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Fraser A. Gorman: 'It's Nice To Be Important. It's More Important To Be Nice.'

Wednesday, 13 May 2015 Written by Milly McMahon

Luxuriously laid back, Fraser A. Gorman writes simply, betraying a heart both wise and naïve. Building his sound from tobacco-tinged vocals, delicate strings and echoing background a capellas, he has lovingly crafted music to underpin his tangible emotional intelligence.

Now entirely comfortable in old fashioned skin, his debut album charts his maturation from boyhood. Painful memories sit reassuringly alongside elated tales of enduring passion on ‘Slow Gum’, which arrives in June.

The countrified Australian’s charm lies in his honest depiction of a complex identity. He is unique, just like everyone else, and takes his audiences on a journey reminiscent of the heroes who have gone before him. Bob Dylan’s influence is strong, while Townes Van Zandt and Willie Nelson are equally apparent, interwoven to heighten the respect he exhibits for this complex musical genre.

Adored and endorsed by collaborator and close companion Courtney Barnett, we find him in Berlin, turned out to perfection in a black suit jacket, tight black jeans, a polished pair of black RM Williams and a freshly ironed shirt. Fraser A. Gorman: a modern gent with charm, quirks, edge and very traditional manners.

“I was brought up in a family of women and looking sharp was high on the agenda in my household,” he says. "It reflects my character. I dress nicely and try to look important. It's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice. I have that engraved on a Zippo somewhere.”

You've referenced Willie Nelson, Guy Clark and Steve Earle as big influences on your sound. What was the gateway to outlaw country for you? What elements of the lyrics and that sound did you identify with so intimately?

I love all those songwriters, but my favourite country singer is definitely Townes Van Zandt. I would say he is the biggest influence on my sound or songwriting. I love the brutal honesty and beauty in his lyrics. His album, ‘Live at the Old Quarter’, is one of my favourite albums of all time. I've been obsessed with Bob Dylan since I was a young kid. I love his newer material as well as his old, classic stuff.

I listen to the album ‘Modern Times’ a lot. I saw him on that tour as well. Thunder On The Mountain is such a great song. I've covered it a few times with my band. It's really fun to play. I think I just looked up in awe at people like Dylan and Tim Rogers and many other rock stars early on and just thought: “Wow, I want to be like them." I bought a guitar and off I went.

The album charts your time growing from a boy to man. When you listen back to the album do you feel more substantial as a person, reflecting on a body of work that represents your journey into adulthood?

I guess so. It's nice to listen back to it and remember certain times and places that live within the songs. It's also nice to leave behind some of the gutwrenching feelings that I spat out on paper a year or so ago and relive the great feelings. It's like having a little 10 song diary that, for the most part, probably only I completely understand.  People will be able to reflect and relate to the tunes on whatever level they want to. I still feel good after listening to the record, and I hope whoever listens to it will too.

What would you say to your 13-year-old self if you could offer advice on his future as an artist, at the very start of your career?

If something doesn't feel right in your gut, usually it means that it's not the right thing to do. Tread carefully, but at the same time take a bit of time to look around and enjoy yourself. I still have to remind myself of these two things daily.

How do you and Courtney influence each other’s approach to music?

Courtney has given me a world of advice and help in the past few years and has been a great soundboard for my tunes. I guess we often bounce ideas off each other or problems we encounter doing whatever we do. The whole Milk! Records team is an amazing family of like minded musicians who are simply just there to look out for each other and support each other. It's a great community. Courtney's music is amazing and it's definitely been a big influence on me, especially from a writer’s perspective. She rules.

Do you pay attention to the response your music receives via social networking?

I think it's important to be aware of that stuff, but it's also important to take things like reviews and social media with a grain of salt. Whether you get awesome or horrific feedback, you can't let it faze you either way. It's good to just cruise along and have as much fun as possible. It's a really great feeling to be making music that people appreciate or can even be bothered stopping and listening to. It's all really humbling. I'm a lucky kid.

Which new artists that you have ties to do you think are redefining their genres?

I sort of don't think about genres too much. I think they are often irrelevant and people just use them to make things easy. Artists who I am associated with, and I think are creating brilliant music that spans many genres, are King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Jen Cloher, Courtney Barnett, The Murlocs, Twerps, Dick Diver, The Drones,  Davey Lane, Dan Kelly, Harmony, East Brunswick All Girls Choir…all of these bands are from Melbourne!

You have said in the past you feel more comfortable on stage than off. How has performing to strangers night after night altered the way in which you relate to people on a day-to-day basis?

Every show is different. I was a bit nervous before my first show in Berlin because I'd never performed to an audience where English is a second language for most people. I wasn't sure if they would understand my humour or lyrical content but the show was really great and went down well, so that was a relief. I feel comfortable on stage because I love performing. It's a lot of fun. I'm going to keep on doing it for a while I think.

Your mum is someone you have cited as a hero. What was her initial response after hearing the album?

I think she likes it. She's my harshest critic. She is my hero. She's tough as nails, Debbie Gorman.

'Slow Gum' is out on June 29 through Milk! Records / House Anxiety / Marathon.



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