Graham Reid | | 5 min read
Elsewhere makes no secret of its admiration for the work of Auckland singer-songwriter Greg Fleming and his band the Working Poor.
Call them country-rock or rocking-country if you will, we think they just deliver hard-edged songs about real life and lives, snapshots of people and places, political and social commentary and much more.
Previous Fleming albums have ended up in our Best of Elsewhere annual lists, he penned a piece for us about the making of his album Forget the Past of 2014 (he's a journalist so is an astute writer) and answered a questionnaire for us way back in 2012.
His new album Get Off At Lincoln turns that highly focused eye on the detritus and people of his own suburb in West Auckland (the poetic and imagistic My Hood), self-loathing (Don't Like Me), the indifference of mainstream society to those at the bottom of the ladder (the brittle and bruising Country Don't Care) and much more.
It's another Greg Fleming and the Working Poor album, and that is a high compliment.
And here Greg offers us a track-by-track walk through of the songs.
The musicians are Greg Fleming - vocals/acoustic gtr; Andrew Thorne - elec gtr, acoustic slide, bvs; John Segovia - elec gtr; Nick Duirs - keys/piano, bvs; Mark Hughes – bass; Wayne Bell - drums, percussion, bvs, guitars
You can hear the album here on Spotify and listen while you read what Greg has to say about the songs . . . and stick around to the end for the wonderful Movie Version.
Get Off at Lincoln
This came about after giving directions to someone on how to get to my house. If you keep your ears open anything can become a song!
We started to mix this but I felt there was something missing. There was only Ollie, our engineer, and I there and he set me up with one of his Strats into a Fender Bassman, turned it up to 12 - it was the first time I’d played an electric guitar in about a decade. It was fun!
The guy in this song - he's sitting there in a ruined house; I see a table with a bottle on it, a chair, a dish rack - he's completely sabotaged his life - but there he is on the phone, begging his girl to come back one last time. A real West Auckland Romeo.
I love writers and musicians whose writing reflects a particular place - whether that's crime writer George Pelecanos' Washington D.C, Ronald Hugh Morrieson's Hawera or Lou Reed's New York. I've been writing about Auckland for many albums, but this one is really based out West. Every line of this track is true and I love where I live!
Most of this was written driving down Lincoln Road just looking out the window.
Every album I go in and tell the guys "let's make a hip hop record!" - they laugh because they think I’m joking - and we do what we do.
Don't Like Me
Sometimes to flip the songwriting switch I'll write for a specific person. It's a fun exercise - even if you end up singing them yourself. I wrote Memory and East for South Island country singer Cam Scott, and Flew in From Vegas from Working Poor Country was written with my favourite country singer in mind, the late great Merle Haggard to sing.
With this one I had Johnny Cash in mind, the late Rubin-produced Cash.
A song about self-loathing in the Instagram era - yeah, I think Johnny would've liked it.
Parts of the City
Just me and Working Poor pianist Nick Duirs - live in the studio. We tried it with a full band arrangement but this was better. I think this was the second take. This song came from getting lost when I visited San Francisco. I stumbled into the infamous Tenderloin district - the cover of 2016's To Hell With These Streets is a photo I took from that day.
It was 10 am and the place was rocking. I got offered lots of things by a man in a wheelchair, and by a one armed war veteran outside a laundromat. I declined but they liked me so much they started following me down the street. I love America!
The last song written for the record. Band learnt it Wednesday recorded it Saturday and what a hell of a drum track by Wayne Bell!
This song's about two lovers who have moved on but maybe haven't moved on that far. Everybody's a lot older than they think they are on this record.
"Heartbreak/ we can all take/ a couple of big ones/ then you're done".
Mr Bell added the cherry to this when he told me to go in and record "but I'm okay" line at the end.
My band are full of genius moments like this.
Another song written for a voice - this one with Etta James in mind. A song about revenge, murder, infidelity - and all the action takes place in the singer's head. I'd be quite happy writing songs for other artists, but I was born a few decades too late for that.
Yeah - we blatantly go after that Womack & Womack Teardrops vibe for this. Might be my fave track on the record.
Thank you Mark Hughes - without his enthusiasm for this song - it wouldn't have been recorded. He turned up with his big acoustic bass and said “come on, let's do it” and here it is.
Auckland again - CBD, not out West, but it could be about anyone, anywhere coming home.
"Baby buzz me up / it's gonna be alright".
Country Don't Care
The idea - mash up Aviator-period Steve Earle, Kendrick Lamar and Metallica match that to a song about a windscreen washer who used to work around Hobson Street. Close cousin of 2016's Sick of this Shit.
The Movie Version
Imagine going to a theatre and sitting down to watch the movie of your life. The regrets, the tears, the shame! Or maybe it's a beautiful cathartic experience. Who knows! Hopefully we all get the Hollywood treatment in the hereafter - attractive actors to play us, a script that plays up the heroics, the silver screen happy ending.
Get Off At Lincoln was engineered, mixed and mastered by Olly Harmer at The LAB Mt Eden