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SOUNDTRACKING THESE TIMES

Finn Pearson
Finn Pearson

Finn Pearson’s sophomore single, ‘Interstate Road’ is a melancholy reflection of our times, a song we need for our isobunkers.  Around The Sound reviews the music and talks to Pearson about his creation.

‘Interstate Road’, may just become one of those songs that is remembered through time, not only because it’s a fine piece of music, but also because it captures the moment we’re living in so eloquently.

The music we listen to in these current times will stay with us for a lifetime, threading our emotions — hopes, dreams, joys and fears — into a musical cypher we can decode every time we listen to a particular song.  From the opening moments of Finn Pearson’s new single, ‘Interstate Road’, with its mournful slide guitar, simple acoustic lilt and harmonica, I knew I was in for gentle treat.  By the time the choir of voices and violin entered the room, I could feel emotion welling in my chest.  When Pearson’s distinctive voice — Australian but without a trace of ocker — joined the fray with the opening lines, It’s 19 O’Clock on the Interstate Road/ And I’m staring through walls and wishing for home, I felt a tear roll down my face.  This is good music!  It moved me instantly.

Unwittingly, because the song was written and recorded well before any of us knew that a virus would put an end to life as we know it, closing our borders and making interstate travel impossible, ‘Interstate Road’ is a song of and for our current times.  Artists have a way of knowing about the world that few others do, they can capture and express it in the merest of musical whimsy, along the way revealing the deepest of insights.

According to Pearson, ‘Interstate Road’ is, “a bittersweet tribute to night-driving and post-breakup turmoil.”  While that may be true for him, it’s also a song about border closures and loss, isolation and wishing for the home that we had only a few weeks ago, before we were locked up in our dwellings.

Asked how he feels listening back to the song now, Pearson said, “To be honest it’s such an odd feeling. Travelling has always been a method of escapism for me and driving often helps me clear my head, so listening to the lyrics and remembering how I took even these small luxuries for granted is pretty wild. It adds an extra dimension to the song and all the imagery evokes a different feeling to when I was writing it so it’s super fascinating, to me at least, how much the meaning of art can change with the times.”

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One of the standout features of ‘Interstate Road’ is Pearson’s voice.  He’s managed to pull off the rare feat of sounding like where he’s from without sounding artificial or out of kilter.  When we asked him about this feature of his work, Pearson was pleased that anyone had noticed, saying, “Thank you! Ironically, In the past I’ve really struggled with vocal identity. I spent years trying to cut the Aussie twang out of my singing voice altogether because I was concerned about sounding too ocker and I didn’t want my accent to define my sound.

“Recently, with the help of some training at WAAPA and help from my mum (a professional opera singer) I’ve managed to embrace more of my natural tone for my live shows. Elliot Smith at Sundown Studios, where we tracked and mixed the new single, was invaluable at helping me translate that to the recording side of things – this was definitely the first session where I felt comfortable making my vocals a feature, and I’m very glad I overcame that fear of sounding like myself.”

‘Interstate Road’ is a beautiful offering from Finn Pearson, whose debut single, ‘Housing Estates’ drew praise from the likes of triple j’s Declan Byrne and marked him as an artist on the rise.  This second single sees Pearson’s sound maturing and filling out, accompanied by his full backing band.  A country infused ballad, ‘Interstate Road’, may just become one of those songs that is remembered through time, not only because it’s a fine piece of music, but also because it captures the moment we’re living in so eloquently.

Now, leave me alone, I’m having a moment here.  Thank you, Finn Pearson, you’ve soundtracked my life.

We think ‘Interstate Road’ will become part of the soundtrack to our social isolation, so we asked Pearson to share some songs that soundtrack his life.  Here’s what he said …

Interesting question. I’ve always been drawn to lyric-driven and dark or melancholy music. Soundtracking my life is a broad one but I’ll endeavour nonetheless. In no particular order:

Late for the Sky – Jackson Browne
Everything about this song speaks to me – I particularly love the way the lyrics weave between intensely descriptive and widely relatable, often within one line. This song makes me feel for the narrator and for myself at the same time, and I think that’s beautiful. It also features one the most deeply emotive guitar solos that I’ve ever heard, and it’s got just enough country influence to make it awesome. 

One Crowded Hour – Augie March
I’ve always been a sucker for rapid-fire lyrics, and this song does this so well that it makes my chest feel like it’s going to burst open with built-up emotion. It also means different things to me depending on what zone I’m in, I find that it can be sad or oddly uplifting and it features a couple of my favourite lines of all time. 

Dress Rehearsal Rag – Leonard Cohen
Now we’re getting to the proper sad stuff – this tune is quite simply the darkest song I know (in my humble opinion, of course). It’s some of Cohen’s most potent and abstract imagery, and the sentiment reflects how I feel when I’m at my absolute worst. I don’t listen to it often, luckily, but I connect with it so strongly that sometimes I feel like a bit of me living in those words, and there’s a stark vulnerability in hearing this back.  

Funeral – Phoebe Bridgers
Phoebe Bridgers only came onto my radar in the last couple of years, but she’s here to stay. ‘Funeral’ is unashamedly sad, often bordering on self-indulgence but simultaneously aware of this fact in a self-deprecating way. Similar to ‘Late for the Sky’, I think it weaves touchingly between storytelling and something more abstract. A tasteful blend of microscopic detail and wide-lense surrealism is as good as it gets, for me! 

No Surprises – Radiohead
Lastly, a song which as somehow found its way onto my Spotify ‘Top 100 Songs’  for the last five years. I think what makes ‘No Surprises’ a soundtrack to my life is the fact that it’s my exhaustion song. To me, it represents that feeling of being emotionally, mentally and physically drained. I’ve spent the last couple of years playing in a lot of bands and playing a whole lot of gigs whilst also studying music full-time, and while I love it so so much, I am familiar with feeling a little burnt out. Anyway, ‘No Surprises’ is a song for the times when I’m sitting on my porch drinking tea and struggling to get out of my chair. Just for the record, I’m usually great at this. 

Anyway I could bang on about my favourite songs all day, so I’m putting the limit there. But here’s a few other amazing artists who have massively influenced me and deserve a mention: Paul Kelly, Elliott Smith, The National, The Whitlams and Bruce Springsteen.

Listen to the soundtrack to Finn Pearson’s life on Spotify now.

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