Curious about how long-time Aussie rockers Grinspoon might sound performed as a solo acoustic set? Frontman Phil Jamieson will show you how it’s done this November when he hits the road alone for his national tour. Following the recent release of the band’s seventh album Black Rabbits, Phil tells us a bit about what confuses and inspires as he pumps out nearly two decades of Grinspoon hits.
Phil’s 18 year career with Grinspoon has produced an abundance of ARIA nominated and awarded albums including Guide to Better Living and Thrills, Kills & Sunday Pills, with famously known hits like ‘Chemical Heart’ often holding deeper meanings than even Phil himself can understand.
“Sometimes it takes me years to figure out what songs are about when I write them,” Phil admits.
“Then I come back later and think, ‘oh, maybe that was about that’. It happens in the unconscious or the subconscious more than it does in real time.”
“I can’t identify exactly with the record, but it’s still inspired. I don’t exactly know what sign posts were there, and it might take me a decade to realise exactly what I was on about.”
Black Rabbits was recorded in August last year and the songwriting process began in 2010. While Phil confesses that he’s “not a really big fan of studios,” he says he enjoyed the LA recording sessions and feels the new album holds its strength.
“I think the recording speaks for itself, in a way. We got some great, great, great songs on it.”
“The 12 on there went through a discussion period of healthy debate amongst all the band members about what kind of direction it would take. The songs we were writing for the record that we were going to pitch for it were broad, but we figured that the songs fit best together as a collection.”
This healthy communication between band members is what Phil believes has held them together through so many years – combined with the fact that the musos don’t live anywhere near each other.
“We’re all pretty good friends and we just enjoy playing the gigs that we do, and it also helps that we’ve written reasonable songs on the way that help us enjoy that.”
“If the songs were really bad, that would be really horrible playing them over and over again for 18 years. The songs have to have merit, so that makes us have merit in some ways.”
Phil likes to keep the songs varied and feels the band’s output has changed “dramatically” over the years.
“I think the biggest thing in any kind of writing is you try not to repeat yourself, and so we go through certain phases,” Phil shares.
“I took it on myself to create broader palettes, different melodies, and different lyrics. Through our careers, we’ve kind of gone and done different things, so I think it’s about broadening what you can do. It’s about self improvement and trying to make the best song possible no matter what kind of genre.”
Phil challenges himself with his own words, as he plans to mix up the genre performing both original and Grinspoon songs with just his voice, acoustic guitar, and harmonica. What he definitely won’t be doing is aiming to impress audiences by riding on the back of Grinspoon’s fame, and he will avoid the band’s biggest hits at all costs.
“I think it would be unfair, in a way, to play all those hits by myself and go, ‘oh, look at me!’, so I do stuff that is more B-sides or stuff off the albums which is a bit more rare. I’ll be playing stuff that people know, but they’re certainly not FM style. The songs are quite different in their form when it’s just me. It’s definitely different to drums, bass, and me screaming.”
While he won’t be screaming on stage, Phil hopes to roar down the Tassie highways on motorbike. He uses his passion for riding to help gain awareness and support for youth mental health. Earlier this year, Phil finished a marathon five day ride from the Gold Coast to Adelaide for the Headspace charity event Rock ‘N’ Ride.
“Motorcycling is a passion of mine, but as long and as fun as it is, I want to get the message out there about young children who need help that we’re there for them.”
“Tasmania would be very beautiful place to ride around. I kind of did ask Harley for a bike, but then they twiddled their thumbs and looked at me in a strange way. So, I’m renting a small car – but I’m reaching out! If there’s anybody out there, tweet me and lend me a bike!”
Put your pedal to the metal with Phil Jamieson on November 13 at Launceston’s Irish Murphys, November 14 at Hobart’s Tattersalls Hotel, and November 15 at Devonport’s Tappas Lounge Bar.
BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE
This article featured in Warp Magazine, November 2013.
Image: Warp Magazine