Special Interview: Grizzly Jim Lawrie

theaussieword.com meets with Grizzly Jim Lawrie.

What can you tell our readers about you? How and where did it all begin?
I started playing drums in school and my brother, Si, played bass…we used to jam on rock riffs in our bedrooms and it wasn’t long until I had joined his band, which was really awesome for me, having looked up to him all my childhood and wanting to be in the same basketball and cricket teams. The band wasn’t restricted by age so it was the first thing we really did together completely. Over the years I played drums for a few different bands, punk, sixties garage, indie folk, but I think it was the attitude of punk singer/songwriters that made me want to write my own songs, and being in bands constantly leaves so much opportunity to pick other instruments up and hone skills slowly during breaks in rehearsals. I don’t really have the punk aesthetic in my songwriting but the sincerity of good punk is what I hope carries through to the acoustic driven pop rock that I’ve found myself loving to write.

What had you first interested in music?
I was lucky enough to find a copy of “Meet the Beatles” in my mum and dad’s record collection when I was about 10. I remember sitting on the floor listening to it in our living room non stop every chance I got. It was pretty sweet that they thought music lovin’ should be nurtured and they bought a copy of Sgt Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour pretty soon after that. That was the start, then I found all the other records; Simon and Garfunkle, Mamas and the Papas, Fleetwood Mac.

Who motivates or influences your quest to make great music?
There’s definitely a whole bunch of songwriters that get me going when listening to them. At the moment a lot of Jackson Browne, The National, Kurt Vile and Fleetwood Mac, but I find influence in different place I guess. I love short stories. Raymond Carver is great tragedy and I’m a sucker for Stephen King is a great storyteller. I also really love kids picture story books, and find myself getting inspiration and influence from them. Shaun Tan is an amazing Australian author who is always creating different ways of saying things. Chris Van Allsburg is another kids writer who almost doesn’t haven’t to write a word for you’re imagination to start rolling with ideas.

Do you have any planned tours coming up?
I’m doing a solo tour to Sydney, Canberra and Maitland late July, which we will be kicking off with a full band show at the Toff in Melbourne on the 25th. We’re launching our new single, ‘Midnight Run.’

What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish as an artist?
I’d just like to be prolific and busy. I’d love to be able to keep releasing as much as possible for as long as possible, and to work with as many people as possible too.
What can fans expect from you in the coming months?
 We’ll be playing as much as we can and hopefully touring around the country with the full band. I’m currently throwing around some ideas with some other songwriters to maybe do another acoustic tour, possibly a co headline tour..

Success, what is the secret to it and what has been your biggest career highlight so far?
 It’s all about how you measure it isn’t it…I’m not a financially motivated person at all and I have no real hunger for fame, bar the advantages it bears with a wider audience hearing what you’re putting out. So I’d probably put success down to being able to sustain a career as a songwriter and a musician and tour and record for as long as possible. That would make me happy. That would be success for me. No matter how many hippy dwelling combi vans bear the bumper sticker saying “Happiness is not a destination, it is a road on which to travel,” there’s still truth to it…

Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
 I’m lucky enough to have caught Springsteen recently, and to say that I was blown away would be an understatement. I had the same experience watching Leonard Cohen a few years back. They’re both so into what they have been doing for years, and sharing an awesome respect for their audiences. To see people being so humble and grateful(and virile) after so many years, and to be releasing new and original and inspired music and poetry that’s still relevant is really motivating.

How would you best describe you and your music to your fans?
Acoustic driven rock folk pop, inspired by old and new classics.

What can you tell us about your latest album?
I released my debut album last year, ‘Paying My Debts From the Grave,’ which is a bit more of a folky acoustic oriented album with less of the rock n roll influence and more of a focus on a bit of a singer/songwriter vibe. I released it independently through my label, Kids These Days with help from Gaga Music, who released it digitally. The band that currently plays with me recorded on this album, but it’s a bit more sparse than the stuff we have been writing and recording recently.

Are there any new exciting projects in the works?
 Well we just released the single, ‘Midnight Run,’ which is a bit more indicative of the direction we’re taking with our sound being more full and rockier. And we currently have an album written and ready to record so we will be heading back in to the studio before the end of the year to record that, with another single release set for summer.

The music industry is huge, where do you see yourself a few years from now?
“At the bar…” That might be a common gag…if so, disregard. I’m not too sure, hopefully touring internationally. I’d love to go to America. Possibly the UK. To tell you the truth world domination isn’t really up there on the list of things I want, but to tour over there and see those place in the romantic light of a travelling band would be amazing. I’d love to remain independent and just have a couple more albums under my belt, and to continue meeting knew and interesting people.

Name a few of your favourite Aussie artists.
There’s so many awesome acts out there at the moment. Saskwatch are always an amazing band to see live, it’s pretty impossible to go to one of their gigs and not party. Courtney Barnett is someone who is doing amazing things. She’s so unique in her songwriting and has an awesome attitude towards hers and other peoples music. Another band I really love is Big Scary, they’re about to release their second album, and the singles sound amazing. I still can’t believe what they achieve as a two piece, so lush and sparse on one hand and then so rockin’ on the other.

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?
One of the advantages of being a drummer is that you also have the choice of not really getting involved with the business side of things, so for the main part of my involvement in the music industry I sort of avoided it. Not through any negative preconception of it as an industry but I think just because my positive preconception of hitting things real loud eclipsed that side of it for me… So my experience has been brief but I’ve learnt a lot quickly. The strangest thing is that it is changing so rapidly that you just don’t know what part will be redundant tomorrow. So I think no matter what happens, you just have to stay creative in how you present yourself and how you present your band. You’ll always have to change in order to fit the different constraints of a changing system but if you can be creative with it, you’ll be set.

Thank you for the interview! What can you leave fans of theaussieword.com with here today?
Why are pirates so mean? They just ‘aaargh!’

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