Rob Snarski is currently touring behind his second solo album, Sparrow & Swan, with Perth dates at The Bassendean Hotel (21 June) and The Aardvark (22 June).
With his second solo album, Sparrow & Swan out in the world and receiving critical acclaim as well as a warm response from his fans, Rob Snarski is hitting a creative peak right now. A founding member of The Blackeyed Susans, Snarski is no stranger to such peaks, having written and performed with a who’s who of Australian artists, including members of The Triffids, The Scientists, The Go Betweens and The Cruel Sea. So when he suggested to Around The Sound down the line from a blustery Melbourne that the songs on his current release may be among his best yet, we pricked up our ears.
It’s not an overstatement to say that Snarski is among Australia’s most important contemporary song writers…
But nothing good ever comes easy, especially for a creative.
“Half way through collecting the songs for the record I was struggling with my process. I wasn’t sure I actually had one. I was waiting around for songs to land in my lap or an idea to curl through the air. Then, I had an interesting conversation with an artist friend about song writing processes and I was frustrated, because I couldn’t figure out what mine was.”
Snarski is a poet as well as a song writer. Even the way he talks about his song writing process is laden with meaning and the beauty of words. The idea of waiting for ideas to “curl through the air” is just one illustration of Snarski’s capacity to paint vivid pictures with the minimum of words and, seemingly, effort. And, “collecting” songs is an interesting observation on his creative process. It’s not an overstatement to say that Snarski is among Australia’s most important contemporary song writers and, using that particular word to describe his (lack of) process for writing songs in the past points to the deep and rich creative vein he’s been able to tap into. It’s almost like, up to now, Snarski’s been a curator of songs as they’ve flowed through him from our collective psyche.
Now, things are different.
“Something happened half way through collecting the songs, I started to tune into conversations that I was having and there would be a moment of realisation where I thought, ‘This could turn into something, I could try to shape this into song form’. That’s what happened with the last four songs that were included on the album, essentially they’re stories from other people that I’m sharing.”
When asked what attracts him to particular people and stories, Snarski dug deep, speaking slowly, even hesitantly, at first before picking up pace as he started to pull apart the inspiration for some of the songs on Sparrow & Swan.
“I think there has to be some compassion, some sort of alignment with the person, being able to understand where they’re coming from or something that was interesting in the story that I found engaging. For example, ‘Equine Dreaming’ is about two people who met at a TAB; that’s where they met and there’s an interesting parallel with gambling and chance within that song. Having come from a family of gamblers and worked as a croupier at a casino, I could relate to that.
“‘Conversation With A Brisbane Cab Driver’, that was a long time coming. I was conversing with this guy in a cab, he wasn’t in a good mood. I’d just landed in Brisbane and I felt like a chat, and it wasn’t until I asked him what he liked about Brisbane that he turned to me in a bewildered fashion, as if I should know the answer and the answer was, ‘Everything in Brisbane is great!’
“That got me in and I needed to know more about this guy and hence a long conversation about his personal life which turned into this song.”
‘Conversation With A Brisbane Cab Driver’ tells a story of multicultural Australia through the first-person experience of a migrant cabbie, inviting listeners to see life through the eyes of the protagonist who tells us, I’m so grateful just to be here / I’m still breathing. It’s a gorgeous example of Snarski’s retooled approach to song writing. No wonder he’s feeling pretty upbeat about these songs.
“I’m sharing other people’s stories and for me, there’s more longevity in that as we grow and change. I go back to some of my earlier material and it’s hard to connect with. I think with this [album] there may be more of a chance for the songs to stay in the set because they’re not about me, they’re not as personal to me.”
We get what Snarski meant when he said that his current songs aren’t as personal to him as his past output, but the lineage of his song writing remains intact on Sparrow & Swan; this is a progression, not a disjuncture. Snarski is in fine form and there’s plenty in the new album for current fans as well as ample opportunity for new fans to get on board.
Rob Snarski plays two dates in Perth, accompanied by guitarist Shane O’Mara and with special guest Catherine Traicos (click on the links for tickets):
21 June, Bassendean Hotel
22 June, The Aardvark
Check out Rob Snarski’s current single, ‘All God’s Creatures’ of which he said, “For me, that particular song is more like Charles Darwin having an arm wrestle with God. It’s about what do we believe is happening here with this clash of seasons”.