By Poppy Tohill
Australian Folk/Pop duo Busby Marou all the way from Rockhampton, Queensland are about to make their first journey to New Zealand as the support act for James Blunt. This trip will also see them perform their very own headline show on Thursday 29th at Backbeat in Auckland. With the recent release of their second studio album, ‘Farewell Fitzroy,' I had the privilege of chatting to 1/2 of the group, Thomas Busby, prior to the release of their album, about the excitement of finally crossing the ditch to play some shows.
Their second album ‘Farewell Fitzroy' was released in October throughout Australia last year, to great acclaim, debuting at number five on the ARIA charts which Busby admitted to being "absolutely and completely surprised about." Now with two songs off the album being nominated for ARIA song awards which Busby commented on as being "again really surprising and exciting," he went on to explain," It's really rewarding, because there's always a bit of pressure, particularly with a second album, but it seems people at home are supporting us, as we're selling out crowds and just continuing what we do because we love playing."
Seven months later, Friday 23rd May, not only saw the release of ‘Farewell Fitzroy' throughout New Zealand, but the boys are also heading to our shores. "Yeah, it's been a little while!" Bubsy exclaimed. "We were going to come over with our first album, but we held off because we just got so busy and we thought if we're gonna do it we're gonna do it right, and now we're finally crossing the ditch!" he continued enthusiastically.
When asked how he would best describe the new album in three words, the intriguing reply was, "folk inspired pop" which led on to us talking about what to expect from the new record. "This new album's got a lot of energy," Busby exclaimed. "The first album, which probably a lot of people in New Zealand might not have heard of, is one where Jeremy and I were a duo really, so we put everything into that first album ourselves. The two of us recorded every instrument, and we were essentially just mucking around and trying things out and that's kind of what got us more established in Australia and put us on the map. Then with the second album we'd been travelling by that stage with our band for three years straight, so for the album we brought the whole band in to give it that full energy and we tracked everything live. It's a real Busby Marou album with lots of story telling, but it's a lot of fun as well," he continued.
Having enlisted Producer Brad Jones, who has worked with the likes of Missy Higgins, Busby went on to fill us in on what it was like working with him. "It was fantastic! He's got an incredible musical brain, brilliant ear and he just encouraged and helped us believe in ourselves and that we were good enough to track everything live, so exactly how we play on stage is what you hear on the album, just with some slight overdubs here and there. Just waking up in the natural studio environment, having biscuits and scones and all this American fatty food for breakfast, lunch and dinner was so good. We all put on about 10 kilos," he laughed. "As soon as we arrived we hooked straight into it, continuing to layer tracks and we finished all the recording in little under a month and there was just a really cool vibe the whole time," Busby added.
When asked whether the writing and recording process had changed quite a lot for this second album compared to their debut Busby admitted "Definitely the recording process changed quite a lot. The first album, as I was saying earlier, we tracked everything, so Jeremy and I played most of the instruments, (well Jeremy played the majority of them), He's musically freakish to be honest. He played bass, a bit of drums and all the guitars, a bit of piano and harmonica, just whatever he could kind of work out and we had all the songs already written too. But with the second album it was a fresh start and we had to completely begin again. I had written most of the songs, it was just when we got over there it was definitely recorded and produced differently. Not only is Brad a great producer, but he's an excellent song writer as well so he was able to help shape the songs in a certain way to step them up a bit from the reserve grade to A grade," Busby remarked.
Continuing on talking about the album, Busby filled me in on the most incredible songwriting experience he had during the process of creating thisalbum. "I wrote a song called ‘Luck' with Don Walker the songwriter from Cold Chisel. He's written tons of hits and huge songs and is considered one of Australia's greatest songwriters," Busby exclaimed. "So I took a melody to Don and the song was written within half an hour! He didn't change the melody at all he just sat down and penned some lyrics and it was the most unique writing process I've ever had," he admitted. "One, because I was kind of nervous sitting beside Don Walker and his grand piano while he was sitting there smoking cigars and eating dark chocolate," he laughed, "But it was really exciting for me and it was much easier for me than I thought it would be," Busby honestly stated.
On the topic of Don Walker, we launched into conversation about influences, as Busby announced, "Don Walker and all the Cold Chisel boys are huge inspirations. But also Neil Finn, Crowded House and the rest of the Finn brothers are huge inspirations too. Growing up in that era with that music, is without a doubt my biggest influence, and to combine that with writing with Don, it was just a magical moment in our careers that we were able to meet him for one, but then we got to write a cracking song with him too." After writing with Don, is there any other artist or producers that you would love to collaborate with some day, I went on to ask. "It's a pretty easy one for me," Busby remarked. "Neil Finn! Just purely because I love his song writing and without copying I try to model my writing off the way he writes songs. He's just got a great sense of melody and I Iove everything about him," laughed Busby.
