Like so many others, Hamish Anderson thought he’d be spending 2020 quite differently than it’s turned out. But he’s making the best of it: Instead of touring the world to promote his excellent 2019 release Out Of My Head, the Australian rocker has been keeping busy releasing online-only performances of songs from the album, the latest of which, an acoustic version of “The Fall,” (all services) is premiering here today at American Songwriter.
Anderson also took time to speak to American Songwriter from his native country, where he talked about finding the bright side of the new normal. “It’s just the adapt-or-fall behind method,” Anderson says. “Like the video you guys have of me doing the song. That’s been my past three months, just in this room, acoustic guitar, stripped-back playing. I wish I could be out there playing live with the band and doing it. But I’m trying to make the best of it.”
“It does remind me that a couple years back, that’s how I started, just me, by myself, playing acoustic guitar. And when I write that’s still the way it is. Working with Jim Scott (who produced Out Of My Head), he says that before you can start thinking about guitar solos and basslines and all that stuff, you have to be able to play the song on acoustic guitar, start to finish. And if it holds up like that, then it’s a song. That’s the good thing about right now. Playing those songs acoustic, it really makes you hone in on the actual songwriting part of the job.”
Speaking of songwriting, Anderson came up with “The Fall” as a kind of complete thought all at once, even as it was a bit of a departure for him. “It’s kind of about a friend of mine who at the time was running off the tracks a little bit,” he explains. “It was a little bit of a warning song. That was new territory for me writing-wise, musically and lyrically. It was warning someone if they’re not careful, they are heading for a fall. Musically, I don’t know how much of it came out in the final product, but I was listening to a lot of Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, kind of neo-soul type of stuff. There are probably more chords in that song than probably any song I’ve ever written. Hopefully that feel crept in.”
“With this song, it very much kind of rolled out. It was one of those songs, and these are always the best songs, where it was almost like fully-written. People like Keith Richards and Tom Petty have talked about how you’re just like an antenna to pick up a signal and go with it. That’s kind of the way that this one was. It fell into my lap and rolled out. And it was all pretty quick. The music and the lyrics came at the same time, which always makes it a lot easier.”
One of things that you’ll notice about hearing “The Fall” that’s emblematic of Anderson’s music is how he chooses restraint and subtlety over grand musical gestures, something that isn’t always the case in the blues-rock genre. “I think because all of my favorite guitarists were songwriters,” he explains. “And I think that from a young age I got into that. George Harrison is a perfect example of someone who is an amazing guitarist. But the solos he would play are so melodic, you can sing every note of them. Whether it was Keith Richards or Eric Clapton or B.B. King or any of those people, they had that kind of economy as a guitarist, letting space happen and not filling up every single gap. That to me has always been what I’m interested in, compared to someone who can just rip a thousand notes a second and tear up and down the neck.”
Of course, Anderson could never have expected opening line of “The Fall” (“Drifting aimlessly from day to day”) to be so unintentionally relevant in these formless days. “That’s what I’m doing right now and everyone is doing, is “drifting aimlessly” and “letting it all slip away,” he laughs. “Now every time I sing it, that’s all I can think about.”
Photo by: Ted Eytan