By Poppy Tohill
Gidday Poppy, How are you?" a chirpy Christopher Coleman chimed, (in a very thick Australian accent) when answering the phone.
Following my response he began laughing and said, "I'm just realising how distinctly cliche our re-spective accents are," he chuckled. After imitating each others accents for a while, he went on to explain that he's just finished soundcheck, and although he's somewhat hungover, he's just eaten, so things are looking up. All jokes and chatter aside, we soon knuckled down and kicked into the interview, in all seriousness of course.
"So, you're about to head over to New Zealand for your first ever tour here," I began, "What are you most looking forward to about touring here, I asked. "I think I'd like to learn a little bit more about your history as a country," Coleman responded. "It sounds like you have got a whole lot of things going for you that Australia doesn't, so I'm looking forward to learning about that and being able to pronounce the names of the towns on the poster, which I've got no idea how to say," he laughed. After attempting to teach Coleman the pronunciation of a few place names, we got to Whakatane, before he just lost it and admitted between bursts of laughter that, "there's no way I would have pronounced it like that."
Changing the topic before things got too out of hand, Coleman went on to explain what fans can expect from his show. "It's a solo tour, so it's more kind of in keeping with what the weather's going to be like really, I mean cold and miserable," he laughed. "But it'll be a nice comforting cold, I'd like to think," he quickly reassured me.
Not one to blow his own trumpet and apologising for the self-defeated answer, "Mediocre folk music by an Australian" was the reply from Coleman when asked how he'd best describe his music to someone who hadn't heard it before. "It's melodic," he went on to say, "but a lot of people can do it better than me. There's so many good people out there doing it and just as many terrible ones too probably," he continued.
Moving on to talk about his self-titled debut album which was released to great acclaim throughoutAustralia earlier this year, receiving rave reviews from all around the country, Coleman explained, "It's all just organised noises really. I am really glad that people like it though, for sure," he admit.
"Not really," was the response when asked if he has a favourite song on the album. "They're all different in their own way. It's cohesive because its not cohesive at all," he explained. "But the album I'm working on at the moment is very much more thematic and along one kind of direction, so it'll be easier to pick a favourite from that, because you just go with the stronger songs. But with the one I've just put out, it's all a bit of a mess in terms of genre and themes," he continued.
Remaining on topic about the album, Coleman went on to explain a few of the songs that were the hardest and easiest to write. "Sometimes songs take less time to write than they do to play," he remarked. "So they're definitely easy. Like ‘Dandelion Flower' and ‘Go Home' are examples of that. It was just a complete string of consciousness, with no editing, it just kind of tumbled out. Whereas the song, ‘Mr Smooth' I worked on for a long time and yeah, I prefer the ones that don't require in-tellectualising at all," he confessed.
Commenting on the emotional and personal lyrics of a number of songs on the album, Coleman went on to explain, "I don't generally reflect and consciously go, ‘okay I'm writing from my point of view, this is all about me, or this is about Jeff who I met at the pub, or anything like that. But yeah there's a bit of me and everybody else in them I think."
Mentioning that ‘Go Home' is my ultimate favourite track, Coleman went on to fill me in a little bit about the song and video behind the single. "I wrote it in a very cold winter and it didn't take long to write at all," he exclaimed. "The film clip, we filmed with the choir of ‘high hopes,' which are a community choir that gets together every week and just sings for joy and fun really. There are people who are homeless, who have intellectual disabilities, mental illness, there's coroprates, politicians,and just anyone and everyone really. So that was the cast on the bus in the video," he con-tinued, "and they also sung on the track, so it was really enjoyable."
I then couldn't help but to go on and mention his top hat which not only features in the single's music video, but also a number of other videos and photo shoots of Coleman's. Having a laugh before answering, he went on to explain, "I just enjoyed wearing it for a while, but I don't anymore." (Much to my sadness). "So expect to see a whole lot less of it now," he laughed.
