Fireflies: articles

Paul Kelly

Kelly on fire

PAUL Kelly, arguably the finest Oz singer/songwriter of his generation, is about to shift his already enviable profile up a notch or three. In the coming days, he’ll release a double album and an updated edition of his book of lyrics, Don’t Start Me Talking.

In addition, the 49-year-old has composed the theme and other incidental music for ABC-TV’s new drama series, Fireflies, which premieres tonight as a telemovie.

In a unique deal forged with the ABC, the producers of Fireflies will be able to use any of Kelly’s previously released songs, including his original tunes recorded by other artists.

The Kelly song-thread is certain to stitch its way through all 20 episodes of the show in a pervasive manner. As ABC publicity puts it: “Paul’s music is the soul of Fireflies…”

But his principal reason for a visit to Brisbane was to conduct a couple of key interviews and perform a handful of acoustic tunes for replay on Evenings, Alex Bernard’s weeknight ABC radio program. The first will be aired around the state tomorrow night at 7 o’clock.

Ways and Means is the title of Kelly’s ninth studio album, which comprises 21 new songs spread over two CDs that will sell for the price of one.

“This could have been a long single album but to tell you the truth, I don’t like long CDs,” Kelly confesses over a splendid grilled salmon in Brisbane’s inner-suburban New Farm.

“I always felt that if it was going to exceed 60 minutes, we should split it up into two.”

As inevitably happens with double albums, however, the punters tend to pick each CD to suit particular moods.

“People who’ve heard the finished records tell me that CD 2 is more of a Sunday morning sort of record, while the first CD is more like Saturday night stuff,” he says.

“The first one has more of an edge to it.

“I suppose CD 1 is about the setting up, the early days of hunting for love, while the second one is more about the consequences.”

It’s no surprise that Ways and Means represents an ode to romance.

“All songwriters find that love songs are the main thing… it’s right there from the start,” Kelly says.

After taking a well-deserved break in 2002, Kelly resumed his career journey with a new band.

Featuring his nephew Dan “Dank” Kelly on bass and long-time drummer Peter Luscombe, along with Peter’s brother Dan “Danel” Luscombe, who is adept on slide guitar and keyboards, the new band has re-energised the veteran tunesmith.

“Having two younger guys in the band just re-enthuses everybody, just as it does a football team,” Kelly the Elder notes.

He plans to bring the band out on the road for theatre shows, including a QPAC Concert Hall performance in Brisbane.

“But I like playing The Arena (in Fortitude Valley), too—I just like to keep mixing it up. Sometimes theatres, sometimes pubs, sometimes halls,” Kelly says.

Asked how he feels Ways and Means sits in his body of work, he pauses before replying: “Funnily enough, I’m not very familiar with my own records.

“Once I’ve written and recorded them, I don’t really listen to them. So I can’t really compare them.

“What I think about this one is that it’s very much a real band record.”

As to what music he uses to chill out on and off the road, he doesn’t beat around the bush.

“I like The Sleepy Jackson and Little Birdy from the West. And the Melbourne electronic band, Architecture in Helsinki.

“In fact, I like everything from Gillian Welch to OutKast.

“And I’ve become quite fascinated by Brazilian music with its complex rhythms and interesting harmonies.”

The troubadour says that, ambition-wise, he continues to be fascinated by the art of songwriting.

“I guess I’ll always be sitting down and writing songs because it’s an endlessly fascinating exercise,” Kelly says.

Ways and Means is out tomorrow week. Don’t Start Me Talking—Paul Kelly Lyrics 1984-2004 is out now through Allen and Unwin. Paul Kelly plays the Concert Hall, QPAC, South Bank, May 26. Tickets on sale tomorrow week.

By Ritchie Yorke
February 08, 2004
The Sunday Mail