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LLOYD SPIEGEL: THE ‘BACKROADS’ INTERVIEW


Despite the sparseness of personnel on most of the tracks on Lloyd Spiegel’s new album Backroads, there seems to be a hell of a lot going on sonically. Following on from his 2017 accomplished release This Time Tomorrow, Backroads sees Spiegel further develop as a craftsman of song and conjurer of sounds. Uncharacteristically, Spiegel straps on the electric guitar for much of the album and moves effortlessly from dirty, distorted guitar tones to slower tempo, soulful scorchers and even ventures into a bold, brassy New Orleans-style party vibe. Backed chiefly by his regular partner in crime drummer Tim Burnham, Lloyd calls on a few musician mates to add some flourishes here and there but by and large it’s Lloyd and Tim, as it will be when the national Backroads tour kicks off in June. Ahead of the tour Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips caught up with Lloyd for a chat about the making of Backroads

Once you’d decided you were going to make another studio album, what was thought process in regard to material? Was there a pattern or theme emerging with the songs that you’d written or wanted to write?
I tend to just start writing because there’s a deadline. I wish I could say it was different and I wrote all year but I forget to do that. I just get to a point in the year where it is time to do another studio session and I tend to write most of it in the studio. I get in there with three or four half written songs and then I travel around in the car with the tapes and listen and write words while I travel until I have finished the album. Writing in the car with the music already happening seems to be the best way for me to do it.

Tell me about the album title.
Backroads! It kind of spawned due to the artwork which was being done. I had this image in my head of an old vehicle that a friend of mine drew up for me, so the title came after that. Listening back to the songs, I tend to name the album long after it has been recorded because I want it to reflect the album. So Backroads came partly because of the picture and partly because I was listening to the tracks and realised that I had written a lot of songs about my life outside of music, about those little moments that have happened to the side of everything I was focussed on in my life. We present ourselves as one thing on social media and on the website and on stage but there’s a lot going on in your life, so this album is really about that, hence the title Backroads.

Why did you decide to pick up the electric guitar for this album?
I’d been invited out by Geoff Achison a couple of times to have a play … also Jimi Hocking and a couple of other musicians. It always happens a couple of times a year but this time it happened in close succession and I just enjoyed the feeling of the electric guitar in my hands. It had been a long time since I really enjoyed playing electric guitar and I just found a passion for it again. The songs lent themselves to that too. Once we got into the studio and laid down the drum tracks, there was no way my acoustic was getting up over the top of it, so it was an organic kind of thing. I’d been toying about with my Stratocaster at home and thought maybe it is time to give it another whirl.

I spoke to you at NAMM in January and you told me that you hadn’t completed writing the album but you had a tight deadline upon your return. Does the pressure and adrenaline of a deadline bring something good out in you? Do you revel under pressure?
I am best on a deadline … definitely. I also need to travel. I need those experiences like the NAMM Show where you are surrounded by music for 24 hours a day for the week. Nothing happens then with the writing but on the flight home, something opens up and I wrote the last two tracks coming home from NAMM. A deadline works very well for me. It’s like building a fence in the backyard or anything else. Once I have a date that something has to be done, it actually pushes me to be creative. I tend to function better when I know there is a lot of pressure on. To be honest, I have never tried it the other way and gone … I think I’ll take 3 years to write an album … that’s just never happened. That pressure forced me to write … not necessarily makes me think about what I am writing, which is probably the best way to do it, you make sense of the songs later.

Let’s talk about some of the album tracks. The Kick Around is the opening track which has a dirty, distorted tone to it. Was that a bit of a statement opening with that one, setting the tone for the whole album?
I sit back with the songs and think, what’s the least likely thing they are going to hear when they press play on a Lloyd Spiegel album? For Tangled Brew it was this djembe sound and for other albums it has been different things. For this album, to instantly be punched in the face by that Les Paul and a big drum sound with a big bass behind it, seemed like the statement to make… that this album is going to be a little different. It’s a much harder, punching record. The Kick Around is almost a throwaway song in a way because it is just a party song, it is not meant to mean too much. It’s just that feeling I get as I travel through airports and venues across the world and how I feel. I am constantly at a party wherever I go.

The Kick Around has a cool video to it as well. Tell me about the making of the clip.
Cass Eager, a wonderful artist in her own right whipped that together for me. I had seen one of hers on her website and I said I just want something cool like yours. She said well I can make you something cool like mine and she did a great job. My first viewing of it was pretty much at the same time everyone else saw it and I was really chuffed.

Betcha Bottom Dollar has a big, bold and brassy New Orleans trad-jazz vibe to it. Who has influenced you in regard to that sound?
A lot of it comes from Tom Waits, he does this vaudeville thing with weird instruments that have been under rocks for 50 years. I don’t have access to those weird and wonderful instruments so I just popped into the studio and laid it down as best I could and added Lisa Baird on trombone and that was all of the circus I could provide for it.

