Interview: Lindsay Phillips’ folkloric journey

Australian ex-pat folkster Lindsay Philips answers some questions from Melissa O’Donovan about his artistic progression and new album. Phillips is on a short return visit to Melbourne from his home in a Swedish forest where he spends his days tending to his family, chopping wood and making sublime songs that revel in a form of musical poetry he has made his trademark.

After listening to your catalog, it seems to me that you really came into your unique sound with your second LP, Taedium Vitae in 2012. The arrangements and pace are a solid platform for your tremolo style of vocals. I wonder what your thoughts are on your development as a solo artist in finding your peculiar sound.

Taedium Vitae was the result of refinement of live and studio performance…I guess this is what artists achieve as they continue to write, rehearse and perform live. Next evolutionary step, and absolutely enhanced by the production of Myles Mumford and contributions of other players and artists. Time in the studio was also a contributing factor. By comparison, Varning was recorded (basic live vocal/guitar tracks) in 6 hours and to my ears appears somewhat rushed as a result. Not to mention the ridiculous faux American vocal styling which I’ve been at pains to distance myself from since.

Varning is your first LP containing tracks from your previous two EPs. However, the twelve tracks on the Taedium Vitae album seem to be more of a coherent project. Is there an underlying narrative with this album that binds these particular tracks?

At the time, I think that I liked to perceive Taedium as a concept album of sorts. Whether that were the case or a story that I wished to concoct for promo purposes, the void of time has hidden for me. Not to dismiss the album in any way because I’m still rather proud of it, but at the end of the day, the real tie between tracks is that they were all penned during a period of time in my life that they would certainly reflect.

Solguden is your third LP and the one in which I came to know and appreciate your work. Your music seems to have a strong creative alignment with Celtic spirituality and the Gothic era, including your visuals. How would you describe your personal and musical style and is there is a crossover?

I certainly am fond of describing the music as a Gothic/folk styling…if this is your perception, I’d say you’re on the money. Interesting also that you made reference, in our talk, of Celtic rhythms and motions – maybe not many would know that my heritage is mostly Scottish and I was in fact a piper (bagpipes) for at least 8 years as a youngster. I couldn’t underestimate the impact that this had on my lust for melody and the lament!

I’m curious whether you are at all conscious of recurring themes within your lyrics and music? Be it before or after the point of creation, and whether you employ time as part of your creative process?

Lyrically, sometimes I fear that I’m treading familiar ground and always hope that I’m not repeating myself. But perhaps there comes a point where it’s unavoidable, or that one reiterates a point but presents the idea in a current light.

At the end of 2014 you organized the Australian Artists For Asylum Seekers ‘Christmas Benefit 2014’ album, mastered by Myles Mumford. The album was a context for political conversation and gentle activism. Do you view song and music as an effective way to generate awareness of issues that might become bogged down in direct or slogan speech?

Song and music can certainly be effective as a beacon for political activist awareness. Undoubtedly. I’ve been touching on certain points for years, though veiled. I don’t write in the literal sense and thus certain points may well be overlooked. I loved the process of putting the benefit record together, and loved the contributions of all, but again was not favouring material of an obvious nature specifically. I’m not at all opposed to this, by the way.

Do you have any other social justice or conscience projects planned for the near future?

I have a vague plan, but I’ll be looking after my family and hopefully writing again this year.

You have a new album in the making. Please tell us about that.

Psalm IV: Den Sista Sorgen is the title…it’s a collection of songs penned during the past one and a half years. I hope that the material has broadened the scope of my creative abilities, but at this point I’m not sure what to make of the album until I’ve had some time with the final result. It really marks the first period of difficulty I’ve experienced in writing – a strange time that I can’t rightly describe, as it is for the world we live in now. At best, I hope that somebody gets something out of it. Two Princes (first single) is no doubt the lightest offering in terms of musical and lyrical approach.

Lindsay Phillips’ music and lyrics are available for streaming and purchase on his Bandcamp site. Check his website for all news.