Guy Wishart wins 2017 Best Folk Album 29/1/2017
Kumeu local wins 2017 Folk Album Tui
West By North by Guy Wishart has tonight been announced as the winner of the 2017 Best Folk Album at the Auckland Folk Festival in Kumeu.
Returning from four years living in India and Thailand, the Auckland-based singer songwriter has emerged back on the scene with his fifth album West By North.
Guy and his band recorded the album at the historic Roundhead Studio in Auckland, which is owned by Neil Finn and has been the birthplace of many local and international tracks.
Recorded Music NZ CEO Damian Vaughan says Wishart’s continued musical momentum has produced a wonderful collection of folk music.
“It’s not every day you hear an album like West By North, something that paints the listener a uniquely New Zealand picture by one of our most talented folk musicians.”
The other finalists for the 2017 Folk Tui were Graeme James for News From Nowhere and Luke Thompson for Hosts.
The Auckland Folk Festival is an annual festival of music, song and dance held at Kumeu Showground, Northwest of Auckland.
Even though it has been many years since we last heard from Auckland singer-songwriter Guy Wishart — who won the Silver Scroll in 1990 — these mostly melancholy songs suggest a man who has been through some emotional pain in recent times.
Throughout these 12 new originals — essayed by a terrific country-rock/folk-rock band — there are image of broken dreams, departure, death, darkness, fading light, ennui and scars.
Taken individually these are emotionally powerful songs, but Wishart’s downbeat delivery throughout might be hard going for many.
So let’s single out some for individual attention: The swirling, gritty rock of Angry Love becomes magnificently claustrophobic as the maelstrom of guitars swirl around in inceeasing intensity; the reflective Kingsview Road speaks of that emotional emptiness and weariness which comes when reflecting on death (in this case that of a child it seems); the metaphorical Let Them Go is about allowing hurts to pass; River Red has a doom laden sound and alludes to those who have fallen in long-gone battles . . .
The final piece Baby Don’t You Cry — a beautiful, slow and reflective ballad with weeping pedal steel — holds up a candle of hope and optimism in the face of the preceding darkness.
Wishart and his band have crafted an extraordinary album of emotional depths which are rarely explored with such consistency in this country. But that doesn’t make for a comfortable ride and you do wonder if the running order favours the songs.
It can be easy to miss the aching resonance of Gone (“even though I’m here, I’m gone”) and the heartfelt separation song Palm of Your Hand (“darling this life is a lonely ride, look at me I’ve nowhere to hide”) if you attempt to undertake this in one sitting.
As crafted as Neil Finn, as deep as Townes Van Zandt and at home in the company of Guy Clark, John Prine or James McMurtry, these songs pull you in . . . but are best appreciated in short encounters so they go straight to the head and heart.
NZ MUSICIAN Magazine Article June/July 2016
Guy Wishart answered our Famous Elsewhere Songwriter Questionnaire here.
Graham Reid | | 6 min read
Auckland singer-songwriter Guy Wishart has been missing in action for far too long. But we forgive him, for the past four years he has been living in India and Thailand.
Those with long memories however will recall that 1990 was his year: he won the Silver Scroll for his song Don’t Take Me For Granted (from the album of the same name) and also picked up Most Promising Male Vocalist at the music awards.
Until his new album West by North recorded at Roundhead and released this week he had produced four albums under his own name and two with his band Selon Recliner.
But that was a while ago and now he is back.
The forthcoming tour and album features a cracking band of Alan Brown (organ), Glenn Ross Campbell (pedal and lap steel), Peter Diprose (electric guitars), Andrew Horst (bass), Jenny Horst and Darlene Te Young (backing vocals), John Olding (guitar and pedal steel) and Michael Te Young (drums).
The tour dates are below.
Elsewhere has always held an affection for Wishart’s work so it is a pleasure to ffer him our Famous Elsewhere Songwriter Questionnaire . . .
The first song which really affected you was . . .
My Father by Judy Collins. It affected me as it mirrored some of my own life, growing up in a small town, having all your older brothers and sisters move away, imagining the future in some other place. In her song, she is the youngest daughter of an American coal miner. He tells her they will one day live in France and go boating on the Seine. In my life, my father died when I was one, and his dreams were passed on by my brothers and sisters. The sense of sadness created by the father’s inability to fulfill the dream, is softened as the daughter describes her life in Paris.
Your first (possibly embarrassing) role models in music were . . .
Crosby Stills and Nash, as they were melodic, their harmonies were exceptional, and they had a sense of romantic mysticism that appealed to me. “Renaissance Faire” was my favourite album, I still have the vinyl. Other artists that were important at the time were Elton John (gasp!) for his self titled album and “Madman across the Water”. Sandy Denny “The North Star Grassman and the Ravens”, Carol King “Tapestry”, Neil Young (Harvest), Yes (Close to the Edge), Steely Dan, “Can’t buy a Thrill”, Sgt Peppers as for everyone,
The one songwriter you will always listen to, even if they disappointed you previously, is?