The Price You Pay has a warm, Jimi Hendrix vibe to it. Tell me about the tone you were chasing and what you used to get there.
I laid down an acoustic track and drums with Tim and we kind of didn’t know what to do with it. I was thinking iIneed a soul guitarist behind it. As it turned out Charlie A’Court, a wonderful Canadian musician was in Melbourne at the time, staying at my house and I said, hey how would you like to pay your rent by playing on my album? The smartest thing that I did with that track was that I put Charlie in the studio and hit record without him ever hearing what was about to happen. What you hear on the album is him literally working it out as he goes through, which brought out this really raw, in and out kind of thing with me. He’s syncopated with me sometimes and a little around me sometimes and that felt really good. Then we got to the lyric and I couldn’t get the notes. I was having a terrible day in the studio and just couldn’t sing, so I sat on the other side of the room with a whiskey to try and limber up my voice, which is the common trick. I was just sipping this whisky, singing along to it, trying to prepare my voice to record it and Rob Dylan, who was engineering the album said I got it. So that’s what you hear on the album, me sipping a whisky while yelling across the room.

Sweet South West Blues has that wonderful shuffle feel to it. Did that song always have that vibe or did you try it a few different ways?
The first thing I write for an album if I am having writer’s block is a 12 bar. I have grown up playing 12 bars and it comes naturally to me. I thought let’s just mess around on a 12 bar and get a groove and it came out Canned Heat style. It has that fade in and fade out. It is a very short track, a kind of palate cleanser for the last two tracks on the album. There’s gotta be one of those shuffles on one of my albums or I fear I’d get hate mail.

Why did you decide to close album with the atmospheric instrumental Emerald City Sky?
I had been fooling around with that little melody for years. It is one of things I tend to test guitars with and as a result my 12 year old son Riley had learned to play it, because he has heard me do it so many times. I love putting my friends and family on the album, so really Emerald City Sky was an excuse to get Riley on the album. He played on the last one when he was ten and he is now about to go thirteen. I put him on the album and then Levi, his little brother who is seven was a little disappointed that he wasn’t on the album, so I got him in to do the bass. He is playing the two bass notes throughout the track. They’re of course completely unaware of the magic of studios, what you can do and how much you can move things around, so they are pretty happy with their performance on it. They both listened to it and said we really nailed it didn’t we! Also I don’t know if you know this but there is a Wizard of Oz reference on every one of my albums, so this was a sneaky way to get Emerald City onto the record.

Did the movie Wizard of Oz have an effect on you when you were young?
It really came from years ago when I was living in Kansas. They were really important years of my life because I found who I was as an artist there. I came home and recorded Somewhere Over the Rainbow on my Live at the Continental album, so since then I’ve done it. I am a music trivia buff and I like to put little tidbits in my albums so that maybe one day people will say … did you know that there is a Wizard of Oz reference on every Lloyd Spiegel album. Kansas just holds a very special place for me but if you ever see me wearing ruby slippers, that will be my time of retirement.

Were there any mental notes made during the making of This Time Tomorrow that you took into Backroads?
This Time Tomorrow was written in about six weeks. This one was written in about eight. Certainly with This Time Tomorrow, I learnt to put that pressure on myself and do something without the full knowledge of what I am about to go in and record … and to trust myself. That album really taught me to trust myself. The album did really well, it did great in the charts and the fans really love those songs. So there I was in the studio wondering if I had all this together and just trusted my gut to go with it and produce what I thought I would like and hopefully the fans would like too. So this album, I went in with a lot more confidence. It was like, it’s Ok … whatever we do here, there is going to be stuff they love so the last album was definitely a turning point for me and this was another step. The idea of going to a much punchier record and plugging in the electric guitar… I kind of gave myself permission to restart and it felt nice not to feel any restraints.


There’s quite a bit happening sonically on this album. How have you gone about transferring that to a live performance with just you and a drummer?
You know, that’s probably the one thing I should have thought a lot more about before we started rehearsal. I’m playing an Octave pedal on the album, there is no bass player. I’ve got a dual output acoustic. The Cole Clark pre amp plugs straight into the PA, it gives me all of my acoustic sounds and I loop sections with that with an octave pedal, just on my E and A string. I love my Boss pedals and then I have a Misi pickup over the soundhole that is running to an amp which I can switch on and off as my electric guitar, so I am kind of learning all the loops as we speak to get out on the road in a couple of weeks and it is sounding pretty good.

