I first met Tobias around 6 months ago as he supported Danielle Deckard who I was interviewing. I enjoyed his set, connected with his songs and fell in love with his vintage look green/blue guitar. I had a chat to him at the bar and we made plans to have an interview. Well time has flown by and on the eve of his release of his second album ‘Alive’I finally caught up with Tobias to have a chat.
Can you in a few sentences tell us your style of music?
The music originally comes from a folk root base. it is heavily also influenced from the 80s and the 90s when I grew up. The Cure, The Smiths, The Shins, and also Simon and Garfunkel ( both laughing), John Denver, Paul Kelly and all those sort of artists. My bass player calls it Folkectronic.
That is a great word!
You can’t to ignore those influences, I have people saying that my music reminds me of these artists. So that is pretty cool!
I am doing this interview the other way around than I usually do, I usually interview artists, then see them live. It was great to see you play at Danielle Deckard gig about 6 months ago. You played just at the Melbourne show if I remember correctly?
You grew up in Victoria, then moved to Queensland, were your family musical and an influence on you?
Yes, absolutely we grew up in the country in Victoria, I was born in Kyneton and dad was a very keen folk guitarists and banjo player and mum used to sing and so I grew up around music and sounds of the folk era. Like Bob Dylan and John Renborn and all those wonderful artists. Then we moved to Queensland as we were in the Ash Wednesday bushfires, so I ended up growing up in a town called Eumundi which is just in the hinterland of Noosa. So I grew up there from the age of seven, busking at the markets there and surfing. Then I moved to Brisbane and a high school that’s when I got into some harder music.
At what age did you own your first guitar and what kind was it?
I got my first guitar when I was in grade 4 so I was about nine or 10 and it was an SG copy and it looked exactly like Angus Young’s guitar from AC/DC! My first band was called the Dirty Deeds.
I love it!
We did not know what we were singing about but we loved it.
I was in primary school and remember singing its a long way to shop if you want a sausage roll. ( both laughing)
I find it interesting that you played ska (which I love!) grunge and tour with Jen Cloher and the Endless Sea! Talk about an eclectic mix! Why do you think that you fitted best into the folk/ country or as you put it before Folkectronic style?
I think I did because it just came natural and I have always played a lot of different styles because it was the flavor of the month or going through that age of playing grunge and thrash. I was in a band called Bucket and we used to wear buckets on our heads. (both laughing) It was full thrash/punk, I mean I was 16 or 17! I have always loved reggae and ska music. I love playing World music too, I have just done some recording with a wooden flute player so I have done some Worldy kind of music. I think country just always comes naturally as it resonates more with me because I think it’s my childhood memories. I love that style of guitar as well like fingerpicking.
Do you play any other instruments?
Other than Guitar, Banjo, drums, bass, keyboards. I am the full rock and roll outfit!
Do you think that your studies of History and Anthropology assist you at all in your writing process?
Yes, absolutely! I found that I really loved research when I went back to study and I found a real love for history, and particularly Melbourne history and indigenous history and it really helps me to connect to the subject and go further as I really think about what I’m singing about. I can’t just sing about indigenous people because I’m not indigenous so I really think about what I’m singing. I think the research in my degree has helped me heaps.
I am a part time History teacher, and we are looking at the Freedom Ride that Charles Perkins organized.
Yes, in the 60’s. it is not an easy thing to write about because it is quite sensitive, well I find it is. I just saw a friend of mine play at the Dorringo Folk and Bluegrass Festival, Harry Jakamarra and he has written a new song about death in custody. He just hit the nail on the head. So keep an eye out for that one.
You say in your bio that when you wrote ‘Just a Boy’ that you did not know that it was going to be a song with such emotional connection with your fans. You were tossing up if you should keep it personal or not. Tough choice but your fans helped you make your decision?
