Following on from his debut 7″ release in July, Melbourne’s Ex-Olympian is proud to announce his debut album Afterlife which is out now via Dot Dash Recordings / Remote Control Records featuring the single Penny In The Well (feat. Sam Lawrence). Ex-Olympian is the new musical vessel for Liam McGorry, songwriter and musician for bands such as Saskwatch and Dorsal Fins. Named after the neon sign that adorns ‘Borsari’s Corner’ in Melbourne’s Lygon St, Ex-Olympian reflects the times we all need to shift things forward into a new phase.
Afterlife is a record about growing, moving on and learning from your mistakes… finding yourself again, making the road by walking. Written and recorded over a three year period in a series of phases; spurred on by wanting to be more directly involved in the playing and creation side of music, after working in larger ensembles for a long time. Chipping away on songs in his own studio space, inviting friends to play on different songs, and then tied together with friend and producer John Castle. What started as a quest to do more on ones own, became the realisation that music is truly a series of collaborations to be enjoyed together. Liam tells HI Fi Way more about the album.
Congratulations on the solo, did this really test your resolve to get this done all things considered right now?
Thank you so much! Fortunately, the record was actually finished before all of the various lockdown restrictions came into place… I’ve been very privileged as well, to have had work throughout this whole time (although no gigs or performance opportunities)… but it has been difficult to get the pieces into place to get out there and promote it. Overall, I’m just grateful to be in Australia at a time like this, and for the record to be out in the world after working on it for over three years.
Was it always in your mind to record your own solo album?
Not at all! I’ve always been a part of bigger bands (of six to ten people) and I’ve never really sought to be a ‘solo artist’ (I also think the solo male genius thing is a myth and wrong) however, as bands that I’ve played with for some time have been winding up or going on extended hiatus, it made me really think about how I wanted to be involved in music going forward. I’ve always written songs and loved making my own recordings… and that’s great, but in making these I always like to try and add one or more friend on each song. Music to me is about sharing and collaboration. That’s where the fun is. So I guess it’s a solo record + friends.
Do you feel any pressure after being involved in great bands such as Saskwatch and Dorsal Fins?
Thank you. I think in a strange way I feel the opposite. I love both bands dearly, but working on Afterlife has really freed me in writing and playing music, and helped me take a bit more initiative myself. One of the main goals I made for myself in making this record was to do more, to play and write as much as I can and really push myself. It’s been really fun most of the time, and really difficult at others. It took a lot more time than I thought (over three years) but also very rewarding in that I’ve done more of it myself. I’ve worked with a lot of different and interesting friends and I’ve made a lot of music that I’m really proud of, embracing my soul roots and my first instrument, the trumpet along the way.
Do you find that your song writing fits a particular project you are working on?
I’d like to think it’s a bit adaptable, but in reality I think it’s always extremely heavily influenced by my favourite music and the records I’m listening to at the time, taking aspects I love about my favourite songs and re-working them into something new. Whichever project I’m working on is also really influenced by the people involved and the shared musical connections you have between you.
How would you describe Ex-Olympian?
The term ‘Dream Funk’ was coined for the music by DJ Sophie McAlister and the Northside Records family after our most recent show (the Surprise Chef record launch in November 2019 last year). That’s a very generous one. I hope that it’s positive and soulful music that people can relate to… and that takes them on a bit of a journey.
How did you come up with the name?
The name itself is a tribute to the neon sign on (Melbourne Landmark) Borsari’s Corner in Lygon St, that reads ‘Ex-Olympic Champion’ in honour of Nino Borsari. An Italian Olympic Champion at the 1932 Olympics, who later moved to Melbourne, and brought the first espresso machine here too. I think the name Ex-Olympian is a good metaphor for the place I found myself at the time (although not at any sort of elite level) at the crossroads, in need of moving on, growing up and heading into a new phase of one’s life.
Did you enjoy working with Sam Lawrence and what did you think he brought to your latest single?
Sam is an incredible singer. I’m extremely grateful to him and everyone involved in the making of the record for their work. Sam’s really got a spellbinding talent and his performance on the song to me is really captivating. He and my partner Ella have sung together for years, growing up out in Warrandyte. He’s such a humble guy and I can’t wait to hear more of his own stunning songs out in the world.
How frustrating is it not being able to tour?
It is pretty frustrating. I love playing live, touring and seeing the world. The best part is connecting with people who like your music. It’s truly humbling. But to be brutally honest, I think now is a really great time to be releasing new music. I think to me and a lot of my friends, making a great record has always been my primary goal as an artist, it’s a work of art, a frozen moment in time. Writing songs and recording them is a lot of fun. I’ve been very lucky to have had so many friends help me out with that. However, I am looking forward to playing with those friends in the same room!
Is Ex-Olympian the project you’ll be working with for the foreseeable future?
Yes definitely … never say never though. I’ve also been working on another record with some old friends which is due for release in the new year.
What albums have you hooked right now?
The new Surprise Chef, the new Snooch Dodd & the Pro Teens… Cleo Sol’s album… the new GL record, the new Mildlife, the new Kylie Auldist and all of Greg Foat’s records! I guess that’s a lot.
Interview By Rob Lyon