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Blind Dates & Building All The Bridges

11 August 2016 | 2:08 pm | Steve Bell

"I wanted to do it just to kind of kick myself in the ass and get it started."

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Melbourne singer-songwriter Liz Stringer has an intimate relationship with the Australian continent, having traversed its highways and byways endless times over the years taking her music to the country's far-flung regional outposts, as well as having penned many of her heartfelt country-folk songs about this vast brown land and its intriguing inhabitants.

Yet for her new fifth album All The Bridges she case her gaze abroad, decamping to Type Foundry Studio in Portland, Oregon to work with producer Adam Selzer (Fleet Foxes, The Decemberists, M Ward), an experience she describes as utterly reaffirming.

"I went into it not having massive expectations to be honest: I'd thought, 'If I come out of there with good demos I'll be stoked,'" Stringer admits. "Just because I didn't feel match fit. I wasn't writing much and I didn't feel really ready to make a record, but I wanted to do it just to kind of kick myself in the ass and get it started again and that's totally what it did."

And she'd chosen the locale on the back of some fairly knowledgeable recommendations.

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"Fuck, I was so nervous! It's like a blind date where you guys are all going to have this relationship, so hopefully you get on!"

"Mick Thomas is a good friend of mine and we were talking about recording and I just said, 'I don't know what I want to do next, I'm kind of a bit stuck', and he said that I should go to Portland and do it with Adam," Stringer recalls. "Because he'd recorded there, Darren Hanlon had recorded there and his partner Shelley [Short] lives in Portland and she's a great musician who's worked with Adam, so there's lots of connections. But it was really Mick's suggestion that got me thinking about it initially, and I did it — thank God!"

As well as having not met the producer prior to the session Stringer hadn't met the album's rhythm section either."I was shitting myself driving to that first rehearsal!" she laughs. "I was driving in to meet Adam and these two guys that were going to be the rhythm section — the spine of the album — and as soon as I got in there and felt great with Adam, we started jamming and it was really easy. They'd listened to the demos and had great ideas and were really into it, it was amazing. But fuck, I was so nervous! It's like a blind date where you guys are all going to have this relationship, so hopefully you get on!"

But ultimately it's All The Bridges' songs which sealed the deal, a musically diverse batch with a thought-provoking lyrical bent.

"I think that it's a very philosophical album," Stringer reflects. "There's a lot of musing on it, like I'm thinking about a lot of stuff. There's definitely something there lyrically reflecting a new phase in my life and the way that I was looking at the world. I was surprised that they felt more cohesive together than I'd thought, because the songs all jump around stylistically as well - they're not even all in the same genre - but somehow it manages to feel not disjointed and weird."