Yes I suppose so. That is one thing that I love as a songwriter, is the ability to connect with people, I think it’s more important than a good song! (laughing) it becomes more of an experience to you and other people and that song seems to be an opportunity for people to relate. I mean we all know somebody that has passed away and I think a song like that helps you to remember them in a safe way. This song seems to be quite powerful in that way and I have heaps of people coming up and saying thank you. Either they are going through a tough time or they have lost someone and I think it’s nice that people see that other people have suffered as well. That song is a great opportunity to do that. Rather than me just saying hey here is my song, doo wup baby (both laughing) I am saying I have been through stuff too and this is how it feels and I think you guys feel like this as well.
It is okay to grieve. That is what that experience is about.
To have a great song like this written from such tragic circumstances but special memories of your mum, of warm smiles and love that never dies is extremely relatable. To watch the video makes an even more of an impact. Was it a difficult decision to use real footage of your family in the music video or was it more an easy choice as you had already laid out your story in the song?
No, it was not easy (mum passed about 20 years ago ) because that’s the first time that any of us and seen moving footage of her. So it was really quite confronting and powerful for all the brothers and it was lovely to have them in the clip as well when we were sitting around the fire and it brought us together as well, some of them have tried to move on but I keep digging up the past! It was really powerful to have the moving image of my mum not only for me but for my nephews and nieces who have heard a lot of stories about mum but they actually got to see her in that moving footage in the video.
She looked so happy too.
Exactly and that is how we remember her.
On the eve of the release of ‘Alive’ how are you feeling after all your hard work and sharing some personal emotions?
Good question, I feel really excited to be honest, it is a lot of hard work releasing an album independently, touring and booking independently and it’s really exciting. It is time to celebrate all that hard work and all those decisions you make to follow your heart and your arse you know? I am feeling good. I have very realistic expectations at this stage. I am already on to writing the next album. I am really happy the way it turned out, my producer Nick Huggins and all the players did a great job.
I think that ‘Live your Life’ is my happy song on your album and ‘Just a Boy’ a more insightful song, it is great to have a variety. What else can we expect from your album?
Some of the songs aren’t all serious about living your life in grief, some of the songs are about feeling good traveling around Australia and letting go and some of the songs have a great groove as well. It is a whole range, think the reason that the album is called ‘Alive’ because a lot of the songs make me feel alive so some of them are quite upbeat and make you feel emotive but also catchy and good tunes.
Can you choose a song that is not released yet, and tell us the inspiration and story behind that song?
‘The City Walk’ is off the album and it is a song that I really like to play live. It is written about when I used to live in Brisbane and I used to listen to a lot of bands like The Cure and The Smiths and feeling quite depressed sitting on my front steps back in a romantic way. so ‘The City Walk’ reminds me of that. It is just a great song to play with the band. I think it is one of my favorite songs on the album.
You are heading to Woodford Folk Festival in January. You seemed to enjoy living in a caravan by the pics and posts on facebook.
It is great! I really love it, is bit of a learning curve but when you’re out there doing it, it is the best. I am hoping to hitch it up and head to WA next year which will be great!
Wow that is a long haul!
Yes! Love the caravan, love being at caravan parks and talking to old people.
I like that, the whole social aspect of camping, that everyone has a friend but when you stay in a motel you don’t talk to anyone.
That is right! It is very social. You get the caravan wave on the road too!
That is all I have for you today Tobias.
Thanks, they were great questions, it was nice to be asked about my songwriting and History and the Anthropology and how that all ties in.
Thanks, I wish you all the best for you album release and the tour.
Cheers, thanks, Jen
‘Just A Boy’ is the second single from acoustic folk / country artist Tobias. The track follows on from single ‘Live Your Life’ (click here), and is taken from his second album ‘Alive’, which will be released on Friday 4th November.
Tobias was seven when his family moved from Victoria to the Sunshine Coast hinterland. It was an idyllic childhood, but as he moved into teenage years his mother Julie was diagnosed with Cancer. She died when he was just 14. ‘Just A Boy’ is a concise, clear snapshot of childhood brought on by the arrival of spring, fishing on the river in the sun with dad, sitting by the fire with his brothers, and his mother’s warm smile. The song draws its power from an unforgettable melody, crystal clear imagery and its understatement.
