Carrying The Load

12 December 2012 | 5:45 am | Brendan Telford

"I poured a lot into this, and I’m glad it came out the way it did... It’s just life, y’know? I knew these songs were a bit more fragile than previous things that I had written before."

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It has been some time since Willy Mason has had new material floating in the ether. He hasn't been quiet; rather, a heady touring schedule pushed him into looking for solace and some time to redefine his songwriting. He's spent the better part of the last 12 months working in London with Dan Carey (Yeasayer, The Kills) on what has become third album Carry On, and his affinity with the producer combined with the isolation of being in a new, foreign city helped centre his creative energies.

“I had most of the album written before I went into the studio, so [being in London] didn't influence me in that way, but it helped me to focus,” Mason admits. “Working with Dan allowed me to learn more about the process of producing music. He has done a lot and knows certain things about being in a studio that I haven't learnt yet. Being over there though allowed me to keep entirely focused on the record, because London is a strange place to me, and I didn't have the usual distractions of being at home. It was easier to lose myself. Working with Dan, I knew that everything was in safe hands, so I could pour everything into the voice.”

Mason's previous albums used a narratological perspective to explore philosophical themes. Carry On contains a shift, focusing on more personal introspection than ever before. But despite the personal ruminations, there's still a lot of philosophising going on that fans will identify with.

“I poured a lot into this, and I'm glad it came out the way it did,” Mason states. “It's just life, y'know? I knew these songs were a bit more fragile than previous things that I had written before. Music is a place where philosophy and the personal combine. I think music does give you the chance to get philosophical in a way that's less abstract than it would be otherwise.”

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Carry On also displays delineation in musical prowess, with Mason willing to not so much throw off the shackles as find new ways to coerce the music out. The time he took off helped to redefine the songwriting process.

“I put less time into arrangements on Carry On, for sure,” Mason espouses. “Songwriting was the primal focus for me. I feel lucky to have had a chance to have time off; I needed it, the songwriting needed it. With this album, I had to be patient; I was taking the chance to tackle subjects that are a little bit more elusive, a little harder to pin down with words compared with what I went after on the first two albums. I'm not too sure how well I succeeded, but there are some lines on this album where I know I'm proud of right away. It's been more about letting the songs write themselves and not try to fit them into a pattern for the gratification of the listener.”

Mason's music is still steeped in the folk tradition; modern variations of the genre often stretch the concept thin, which is something he sees as a two-way street. “I take it [a couple of] ways I guess. My influences all come from what I consider to be folk music, which is a music that has evolved within the broadest communities. So the definition of folk music and the folk music I grew up with is something I'm very proud to be a part of and considered a part of, which means I've stolen a lot of ideas from a lot of music that I really like. As far as being in the so-called folk genre today, that's a complicated term, because I think today's definition is a lot smaller. It's not like a genre shelf at a record store; it's an approach to music.”   

Willy Mason will be playing the following dates:

Tuesday 2 April – The Metro, Sydney NSW
Wednesday 3 April – The Metro, Sydney NSW
Thursday 4 April – Moonshine Bar @ The Hotel Steyne, Sydney NSW
Friday 5 April – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane QLD
Saturday 6 April – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
Sunday 7 April – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC