Graham Reid | | 3 min read
For a while there, over a decade ago, the New Zealand country singer Glen Moffatt seemed to be everywhere, and at the close of the Nineties and into the new decade he released three excellent albums: Somewhere in New Zealand Tonight, A Place to Play and If That's What You Want.
As those titles suggest, Moffatt could offer some commentary on the lot of the country troubadour who travels around playing in corner bars and small venues.
But for over a decade he has been off our radar and as a friend recently said, "He must have died . . . or gone to Australia".
Fortunately it was the latter, and over in Queensland he has been still quietly working away.
His name has apeared again in the past few weeks because he is one of the artists on the excellent double CD compilation Godzone Country; The Very Best of New Zealand Country Music with his terrific song about the working life in music Somewhere in New Zeland Tonight which had seen him as a finalist in the songwriter of the year category in '96.
And, as if by happy coincidence, he also has a new album out Superheroes and Scary Things.
It's a true trans-Tasman affair with sessions recorded in Auckland and Australia and with a similarly Australasian cast (including New Zealanders Neil Hannan, Ben Gilgen and Gordon Joll alongside Australian country legend Bill Chambers, who has recorded Moffatt songs).
Chambers co-writes one piece with Moffatt (When She Drinks) and Moffatt also shares credits with Kerry Jacobsen, Larry Killip and others. There's also a terrific song Chameleon co-written with his mentor and inspiration, the late Ritchie Pickett.
It is a classic story-telling, rocking country album and as good as anything you might get out of Nashville, but with an antipodean twist.
So it was timely to turn over our specificlly tailored songwriter's questionnaire to Glen Moffatt, father of three, former journalist (which explains his word skills), once so well known that Chris Knox did that caricature of him . . . and one of New Zealand's finest musical exports.
The first song which really affected you was . . .
‘Yes, We’ll Leave the Lights On’ written by Ritchie Pickett and Alan Badger. Country music namechecking Sydney and the King Country. A revelation.
Your first (possibly embarrassing) role models in music were . . .
John Hore Grenell, Shakin’ Stevens, Kiss, Elvis Presley.
The one songwriter you will always listen to, even if they disappointed you previously, is?
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.
The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they are well crafted are . . .
‘Promised Land’ by Chuck Berry, ‘Burning the Ballroom Down’ by Amazing Rhythm Aces, ‘Ocean in His Eyes’ by Jimmy Webb. That’s today’s three, anyway.
Melody first? Words or phrase first? Simultaneous?
You never can tell.
The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .
‘Star Making Machinery: Inside The Business Of Rock And Roll’ by Geoffrey Stokes.
If you could co-write with anyone it would be . . .
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)
Last CD was ‘Godzone Country: The Very Best of New Zealand Country Music’ (wasn’t sure if I’d get a comp), last vinyl album a promotion-only copy of ‘Power Play’ by Dragon (talked the shopkeeper down from $50 to $40), don’t really like downloads – I need a booklet with all the musicians, songwriters and liner notes.
One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you would be . . .
‘Suspicious Minds’ written by Mark James.
One line (or couplet) from a song -- yours or someone else's -- which you think is just a stone cold winner is . . .
“You look like you could take candy from a baby/I’ve seen you do it, homewrecker” – ‘Homewrecker’ by Nick Lowe.
Songwriting: what's the ratio of inspiration/perspiration?
It’s probably 25% inspiration, 75% perspiration.
Ever had a song come to you fully-formed like it dropped into your lap?
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)
This is an equal royalties split, right? ALWAYS sort that out before finishing any couplet.
Glen Moffatt's Superheroes and Scary Things is available through SDL Music here or through iTunes.