Citizenship: Ainslie Wills
The Australian Government isn’t the only entity that puts people through a rigorous cross-examination to prove their loyalty to a bunch of stars and a Union Jack. Each week at M+N, we make an Australian act kiss the flag by asking them questions about their favourite local acts: who they’ve been listening to recently, their underground heroes, or whether they prefer Kylie or Dannii Minogue.
Taking the test this week is Melbourne songwriter Ainslie Wills, who's touring in support of her new single ‘Stop Pulling the String’. The floaty, harmony-layered tune is a strong prelude to her upcoming album You Go Your Way, I'll Go Mine, due out in early 2013.
a. Tell us about your new single. What’s it about?
It's about letting go of ghosts in your past and not revisiting those moments that you cannot change. The line “Stop pulling the string” used to be in the song, but it didn't quite gel with the melody. It, however, summed up that which I was trying to evoke, so I let it be the title.
b. Is it indicative of the album, You Go Your Way, I'll Go Mine?
Definitely. There are a few themes that run through the album, but one that stands out as the strongest is the theme of liberation in its many different contexts. 'Stop Pulling the String' is about liberating oneself from the past. It is a very universal theme, one that I was compelled to write a song about.
c. Tell us about the album. Where did you record it, who did you work with, etc.
I was lucky enough to co-write half of the album with my guitarist and musical ally Lawrence Folvig. We wrote the album over a year or so and decided against tracking it in a formal studio, instead taking a whole bunch of people – including the band and amazing co-producer/engineer Jono Steer – to a beach house in Blairgowrie, Victoria, during the winter. Blisssssss.
Part 1. Geography
a. Tell us about your hometown.
Well, my hometown now is Melbourne, but I grew up in the town of Albury, which is on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. A great pastime of this town is the execution of a 'Deanie', which is driving up and down the main street (Dean Street) with windows down, music pumping. In my day it was the music of Alanis Morrisette.
b. Name your favourite bands from your neck of the woods.
My favourite bands in Melbourne at the moment would have to be Cold Hiker, Second Hand Heart, Private Life, Brous, Axolotl. There are many more, but it would take up the whole page.
c. Where’s your local and what’s it like?
My local is the Town Hall Hotel, North Melbourne. It's dark, cosy, musically inclined and has really weird portraits of kids crying. Somehow it works.
Part 2. History
a. Which Australian bands did you grow up listening to?
I had older siblings, so I was given a broad musical education from them early on, including Midnight Oil, Hunters and Collectors, Girlfriend (that was my own doing), Frente!, Powderfinger, Silverchair. She isn't a 'band', but I did listen to a lot of Olivia Newton John too.
b. What’s the first Australian record you bought?
Hmm, the first one that I can remember buying was Frogstomp by Silverchair.
c. Who’s your favourite Australian band/artist of all time?
I would have to say Silverchair. Their album Diorama was a pretty mind-blowing album for me at the time and has stuck with me since.
d. What’s the most “Australian” record ever produced?
It would have to be Diesel and Dust by Midnight Oil, although there are many great Australian albums to choose from. This was an album I listened to growing up. I think it evokes imagery of the Australian landscape through the music so incredibly well.
Part 3. Current Affairs
a. Who are some of your favourite new Australian bands?
Alpine, Timothy Carroll, Little Scout.
b. If you could collaborate with one current Australian artist, who would it be, and what would it sound like?
I would like to collaborate with Paul Dempsey. It would be melodic and moody. Translated to colours it would be shades of red, blue, purple and grey.
c. Last great local gig you saw.
That would have to be Yeo at the Grace Darling Hotel. Good, simple, yet interesting songs; great musicians, good vibes.
d. Do you think an Australian artist needs to go overseas to succeed?
That is a good question. It really depends on the type of music you are making, if the music is a little left of the trend than it is harder to succeed in the Australian music scene. But I think it really comes down to the ability to be able to write songs that can lyrically, sonically and emotionally connect to people no matter what music they are into. It also is about building good relationships with people around you and being across all aspects of what it is to be a working musician.
Part 4. Multiple Choice
a. The Voice or Australia’s Got Talent?
I haven't watched the latter, so The Voice. I am really weirded out by the turnarounds that the judges do on those chairs, but I do like that the artists are chosen on ear value, not face value.
b. Hungry Jacks or Red Rooster?
Hungry Jacks for sure. Red Rooster have some weird tropical pack that I saw an ad for recently: it has what looks like deep fried banana sitting amongst the chicken and such. That is WRONG TOWN. So yeah, definitely HJ.
c. Northcote or Brunswick?
Northcote. There are lots of venues to play and there is good food too.
d. Potato cake or dim sim?
Potato cake. I can't trust dim sims.
e. Dan Sultan or Dan Kelly?
Dan Kelly. I think that if you can get away with writing a song called ‘Bindi Irwin’s apocalypse Jam', then you are doing OK.
f. Kylie or Dannii Minogue?
Kylie, for her ability to put a good show on. I don't care much for the songs or her vocal chords.
g. Cate Blanchett or Nicole Kidman?
Definitely Cate Blanchett. She is strong yet graceful and is a flawless actress in my opinion. I am yet to see a movie that she isn't great in.
h. Neighbours or Home & Away?
Do I have to choose? They are both such good representations of Australian culture. PLEASE NOTE SARCASM.
i. Cheezels or Twisties?
Cheezels. They remind me of going to parties as a kid. Good times.
j. Kimbra or Gotye?
'STOP PULLING THE STRING' SINGLE LAUNCH TOUR
Thurs, Aug 16 – GoodGod Small Club, Sydney, NSW
Fri, Aug 17 – Emma Soup, Newcastle, NSW
Fri, Aug 24 – Grace Darling, Melbourne, VIC
Fri, Aug 31 – Karova Lounge, Ballarat, VIC