THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE SONGWRITER QUESTIONNAIRE: Lawrence Arabia

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What Became of That Angry Young Man
THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE SONGWRITER QUESTIONNAIRE: Lawrence Arabia

Because Elsewhere did an in-depth interview with Lawrence Arabia (known at school as James Milne) a couple of years ago, this time out we have flicked the APRA-award winning gentleman our Famous Elsewhere Songwriter Questionnaire.

The reason being is that he's just released a new album Absolute Truth – songs written after the birth of his first child so “It wasn't a time for self-indulgence or misery. Even the tiniest free moment of reflection felt like a blessing” – and he's about to embark on a national tour.

Actually because we like his albums (see here) we didn't really need any excuse. 

As always he proves more than just interesting . . .

The first song which really affected you was . . .

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Your first (possibly embarrassing) role models in music were . . .

Pink Floyd

The one songwriter you will always listen to, even if they disappointed you previously, is?

Paul McCartney

As songwriters: Lennon-McCartney or Jagger-Richards; kd lang or Katy Perry; Madonna or Michael Jackson; Johnny Cash or Kris Kristofferson?

Lennon-McCartney, kd lang, Michael Jackson, Kris Kristofferson. I realise these are all the boring answers.

The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they are well crafted are . . .

Of mine, I think “The Listening Times” is a pretty well balanced combination of elements. Some other folks? The Velvet Underground's “I'll Be Your Mirror” is a pretty perfect love song – so simple yet full of lines of such sad wisdom that they bring you to tears if you give them a moment of consideration. I find it hard to separate production and performance with songwriting sometimes, but I've been obsessed with Fleetwood Mac's “Over and Over” from Tusk for a while now – it somehow just achieves a sublime effect – it doesn't need analysis – whatever harmonic tensions are going on just hit you in the gut.

Melody first? Words or phrase first? Simultaneous?

Simultaneous, ideally – saves on work! Usually melody first though.

41OpesqIJxLThe best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .

Some of “How Music Works” by David Byrne was pretty enlightening, especially the stuff about songwriting which really demystified his process in such a way that it gave me some confidence to not fear songwriting so much. Yes, I sometimes fear songwriting – it almost always comes so much out of nowhere that I really have no idea how it happens, so consequently, when I want it to happen, I'm really not sure how to create those conditions.

If you could co-write with anyone it would be . . .

Macca. Or Ray Davies. Or Tay-Tay for the money. (Hedging there sorry!)

The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)

Broadcast's “Haha Sound” on record. Recent downloads = Michael Nau – “Mowing,” Eerie Wanda – “Hum” and Radiohead's new one.

One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you would be . . .

A song which keeps coming to mind when I consider this question – I'm sure it is a fantasy of most songwriters –  is “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles. It definitely is a song which would have achieved that goal for its writers.

One line (or couplet) from a song -- yours or someone else's -- which you think is just a stone cold winner is . . .

“Please don't confront me with my failures – I had not forgotten them.”

Songwriting: what's the ratio of inspiration/perspiration?

For me about 80% insp/20% persp.

Ever had a song come to you fully-formed like it dropped into your lap?

Yeah, a few times – probably never the whole song exactly, but I seem to remember “Talk About Good Times” and “Apple Pie Bed” both sort of materialising as a combination of lyrics and melody and flowing from section to section as if it was something that already existed and just had to be sung out loud to confirm it.

And finally, finish this couplet in any way you like: “Standing at the airport with an empty suitcase at my feet . . .” (You are NOT allowed to rhyme that with “meet” however)

“a target on my forehead and a bomb upon the seat.”

arabiaTHE ABSOLUTE TRUTH TOUR


Wednesday 13 July ~ Oamaru ~ Grainstore Gallery

Thursday 14 July ~ Queenstown ~ Sherwood

Friday 15 July ~ Dunedin ~ Maori Hill Coronation Hall

Saturday 16 July ~ Christchurch ~ Blue Smoke

Friday 22 ~ July Napier ~ Cabana

Saturday 23 July ~ Wellington ~ San Fran

Friday 29 July ~ Auckland ~ Crystal Palace

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