SEVEN YEARS –AN INSIGHT

Recorded and produced by Matt Joe Gow and Andrew Pollock (who mixed the album) `Seven Years’ takes its title from the chorus lyrics of a song (`Steady Life’) from Matt’s 2009 debut album `The Messenger’: “Seven years are gonna change a man . . . ”.

Seven years have also changed some songs. Take the track `Down River’  — initially titled `The Messenger’ and recorded at Sing Sing Studios with Nash Chambers for Matt’s 2009 debut album. The song evolved via years of touring and has been reborn as a different beast.

And time alters people, too, of course.

For example, the third verse on `Georgia Rose’ speaks about the death of Matt’s grandfather and his memories of him as a child; `Right by You’ documents the end of a long-term relationship that had begun in Matt’s hometown (Dunedin, New Zealand) and finished in Melbourne; while `Runnin’ on Time’ is the sound of a band on the road, trying to win over new audiences with some loud rock ‘n’ roll.

Elsewhere, `Bye’ is an example of a new approach to some traditional ideas. “I had written it as a finger-picked song but I sent the song to my long-time friend Chris Elliot, who has been involved in the MJG project for a long time, and he hated the first verse lyrics.  He just didn’t get why I was singing about `smoking being better than TV’. It was like Morrisey singing over Townes Van Zant and at that point I knew I had something I wanted to keep.

“I played it live a couple times (solo, acoustic, finger-picked) but we decided to try a more Beck `Sea Change’ approach. There is still an acoustic there and a lovely female vocal from my friend Ange Takats (a Brisbane folk singer) to anchor it to the album, but there are also nice surprises like Andy’s Spanish-esque tenor guitar solo.

“ On `Flowers In Your Hair,’ I had Bill Chambers singing the duet with me.  However, it just didn’t have that spark and sat on the shelf until Andy’s cousin Katya, came and sang on the track. When I heard her voice I knew that as much as I love Bill, he had lost his spot singing on that song! He still plays the lap-steel on that one but now it’s a real duet and has given the song more meaning. We recently filmed a video for that one.

“We used a lot of the same musicians who played on the first album, steering away from combining The Dead Leaves musicians too often,“ Matt explains.

“That’s me on the harmonica. I think when I made the first album I had been blowing it in a Dylan style, on the harp rack, but on this album I had worked on my cross-harp over the years, hung out in blues clubs and came back wanting to use a little more of that so it’s there on `Runnin’ on Time’. `Bitter Pill’ had a really nice harp part on it, too, but Andrew Pollock came in with this raucous guitar part and it all bled into one and I preferred that in the end.”

Pollock, also of The Dead Leaves, is back on guitar for `Seven Years’, although Matt stresses Pollock is much more than just a guitarist these days. A talented arranger, he constructed a range of three-part harmonies such as on `Grand Ambition’ and `Georgia Rose’.  Chris Elliot, who featured on drums on Matt’s debut album, returns on bass (he also played a hand in engineering at one point).

“We have a few other musicians who have featured along the way — Bill Chambers, Ange Takats, Katya Harrop . . . The idea these days is just to have a bunch of friends whom I trust musically.  From there it’s a pretty relaxed atmosphere.”

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