August 29, 2006 | Author: Greg Phillips
When Holly Throsby sings a lyric, she doesn’t want any unnecessary instrumentation getting in the way. After all, she’s laboured long enough over finding the perfect line to describe her inner-most thoughts. What would be the point of losing it all in a haze of feedback. Her song arrangements are sparse, the delivery of the lines precise and critical words sometimes receive an inordinate amount of hang-time. Rather than be concerned with fads, trends and what everyone else is doing, Holly is all about the song. When she released her second album, ‘Under The Town’ in July, music scribes hurled superlatives at it. “Riddled with poignant lyrical twists”, “A thing of quiet, luminescent beauty”, A delicious frisson of intimacy”, were a few phrases conjured from the Thesaurus. Holly seemd like a perfect candidate for inclusion in our feature on songwriting. Greg Phillips spoke to her just prior to the release of the album.
Is there a certain place, or time of day, or pattern as to when inspiration strikes?
No. I don’t really write unless I have a guitar with me because I find the lyrics will come out of the song rather than the other way around. Just the sound of the words even.
Would you consider yourself prolific?
Sometimes I have good cooking and baking ideas, They’ll come to me anywhere. I think I’m quite steady. Once I start them on the guitar, then I can walk around with them.
You do a bit of writing other than lyrics, would you call that poetry?
Poetry is kind of a dirty word really, I wouldn’t want to say that but then again some of my favourite writers are poets. I think it gets a bad name much like the term singer/songwriter. I think that’s a bad name.
So you don’t like to be pigeon holed, is that what you’re saying?
Well there’s a lot of shit out there and seems to be in that genre too. I mean it’s in all genres and poetry too. I mean bad poetry can make you really sick to the stomach.
Are you the type of composer who has bits and pieces of songs lying around or do you like to complete what you started fairly quickly?
I’ve got little bits and pieces. I’m in the middle of writing one at the moment that has these two pieces that don’t quite make sense and and I’m not sure whether to split them into two separate songs or not.
Do you think you have changed the way you write songs over the last couple of years?
I don’t stop them now when they start coming. I realised that when I tried to sit down and write songs it doesn’t work out. I realised if you can try to be un-self conscious, which is a hard thing to be, then it does work out a lot better. With any kind of writing I think. I know you read those books and they tell you what you should do. I was reading one the other day and it said that you should just write and not really think, which sounds like a terrible hippy rant, but I think there’s something in that. Not that I do it myself.
Do you ever say to yourself…’I’m going to write a song today’?
No. I was trying to finish some songs for this record and there were about three that were really bugging me. One them that was bugging me for two years and I couldn’t find any lyrics for it. I had the chorus pretty much straight away. I really liked the song, I thought it was pretty so I wanted to give it good words. I went away down the south coast for a couple of days and really tried to work it. I read in an article that Nick Cave locked himself in a room 9 to 5 every day and that’s how he does it. I thought that was a very adult thing to do. I thought I’d try to be an adult and went to do that and I didn’t get anything. It was funny because at the end of that day, I sat down in despair and had a beer and it was like snap… and a whole new song came out. And the last two songs came out like that, trying to work on another song. They say the best songs come out of despair…It wasn’t so much despair but irritation really.
Who are some of your favourite songwriters?
When when I was younger I liked Leonard Cohen and lots of country as well Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt. These days I like country but I like Iris Dement and people like that…Will Oldham. The songwriters I’ll play a lot now are many of the artists on my record label. Smog and Joanna Newsom and Cat Power.
The songwriters you mention are all real story tellers, is that important for you?
Yeh, I was on Radio National the other day and a Paul Simon song popped into my head because I loved Paul Simon when I was younger. He’s a real story teller. I think the thing I like about Will Oldham and Smog is that it’s not so much about narrative, it’s about the image of writing and also it’s kind of really filthy which I like as well, and funny in bawdy way, which suits my sense of humour. I think its funny when things sound really beautiful and are really dirty.
You place a lot of emphasis on your words when you sing. Once you have written a song, how much time do you spend playing around with that?
They come out like that. I’m a really big Redhouse Painters fan. I really like Mark Kozelek. I like his lyrics, but the way that he sings … it takes you a long time to hear them. They kind of blend into one. I can’t do that.
You have a My Space site for promoting your music. How do you find the reaction from that?
My Space is weird, a strange little world, but its interesting because I get a lot of people into my music from My Space. There’s something more personal about the My Space site, it has more of an immediacy about it and the tone of it is like the people who write are more like your friends. It has that pass the hat around feel.
What happening for the rest of year?
The album will be out… I need to find a new electric guitar … hoping this will be my best run tour. We don’t have a tour manager and I’m the most unorganised person. Last night we did the Northcote Social Club and we got back to the hotel afterwards and we go ,‘Guess we forgot the merch! ‘
Under The Town is out through Spunk Records. www.hollythrosby.com