Angus releases his fifth studio album Departure & Arrival today, along with the rocking third single You Wouldn’t Steal a Heart, co-written with Billy Miller from The Ferrets.
The album was recorded with Miller and the members of Paul Kelly’s touring band, featuring Peter ‘Lucky’ Luscombe on drums and percussion, Bill McDonald on bass, Dan Kelly on guitar and Cameron Bruce on keyboards.
Gill’s publisher Philip Mortlock was the catalyst for this project, encouraging him to do a record purely made up of his own lyrics and compositions. Gill wrote six of the nine songs solo and three of them with Miller writing the music, while Gill wrote the lyrics. Among the songs recorded is April Fools, the opening track and a Top 5 radio chart hit for TC Cassidy and Bill Chambers, who originally covered the song.
Bernard Zuel writes. If you’re looking for two words to describe Departure & Arrival, the new album from Angus Gill, he suggests you start with evolution and experimentation, and work from there.
Now they may seem contradictory: evolution being a slow process of adaptation and change; experimentation being more immediate, more haphazard. And those words might be dangerous when you’ve come up through country music, where things take time to adjust.
But not for Gill, who’s in a hurry. A hurry to make more, a hurry to try more, a hurry to match the artists who are inspiring him.
“I’m categorised as a country artist, and there are still elements of country there, but I didn’t necessarily set out to create a country record,” he says of Departure & Arrival, whose title tells you almost as much about this restless songwriter as the songs within it, which have the punch of rock, the elegant lines of old school pop, some Latin moves in the mould of ‘70s Paul Simon, and experiments like a spoken word track (In iambic pentameter no less.)
“I’ve always been a fan of albums like Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schmilsson, Sgt Pepper’s, City to City and these classic albums I’ve been listening to since I’ve become a vinyl hoarder, and I don’t like listening to an album where every track is the same tempo, the same feel, similar subjects.”
A veteran at the age of 25 – apart from the songs he’s written, played on or produced for others, like Diesel and Adam Harvey, he’s been writing and playing since he was nine or 10, releasing music from the age of 14 and been his own producer for five albums since his debut long player at the age of 18 – Gill has his sights on a long, varied career full of surprises. Among them, his influences.
With a novella on the go, alongside his recordings and a couple of Covid years of a heavy reading load behind him, he’s as likely to spring literary references as musical ones. The album title was inspired by pop culture philosopher, Alain De Botton, the mid-tempo pop charmer, Little Green Man, was sparked by Australian author Trent Dalton’s Love Stories, and his guiding lights are the likes of Cormac McCarthy, Charles Bukowski and John Steinbeck.
“Steinbeck is very simplistic in the way that he writes but his words say a lot in a short space,” Gill says. “And that’s what songs are about.”
Closer to home for the kid who grew up in timbertown Wauchope, just inland from the NSW Mid North Coast, Gill’s been bending the ear of genuine veterans of Australian music Mondo Rock’s Eric McCusker and The Ferrets’ Billy Miller, who has co-written a couple of tracks on the new album. It’s fair to say Gill’s been fired up by the exchanges.
“I love hanging out with them and it’s a mutual thing: you pick up different ways of thinking and I’m very open to all of that. I am a very curious person. I am a very passionate person and I’ve always had a good relationship with my elders.”
You can add two more words to the Angus Gill story then: curiosity and passion, and then watch them at work in his work.
“Something I have learned as a producer too is you’ve got to be open to certain things presenting themselves. If they’re good moments, then you’ve got to lean into them and start embracing them, almost reshaping the song around that particular change in direction halfway through a project.”
And when that’s done, do what another of his mentors, the giant of modern Americana, Steve Earle, would do: change again.”
Gill recalls that when he asked the American why he changed direction so often “He said ‘I just get bored’. And that was a precedent he set very early in his career, and I was inspired: that’s what I want to do.
“I heard somebody say [about me] ‘when’s he gonna find what he wants to do?’ And I’m like, I’m never gonna find what I want to do. That’s the definition of an artist.”
Maybe Gill has found what he wants to do. Anything. Everything.
That’s two more words for you.
DEPARTURE & ARRIVAL IS OUT TODAY VIA RIVERSHACK RECORDS/MGM DISTRIBUTION
CATCH GILL & MILLER LIVE AT THE GYMPIE MUSTER ON AUGUST 24 & 25
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