On his new album, RIGHT!, Melbourne-based singer, songwriter and band leader Rich Webb navigates psychic modulation and contends with life’s essential impermanence. We’re premiering the album ahead of its release on Friday, 9th December.
Webb worked on the album with producer Rohan Sforcina and a crew of musicians including guitarist Rod Berglund, trumpet player Charlie Woods’, multi-instrumentalist Phil Wakeman, pianist Adam Rudegeair and drummer Jim Carden. Here, Webb breaks down RIGHT!, track by track.
Rich Webb: RIGHT!
1. Blue Wildflowers
You need one song to pull the trigger on a new record and this is the one that got it happening for me. I’m pretty proud of it. It’s essentially an apology, to a few people really, but one lovely person in particular. It’s one I’ve been trying to write for a while.
There is a great quote from Muhammad Ali that goes something like, “Someone who thinks about the world the same way at 50 as they did at 20 has wasted 30 years of their life.” There’s a lot in that, and that’s essentially what the song is addressing.
When I thought about some of the things that had happened in the past, well, I wouldn’t have acted in quite the same way now. I’m not trying to say I’m a newborn saint or what I did back then was necessarily all wrong. It wasn’t – it takes two people to make things work. But maybe I could have more fully appreciated the beautiful love we had and treated it with more care and respect. Instead, I think we both took it for granted, and over time we found it wasn’t there anymore.
One of the reasons why I’ve been trying to get this song down is to make sure I don’t do the same thing again; so I don’t take things so much for granted and appreciate the here and now and the brilliant things I have today, rather than continually searching for something else.
It’s got a cricket line in it too, which I’m chuffed about, though not quite ‘Dreadlock Holiday’. Rod Berglund needs a special mention on this one – his guitar part is wonderful, as is Phil Wakeman’s slide.
2. Love Someone
This was the first single and it came with a brilliant animated video by Matthew Lawes-Wickwar. The song is about our crap treatment of refugees and asylum seekers for many years. For a country with so much space, so much opportunity, so much to gain from acting more humanely to folks fleeing war and persecution, I really struggle to understand it. Yet, the harder the stance a political party takes on our borders, the more votes they get. Go figure.
It came to the fore for me with Johnny Howard and the Tampa situation two decades ago, but I’m not blaming him and something so long ago. I reckon people just don’t understand what these people are leaving. They are not chancers – they’ve been forced to leave their entire life, sometimes at gun point.
They are not trying to pinch jobs, or take stuff away from anyone, and I reckon we’ve got a load more to gain from their participation and contribution to building a better, more humane and compassionate society here then to keep chucking them back. We should be welcoming them.
The song came out at the same time as Djokovic was in one of these detention hotels in Melbourne earlier this year when he had trouble with his visa for the tennis. He was in and out of the place in a few days. The folks around him had been in that same hotel/detention centre for five to ten years. It makes us small, and we can do heaps better.
Track highlights: Phil Wakeman’s mandolin at the start came out of the blue in a lovely way; Jim Carden nails this one on the tubs; but more than anything I love Charlie Woods’ trumpet – she is so good.
3. I Don’t Mind At All (Bring on Summer)
Bassist Hugh Martin needs credit for recognising this one early when I didn’t see it quite so clearly in the initial demo. Then Matt Dixon landed the great guitar line, Rohan Sforcina delivered a dreamy, magnetic, spacious mix, and here we are.
It’s a song about the feeling you get when you go on holidays and life seems to stand still. You leave all the crap behind and live in the moment. When you are a kid, these weeks feel like a lifetime. When you get older, maybe taking your kids, there is something so freeing and uplifting about the whole thing.
Wind the window down, put your elbow out and suck some juice out of the radio. It’s the perfect track for that.
4. 50 Miles
This is a Dear John song. It wasn’t long ago that relationships used to run on letters. I’ve got boxes of them I really need to chuck out. Anyway, with letters, there you would be, three days behind the game, when one drops through your letterbox that totally changes your world. Sometimes the hardest part is you were totally unaware of where this was heading you while you were merrily having a good time.
