Timothy Blackman, This Country

ARTS, Features, Interviews, Music
The Wellington singer-songwriter on ‘When You Find That Love’ and other mini-masterpieces on his new EP.

Timothy Blackman is unequivocal when he describes the song ‘When You Find That Love’ off his latest EP, This Country: “I’m actually really happy with that song.” Coming from Blackman, such a proclamation is not given lightly.

For the best part of a decade, Blackman has been creating some of New Zealand’s most interesting, sincere, and intelligent independent Kiwi music, and the pride in his recent work is obvious. “I don’t how other people feel about it, but that’s the way I feel about it,” he says. “I’m 29 now and I’ve been writing tracks since I was 11 years old and you kind of know when you’re happy with something.”

‘When You Find That Love’ has the potential to be an instant classic that should open Blackman up to a larger audience. And despite an unconventional structure, the song manages to be infectious and instantly catchy. Lyrically, it ponders finding love and holding on to it, no matter what, something that will resonate with anyone who has fallen in love.

The rest of the songs on the four-track EP are rich, strong, and compelling mini-masterpieces; his song writing, delivery, and lyrics showcase the talent of a musician who is at the top of his game.

“To me it feels like this release that has the most content on it, that’s why people love seven inch records so much because bands can say this is our new seven inch, and they bang as much as they can out on it and all these ideas in just one release.”

‘How We’re Going’ is a brooding song, where Blackman’s guitar playing sits beautifully over the piano and a haunting backing vocal effect. The title track also has a depth of sound that builds around Blackman’s guitar picking, and is punctuated by keyboard and trumpets, while an almost angelic backing vocal accompaniment surrounds the singer’s drawl.

The cover of Blackman’s ‘This Country’.

Blackman enlisted eight ‘friends’ to play on this record, including fellow members of Home Alone Music (the label Blackman founded and helps run). The EP is also produced by label-mate Lake Mckenna from Urban Tramper and the Wellington Sea Shanty Society, who Blackman sites as a reason for such interesting instrumentation and strength of sound.

Of Mckenna, he says: “Lake’s got such high production values and doesn’t really give up, he’s like ‘we need to do that,’ and we will work on the idea.” This is obvious on ‘Be Careful’, a moving tune accented by a brilliantly dozy trumpet piece, with its long drawn out vocal lines, it grooves the EP to a slow, beautiful end.

Two of the EP’s tracks were written in the second half of 2012 (after returning from a stint living in Melbourne) and two being written here in Wellington this year. It took him nine months to record the EP, which gave him the time to channel the themes and create a product that he feels is complete.

“I knew it was short and sweet, I described my last album as a winding river, and I’d describe this as more individual songs, which sit really well on their own, but also really well together as a package.”

While the EP’s title is an obvious nod to themes of homecoming and reconnection, Blackman says the line “where are you now?” from ‘When You Find That Love’ exemplifies the theme of the EP. “It’s almost the end of an era song,” he says. “I mean where are you? You’re not there anymore.”

The cover photo for the EP is of Blackman as a child and the title track is a bittersweet tune about being proud of where you are from, but also lamenting, and reflecting on that very idea. ”You may not even like your country that much, or the town you’re from, but the calling of home is this innate thing.”

In another nod to reconnecting with your roots, Blackman recruited childhood friend and former Knives At Noon member Tim Couch to play drums on the record. The two grew up playing in Rockquest bands in the Hutt Valley and in Dunedin band Jezebel Sundae at University. “Tim [Couch] and I first made a tape back in 1998, when we were 13,” he recalls. “Now it’s 2013 and we’re still working together, and nothing’s really changed.”

‘This Country’ is available for download on Bandcamp. More about Timothy Blackman at timothyblackman.com.
Tim Glasgow is a Wellington-based freelance journalist who has lived and worked in New York, New Orleans, and has written for The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, and various other publications in New Zealand.