Jordie Lane has gained quite a reputation and a somewhat mythical persona with critics as the reincarnation of Dylan du jour. Short of treading that same tired path myself, I will say that Jordie sings with the same sort of ‘knowledge beyond his tender years’ that the older troubadour was famous for.
In fact, to listen to his debut album Sleeping Patterns, released last year, it’s remarkable to think that most of the songs were written before the songwriter reached 21 years of age.
His unique Australian neo-folk narratives are underwritten by a fanciful upbringing, Jordie being the son of a pair of travelling theatre performers. It’s an apt back story for a new-age journeyman who’s been spinning his wares on tours across the country with a frequency that is exhausting just to read about.
Already this year, he’s opened for Neko Case, Cat Power, Charlie Parr and The Weakerthans, and later this month will be embarking on a double headlining tour with fellow singer/songwriter (and kindred spirit of sorts) Jen Cloher. I spoke with Jordie Lane in a rare moment of rest between tours.
Music Feeds: So first off, I’d love to get a bit of background on your development as a musician. How did you get in to music? Was it something you’d always been interested in? Were you classically trained in any instruments?
Jordie Lane: I grew up in an unconventional family I guess. My parents met in a travelling theatre group on the Murray River, My mum an actress, my father a clown. When my sister and I were born a few years later they took us on the road with them everywhere. So we were immersed in music, and singing and costumes and late nights, so it was probably inevitable.
I got into playing music in primary school, first on ukelele that my dad was teaching at play lunch time, and then I got an electric guitar when I was 10. I was never classically trained at first, just got guitar lessons here and there from the local dude at the music shop, but I did work really hard to learn how to read music for my VCE Exams. I’ve since un-learned all of that theory. The great thing about getting lessons and so on was that I could rebel against them and create my own stuff. That was where some of the fire came from to write my own songs.
MF: Do you think living in Melbourne had an effect on your music? Is the city itself a source of inspiration for you?
JL: It definitely has been over the last four years or so. But initially when I started music, I was too young to realise what a melting pot for music Melbourne was and is. It was my school buddies and I who were stuck in our own little world of our first band that inspired me.
Everything around me, that I come into contact with influences and inspires my music, and because I’ve lived in this city my whole life, of course that’s going to always play a major part in my song writing. But I guess I’ve always drifted off in my mind to far away places to use as subject matter in my songs, going away and coming back here seems to always inspire me.
MF: You’re renowned for your epic touring schedules. That’s obviously an important part of being an independent musician, but is it also somewhere that you can write music? Do you compose while you’re out on the road, or is that something that waits for the quieter times?
JL: Yeah I always seem to get myself into long and sometimes hectic tours . But I love being out on the road, moving each day. There’s nothing to weigh you down, you’re free. And yeah I guess it is a way to make a living. But no I can’t really write on the road. I take notes and write small little things, and when I’m back home, that’s when I get stuck into writing the proper song.
MF: You were touring like a madman before Christmas, and now you’ve got a whole bunch of new shows just passed or coming up… Did you get any down time? Do you ever get to a point where you’re a bit over the touring?
JL: Yeah that’s true, being self managed there’s no sane business person to say “hey Jordie, this is crazy, slow down”. I had a week away in South Australia after new years, road tripping with friends, but I’m sort of lying in that it was for a show with Cat Power in Adelaide. But I took the whole of April off, to have a break and attempt to start working on some new material. Too much of one thing is never good for you.
MF: What have been the highlights lately? I know you were excited about supporting Neko Case. Anything else that stood out?
JL: Falls festival over new years was great. It was surprising to see how many people seemed to enjoy it. Also doing shows with Cat Power and Charlie Parr from the States was really great fun. And a little gig down on the Bellarine Peninsula at a place called Harvester Moon was really special. Fifty people dinner and show, on the edge of their seats, listening to your every word.
MF: Now, Sleeping Patterns has been out for around eight months now, and I was reading that a lot of the material on the record was written much earlier than that. Do you think you’ve developed as a musician since then? Have you written much new material since, and accordingly have you been toying with the older compositions on the road?
JL: To be honest I haven’t felt like I’ve given much time at all to the new and unfinished songs, for future projects. So in some ways I’d say I feel guilty because I don’t feel I’ve developed as much as I would have liked. But I did start playing the piano over the last year, and was just given an old pianola which I’m having a lot of fun on. I feel my song writing may be heading in a different direction very soon. The rhythms and chord changes, and therefore melodies also are changing in quite a way when I sit at the piano.
I’ve been touring a lot with different band members and line-ups too, which makes the older songs different at every show which I think is important to me, to keep re-inventing one’s work.
MF: Comparisons of you with other classic folk musicians abound. Does that ever worry you, getting pigeon-holed as it were to a certain aesthetic (if not overall sound)? Do you pay much mind to what people say about your music?
JL: I’d be lying if I said I don’t care at all what people say, and its nice to hear high praise and comparisons at times, but yeah some of them are ridiculous. I think, well that’s nice of you to say that but I’ve got a long long way to go to feel I’m understanding how to write songs of that quality. That’s why I’ve always said I will let my songs take me any which way they want to go, and not be set in any genres or styles or scenes as such.
MF: What’s next for you? Any plans to return to the studio soon, with the band or Fireside Bellows?
JL: Well I’ll be on the road again in May, for the double solo tour with Jen Cloher playing all the major capitals and some secret house concerts along the way. And after then I’m gonna head overseas for a while before thinking about recording the next record.
MF: What prompted the tour with Jen Cloher? Have you met or worked with her much in the past?
JL: Well, Jen and I have been bumping into each other an awful lot on the festival circuit and I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but we were at Nannup Festival in WA at the end of February and we decided ‘let’s do it’. I was holding a white wine and a chicken bone at the time if that gives a better picture of it.
MF: What’s one thing about you that Jen’s gonna have to get used to while you’re on the road together? Any annoying habits or eccentricities?
JL: My terrible morning mood, very grumpy I am any time before noon. Also when I get nervous I am a complete arsehole, and I usually blame everyone else when we choose a terrible place to eat.