Loved Paul Dempsey's 'Under Pressure' Cover With Bernard Fanning? He Tells Us All About It

27 August 2020 | 10:58 am | Jessica Dale

"It just stunned me all over again what a brilliantly constructed song it is."

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Earlier this month, two of Australia's most-loved frontmen and solo artists - Something For Kate's Paul Dempsey and Powderfinger's Bernard Fanning - shared a stellar rendition of Queen & David Bowie's classic Under Pressure.

The pair recorded the track from their respective homes and have now shared the video via Something For Kate's social media channels, saying it's "something for Victoria" amid the current lockdowns. 

Dempsey has now shared some insight into the making of the cover with The Music

How did you choose this track and why did you want to take it on with Bernard?
Since the second lockdown began here in Melbourne I’ve been jumping on Instagram Live every few nights to play a song. We all understand that we have to do what’s necessary to flatten the curve a second time but you could feel the general mood in Melbourne really take a dive when we started another six weeks of lockdown in the middle of winter.

I just felt like playing a song every few nights was a way of reaching out and hopefully giving people a few minutes of escape or reprieve or distraction.

Bernard and I had sung Under Pressure together once before (with You Am I at the Concert For Kate benefit last year). I was singing it around the house and it just felt particularly significant right now ("Watching some good friends screaming / 'Let me out!'") so I thought about doing it again the next time I jumped on Instagram and then I figured I may as well invite Bernard to try a really stripped back acoustic version and he was totally into the spirit of the thing and just wanting to give people a little something to brighten their day. 

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What's the reaction been like to the cover? 
People appear to have enjoyed it very much.

Can you tell us about recording with each other from other states? What was this process like?
It’s pretty much exactly as you see it. I recorded one take live at home with a guitar and a microphone and sent it to Bernard and he added his vocal live in one take and sent it back to me and I just balanced the levels and there you go. And we both filmed ourselves doing the above on our iPhones and I threw the sound and vision together (no pun intended). The whole process was about as simple and stripped back as the version itself.

Is there a cover that you haven't tackled yet that's still on your wishlist? 
There’s no wishlist. Playing a cover is a pretty spontaneous and often it’s just because I get a song stuck in my head and I want to see if I can cover all the essential elements of the song with just one guitar because that’s just a fun thing to do. There’s something satisfying for me about taking a big complex arrangement and making it work on an acoustic guitar and it’s always a true testament to just how well a song is written when you can pull all of the ‘studio’ stuff off it and it still stands up. 

When I started humming Under Pressure at home I grabbed the guitar initially because I was just curious to see if I could interpret it in a way that covered the bass line, the piano bits and the important melodic elements and, in doing so, it just stunned me all over again what a brilliantly constructed song it is.

Check out Dempsey & Fanning's version of Under Pressure below. 

Paul Dempsey

Bernard Fanning