Moving on to chatting about his musical past, Coleman went on to fill me in on the days he used to play ukulele at the age of four. "It was just the first thing I played really, I didn't go on to become a virtuoso and I'm no better now than I was when I first started," he laughed. "My dad, older brother and older sister all wrote songs, so music was just part of our whole house. Kind of like the Finn family, but not as good," he joked. "None of my family do music as a career though, they're not narcissistic enough," he chuckled again. "What made me realise I wanted to pursue music as a career was just realising I found myself doing more and more of it, really. To a point where that's all I was doing with my days. It wasn't like a ‘alright I'm going to try and be a professional musician or anything,' I was just kind of doing it more and more."
"Oh God," Coleman responded when asked what he thought he'd being doing now if he wasn't a musician. After a lot of "I don't know's," he finally replied saying, "I'd like to think I wouldn't be drinking as much as I am now. You kind of get away with it a little bit, doing it as a musician. But I'd probably be at university, I reckon. I did half a semester at university once," he chuckled, before continuing, "and then quickly resigned when I realised that course wasn't really for me, at that time."
Touring was the next subject we covered as Coleman went on to discuss wether he prefers performing at festivals or his own shows more. "It depends on the day," he remarked. "That's a really good question actually, which I don't have a strong answer to, other than whether you're in an introverted kind of space or extroverted space. There's no preference for me," he exclaimed.
"I'm off to the States for some shows in September, then hoping to do some full band touring to Australia and New Zealand," Coleman responded when asked what else 2014 has in store for him musically. "Just writing everyday too. I don't want to be another lazy alcoholic rock musician who tours an album for four years. I want to have hundreds of songs to be able to choose from for the next album," Coleman continued. "I've recorded another album and EP, and they're just sitting on a hard drive at the moment and I'm wondering whether or not to release them," he went on. "So I'm just writing on top of that, cause I'm still kind of in tour mode for this first one at the moment. You're always a bit behind on where you are at creatively when it comes to releasing, you know. It's kind of like three phases. The writing, then the recording and the touring. So there's often a one and a half, good two year gap," he explained.
"I enjoy all of it a whole lot," was Coleman's response when asked whether he preferred performing live or recording in the studio. "Probably if I could only do one of them, it'd probably be writing, so combining writing with being in the studio. Performing is definitely fun, but it's a little more tiring in a way," he admit. "You've got the travelling but then just always being in front of people too. Because the writing and recording process is obviously very insular, and performing you're always trying to connect with people and entertain them, which is really fun but you've got to always bring in things to the table, they're not just going to love you if you're really tired and not giving anything," he went on to explain.
With a change of topic we went on to discuss the differences and similarities about the New Zealand and Australian music scene. "I don't know very much about the New Zealand music industry at all," Coleman honestly admits. (Which made me feel a little better considering I don't know a hell of a lot about the Australian scene.) "I know you guys have produced some fucking amazing songwriters, but I don't really know how the industry works over there," Coleman went on. "I suspect they've got similarities because we're both at the arse end of the world," he laughed, "as our populations are reasonably small. I've got no idea if this is correct, but i feel like Australians in general aren't that interested in original music, but the vibe that I get from New Zealanders when I meet them, is that they're really interested in the arts."
Nearing the end of the interview, Coleman filled me in on who he's currently listening to on his iPod. "Well this morning I was going on a bit of a shuffle experience and listening to Darren Hanlon, The Pogues, Feist, Nick Cave and Ball Park Music." Testing his New Zealand music listening I went on to ask who his favourite, (if he listened to any) kiwi artists are. "My favourite kiwi artist at the moment is Marlon Williams, you should really check out him," he replied. "I really like what Fat Freddy's Drop do and obviously Crowded House and The Finn Brothers. Liam Finn is cool as well," he declared. "You've got heaps of stuff going on."
Concluding the interview Coleman lastly filled me in on who his greatest musical influences are. "A great Australian Songwriter called Paul Kelly, he's a really fantastic writer and a big influence. Then the standards like The Beatles, Crowded House, Nick Cave, Amanda Palmer and Elliot Smith has been a huge one recently too," he concluded.