Back On Track

14 August 2012 | 6:30 am | Michael Smith

"Just about everything that’s happened to me has happened by chance."

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When singer/songwriter Paul Greene takes our call, he's just about to head off to the Snowys for a short run before he kicks off his next tour proper promoting Seek What You'll Find, the second single off his seventh album – and his first signed to a label – Behind The Stars. As it happens, he's only just back from three weeks in a place called Yanti in Shandong Provence in China's North East, at the invitation of a fan working in the area. “Just about everything that's happened to me has happened by chance,” he adds laughing.

“It always seems to go that way, but it was good and I'm definitely going to go back next year. The Chinese really liked it, but it's also a closed shop – you've got to know someone on the ground otherwise it doesn't work.

“I ended up playing in this one bar five nights a week, doing, like three or four hour shows and played all my own stuff and then played a few covers. It was like going back to square one but it felt good; it was a good change. I quite like just being in the trenches! Being in the pubs is still a huge part of where I'm from and a huge part of what I know I guess. So it was kind of like go back and playing in the North Gong [pub] again. It was a good reminder; I think by the end of it I was over it, but it was just such an adventure and I didn't know what to expect when I went.”

Towards the end of 2010, after a decade of living as the archetypal musical gypsy, constantly on the road, Greene found himself pretty much over being a musician altogether. “Your priorities change as you go and for me, I guess, ploughing through gig after gig after gig doing the pub circuit, for a very long time it felt like I was achieving something. It was fun and exciting and new and I think I owe everything I have now to that time that I invested in just the hard slog and doing crappy pub gigs. It could very easily have ground into a pulp but it seems to have actually been good.”

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Nonetheless he reached a point where there was just too much “housekeeping” to attend to, personally as well as professionally, and essentially stopped; didn't even pick up a guitar for three months. And that's when everything started happening for him. Among other things, he started getting invitations to produce records for other artists – he'd played everything on and produced his last album, Everywhere Is Home – among James Blundell's Golden Guitar-nominated album, Woolshed Creek, and, out of left field, was invited to front veteran Aussie Pub Rock band Spy Vs Spy, which got his rock chops up.

“One thing was figuring out a way that people would be able to get my records if they wanted them and the answer to that came through a meeting with ABC Music, and I ended up licensing a couple of albums from my back catalogue plus a new album, and I hadn't even planned, I hadn't been touring or anything so I didn't have any new songs, and they were the ones that said, 'We think you should put out a new record next year,'” he laughs. “So I said okay and set up my studio at home and started writing, which I'd never really done before.”

Greene had always written on the road, but he called in a rhythm section, picked up an electric guitar and the result is Behind The Stars.