Published on September 5th, 2013 | by Laetitia Laubscher0
Timothy Blackman’s Homecoming
Wellington folk artist TIMOTHY BLACKMAN is a bit of a Renaissance man.1 Besides music, he also happens to be an accidental actor,2 energy consultant, surfer, landscape gardener,3 ex-boy scout, world traveller and all round nature boy. He also speaks a bit of German.
Laetitia Laubscher talks to him about his new EP This Country.
LAETITIA – What was the lead up to making This Country?
TIM – The EP’s a bit of a homecoming. I was living in Australia a little bit last year, and when I was there nothing was really happening musically. Most of these songs only came out as soon as I got home. You realise that when you’re away that there’s a lot of people from home that you love, and you really only realise that as you’re getting older.
LAETITIA – What does home mean to you?
TIM – I guess it’s a place a lot of my friends are, an area where I feel connected to. It’s a feeling – the soil, or a certain smell… probably just the people around it. It’s a place where I developed a lot of love and a lot of friendship.
I think it’s something larger too – I mean home is one of the weird things, you’re consistently being brought back to the same space called home – you might not even like it that much. I heard Joanna Newsom once talk about home, saying it’s something innate in our body, you can’t really fight it. You can create a home on the road, but there’s always that longing.
LAETITIA – You’ve travelled around and lived overseas4 quite a bit. Do you feel places are pretty important to you for inspiration?
TIM – I guess I do. Moving around gives you something to write about, I kind of crave that. You get a different feel from each little movement. I guess you just pick up on whatever is getting talked about, but I don’t know if I’m going to keep moving round all the time anymore.
LAETITIA – Growing up in Wellington you were into classical violin and then moving to Dunedin you got into grunge for a while, and nowadays you’re playing folk. Where did you pick up that one up?
TIM – I spent six months in Portland back in 2011. It’s so cool, and from there I basically learnt my craft, and what I play now. The kids over there are just so good.
LAETITIA – Yeah, it’s one of those bucket list places to live for artists. Speaking of places, your last album you recorded in an abandoned church, what about this one?
TIM – Ah, this one I recorded with Lake McKenna (who also produced the EP) at various friends’ houses across Wellington. A bit was recorded at a friend’s granddad’s house too.
LAETITIA – Did you guys get to have milk and cookies in your recording breaks?
TIM – Well, they’re not really those kinds of grandparents. They were out. They had an in-tune piano though.
LAETITIA – Good enough reason to record there.
TIM – Yeah, it’s actually quite hard to find in-tune pianos.
LAETITIA – Very true.5 And what’s your song-writing process like?
TIM – I don’t really work on songs. I don’t really feel like a songwriter, because I’m not labouring over it. It usually just comes out, like a way of venting emotions. I’ll write lyrics in a couple of seconds. I think my lyrics are getting better as I’m getting older, but at the same time I don’t really change them.
LAETITIA – So stream of consciousness6 kind of stuff?
TIM – Yeah exactly that. So I basically will just have a feeling and play the guitar and something cool will come out and I’ll just keep playing it and keep playing it until it feels good. From writing a song, I can kind of feel if it’s no good… it’s a hard thing to explain. It’s a weird thing music, it’s just this feeling in your body.
LAETITIA – How did you get into music?
TIM – When I was five I asked my mum if I could play the violin. I was listening to something she was playing and asked her ‘what’s that instrument?’ and she told me, so I said ‘I wanna play that.’ When I was ten I started picking up guitar. I never had lessons for that, but it was something that I gravitated towards.
LAETITIA – And when did you decide that you were going to be a Musician?
TIM – I guess looking back I had already decided when I started playing the violin in the late 1980’s. Music was always my thing from an early age. There have been times when I have been lucky enough to focus on music full time for a few months or so, but normally I work a day job and make music in my spare time. My work outside music informs my art, and I enjoy the variety. You know, as a musician or songwriter you’ve got to write about something. There’s this guy Jordan who came down to NZ a couple of years ago who said ‘when you stop working, as a musician you start writing art about art, and things can get real boring.’ So, I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.
Timothy Blackman’s EP This Country will be released on September 2nd.
1. [A person with many talents and interests like Leonardo da Vinci or Kanye West. The term cropped up in the Renaissance period in Italy (14th – 17th century) where the educated lot where expected to be able to write poetry, speak several languages, understand philosophy and so on.]?
2. [“I starred in a short film called Here Now that’s screening at the NZIFF, and I know nothing about acting. That was just something I did.” Tim Blackman]?
3. [At some point gardening for Neill Finn at his townhouse in Parnell. “He lives quite well actually.” Tim admits.]?
4. [The boy did stints living in Berlin, Portland and Melbourne. Impressive.]?
5. [Disclaimer: The interviewer has no idea how easy or hard it is to find an in-tune piano.]?
6. [A flowing style of writing popularised by the Dada movement in the 20s in which the writer projects all thoughts onto paper without stopping to edit, structure or analyse their work.]?
Photography by Megan Dieudonne