Melbourne muso Ben Wright Smith has served up a diverse platter of indie-folk jams on his debut album, The Great Divorce. Produced by Oscar Dawson of Holy Holy, the record took shape across oceans, between studios in Collingwood to Nashville, Tennessee, and features a slew of collaborations from the likes of Ali Barter, Tyler Millott and more.
To get a window into the stories behind The Great Divorce (including the meaning behind the album’s title), Ben Wright Smith has shared with Music Feeds a rundown of each track on the album.
Give it a spin and have a read here below.
1. Nightmare In The City
This song came out of a little poem I had written one night while I was in Cuba a while back. I had just come back from this beautiful town outside of the capital and remember being excited to head back Havana. The day I got there though I got stitched up by a brother and sister who promised to sell me a guitar but ended up stealing all my money. This was a while ago and there was nowhere to get any cash; no banks were open and I had to spend the night out on the street holding onto my bags and trying to keep the nasty dogs away. I wrote this poem at the time, not so much about that situation but how I always seem to find myself getting into trouble when I’m in the cities.
2. No One
I wrote this song pretty quickly. I wanted to write about that anonymous feeling you get when you’re in a new city for the first time. I was just walking around seeing thousands of stories as people lived out whatever they were doing that day and no one cared what my story was. It’s a liberating feeling.
3. Commotion. Ocean.
I often I seem to attract chaos and I’m not exactly sure why. That being said, I’m sure there are things I could do to reduce the turbulence but, instead, I just try to learn to keep afloat in it all. I think there was a lot of change going on around me and this song came out as a result.
This is a bit of a dumb country-rock song. I was going to meet up with a girl across town and I guess my old feeling about the city centre sunk in. I totally didn’t want to be there but I did want to meet up so there I was. Anyway, the story has a happy ending but is basically the story of having a shit one in the big city.
5. I Don’t Want To Know
This one’s probably the most straightforward song on the record. Sometimes when shit goes down you’re better off just not knowing. Don’t ask. That’s about it.
6. Sand Grabber
‘Sand Grabber’ came from a jam I was having with my buddy Nic. We were playing around with some synthesisers and some ’80s drum machines when I started playing the weird chords in the bridge of the song. I don’t think I’ve ever written something so illogical or in such a backwards way but it sounded cool so I went with it. Originally I didn’t think I’d be able to sing it and I wanted to give it to someone else. I was hoping Katy Steele might want to sing it but a couple of the fellas in the band insisted we put it on the record so it ended up being me.
7. Where Do All Your Friends Go While You’re Sleeping
I think this one was partly written in my sleep, in a way. I woke up one morning thinking about the dream I had been having. When I’m sleeping I never miss my friends and they’re rarely there so what’s that all about? One of the toughest things in life is missing people or losing people but when I go to sleep I forget about you. So What does it mean? I don’t know….!! That’s why I wrote a song about it.
8. Hellion Heeled
I wrote this song after I spent the night at a party with a bunch of punk rockers who were really just posing the whole time. It was bleak. I grew up listening to punk and it was the first style that really grabbed me musically so listening to these guys talking trash I was kinda like, ‘yeah sure, but all you guys do is write songs about getting wasted and partying. Aren’t you supposed to be punks? Like ‘fuck the system’ and all that…’ Anyway that lead me to the original title of this song, which was ‘Fuck Punks’. It was always meant to be a dig. The next day I was walking my friend’s dog and we were trying to teach it to ‘heel’, as in ‘follow us’, and I thought of the punks again who, I guess, seemed like they’d been forced to obey the very thing they were pretending to be rebelling against. That’s when it became ‘Hellion Heeled’. Sorry punks, I do love you deep down.
9. The Wrecker // Sunrise Over The Landfill
This one was another autobiographical one. Basically, my friend got too fucked up and ruined her own party. Everybody’s been a ‘wrecker’ and everyone’s watched a ‘wrecker’ go around wrecking everything so this song was just my way of saying that. The instrumental half of the song came out of a jam but, to me, I always think of when the sun came up that day and people were passed out everywhere, rubbish everywhere but the party was finally over and there was a sort of peace for the first time.
10. Dead Man
Obviously, this one’s a real party starter. I think maybe written during one of the more down and out times over the last little while.
11. The Great Divorce
When I wrote ‘The Great Divorce’ I thought of it more like a circus trick than an actual divorce. I’ve never been married which is a question the literalists keep asking me. This is probably my favourite song on the album and I named the album after it because I’d written it all throughout the period I was recording and writing this stuff. I also thought that once the record was done it’d be a moment which led me to do whatever I want to do next. In that sense, it’s a bit more of a divorce from myself than anything. Now that I’m a divorcee I can go do whatever. So here I go. Bye!
‘The Great Divorce’ is out now. Ben Wright Smith kicks off a mammoth national tour this April. Head here for details.