The new record from Melbourne-based folk maestro Stephen Grady sees him further hone his craft and present a deeply touching and personal collection of songs. To celebrate the release of ‘Wonder’ (officially out this Friday), Grady takes us through it track by track and shares a first-listen.
After recording my most complex and diverse record Streets Of Gold, produced entirely on my own, I knew I needed to get back to basics. This record comes back to the core of what I do, which is singing and playing my nylon guitar. That’s how I write my songs and where I feel most comfortable. I’m really glad I made Streets Of Gold because it led me to make this record, which I’m very proud of. It taught me that in my music-making, simpler is best, and working with other people in the room is so important.
There are no electric guitars on this record, just my old nylon guitar. The songs were pulled together while playing live in the studio with my trusted producer and friend Roger Bergodaz, at Union Street Studio.
I wrote the song walking home from Essendon station after work one late afternoon last year. One reason that brought me to Melbourne from Queensland was to experience the seasons. Seasonal Melbourne is exciting, beautiful, and unpredictable all at the same time! I wanted to capture this feeling in a track like Spring, which was a fun track to record.
Hiding In The Dark
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Despite being a pretty straight forward song musically this was actually the hardest to record. I was determined to play it on piano and kept fighting for something that wasn’t working out. I eventually reverted back to my original strumming on guitar and once Roger Bergodaz (producer/drummer) gave it that punch and drive on the drums we nailed the track within a take or two. Half the battle of recording is capturing the initial vibe and essence from the songwriting process. I’m glad we got there in the end!
Lay It Down
Lay It Down could be considered the second half of the narrative following Hiding In The Dark. This is the moment where one has to call things as they are and say “I’ve had enough of hiding, let’s face this damn thing!” Recording this song was so much fun, despite the serious theme. I really wanted to create an open and relaxed feeling. I’d been listening to a lot of J.J. Cale and Stephen Stills and was inspired by their production and style, so I tried to throw a little of that in there to lighten the mood.
Boys Don’t Cry
Aside from being a rockin’ pop tune and hook by The Cure, the lyrics and message in this song resonate with me so strongly. I really wanted to slow it down and let the focus be on the words. It’s the first time I’ve included a cover on a release and I’m really proud of the performance. I’m really looking forward to playing this live and having a shared connection with ‘The Cure’ fans in the audience.
Before the pandemic I worked a day job as a delivery driver around Melbourne; often driving around the back streets and alleyways of the CBD. It was during these deliveries that I got an insight into the world of the homeless. We live in such a fast-paced world and it’s so easy to walk straight past those who are doing it tough. There is a lot of goodwill out there helping out those living on the streets and I hope the community in Melbourne can continue to support and find housing for them. We ran the nylon guitar through a small practice amp to give it some extra dirt and grit.
Probably the weirdest track on the record, and actually the oldest song on the record. It has an alternate tuning on the guitar which is a style I’m exploring more and more. It was fun to use a deeper register in my voice too. To give the song an additional element of spookiness we ran the vocals through an '80s delay outboard unit which created this strange reverse vocal delay effect. I love it!
Wonder is the title track from the album and the song I’m most proud of to date. Last year, I, along with two of my mates, went on an epic road trip last August across Victoria, South Australia, and the Northern Territory. While visiting Uluru we marvelled at the sheer size and beauty of the rock and native landscape; and experienced our own spiritual connection there. I love the Australian outback and I wanted to capture and respect its beauty in a song. The lyrics basically fell onto the page, and when it came to writing the music I kept thinking of Don McClean’s Vincent and what he would do.
The journey of a songwriter can be a long and winding road in more ways than one. I wrote this song in the back of a car on tour thinking and worrying about where the heck my life was going. Sometimes you really don’t have the answer and all you can do is close your eyes and trust the universe that you’re heading in the right direction. We added a cool synth bass in the chorus to give some extra depth.
A completely different upbeat version of this song nearly ended up on my Streets Of Gold record. There was something in the production that felt a little naff so I reworked the style of the song to a minor key to suit this record. The message of the song is pretty obvious but still something I wanted to say. It’s funny to listen to the track now living here in Melbourne during the pandemic, which has forced us to get to know our neighbours again. This is a big positive in my book!
Testing the Waters
This was another track that I recorded a version of for my Streets Of Gold record, but I felt it was overdone and the lyrics were getting lost. I wanted to strip everything away and let the lyrics and openness of the guitar tell the story. This was the first take and it just felt right straight away. It’s a personal favourite.
I Miss You More On Sundays
The idea for this song had been hanging around for quite a while but ended up being the hardest for me to finish! I wanted to simplify it and stripped back on non-essential lyrics until it sounded complete. I tried to record it a couple times with drums but it became clear that all the song needed was a guitar and voice. I was tempted to put this song a little higher in the track order but I like how the record closes out on a positive note. It is one of my top songs from the record and one that means a whole lot to me.