Produced and directed by Henry Glover (Henry Glover Films), the powerful video for ‘Just a Boy’ was filmed at The Barn – Hill House in Eerwah Vale, QLD, and includes old footage of Tobias’ mother Julie and father Ken, as well as Ken with his sons as grown men today. “Losing your mum has such a huge, long-lasting impact on you. Of course it’s such an emotional song to sing and the video has been really powerful for the family, but it’s not just my story. Everyone has these memories of their childhood and the song taps into those emotions we all have but maybe never talk about them”.
‘Just a Boy’ follows last year’s self-titled debut album, where Tobias explored some of his passion for folk music and Australian history. Recorded at A Pocket Full of Stones studio in Point Lonsdale (Port Phillip Bay) and co-produced by Nick Huggins, Tobias’ second studio album ‘Alive’ (out 4th November) is more personal – “Alive sums it up in a word, alive as a songwriter, alive to these experiences, feeling the grief and then finally feeling that things are going to work out. It can take courage to get up there and share so much of yourself in your stories and your songs but it’s what I should be doing.”
‘Alive’ track listing:
Everything Always Works Out
Live Your Life
I Won’t Fight
Just a Boy
Hold Me Close
Made My Decision
When The Sun Comes Up Again
Sit By The Water
‘ALIVE’ – RELEASED FRIDAY 4TH NOVEMBER
Fans will get to hear ‘Just a Boy’ and songs from forthcoming album ‘Alive’, when Tobias hits the road kicking off in September for a string of shows across Queensland, Victoria and ACT.
SATURDAY 15TH OCTOBER| DRIFT BAR – CALOUNDRA, QLD
FRIDAY 21ST OCTOBER | CITY SOUNDS, QUEEN STREET MALL – BRISBANE, QLD
SATURDAY 29TH & SUNDAY 30TH OCTOBER | HAPPY WANDERER FESTIVAL – BENALLA, VIC
SATURDAY 5TH NOVEMBER | ‘ALIVE’ VIC ALBUM LAUNCH PARTY @ LABOUR IN VAIN – MELBOURNE, VIC
SATURDAY 12TH NOVEMBER | THE FRONT GALLERY – CANBERRA, ACT
FRIDAY 18TH NOVEMBER | THE FOX DEN – GLOUCESTER, NSW
SATURDAY 19TH NOVEMBER | BENT ON FOOD – WINGHAM, NSW
SUNDAY 20TH NOVEMBER | FLOW BAR – OLD BAR, NSW
FRIDAY 2ND DECEMBER | ‘ALIVE’ QLD ALBUM LAUNCH PARTY @ BERKELOUW BOOKS – EUMUNDI, QLD
SATURDAY 10TH DECEMBER | ULYSSES GARDEN CAFÉ – FINCH HATTON, QLD
FRIDAY 16TH DECEMBER | IMPERIAL HOTEL – EUMUNDI, QLD
SUNDAY 18TH DECEMBER | THE BOHEMIAN CAFÉ – EUMUNDI, QLD
SATURDAY 24TH DECEMBER | DRIFT BAR – CALOUNDRA, QLD
TUESDAY 27TH DECEMBER | WOODFORD FOLK FESTIVAL – WOODFORD, QLD
THURSDAY 29TH DECEMBER | WOODFORD FOLK FESTIVAL – WOODFORD, QLD
SATURDAY 31ST DECEMBER | WOODFORD FOLK FESTIVAL – WOODFORD, QLD
SUNDAY 1ST JANUARY | WOODFORD FOLK FESTIVAL – WOODFORD, QLD
SUNDAY 8TH JANUARY | IMPERIAL HOTEL EUMUNDI, QLD
‘JUST A BOY SINGLE’ OUT NOW
‘ALIVE’ ALBUM RELEASED FRIDAY 4TH NOVEMBER