Lyric writing can sometimes be like drawing blood from a stone. But sometimes the pen just flows. After an amazing trip to the US in June 2014, I realised where the blues really came from. And subsequently, I absorbed via osmosis a little bit of how to write about your home town.
And it’s not just the human rights history that has had the blues as a soundtrack. What I noticed about a lot of US citizens is their ease of conversation. Complete strangers will exchange life stories on a Greyhound between cities, or during the few minutes they’ll spend waiting on a mocha in Starbucks. A kind of call and response, if you will, about whether the Giants will make the World Series, whether love can be found over the internet and a cross-country bus ride to meet the woman of a cyber dream.
The blues is about a sense of place, as well as a vehicle for telling a story. In Memphis, it’s pouring out the doors of clubs, as well as being visible in the streets of its ghetto districts.
It’s part of the geography. With our new found love of San Francisco, Memphis, Nashville and New York, my partner and I found ourselves back in Melbourne, Australia, with a new perspective on our own home town. It hasn’t got a Gibson guitar factory, or a bowling alley for a live music venue (yet!), but it sure as hell is rich in culture and all performing arts. The city’s Victorian and art deco architecture, mixed with its ever-present hipster sensibilities make it a daily inspiration to live in. I wrote this song about Melbourne. I think it’s complete, but I’m willing to tweak it for ease of singing and re-post any alterations to let you in on my process a little bit.
They’re hangin’ out at Kent Street,
Sipping mulled wine on Daddy’s wage.
While the downtown beggars
Are scrimpin’ for coins for an ice-capade.
It’s raining down in Bleak City,
But no one cares in the least.
I’m coming home, South by East.
North of the river, we’re swingin’ on St David Street,
The B3’s in a spin.
The Lygon losers and their tracky dack schmoozers,
Trying hard just to fit in.
I’ve seen Freedom from Staten Island
And the Village as a breathing beast.
But I’m coming home, South by East.
I was standing out in the rain,
Now I’m standing in the sun.
We get a whole year, here in a day,
A little bit of change never hurt no-one.
Been to the banks of the Mississippi,
And I ate me a Beale Street feast.
Now I’m coming home, South by East.