With their obvious love and influence of Neil Finn it seems fitting that it was Busby Marou's version ofCrowded House's ‘Better Be Home Soon' that gave them their break into the music scene, Thomas went on to explain. "Yeah that was our first kind of break into the music industry, I suppose," Busby began. "We weren't really well known, we had just finished recording our first album and then decided to record and produce our own cover of the song. Then we got the call up saying they want us to be a part of the ‘He Will Have His Way' album and I couldn't believe it. The Finn brothers are great influences of ours and all the other bands on the album were signed artists, and well known and we were the only ones who were unsigned and no one had heard of us. Of course you can't make the song better, it's just a glorious and perfect song already, but we just thought we'd simplify it and put a bit of our folk pop sound around it."
Not only are Busby Marou supporting James Blunt and playing their own headline show in NZ, but they're supporting Blunt on his ten Australian dates, before heading off on a national tour of their own around Australia. Busby filled us in on the upcoming tour and the bands plan for after the tour. "Yeah, on the back of the James Blunt tour, we finish with him and then pretty much go straight back on the road. I don't even think there's a break," Busby exclaimed, "it's pretty much just continuing on, taking our full band out there again. This time we're fortunate enough to take Darren Middleton from Powderfinger as a support act. So we get to see this beautiful country, travel around with an artist from one of our favourite bands and just play music, it's a pretty easy job at the moment," he laughed.
"Once we finish our national tour though, we've got a few festivals around Australia lined up, but there's talk of us heading over to America and Canada. There's also a three month duo tour that's being put together at the moment and it's something we're looking forward to because we haven't played a tour as a duo for a long time, maybe 3-4 years now. Again it's what we were originally used to, but it's a bit nerve wracking going back to the basics after touring with a full band for so long now, but we're definitely looking forward to stripping everything back and playing the songs as we like doing," he continued.
Arriving this week in New Zealand, I asked Busby what him and the band were most looking forward to about coming and playing over here.
"We're all pretty excited," he exclaimed. "Some of us have never even been to New Zealand before. I mean I've only been once and I've never been to Wellington, so I can't wait for that. Just our own headline show in between is going to be massive too! I cannot wait to get stuck into the bluff oysters again too!" he chuckled. After the bluff oysters Busby switched back to semi more serious mode, laughing and admitting that, "apart from the oysters and mussels, we're just looking forward to playing to a completely new crowd. It's almost like we're starting again," he explained. "There's no expectation, there's no pressure, we can just go, I suppose our normal rocky selves and pump into it, yah know. We've got nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I cannot wait for our own little show there in Auckland," he honestly added.
"We usually break into big electric guitars and keys, but we've found in the last 12 months that our best weapon is Jeremy on the acoustic guitar," Busby remarked. "He's just incredible to watch, it's phenomenal. It just gives us this more acoustic vibe that we've always been known for, so we're bringing our band to the show to add some colour and flavour and Jeremy and I will hopefully bring the goods up the front," Busby exclaimed when asked what we can expect from their upcoming show. "Jeremy can be pretty exciting when he's on his game though, you never know. Another thing is, he never wears shoes. I don't think he owns a pair, he just takes thongs with him everywhere. Expect him to probably walk on stage wearing a pair of Bronco's footy shorts too," Busby added laughing. "You'll see him and think, ‘what is this big fella doing?' and all of a sudden he'll break into these beautiful vocals and incredible guitar skills."
On that note, already excited for more shows having not even seen them perform yet, our interview time drew to an end as I asked if we can expect more shows from Busby Marou in New Zealand in the near future. Busby excitedly replied,"Yeah absolutely! I think the whole point of this little show is so we can plan to come back. There was talk of us going to Europe, but we sort of want to stay about first. We want to do a lot more of Australia and establish ourselves in New Zealand as an act that people want to come and see, so hopefully we can come back and play some good festivals and also do our own little shows early next year."
James Blunt with Busby Marou
May 27th: Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington - Tickets via Ticketek
May 29th: Civic Theatre, Auckland - SOLD OUT!
Busby Marou Showcase
May 30th: Backbeat, Auckland
Tickets via Under The Radar