Golden Guitar winner Angus Gill catches up with Brian Peel at THEAUSSIEWORD.COM.
How and where did it all begin for you? What drew your interest to the music industry?
I started playing guitar around age 7, but I was singing from quite an early age. A local retired professional country singer William Lane took me under his wing and soon enough, I was performing at my local country music club, entering talent quests and busking in the main street of my hometown, Wauchope. When I was in grade 5, I performed with Adam Harvey on his show in Port Macquarie. I loved the buzz of playing to a large crowd and that’s when I knew that I was going to do. There was no turning back from that point.
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?
The love & appreciation of great songs is what motivates me. I’ve become quite the vinyl hoarder since Covid, so I’m always striking those in my ever growing collection. I also read a lot. Writers must read. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given. I get a lot of ideas and titles from books I read.
What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish?
I hope to achieve longevity and continue striving to make the best music of my career, enjoying the journey and growing my audience in the process.
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?
I’ve just announced a 23 date national tour, we kick off in VIC and finish up in QLD at the Gympie Muster. Pixie Jenkins is joining me and I’m also doing a run of songwriters in the round dates with Kevin Bennett and Kevin Welch. I’m really looking forward to hitting the road. There’s a lot of laughs in the show, plus some high energy, tender and poignant moments.
Tell us a bit about your latest release and how would you best describe your music?
Departure & Arrival is the first single from my forthcoming album, to be released later this year. I recorded it with the members of Paul Kelly’s band. It’s an alt country song, powered by the farfisa organ and a driving rhythm section. I wrote it over the course of nearly 3 years. The idea began with a different working title, then I started to revisit Alain De Botton’s book The Art of Travel. That’s when I stumbled upon the title Departure & Arrival, which better suited the idea than the previous title. I’m a very lyrically driven writer and a meticulous editor. I often have a whole lyric written, with an idea of the pulse and how the melody will unravel, before I actually pick up an instrument. Departure & Arrival describes the transitory state we’re all living in, trying to push through the mundane to get to the next exciting stage of our lives…we’re all somewhere between departure & arrival.
Over the course of the 5 albums I’ve released, there is quite a bit of diversity musically. This has been deliberate on my part. It’s important to me that I don’t try to recreate the sound of the previous project, but to explore a slightly new direction every time I make a record. The common thread that binds my songs is the storytelling, carefully crafted lyrics, which can be wry and witty at times and my rather distinctive voice haha.
Give us an insight into your creative process. What gets you writing songs?
A great idea gets me writing. Sometimes it can take me weeks to find one I’m sold on, but once I have it. There’s no stopping me. Ideas are everywhere. Sometimes, they’re right under your nose. You just have to uncover them.
Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?
The songs from my new project are all my lyrics. 6 are my own songs and I wrote 3 with Billy Miller from The Ferrets, who was my musical composing compadre. I’d often send him a finished lyric, or we’d start with an idea. He’d come up with a cool musical bed, riffs and all, and it’d put me in a good zone to come up with the lyrics. A lot of the songs on this new record operate on a surface level, but the more you listen to them, the more the words grow in meaning. You realise there’s other stuff bubbling underneath the surface. It goes deeper than it seems. I enjoy writing like that.
Success, what is the secret to it?
I’m gonna paraphrase Springsteen, who said something like “you need to believe you are the baddest ass in town and that you suck at the same time. It keeps you honest.” I’ve always loved that quote…it’s so true. You have to be equal parts confident and insecure. You’ve gotta have a thick skin to deal with the business, but you have to peel it off, in order to write sensitive songs. I’ve always believed you need to take risks in order to experience success.
What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
Performing on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, with my mate Charles Esten. Supporting Kris Kristofferson when he was out here in 2019. Winning my first Golden Guitar award last year are certainly some of the highlights to date.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
It’s always changing…I go through vinyl deep dive phases. Right now I’m really hooked on Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Elvis Costello & Joni Mitchell.
Are there any new projects in the pipeline?
I’m always cooking up new projects. I’ve got one project with Mondo Rock’s Eric McCusker, which we’re aiming to release soon too. Eric and I started writing together during COVID and we soon asked the question, “who are these songs for?” Then we started a band of our own. It’s been a great process.
The music industry is constantly changing, where do you see yourself a few years?
I just want to keep doing what I’m doing, keeping the love, growing my sound and my audience on an international level.
What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why?
My favourite part is writing, producing and performing. I really enjoy every part of the process. The side I don’t like so much is the politics of the biz and trying to keep up with the trends of social media and the ever growing number of platforms we’re encouraged to be on. Whilst there’s parts of social media I enjoy, I’d kinda prefer if I was born in the 50s and then I’d only have to grapple with it later in life (laughs).
Name a few of your favourite Australian artists.
Graeme Connors, Beccy Cole, Melinda Schneider, Paul Kelly, Russell Morris, Adam Harvey, Michael Waugh, Allan Caswell, Kasey Chambers, Deborah Conway. The list goes on…
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?
Change is constant and we do have to move with it, otherwise we’re left behind. There’s parts about this modern world I love…the accessibility, portability, instantaneous access. At the same time, it’s just sad to see some of the traditional forms of communication and media dissolve, as the new technology evolves. There’s a charm about those traditional forms, which I really love, but maybe that’s because I’m an old soul too.
How will you continue appealing to the international market?
By showing up and punching in. Like many artists who’ve inspired me, I’ve never been powered by trends. I strive to do my best and enjoy the process of musical creation. As I said, I’m always reading and listening to different music, mostly dead people. (laughs)
Do you collaborate with others? Who is on your wish-list?
I love collaborating with others, in both songwriting, recording and production capacities. I regularly produce other artists, which is a wondrous process of uncovering and working towards a shared sonic outcome. I also regularly write songs for other artists. It’s an incredible feeling to hear an artist you admire cut a song you wrote, as it is to be able to collaborate with them in a duet sense. Some of the artists I’ve been fortunate to work with include, my friends Steve Earle, Jim Lauderdale, Diesel, Melinda Schneider, Adam Harvey, Beccy Cole, Kevin Bennett and many others. As for artists I’d like to collaborate with in the future, it’s always a growing list.
What advice do you give for other artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t lose the love and don’t do something for the money. The times I’ve just done something for the money are the times I’ve regretted. The love of music has always gotta be the motivating force. Making money is a byproduct of your love for the music, plus hard work, dedication, being competent at what you do, while always striving for growth.
A message for your fans. How do you best interact and respond with your followers and fans?
I love catching up with my supporters at shows and festivals. I love hearing their stories and shooting the breeze. You meet people from all walks of life and it’s fascinating. I love that part of what I do.