Roscoe James Irwin
11th Annual Love Song Winner
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Record Label: Self-Released
Home Base: Melbourne, Australia
Genre: Singer/Songwriter, Indie Pop/Folk
Category Entered: Folk/Singer-Songwriter Album & Song (nominated in Love Song)
Work Submitted: The Hunting Road, “1000 Nights” (nominated)
Artists Featured: N/A
Who are your influences? Nick Drake, Elliot Smith, Neil Finn, Beck, Andrew Bird
Describe your nominated work. Part old school folk, part modern indie pop.
Did you use any unusual effects or instruments in this recording? There’s a theremin part that spooks away in the background in the chorus. We layered up some parts on a beat up old farfisa organ in the outro which was fun. And there’s an old, wind powered harmonium that hums away throughout the track.
Were there any happy accidents while in the studio, or did everything go as planned? Working with John Castle (producer/engineer) always has some surprises, which I love. He’s very organic and spontaneous in the studio, so there’s always some tones and parts that were never in the original concept that make it in the final mix. We’re both fanatic about arrangements and dynamics and creating uniqueness and interest within those elements.
How did you raise the funds for this project? How long do you expect it will take to recoup your out-of-pocket recording expenses? Through freelance recording work and touring with the other bands I’ve been a side member of over the last bunch of years. I’m slowly chipping away at paying off the album/touring expenses, but most of the $ coming in are going straight back into new things for the project. There’s always more to do.
Why did you choose to submit this work to The 11th IMAs? I felt like “1000 Nights” was the track off the record that most fully represented what I do as a singer/songwriter and instrumentalist. I think at its’ core, it’s also a simple, great song, but put in an interesting context.
What’s your definition of success and how will you know when you’ve achieved it? I think as long as I can sustain what I do emotionally, physically and financially, and as long as I feel like I’m moving forward and making records that excite me, then I’ll feel successful. Everyone wants the gratification of more and more people coming to your shows and buying and appreciating your records, but I’d rather play 200 person shows for the next 30 years, than 10,000 person shows just for the next 3 years.
How will you leverage your IMA honors to achieve your career goals? I think it’s a really respected accolade for an artist to be nominated or win an IMA. There are so many bands and writers I like that have been in it in the past. Hopefully it brings more people worldwide to my music and gives me the means to keep making better, more interesting pop records, and also do better live shows.
Who’s sitting in your audience and what makes your fans unique? I get a few crossover fans from the other bands I play in, and also people who knew me more as a jazz trumpet player than a singer-songwriter. So I guess it’s a pretty diverse mob out in the crowd. Everything from 18 year-old pop fans, to 60 year-old Louis Armstrong fans.
What is your guilty pleasure on the road? Any close calls or mishaps while on tour? Dorito sandwiches and Jameson’s Irish whiskey. As far as mishaps go, just the boring usual. Missed flights, arriving 4 minutes before your set, hotels that are actually turn out to be converted mental asylums that looked way nicer in the picture. Oh, once after a 24hour flight over to the UK, I got turned back from Heathrow airport, and sent on another 24hour flight all the way home. Then a day later, got another 24hour flight back to the UK. That was brutal.
Who are your musical heroes & influences? All the guys I mentioned earlier in my influences earlier are also heroes. I also really respect Nick Cave. He’s personally and artistically uncompromising, which in this day and age is really brave I think.
Are there any songs you wish you wrote and why? “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” by Bob Dylan. To have a song that’s so simple musically and lyrically, but says so much, is really remarkable I think. Also, “River Man” by Nick Drake. An amazing song, arranged, produced and performed perfectly.
What artists are you listening to that would surprise your fans? I’ve been listening to a lot of orchestral music, Debussy, Strauss, and some other romantic era guys. I also am a massive fan of Joao Gilberto (traditional Brazilian singer/guitarist). He has the best phrasing.
How do you discover new music? Do you buy music or are you content with streaming? I love picking the brain of all sorts of people and musicians about what they’re listening to. You can be so surprised sometimes by material that you would never expect to enjoy, but fall in love with. I still buy music. I feel like cosmic karma will kick in and if I buy other peoples music, then someone might buy mine one day.
How will musicians make a living if fans continue to expect music to be free? I think the new wave of digi/streaming culture makes all of our music so much more accessible to people all over the world, and hopefully that will bring them to live shows. I know people feel like it’s a much smaller piece of the pie, but I think the new streaming era will make it easier for independent bands/artists to have lucrative touring careers and get noticed by people who otherwise would never hear them. It’s also puts the responsibility onto the artist to make something interesting and unique that stands out from the crowd.
What don’t fans/audiences understand about the music industry today? That the music community/industry is a whole concept that needs to be supported. People are maybe a little too judgmental and specific about what they “love” and “hate”, and what part of the industry that think they fit into and “should” like. I’d love to see more indie rock hipsters going to see the New York Philharmonic, and maybe to see some heavy classical musicians going out to see a songwriter in a small club. The music industry is a single commodity that we all need to support every aspect of. That way it’ll all still be around in another 100 years hopefully.
Are digital singles/EPs vs. full albums the future? It does feel that with the way music is consumed and digested in the modern era, it’s heading to the days where singles will be a more valuable commodity than maybe before. But it’s all a cycle. It’s important to remember that Elvis, Johnny Cash, etc… were all releasing singles well before they made full records, and that was 50 years ago. I think there will always be an artistic place for the full album. I think once again, the new digital era just puts more responsibility back on the artist to create an actual “album” that works as a complete piece, and not just as a collection of random songs. Serious music fans will always be drawn to that concept.
Finish this sentence: The music industry is…a chance for a skinny wristed, fast talking nerd to be accepted and respected by other weirdos and skinny wristed misfits.
What do you have in the works for the upcoming year? I’m in the States and Canada for the next couple of months doing some writing and touring. Then I’ll be heading home to Australia to do some recording and release an EP in July/August, which will mean some more Oz touring and playing, and hopefully doing some supports as well for some other artists.
Where fans can find you and your music: