Old Sounds

19 June 2013 | 9:12 pm | Steve Bell

"I’d been wanting to make a record like this for a long time, and I’d been talking about [it] – even as far back as when I was in my last band, Hitchcock’s Regret."

After years fronting various bands – most notably mid-2000s outfit Hitchcock's Regret – NSW Central Coast musician Mark Moldre recently embarked on a solo career, and any inherent risks involved in such an undertaking have already paid handsome dividends. His 2010 solo debut The Waiting Room earned serious plaudits, and after a lengthy gestation period his new follow-up, An Ear To The Earth, has already proved a more-than-worthy successor.

Possessing a vastly different tone to its predecessor, the album's folk-tinged indie stylings are characterised by watertight songwriting, deft imagery and imaginative arrangements, and it has a far coarser feel overall than his previous fare.

“I think I was heading that way in The Waiting Room, but as [it] was progressing it started changing – it didn't go where I originally thought it was going to go,” Moldre considers. “With this album I held my ground a bit more and took it to where I wanted it to go, which was a bit rawer and looser.

”I'd been wanting to make a record like this for a long time, and I'd been talking about [it] – even as far back as when I was in my last band, Hitchcock's Regret. You get into the studio, and especially when you're sitting in front of computers, you can sit there for so long taking songs in different directions, and they usually end up just more produced than you maybe planned them to be. This time we fed ourselves limitations and restrictions and I think that's maybe what I needed – just to have restrictions right from the beginning, so you have to get the take right the first time.”

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This new approach wasn't without its pitfalls – the process of songwriting itself suddenly proving more challenging for Moldre.

“To tell you the truth, normally [songwriting] comes a lot easier than it did this time,” he admits. “This time was really hard. I don't know why – maybe because in my mind I'd decided that I wanted to make a different kind of record. I really struggled this time, and I didn't want to write the way that I usually do – I didn't want to write about myself, I didn't want to write any sad songs... I just wanted to make a really different record to the last one, which was a pretty melancholy, so I forced myself to look for inspiration in places where I hadn't gone before. I was finding inspiration in books and movies and not writing like I normally would, which is from a diary and my own experiences – I wanted to look outside the box a little bit.”

And while this approach may partly account for the record's eclectic nature – it incorporates jazz tinges, calypso flourishes and elements of blues – there were some traditional touchstones as well.

“I was listening to a lot of old music this time around – when I say 'old music' I was listening to pre-war jazz and gypsy jazz, and I was listening to European folk music,” Moldre reveals. “I was listening to old calypso stuff and doing research – just hopping on YouTube and watching old clips. [That's] where a lot of the inspiration came from."