Shayne Carter has produced some of the most innovative and exciting music here or anywhere. He pushes himself forward into new territory and leaves the past behind. Dimmer is my favourite of his and the bands incarnations.
As songwriters: Lennon-McCartney or Jagger-Richards; kd lang or Katy Perry; Madonna or Michael Jackson; Johnny Cash or Kris Kristofferson?
These are very hard. The synergy between Lennon and McCartney is so good, it produced startlingly good songs that pushed forward over time. I tend to prefer Richards solo albums over the Stones ones, so I obviously don’t rate their partnership as highly. I would pick kd lang. She writes very well, but the delivery sometimes makes me want to lift the needle before the end of the album. Perry is a pop princess with very refined pop sensory awareness. Michael is the stand out winner against Madonna, but I have never loved either to any depth as so many have done. Johnny takes the lead against Chris, although I prefer Roy Orbison’s unhip vulnerability much more.
The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they are well crafted are . . .
“All that heaven will allow “-Bruce Spingsteen, “Both Sides Now”- Joni Mitchell, “Fast Car”- Tracey Chapman. Each of these songs somehow stays in the moment, leading the listener along, revealing a coherent and compelling story or revelation. Springsteen steps into the shoes of a young guy desperate to impress his girl, pleading with the bouncer to let him in. He repeatedly describes her as “all that heaven will allow” to show the degree of his infatuation. “Both Sides Now” is an equally unified song of regret and retrospective understanding, the 2000 version is so achingly beautiful it’s hard not to be moved by it. “Fast Car” is an equally unified song that conjures the desperation to get away from what seems an intolerable situation for a young girl.
Melody first? Words or phrase first? Simultaneous?
Melody is always first for me, usually using guitar, but sometimes bass or piano. Once a tune makes an emotional or physical connection, various possible vocal phrases are attempted using any words that scan ok. The general structure of the song is worked through repeatedly, while searching for memorable phrases that match the emotional direction of the song. From here it seems to be just hard work, trying to develop the song around the central idea/emotion, which tends to be the chorus. Sometimes it’s fast, sometimes painfully slow, sometimes it never comes together…the moment has gone.
The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .
Sadly, I don’t read many books on musicians. I know Keith Richards “Life” is really good, as is David Crosby’s “Long Time Gone”, because my wife Michelle reads me sections of the books she loves the most. It’s usually online articles about artists that I find myself reading.
If you could co-write with anyone it would be . . .
Ron Sexsmith. I loved his self titled 1995 album, and played it heaps. His beautifully crafted songs with their lazy delivery appeal to me greatly, and he’s Canadian.
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)
The Broken Heartbreakers-“How we got to now”, was the last CD I bought. I met Rachel Bailey, who is in the band, on a flight to Dunedin. She is very passionate about NZ music and described how the album was made and the story behind some of the songs, as well as the bands history. I like the album a lot, with the stand out song for me being “Swipe Card Valley”. The most recent download was Tiny Ruins and Hamish Kilgour’s EP, “Hurtling Through”. It has a haunting percussive minimalism, creating loads of space around Hollie’s vocal. Cool dark indie folk.
One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn’t embarrass you would be . . .
“Don’t Give up”- Peter Gabriel. It has been around long enough to know if it has embarrassment potential. Possibly because the version on “So” with Kate Bush is so intimate and fragile, it exposes the insecurities most of us feel at some time.
One line (or couplet) from a song — yours or someone else’s — which you think is just a stone cold winner is . . .
“Standing on the water, casting your bread. While the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing” The roaring start to Bob Dylan’s “Jokerman”. He follows up with “Distant ships sailing into the mist. You were born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing”
Songwriting: what’s the ratio of inspiration/perspiration?
For me, it’s largely the later (2:8), although no amount of effort seems to save a bad idea. In the process, you rely on inspiration to redirect you out of a dead end road, where the song is being run over repeatedly, with no new ideas, and generating new levels of frustration. A good song might hopefully have a road worn appeal from all those tyre marks.
Ever had a song come to you fully-formed like it dropped into your lap?
Not really. I hear of people that wake up and write lyrics all over their sheets, then quickly record a rough demo, but that has never happened to me. Songs seem to be written fast or slow, there isn’t much in the middle. When there is a very clear idea for a song, and that moment is not broken by events around you, songs can be written in 20 minutes. What is strange about this is that subconsciously, the song has usually been developing for some time. The writing of it seems to be the joining of the parts of a puzzle that until that moment was not possible.
And finally, finish this couplet in any way you like: “Standing at the airport with an empty suitcase
at my feet . . .” (You are NOT allowed to rhyme that with “meet” however)
some memories you throw away, some others you can keep.
