I started working on this music compilation since last November and it’s been full steam in production for the bulk of autumn (March-May). I can definitely say it has been journey both physically, around Australia, and mentally as I was working on this music. I took the time because Australia is important to me, for many reasons apart from being my birthplace. I certainly wanted to give this the proper attention…
TL;DR A look back at fine music from Australian artists through a contemporary lens: Job done! The album is available on popular music services. Listen to it for free on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/5mdADYQaOgxsXoUtwx4Gpm
Define Australian music: On a superficial level, “reverbed” snares, carefree attitude, lyrics that reflect the lifestyle, the wildlife... How do you make it contemporary, yet keep the elements that make it unique?
The general approach was to include a sample of various different music styles and chronological eras of prominent Australian excellence. And there was so much to pick from! I ended up with a set of 10 songs, that in no way can possibly describe the depth of artistry at play, rather simply paint a picture of the diversity that is the Australian music landscape.
Don‘t Wanna Be The One
The album starts with an energetic performance by Mikey Wulff, giving justice to the original by the Midnight Oil. In the context of the compilation, it’s a powerful intro, making the compilation itself follow the tradition of so many Aussie songs (that adopt a strong intro).
Under the Milky Way
My beloved Lyndel Thomas sung one of her favorite songs and we gave it a dark nightclub vibe, that I felt matched the lyrics. I am happy that we included in this cover the full guitar solos, whereas in the original song (at least the video clip) you can only hear a part of it, as the song fades out.
Australian Crawl is a signature band and including one of their songs here was a no-brainer. This one in particular simply needed to be covered as an electro pop song, you could feel it, and Tayla Thomas did a wonderful job realizing it.
What About Me
The popular song by Moving Pictures has already been covered successfully but I felt there was an new angle to introduce. This “deconstructed” version, with instrumentation close to a solo stage performance , sits on the shoulders of Tara’s amazing performance, a true diva singer, and for me it was a nice challenge getting out of my comfort zone with an exercise in classical orchestration.
Covering a contemporary song goes against the general idea of the compilation but we had to include one of Sia’s songs as she’s probably the most successful Aussie voice of our time. I didn't want to compete with the original so I experimented making it sound more “old-school”. Hayden Johns did an excellent job bringing some masculine energy to such an emotional song.
I can honestly say I was scared covering this. On the one hand how can you call your compilation “Down Under” without including the homonymous song? On the other, how do you cover the unofficial national anthem without being exiled? After I mixed all the other songs, and had practically achieved what I wanted, I thought I’d just have fun with this one. I’m happy that it became this goofy DJ track, spearheaded by Honey B, that brings a great tune back to the dance floor.
The Real Thing
It‘s telling that the oldest song in the bunch is the one I most relate too, musically. And I’m not saying that because I lend my voice to this cover; it’s simply very close to what I would produce as an original tune. I think it’s remarkable though with all the effects in the world my voice still sounds like bathroom singing :/ Nevertheless, the song features a nice cameo by Gough Whitlam.
We Are The People
I’d always wondered why the original wasn't produced as a club song, given how club-friendly Empire of the Sun is with their other tunes. Moreover, this cover is performed as a duet, as the lyrics seemed to have a dialogue dimension to them. Matt & Tayla are doing a phenomenal job, with a mirror presence that completes each other.
After All These Years
A classic ballad by Silverchair played as a full blown rock song by our lovely Jill Lamshed. Making her ethereal voice sound epic was the biggest challenge and the greatest success for me. I used a 3-piece drum kit here, as a throwback to the early punk & grunge days where kids needed nothing more than a snare drum to get get up on stage and express themselves.
The last track, exit music so to speak, a somewhat eclectic choice for the audiophiles. Dark, hypnotic, eerie, unsettling, all qualities someone wouldn't attach to Australia from the outside, yet integral part of aussie life, performed here so well by Luke Sabbadini. Because this cover uses its tunes decomposed/detuned and empty space to build atmosphere, it is one of those rare cases (for me) where the song was produced by chipping away at it. By the end of the production run I called it done.
There are some of my thoughts as I’m hitting the upload button to publish this album. Thanks to the original artists and to the lovely people that collaborated with me to bring you this compilation. I hope some of you like the songs and find them at least interesting enough to investigate the source material further. It’s pretty good stuff.