Piano fiend and enigmatic genius singer-songwriter, Hue Blanes, PBS Young Elder of Jazz 2017 and 2017 Green Room multiple nominee, has today released his new single, Fernando and announced his sophomore record, Holiday – a darkly wonderful song cycle full of modern poetry – set for release on April 14. To support this stunningly beautiful work, Hue will play a strictly limited run of intimate shows across Ballarat, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Mullumbimby in April.
Hue’s sound sits somewhere outside of the usual genre boxes, yet somewhere in all of them; jazz, classical, artsong, pop, the album is a rare and musically sophisticated work, ahead of its time, yet deceptively simple – just Hue, sitting at his piano singing his stripped back melancholy. It is like Father John Misty, Jeff Buckley, Bach and David Foster Wallace all having an existential crisis in a room somewhere.
Speaking on the single, Fernando, Hue explains, “It’s about a troubled world famous soccer player and what I may have in common with him. I was wondering if hugely successful sports players suffered loneliness and anxiety and when I read a story about one of my favourite players – Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima from Brazil – having a setback before a crucial game in the World Cup, I decided to write about the story from my perspective.”
The song has been paired with a simple, poignant video clip. Disarmingly voyeuristic, we follow Hue as he walks apparently aimlessly around the lonely, dark and quiet streets of Brunswick. Filmed by Ben Stace ‘Cowboy’, the video was an immediate reaction to a botched attempt at another clip. “We had wanted to superimpose painting on top of a video shot in the studio of the finished take of Fernando,” Hue says, “It looked a little bit like The’ Mulligrubs’ or something out of the 80s and we weren’t feeling too good about it, so we got a camera and shot the clip in an hour, edited it the next day.”
Holiday is a stunning, bleakly comic song cycle featuring Hue’s virtuoso singing and piano, a story of loneliness, despair and the difficult search for meaning amongst the everyday tedium of being human, told in Hue’s trademark wryly moving style. With this work, Hue takes his place as the troubadour of the troubled, the singer of solitude.
Written over a two year period and heavily influenced by Hue’s troubled and anxious state of mind at the time, he explains, “The album was written while I was living with a schizophrenic golfing marijuana shaman who spent 8 hours a day shaking maracas on his knees whilst massaging himself and giving complex advice on posture and world politics to the other housemates and myself… Things needed to change. I wrote songs and got some new housemates. Meanwhile the shaman is living in a volcano in Nicaragua and having a great time and I’m releasing the album 3 years later and still in the same house.”
Available on vinyl, the LP will be accompanied by a booklet of original drawings by illustrator, Bernard Caleo who has interpreted the songs with scribbled drawings, with one drawing that perfectly sums up this desolate record – a man with an umbrella over his head with rain pouring out from inside the umbrella.
Hue has a host of fans near and far, with collaborator and artist, Bernard Caleo saying, “In this song cycle, Hue Blanes immerses you in a world of troubled dreamers, estranged lovers and ex soccer stars. The tunes ache with a sweet loneliness and the search for another, more bearable world.” Deborah Conway is also a supporter, saying, “Hue Blanes has a transcendent voice, perfect timing and an angelic touch on the piano, he’s a star.”
The intimate shows set for April are on sale now, offering an opportunity for those lucky enough to encounter one of Australia’s most startlingly original performers.
Fernando is out now. Holiday is set for a vinyl release on Melbourne’s Pound Records on April 14