Mark walks us through the inspiration, meaning and recording of each song on his latest album.
Give it Up
This song was written about what it’s like to have a vice and all the contradictory thoughts that go with it. I wrote it with Catherine Britt and Morgan Evans and it was the first time I’d written with Catherine. It feels like a driving song to me and I was loving the sound of Jackson Browne’s records when we did it. And I love Bob Corbett’s slide guitar in it too!
Take a Real Good Look
I’d been lucky to know the very talented Caitlin Harnett for some time when she came up to hang out and write one afternoon. We wrote another song, had our Subway sandwiches as we are often inclined to do, and then just before we called it a day, this heartbreaker of a thing came out. It’s really about the bitter end of something, but when I hear it now I all I can hear is the sound of liberation.
Playing With Fire
For me this song was the beginning of a big musical journey. It was one of the two songs I played at the Telstra Road Finals, where I ended up winning a trip to Nashville, Tennesee. It’s such a fitting song for it, because the song was about not being able to give up playing music. When it got written I was tossing up whether to go and work in the area I studied in at University. But I never seemed to get around to making the change, and I’m lucky to say that my entire working life revolves around the playing and writing of music. There’s a wide eyed optimism to this song, and one of my favourite memories of playing this was seeing my Aunty Judy’s face when I played this one at the Final. It was the best mixture of love, pride and genuine excitement.
Sometimes things just happen in the right place at the right time musically. We we’re in the studio doing all the rhythm tracks for the album and it was very late, and we’d done nearly all of the tracks. We had a break for pizza, I showed everyone this new song. No one had heard it before… Everyone picked up an instrument, and just started playing it and pretty soon over about an hour or so we were back in the main room recording the finished version. Our keyboard player, Matt Gaudry, filmed the whole experience which you can see on Youtube. This was one of the best musical experiences I’ve been involved with.
The Long Walk Home
This one was the last song written for the album. And I wrote it for someone who’d been really sick and had world of pain thrown at her. It’s about loving someone and being there for them when they really need it. It nearly was too late to make it onto the record, but in many ways it became the missing piece in the puzzle for this album.
What is a life without Love?
This one was more about hitting on a contemplative feeling than anything specific. It’s dreamy trip, but to my horror when I listened back to the album one of the lyrics talks about how “down the street a young girl whistles, dancing in a field of thistles”. Not a great place to put her really. I think she’s ok though. For some reason I always get choked up when I sing the line “I close my eyes and try to go back home.” It seems so straightforward, but it just gets to me.
When it All Boils Down
It’s a knee slapping, toe-tapper. The hoedown song. I think I imagined June Carter standing on the porch tapping her foot and waving a wooden spoon at Johnny Cash for this one. At least that’s the picture in my head that kept floating in to my mind’s eye to inspire this one. And then the thought of having to calm her down. That speech had better be pretty good Johnny…
I was so well behaved when I was Seventeen. This really just about all the stupid things I never did. And you’ve got a guitarist who plays saxophone, you really owe it to him to give him a solo. Just one.
Pieces of You
I always thought this was a party song… The guy is determined to have fun no matter what, he’s just got no-one to do it with… It feels live, like when we play it, and I think that energy made it on to this recording.
This Time Around
This song evolved from being a morbid song called “When I’m Gone”. I write a lot of songs in my head while I’m driving. It’s really not safe. The melody was so catchy to me that I nearly crashed it for this song
What Might Have Been
I must give our mandolin player Brian Daly full credit for writing this one. The song takes snapshots from a large chunk of modern history, asking us to consider what might have been if things had turned out differently. It’s heartbreaking when in the third verse of the song comes back to something very personal. It’s a gorgeous song. I remember tracking it and I found it really hard to deliver the vocal and get inside it and really feel it at the beginning. Then something clicked… an aha moment, and all of a sudden I was right in the middle of every one of those moments in the lyrics. It actually won Best Song in the Johnny Dennis music awards and Kamahl was raving about how good it was. He even wanted to name his biography after it.
I had to pick up some gear from our guitarist Jason’s and as it usually turns out, we have quite a good yak on these occasions or any occasion. Before we know it the guitars are out and we’re writing this song. It’s about a guy who says, I’ve given most things a go, and let the cards fall where they may. We wrote it with Jason’s non-music playing girlfriend and her friend which really helped the devil-may-care, haphazard feel of the thing. It was also called Guitarmageddon at one point nearly everyone in the band was playing a guitar solo on it.
It’s such a delicate arrangement on this one, Michel Rose plays a beautiful part in this on the pedal steel, barely there but drifting in and out to perfection. Melody’s backing vocal was so wonderful that we kept turning it up and up until it was a kind of duet.