Rise and Shine

What was the inspiration? This is one of a number of older songs that I wrote and recorded a demo for around 1999-2000.

I think I was reading an article or book at the time about somebody who had a strong belief in the harder you work, the more the world rewards you, and the idea of “luck’s a wheel you’ve got to turn” came into my head.

Around the same time I was working with somebody who whenever asked for his opinion, always answered with a question - hence “here’s a girl with all the questions, never gives you any answers”.

Those two pieces were a catalyst for me to build 2 fictional characters who were potentially getting back what they put into life.

My favourite part of the song? I am happy with the energy of this song - the driving guitar and drum rhythms overlaid with the vocal harmonies in the chorus gives the song a bright feel. Once I put “Rise and shine never waste a day” as the vocal intro, it was really obvious to me that this would be a good album opener (it also made me change the title from “What You Deserve” which sounded more cynical, to a more positive title).

Make You Happy

What was the inspiration? I remember this song being really easy to write - and it came to me just after Michelle (now my wife) and I started going out together.

We had been great friends for a number of years before we got together, and the strong desire of making her happy being a driving purpose in my life was clear to me from the very first day of our relationship.

I remember recording a demo and playing it to Michelle in the car one day at the beach, before giving her a copy of the lyrics framed which she still has on the bedside table now.

My favourite part of the song? When I listen to this song, it still rings true after 20 years of us being together and it will always have special meaning to me.

A Better Way to Live

What was the inspiration? This one was inspired by a number of stories I read or heard about city slickers making the tree change and relocating their families into regional Australia. I was listening to Dwight Yoakam at the time I wrote this in about 2000, and so there was a deliberate attempt to incorporate a lot of electric guitars from start to finish.

My favourite part of the song? I was pretty happy with the guitar solo melody and how I was able to reprise it to end the song following the key change. 

Run for Your Life

What was the inspiration? Bushfires - we live in the Blue Mountains and the first time we had significant bushfires it was interesting to see the variety of opinions in the community around leaving early versus staying to defend your house.

This song is really just me processing our perspective that we would leave early and risk having to rebuild our house, rather than risk putting ourselves in a dangerous situation.

My favourite part of the song? The song to me sounds more country than most of the other songs I have written in the past, and I was really happy with the rockabilly feel coupled with the low tuned lead guitar melody that starts and ends the song.

I Was Alone

What was the inspiration? I was reading a lot of stories about people dealing with mental health issues - in particular depression, and this song is really a reflection of what I interpreted from those stories. I wasn't trying to imitate but I was thinking of Marty Robbins when I was singing this song.

My favourite part of the song? Whilst it is a sombre song, I like the conscious realisation of “there is no weakness in asking for help” and the glimmer of hope at the end “On the road to recovery, I’m not alone”. I also worked really hard on trying to get the various guitar sounds to blend together, and am happy with the way the bass and rhythm guitars drive the song forward without any drums or percussion.

Good Thing

What was the inspiration? Musically, I was trying to write a straight guitar driven pop song - like John Mellencamp might write.

I think the world would be a better place if people reminded themselves of what is good in their lives, and question whether they need more, and if so, at what cost?

My favourite part of the song? Written 15 years ago, this is one of the first songs I recorded for this album so I was experimenting with different pedal steel and fiddle loops. I am really happy with the way it all came together.

Turn the Music Up

What was the inspiration? One of the first songs I wrote as a 13 year old was called Turn the Music Up. 30 years on it didn’t stand the test of time, so I stole from myself the title and a small part of the melody, and then set out to write a new song. The song is quite light lyrically, but authentically reflects how music can really draw me in and take me to another place (which means I don't get stressed in traffic jams).

My favourite part of the song? The slide guitar interplay with the other lead guitar in the solo at the end makes me smile as it kind of surprises me (even though I wrote the song, played the parts and produced the recording!). I am always drawn to something unexpected in a song and I was really pleased that I got joy out of that section.

Best Day of My Life

What was the inspiration? This was written not long after Make You Happy - where I dared to imagine even before I had asked Michelle to marry me, how I would feel when we got married.

So many people talk about their wedding day being the best day of their life - and for me that feels quite limiting. It shouldn't be the peak but the beginning of an upward trajectory.

