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Everything’s Turning To White

People are always asking me, “Who are your influences?” Well, in answer to that question, this is the second in an occasional series of Blog Posts about singers and songwriters. I spent three years living in Brisbane, Australia and while I was there I got really into lots of Australian music.

Paul Kelly

Australian legend Paul Kelly has recorded 19 studio albums and has had a huge influence on songwriters down under. I was introduced to his music by Australian friends as part of an “enculturation” process. Being Aussie and Paul Kelly was apparently pretty indivisible. Paul Kelly’s approach to songwriting is quite narrative. His songs have a simplicity and a poetry which celebrates the extraordinariness of ordinary life. While I’m sure lots of his songs are very personal, as he tells stories, he also creates characters. His ability to create a narrative outside of himself is something that really inspires me as a songwriter.

He has written many amazing songs over decades, so it’s very hard to pigeon hole him into a particular genre. His voice is uniquely his own and uniquely Australian. From St Kilda to Kings Cross is a Paul Kelly classic, which anyone who has visited either of those places will instantly resonate with. How to Make Gravy is one of the best Christmas Songs I’ve ever heard, but one of my favourites is Deeper Water.

I generally don’t perform songs made famous by male singers, as they tend not to suit my voice (funnily enough) but I’ve made an exception for this one: “Everything’s Turning to White”. This song is based on a short story by Ramond Carver called So Much Water So Close To Home. The song was released on an album of the same name by Paul Kelly in 1989. In addition to the lovely melody and haunting words, I love how Kelly has created the voice of a character, and tells the story simply, yet somehow evokes a depth of emotion. I’m also interested in an idea existing in multiple art forms, as a story, a song and as a film (the excellent but unsurprisingly miserable 2006 film Jindabyne). So here I am, bravely tackling an Australian classic with a spoken monologue in the middle and trying not to do the accent!

I was lucky enough to see Paul Kelly perform in Belfast at the Empire Music Hall. This was a far more intimate venue than I’d ever have got to see him in in Australia, the crowd a fraction of what he’d play to on home turf. It was a great show, and I was a bit star struck to get a quick chat and an autograph afterwards. I’ve learned a lot about song writing from listening to Paul Kelly.

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