You can change things on stage. The seduction of an audience on an album and on stage is such a different thing. What you do on an album is not necessarily what you’ll do on stage and vice versa. I went into rehearsals thinking we’ve got to produce versions of these songs and they don’t have to be identical to the record … they can be bigger, they can be smaller, they can be longer or shorter. It’s funny … this is the first time I have gone out on the road where I know that there are some songs that the fans must hear or they’ll be upset, so we have put all those in the set list and added at least half of the new album. Being my 8th album now, there are a lot of songs to include so it is a long show and I think my most dynamic, which has it’s hills and valleys which I am really proud of.

We won’t be seeing you at the Melbourne Guitar Show this year, as you’ll be in New Zealand but what are your memories of your first Melbourne Guitar Show?
The number one moment for me was getting young Charlie Bedford on stage with me. I grew up being dragged on stage at events like that by Dutch Tilders or Geoff Achison or Chris Wilson, you name it. To be bale to bring a bit of joy to young Charlie that day was really special to me. The clip shows up online occasionally and just the smile on his face makes it all worth while for me. At the end of the day that is why we have a guitar show, it is to inspire and If I can be part of that link in the chain for young artists, then that’s a wonderful thing.

You have this Australian tour, then New Zealand … then what happens?
I’m off to Canada. After Canada we’ll do a clean up tour of Australia and hit some of the spots we weren’t able to this time, hopefully have a great Christmas and start all over again!

http://www.lloydspiegel.com/

‘BACKROADS’ TOUR DATES

Fri 8 June
The Stag and Hunter, Newcastle, NSW
Doors 7:00pm, Tickets $20 + bf Presale. $25 door
Tickets: http://bit.ly/LloydSpiegel-StagandHunter

Sat 9 June
Camelot Lounge, Marrickville, NSW
Doors 6:00pm, Tickets $30 + bf presale, $35 door
Tickets: Tickets: http://bit.ly/LloydSpiegel-Camelot

Sun 10 June
Harmonie German Club, Canberra, ACT
Doors 3:00pm, Tickets $27 + bf presale, $30 at the door
Tickets: http://bit.ly/LloydSpiegel-GermanClub

Fri 15 June
The Skylark Room, Upwey, VIC
Doors 6:00pm, $25 + bf
Tickets: http://bit.ly/LloydSpiegel-Skylarkroom

Fri 22 June
Hickinbotham of Dromana, Dromana, VIC
Doors: 5:00pm, $25
Tickets call: 03 59810355

Sat 23 June
The Cabaret Club, Ballarat, VIC
Doors: 6:30pm, $25 + bf presale / $30 at the door
Tickets: http://bit.ly/LloydSpiegel-CabaretClub

Wed 27 June
5 Church Street, Bellingen, NSW
Doors: 6:00pm, $25 + bf presale, $30 at the door
Tickets: http://bit.ly/LloydSpiegel-5ChurchSt

Thurs 28 June
Byron Theatre, Byron Bay, NSW
Doors: 7:00pm, $35 GA, $30 concession, $20 kids under 16
Tickets: http://bit.ly/LloydSpiegel-ByronTheatre

Fri 29 June
The Soundlounge, Currumbin, QLD
Doors: 7:30pm, $25 + bf presale, $30 door
Tickets: http://bit.ly/LloydSpiegel-Soundlounge

Sat 30 June
The Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD
Doors: 7:00pm, $25 + bf online, $30 on the door
Tickets: http://bit.ly/LloydSpiegel-oldmuseum

Sun 1 July
Oddfellows Hall, Kempsey, NSW
Doors: 1:30pm, $25 GA, Members $20
Tickets: http://bit.ly/Lloydspiegel-oddfellows-kempsey

Sat 7 July
The Piping Hot Chicken Shop, Ocean Grove, VIC
Doors 7:30, $26 + booking fee
Tickets: http://bit.ly/Lloydspiegel-pipinghot

Fri 13 July
The Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Doors 7:00pm, On stage 8:15pm – $30 + bf presale, $40 door
Tickets: http://bit.ly/Lloydspiegel-thornburytheatre

Sat 14 July
Live at The Bundy – Bundalaguah & Myrtlebank Hall, Bundalaguah, VIC
On Stage 8:30pm, $35
Tickets: http://bit.ly/LloydSpiegel-LiveattheBundy

Thurs 19 July
The Ellington Jazz Club, Perth, WA
Doors 6:30pm, $25 + bf presale, $30 door
Tickets: http://bit.ly/LloydSpiegel-Ellingtonjazz

Fri 20 July
The Odd Fellow, Fremantle, WA
Doors: 8:00pm, $15 + bf presale, $20 door,
Tickets: http://bit.ly/LloydSpiegel-oddfellows

Sat 21 July
The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Doors: 8:30pm, $25 + bf presale, $30 door
Tickets: http://bit.ly/LloydSpiegel-wheatsheaf

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