I was in a group called the The Two Macs Country Trio (long story to explain the name!), and we recorded and released this song on the New Horizon album in 1998. This re-recorded version is a different arrangement that I put together for our wedding in 2000, and is slower so that we could dance to it for our bridal waltz.

My favourite part of the song? I’m still proud of the chorus tag line “Every day that we spend together will be the best day of my life”.

Coming Home

What was the inspiration? Peter Greste was a journalist who was arrested and kept in prison in Egypt for a long period of time. I was trying to imagine how his family would feel when he is released and what would you say to somebody who has reclaimed their freedom after unexpectedly having their life turned upside down.

I wrote this in November 2014, and was so pleased when I saw on the news that he was released 3 months later.

There's not many fade outs in my songs but the vocal refrain and fade at the end was inspired by Little Green Bag by George Baker.

My favourite part of the song? I was trying to reflect a positive sentiment through this song, and I was impressed to see when Peter Greste was released how positive he was about being reunited with family and his life.

Build a Bridge

What was the inspiration? This was the last song I wrote for this album and in some respects is still one of my favourites. I am a glass half full person, and the slight tongue in cheek of the phrase “Let’s build a bridge and get over it” being applied to small problems we shouldn’t worry about appealed to me. I also like the flip of the metaphor in the second verse to building a bridge between two people and meeting halfway to compromise rather than holding firm to something and getting nowhere.

My favourite part of the song? Similar to Rise and Shine, I was happy with the energy of the song and how the guitar parts contributed to the song. I also like singing this song.

To Be With You

What was the inspiration?

So much of life today can be influenced by measuring ourselves against others and external standards. I wanted to write something that simply said I am grateful and take comfort from simply being with my family.

My favourite part of the song? The intro guitar line reminds me of The Mavericks - which influenced the rest of the guitar parts including the key change for the solo with the backing vocals refrain.

Paper Boats

What was the inspiration? Seeing the world through the innocent eyes of a child whose instinct is to share and welcome those in need, but is surrounded by adults who can appear indifferent to the plight of others. It should drive us to tears but in the song, the only one crying is the child.

My favourite part of the song? Writing from a child’s perspective and incorporating the concept of fairness and compassion as child’s play is what I like about this song. I am also happy with the jaunty irish melody that came to me one day in the shower (as many songs do).

Never Go Back There Again

What was the inspiration? This is my overt anti war song. Why haven’t we learned the lessons?

I had the pleasure of working with my good friend Frank Sultana when he was promoting his Greetings from Devilstown album back in 2011. I wrote this melody as a blues song around this time with the working title of "You'll Never Break My Heart Again" - until I came up with a story idea that I thought would match the song.

My favourite part of the song? When I started recording this song it was going to be more acoustic but because I had Paper Boats and I Was Alone already, I decided to put a stronger drum track coupled with more electric slide guitar. I am pretty happy with the slide guitars and the way they open up at the end.

Other Side of Town

What was the inspiration? After I moved out of home, I used to regularly pop into my father's house on the way home from work. He usually wasn't home and as time went by my visits continued but with less frequency.

When he passed away 11 years ago our family was surprised that a large group of friends from the local pub attended his funeral who were saddened by his passing.

Alcohol took a lot of things away from my father, and whilst it felt like he was isolating himself from the family, I am grateful to the community on the other side of town that made him feel welcome.

My favourite part of the song? The slide guitar in the chorus and the backing vocals are my favourite part of the song.

It's Gonna Rain Today

What was the inspiration? This song was on The Two Macs New Horizon album, which we recorded in the spare room at my dad's house. This was his favourite song on that album so it felt like a nice connection from Other Side of Town.

This song is about the resilience and optimism of farmers who push through droughts despite being up against the most unpredictable of all things - being the weather.

Along with Best Day, I see this as a song that I am very proud of so wanted to give it a slightly different arrangement to the original recording.

My favourite part of the song? I wrote the chorus for 3 part harmonies in The Two Macs so kept that alive for this version. I am also proud of the laid back feel of this version with a lot of picking on the acoustic guitars, and the brushes feel on the drums. This song closed the New Horizon album and I think it is a good way to book end this album.