This week, Melbourne band Oh Mercy will release their new album, When We Talk About Love, thanks to EMI.
An album of beautiful, romantic, and occasionally heartbreaking tunes, singer/songwriter Alexander Gow has worn his heart on his sleeve in releasing this latest work.
With the album being quite cathartic for Alexander, he says he is proud of the songs he’s put together, but with the raw nature of many of them, he is working through how best to share them live.
“It’s a collection of songs I really love and I tried to represent well. I can’t wait for people to have the opportunity to hear it. I’m pretty confident in the songs. I put a lot in to them. I know they’re not terrible, at least,” he laughs. “It’s going to be really challenging playing them live. Some of those words are hard to write because of life experience, which was really difficult, that inspired the songs; so they were hard to write, let alone perform night after night. I’m going to have to figure out how to do that, and to be honest, it’s been on my mind. I’m not sure how I’m going to deal with it, but I had to make that album that way.”
“I felt a responsibility to myself, and the subject of the songs, to make sure it was an honest representation of where I was at, and that it was beautiful and romantic. I don’t really feel like I had an option as the type of songs I wrote. But now I have to live with that and that’s going to be a real challenge.”
Having moved to America for eight months for peace of mind, isolation and to surround himself with musicians, Alexander wrote around 45 songs, which he had to whittle down to 12 to include on When We Talk About Love.
“I did it with the help of the record company,” he says. “I think if I was selecting 12 songs from a pool of 20, I might have put my foot down and had a clear idea of what songs I’d like, and perhaps wouldn’t have needed any help; but considering there were so many, there were two or three different albums within those songs.”
“So I really did require some kind of assistance, and it came down to the fact that the people at EMI and my management responded in the most intense and positive way to the emotive songs. They found them to be more compelling than the other ones. There was probably another album that sounded like my last one in the demos and it was the songs that were really honest that stuck out to them, so that’s kind of the record I ended up making.”
The emotive songs which made it on the album were inspired by his surroundings in Nashville, and the challenges the musician was living through at the time.
Holed up in a log cabin in Tennessee, Alexander, who formed Oh Mercy in high school, says he wrote his music in voluntary isolation.
“I was living and writing in Nashville for a while, just surrounding myself with great musicians and a city where the song-craft is really important and admired. I just really wanted to be a part of that and see what I could come up with,” he says.
“The log cabin was very beautiful. It was built in Kansas in the mid-1800s and it was a tavern. Someone decided to bring it across to Nashville by train in the 1940s and they set it up just outside of Nashville and that’s where I ended up living when I was over there for about eight months,” he says.
“I wrote a whole bunch of songs there that made it onto the album. I felt quite isolated, but I put myself in that position intentionally to challenge myself and see what I was capable of creating under those circumstances. It was particularly beautiful, and a beautiful time of year to be in Nashville, so I had a lot of inspiration, aesthetically, from where I was living and where I was at. It was also really difficult, but you could argue that it was successful in that I wrote quite a few songs and quite a few ended up on the album.”
While much of When We Talk About Love was written in America, it was recorded at Grove Studios in NSW.
Alexander arranged and played all of the instruments on the album, but he brought in a string quartet for the two songs he felt needed a bigger sound.
“On the album I played all the instruments, except the stringed instruments. For instance, I covered the guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. I wrote the string lines using a sample on a keyboard and then I had the string section come in on the last two days of recording and replace them all. I got my friend Ryan Ritchie from Melbourne to come and write and arrange a string quartet for ‘Iron Cross’ and ‘Lady Eucalyptus’. I wanted a really big string arrangement on those and I covered the rest,” he says.
Currently playing some solo shows, Alexander and Oh Mercy will be hitting the road in August to officially tour the album, but unfortunately, for the moment, Adelaide isn’t on the schedule.
“We’re doing bits and pieces now. I’m doing some solo shows, and Splendor in the Grass is coming up, but the album headline tour kicks off August and September. Adelaide didn’t make the list this time but we’re working on an Adelaide show to be slapped on towards the end of September. I hope so. I love Adelaide, it’s very beautiful,” he says.
We hope Alexander and the band can make it to Adelaide, because the new album is also very beautiful, and worth a listen.
When We Talk About Love is available for pre-sale, and is released on June 19th thanks to EMI.
By Libby Parker
Image: Album artwork