) “Come on John, come to the studio”. I think he’s pretty keen, so hopefully fingers crossed.
So doing this on your own, do you feel the weight of four shoulders sat squarely on one?
(laughs) I’m experiencing it right now on this tour. Man, it’s really eye-opening. I’m learning so much. With Magic Dirt I’m jumping around and screaming my guts out, getting really into it and sweating after the show. But with doing the solo stuff I’m hardly moving around. I don’t break a sweat. I’m just standing and singing but I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus when I get off-stage. I think it just must be the tension and trying to focus and get every note right, because you’re under the microscope you can hear every single thing, every mistake. Being on your own, you do have to call the shots. It’s all new to me. All completely new. I never knew. It’s like with Magic Dirt we just all go along with each other and support each other, but when you’re on your own there’s nothing around you.
How does that work out with recording. Are you looking at avoiding the past and bringing in new instruments or exploring your voice more?
Yeah, definitely. Dean (from Magic Dirt), is co-producing the record with me. He’s such a great producer. He’s done theredsunband and Gersey, so amazing stuff. So I have him there to be the ears and for the real great critique.
Are you wary of making a record that the public expects you to make?
I haven’t kinda consciously thought about that stuff. I think that stuff comes in retrospect. I try not to think of that, but I definitely don’t want to box myself in any way, like “maybe I should be a bit more rock, maybe I should be really weird, maybe I should be a bit more country, maybe I should be a bit more feminine” — I’m really not thinking about that.
Are you bringing any singer/songwriters influences with you? With Magic Dirt being quite a loud band, are you leaning towards a more quieter approach to this record?
Absolutely. I think I’m getting quieter and quieter. Doing the solo shows I’m realising how important it is to be sparse with a lot of the stuff I’m doing. I’m not really thinking of anyone when I’m in there. I don’t really think of any styles or artists or records. I just going in there and do whatever the song needs. It’s all about the song. That’s the priority, that’s the be-all and end-all and everything else is secondary. You just can’t think about anything else, there’s no point.
So when do you expect the album to come out?
I was thinking later this year, but realistically early next year. Maybe like March.
What do you have in store? Are you thinking of supporting the release with a different band, or again just yourself?
I guess that depends. Definitely solo. I don’t want a band at this point. But I’ll keep an open mind. I may have guest musicians. Just kind of special little things. Whatever the song needs to bring it to its full realization.
And for the rest of the dirt bags are they going to rise again to kick out the jams?
Oh yeah. I’ve been wording every one up at the solo shows and telling them that Magic Dirt is all good and we’re going strong. We’re touring soon.
So you’re fitting this in between your supposed break?
Yeah, exactly. We’re on the road soon and we’re releasing a new EP which we’re going to have on tour and a new video for a track off “Girl”. So yeah, it’s really exciting and we’re going to go back out on the road. We’ve got a few things in the works so it’ll be really exciting. It’s all full steam ahead, there’s really no rest (laughs).