WAIKATO PRESS REVIEW
NOR-WEST NEWS. April 28, 2016
“West by North” album
It’s been awhile since indie folk singer songwriter, Guy Wishart has released an album of his own, but his latest offering of 12 songs has been worth the wait. A previous Silver Scroll winner, Guy recently recorded his 5th album ‘West By North’ at Auckland’s Roundhead Studio. After writing and releasing 2 albums with Auckland band “Selon Recliner“, Wishart was ready to focus on his indie folk material again. “The band practised the songs over a period of months, so in the studio, each track was recorded as a full band, playing and singing simultaneously. We did three to four takes, while Derek listened to and selected the best versions.” “It was an interesting experience, recording this way and I think it gives the tracks a more cohesive sound overall. It’s not without imperfections, but this makes it more human and less clinical.” The indie folk feel, has had elements of alt country added on this album thanks to the legendary Glen Ross Campbell’s amazing pedal steel playing.
HISTORY and REVIEWS
This is Guy’s fifth solo album, with his last one released back in 1998. So why the long gap? “Well, quite a few things happened really. In 98 we adopted our first and only child, Ella. There is no way to describe how a child turns your world upside down, making it all about them. I retrained as a Science teacher, something I swore I would never do, given how much I disliked college. We moved to central Auckland, our friends, Perry and Belinda Bradley lived down the road. Belinda and I trialled a songwriting collaboration which led to the formation of Selon Recliner. It was quite different working with a group of overly talented, opinionated people, as they transformed the songs to a style none of us were expecting them to go. I would turn up to practice with a song idea and quickly the song would morph into something almost unrecognisable. The lack of control was something I had to get used to, but I really enjoyed the creative experience. There were good songs that didn’t fit Selon Recliner’s sound no matter what we did. I still wanted them to see the light of day, so collected them up and recorded them for the new album.”
So you lived in Asia for several years. What was happening there? “My wife Michelle has always been keen on travel more, so when the chance came up to move to India for 2 years in 2008, we took it. What a great country! The music is so complex and different, it feels like you would need a lifetime to understand it. I’d like to say living there changed me musically, and I did buy a sitar in Udaipur, even took lessons! The reality is, making a connection to Indian music would have been at best, superficial and disingenuous and at worst, humiliating. We moved to Bangkok next. I joined a band called ‘The Farangutans’, a mix of Scots and English guys who played in bars and cafes in the central city. I loved the way that music spilled out onto the street and roofs of Bangkok. There was a great sense of musical fusion going on, with Thai and Furangs (Foreigners) playing a wide range of styles. I started writing more songs in Bangkok, the heat is oppressive outside for much of the year, so some days I spent under aircon piecing together fragments of ideas. We moved back to New Zealand in 2012. I joined up with Selon Recliner again and we continued recording, with an album due for release later this year.”
What about your earlier years? “ I grew up in Tauranga. My parents were both doctors. Dad was a cellist and bass player in the local orchestra. He dreamed of quitting medicine and travelling the world, although various conductors advised him that he would have a hard job supporting his family this way and he was already a well respected physician. He had been a medic in the armed forces in New Caledonia during WWII and spent time with a French family who played violin, viola, cello and bass. His dream then became to start a family orchestra. Unfortunately he died early from a heart attack, but everyone in the family could sing and play an instrument, even if it was not the one he would have chosen for them.
At 12, I got my first guitar and started learning classical from Sister Teresa, a local nun. She was strict, but kind and helped develop some useful skills. After leaving Massey University, I met Steve Garden in Auckland. I had a few songs written and wanted to record them. We ended up doing 2 albums together. Steve produced them as I had no idea what production even was, and learnt a lot about the recording process by just watching how he approached things. The next 2 albums were produced by Phil Yule. “Don’t take me for granted” was picked up by CBS/Sony with the support of Graham Reid and other music journalists who wrote several complementary reviews of the album. The title track from the album went on to win the APRA Silver Scroll the following year as well as a “Most promising Male Vocalist” at the NZ music awards. We did a fair bit of travelling through the country’s small and large towns over the next few years. New demos were done for Sony before travelling to England via the US. We travelled for 5 months around the States and Canada and visited Sony Publishing managers in the major music cities. In Nashville, friends from NZ were carving out a living as an originals band, touring the US and living a fairly cash strapped existence. It was tough, and there were so many good looking, super talented people who were struggling to get a foot on the ladder, it was a little off-putting. In London I was advised to form songwriting partnerships with other hit writers. This was reliant on finding workable combinations which unfortunately, I didn’t have much joy with. Family issues resulted in us returning to NZ after 2 years where Phil Yule produced his 98 release, “Circus,” which was recorded at Phil’s home studio, The Voice Box.”