Sometimes a live gig brings unexpected extras. As a Melbourne singer-songwriter it's not often we get to see Jim Lawrie perform in Sydney. While Lawrie recently toured as support for the Love Is A Dog Tin Pan Orange album launch, the wistful folk artist was on the night a worthy act himself and rounded out one of the best gigs we have seen in a long time.
Lawrie is one of those performers who makes us (on top of Sydney lock out laws) wished we lived in Melbourne. Well sometimes. Once known by the name Grizzly, which he has now dropped, and former drummer of the band the Eagle And The Worm, at The Vanguard in his solo act Jim Lawrie lightened the sometimes depressing darkness of his lyrics with his signature dry humour between songs. Behind me in The Vanguard audience there were comparisons to James Taylor, Jackson Browne, to Neil Young even. His songs softly capture life, reality. Listen up. Seek out his Indie Folk snapshots. Get prepared for the next album from the band later this year.
Last month in Sydney when you were playing at The Vanguard you ended your set saying "soon as I get some whisky in me". What's your preference? Do you like the smoky Islay?
I’m not picky when it comes to whiskey. I love my standard Jameison on the rocks, but I could go anything… If the time calls for the top shelf, I’ll happily enjoy the finer tastes, but there’s nothing wrong with a Jack or a John if it’s the flavor of the venue..
You also said you're not a sad sack. As a songwriter your words do tend that way. Where do those lyrics come from? What comes first the words or the music?
Yeah, I think my music is quite sad, or moody but playing and writing music is a way for me to channel the dark parts and get to a good place. I think music is somewhat of a cathartic process. I love other people’s sad songs, they make me feel good. I feel like my writing probably verges that way too because I like the idea of giving people access to a similar feeling.
Behind us at the gig, some of the punters were trying to pin another voice on you. James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Neil Young were all mentioned. What are your musical influences? And have they changed during your career?
Well they’re all totally flattering comparisons. I’ve been a big fan of all of them at different times in my life. I guess I’ve always been a fan of great lyricists, Leonard Cohen, Paul Kelly, people who’s writing stands the test of time. That being said, I think that a lot music’s great lyricists are underrated, Kurt Cobain is one, and others of his ilk in Grunge, and a lot more in the punk scene. The challenge of telling a story in a two or three minute song is tough, but there are masters. Over time my taste has changed and come back around to a lot of different stuff, I’d like to think that if a writer changed me in some way, I’d never completely move on from them.
Your second last song was a tribute to a mate you lost recently. Are you up to talking a bit about him?
Any opportunity I get to talk about Adrian is one I’ll take. Adrian was a great man, someone I feel blessed to have called a friend, and someone I was lucky enough to have as an inspiration in my life. We played together on different lineups for the past ten years in different bands in the Melbourne music scene. The most prolific of his outfits is a band called Big Smoke, who released their debut EP last year, and who will be posthumously releasing a debut LP, ‘Time is Golden’ later this year. He had a way with words and melody that always had you steered towards safety, and then twisted and turned to create these ambitious adventures and poetry. Songs that can root themselves deep in your mind because they feel like they have you in them as much as him. He sung from the heart, and sung with sincerity. Adrian will be sorely missed within the music community, but his songs will remain a testament to the man he was.
As a solo artist how do you keep inspired? You're back in Melbourne in late June after touring. What does the future hold for Jim Lawrie?
Well it’s funny, I’m a solo artist for this tour, but when I get back from the tour I’m going straight into doing a hometown residency with my band. Flying solo on the road is pretty fun, but sometimes you just want to play music with people that you love. I’ve got some absolute legends in my band so it’s not too hard to find inspiration when writing, and we’re going to be hitting the studio to record another album in August, so we’ve got plenty to keep us busy. Hopefully we’ll be heading back to Sydney soon to play some new tunes for you!