So begins William Crighton’s third album Water And Dust, a musical exploration that travels deep into the heart of Australia. The terrain, the people, the raw beauty, the danger, the echoes of the past and the hopes for the future. It’s all there. The title track builds like a storm, from the call of the crows to William Barton’s didgeridoo and searing electric guitars from Crighton and Jeff Lang. In this music, the country feels so close you can almost taste it. William has enlisted collaborators including Midnight Oil’s Rob Hirst, William Barton and Jeff Lang, and recorded the album at Jim Moginie’s Sydney studio. This new album features singles Your Country, This Is Magic, Keep Facing The Sunshine and new single Stand (co-written with Rob Hirst who also plays drums on it). William goes deeper in to the album with Hi Fi Way.
Congratulations on the album. Being release day it must be exciting to have it out?
Thank you, mate. Yeah, it’s really good to have the album out and it’s been a little while coming, so I just feel happy. Just going to go fishing now with my brothers, so it’s a good way to celebrate.
Do you find that you can kind of sit back now and just listen to the album, like a fan would?
Oh no. I won’t be able to listen to the album now for six months, because I’ve put so much into it and I’ve been listening to it so much over the last year or so that I’m sort of so close to it, because I’ve had to really dive into the sounds of it and try and get it right for everyone to listen to. So, I’m too close to it. I’ll give it six months now before listening to it and then listen to it, and then I’ll be able to hopefully listen to it as somebody else would.
Putting so much of yourself in to the album was it hard to let it go?
It was a pretty natural thing to let it go. It’s like a natural process of that thing of putting all the work in and then letting it come to fruition. I’m hoping that people like it and enjoy listening to it.
How hard has it been in particular the last twelve months in getting the album finished?
We were very lucky in the sense that the recording that we had planned fell in where we didn’t need to isolate or anything. So, we were able to have a few people in the same room playing at the same time. We were just lucky it fell on those days. It still was hard doing some stuff remotely, like after and whatnot, but we adapted, that’s what it’s about. Just trying to adapt and not let it beat you.
Do you think you work like this on the next album?
Yeah, I think so. I think we’ll definitely just go with it like we have here and try and just make it an honest expression of the time and place. That’s what we’ve always tried to do. This is the first album that we’ve really recorded in a studio setting, but it’s generally the last two have been in houses, in the bush, and whatnot. So, we had a few more toys this time around, but I don’t know if I’ll do that all the time, but for this album, it definitely works it enabled us to get a bit bigger of a sound.
Does that create more pressure in some ways being sort of in the confines of a studio or do you think you needed to do something like that to better get the sound that you ended up with?
Yeah, that’s a good question because if you’re in a house just hanging with your friends and you got the gear set up, like the last two albums have been, there’s a lot less pressure in a sense where the clock’s not running and you’re there. When we record, we had that energy in the studio anyway. We booked enough time where we could be there, enough time to still feel the pressure, but not enough time to be able to relax too and really get into a flow. So, it was a good experience. I don’t know which one’s better but I think if you create a social environment while you’re recording, which is what we tried to do the music definitely feels better.
Do you think your sounds change much between the albums, particularly your second and now your third album?
A little bit, definitely a few more instruments. For me it feels like a natural progression. I hope it does sound different though, I just do what I’m trying to do at the time. I don’t consciously think I’m going to make this one different. It just is different. I think it’s got a bit bigger sound as far as the soundscapes and whatnot. You’d have to tell me that because they obviously sound different, and there obviously two different times and places. I can’t really articulate that because I’m too close to it.
Do you have musical heroes and influences that were significant in in shaping this album?
I put a lot of faith in the people in the room like having my wife Julieanne there, obviously, and the producers, different guys like Matt Sherrod, Christian Pyle, Damien Charles as well as a bunch of my friends who also get sounds and help with arrangements. I pretty much do the arrangements, but having Jeff Lang and William Barton, I’m not the best musician myself, but I know good musicians when I hear them. I know the ones I want to work with and having them around me makes me play better. I like to be the weakest link in the chain and try and step up. I think they bring great stuff out of me and as well as contributing great stuff themselves in the context of the songs that myself or myself and Jules have written.
It must be a great dynamic to be able to be in a band with your better half?
Yeah, it does. We’ve been together since I was in my early twenties, like 22, and we’ve got three kids now, and we’re in our thirties and to be able to share the journey together and create the music together is a wonderful blessing. I’m very thankful for it. I mean, obviously it does go the other way sometimes in the sense when you’re in that deep, you can bite harder too, but at the same time you try not to do that and you try and maintain a good flow. I think we do, by the most part, my music’s certainly much better just on the base level. It’s much better for having Jules involved in it. Whether she’s my wife or whether we have a relationship or not is beside the point. Then you add that into it and it enables it to go to a deeper place as well. I’m very thankful.
Do you start to feel a little bit more optimistic about tearing the album?
I hope so. I really do. I hope that the COVID thing is over. Well, it’s never, it’s not over, let’s not kid ourselves, but I hope that it’s going to be under control and music can get back to being played live without restriction. I think that there’s so many things that have restrictions on them. I think the arts sector has been it so hard for very little justification and so that’s unfortunate. I think I’m all for locking down if we have to or doing any of that stuff. What I don’t like is one set of rules for one industry and another set of rules for others. It just seems really it’s problematic, but fingers crossed that we’re onto a brighter future.
Interview By Rob Lyon