50 miles is roughly the distance between Sheffield in England, where I was living, and Scunthorpe, where I’d come from. I got one of those letters. The third verse though is an old Irish blessing my mum sent me not long before she died, cut with mum’s fancy jagged scissors around the edges. Mum sent it through the mail, international post. It’s up on my wall here. There’s not a day when I don’t look at it.
Phil’s call and response vocals in the bridge are lovely.
5. You’re Always Here in My Mind
Probably the straightest song on the record. It’s about how you go through life taking forward the people who have meant something to you along the way. You carry them in the way you think, act and feel; what you’ve learnt from them, your shared experiences and sometimes how much you miss them.
The point is that you can’t go back – it’s not going to work if you do. What’s happening now is a different time and place and you can’t recreate something that was there before, no matter how brilliant it seems now.
6. The Last Rowdy Hour
Side two on the vinyl kicks off with this one, and for a reason – it’s a corker. Ding, ding goes the bell on a big night at a humming boozer, and it’s a delirious scramble to close out interest left, right and centre. It’s when folks see if casual smiles and conversations might turn into something a little more than that, maybe. A mad cacophony, where fabulous long-term relationships can also start.
The hour before closing time is pretty much the same everywhere around the world, or at least in places where you might want to be. This song is loosely based around the goings on at a pub in Fitzroy North where I was lucky to spend plenty of quality time quite a while back now. But it could be anywhere.
There was a pub in Soho I used to love that was the same but with English tendencies – you could feel the noise and intensity rise in the run up to closing time, reaching a crescendo just before the pumps are switched off. An hour later, none of it made much sense, but it was something mighty fine at the time.
Brilliant trumpet from Charlie Woods, incredible guitar from Matt Dixon, and Adam Rudegeair leads the way on barroom piano.
7. Nothing To Lose
‘Nothing To Lose’ is sort of a personal reminder. I reckon everyone feels some level of insecurity in what they are doing at different times, and it can get overwhelming and destructive. You feel rubbish. Like you’ve been knocked down and can’t get up. That there is no point to what you are doing.
Most times, there is nothing to lose by jumping up and moving on, even though it might not seem that way and so easy at the time. The key is in remembering that and doing it, and that’s not simple. This is a song to try and bang that message home, just in case you might be faltering somewhere. I usually am. Probably why I wrote it.
“Was pointed and right, now a pig / A soldier’s boots, two sizes too big / My hairy chest, and soccer ball / Scotchy Lavelle, Pope Pius and them all.”
Life continually moves and through circumstance, and often need, we can change into what may seem like different people for a while. But we’re still the same underneath it all. Just got to remember that and own it. None of us are here that long. It’s not a competition, and it would be nice if we were a tad more respectful of where we live and to try to maintain and preserve what we have for those that will follow.
I was reading this great book about old school New York at the time – Low Life by Luc Sante – and Scotchy Lavelle was one of the many fabulous characters in there. He was a river pirate, gang member, street fighter and dive bar owner in Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown in the mid to late 1880s. The reason he made it into the song is that if they had music in the bar, they got extended licensing hours, and Scotchy reportedly gave Irving Berlin his first job as a singing waiter. All we know for sure is great songs followed.
9. Dead City
The closer. Hats off to Phil Wakeman for crafting the incredible intro and coda. The song is about how places you can totally love can make no sense once your situation has changed. They suddenly feel dead. You are looking out a window as the train leaves the station and you don’t recognise the place anymore – all you can feel is a massive hole within you.
Sometimes that magic comes back, but more often it never does. Places get tainted by what happens to you in them. It’s sort of the same story about how you can never go back to where you were before. Your only choice is to keep going forward, whether you like it or not.
A big thanks to everyone who contributed here and particularly to Rohan Sforcina for engineering, mixing and producing. Legends one and all.