Adelaide Musician Greyhands, Amongst The Trees

Greyhands is your current music project, but you are also a writer and film maker. Which one came first for you?

I started everything when I was in high school. I started writing because I was slow at typing and was pretty self-conscious, and I got into film because I really enjoyed media studies and seemed to be pretty good at it. Music was the last thing I got into. Tragically, a schoolmate took his own life when I was seventeen, and I sort of had to process that somehow, and it sort of came out as a song. After that, music became my main outlet for the mental health issues I’ve had over the years.

Are you more comfortable in one role or do you enjoy it all equally?

I love everything I do for different reasons. I work as a video and film editor, and that requires a lot of problem-solving, which I love. Writing and poetry are a bit trickier, but they’re really rewarding when you really get in the zone. Music I feel is the best for creating an atmosphere in a room, and I love being able to do that with just a guitar and my voice.

How do the various areas of creativity fit together for you? Or do you keep them completely separate?

I get all sorts of ideas for different projects all the time, and part of the process for me is figuring out what medium is the best for any given idea. There are some images that I thought would be parts of poems that came out as songs, and there are some film ideas that became short stories. It all fits together a bit like a river delta.

It seems especially tough these days for independent musicians to reach an audience, have you found it any easier in writing or film?

I’ve had the most luck with poetry so far with my first collection of poems coming out in a few months time. Apart from that, I’ve had a short film make it in to a couple of festivals, but it’s all been a bit flash-in-the-pan up to this point. Again, now that I’m doing better mentally these days, I’m focusing more on really getting myself out there.

So maybe a little harder with music, why do you think that is?

I think it’s simultaneously easier and harder. It’s easier to get yourself on to a platform and into a public space thanks to the Internet, but it’s a bit like throwing a message in a bottle in to an ocean made of other messages in bottles. With writing and film there are still certain benchmarks you can hit where you’ve kind of “made it”, like getting published, or getting into a festival, but music has fewer of those opportunities relative to the number of people doing it.

You live in Adelaide; do you find it to be a city that is supportive of the arts in general?

Adelaide loves to puff out its chest about the Fringe Festival and so on, but historically it’s not a city that’s always “on”. Right now it’s a very exciting time for musicians here because there are things happening like the radio app Play Pause Play, and A Day Of Clarity which is a music festival run by a local record store called Clarity Records (arguably the best record store in the country). There are some really cool bands around too like West Thebarton, Tales, Dean Forever, and heaps of others. I really hope that this current season of music sticks around and grows into a music and arts scene that is really flourishing.

Your song ‘Amongst The Trees’ features on the new Music Hoarders United ‘Sounds Rebound’ CD. What can you say about the song?

‘Amongst The Trees’ is what I consider to be the first true Greyhands song. All the songs I’d written beforehand I’d written on my uncle’s old electric guitar, which gave me a certain sound, but ‘Amongst The Trees’ was the first song I wrote on an acoustic, and shifted my sound a bit. It’s a much sweeter song than much of my material, but it’s still got an ambivalence to it which I think is present in all my music. It’s a love song, but it acknowledges that the world can be difficult sometimes and all you want to do is curl up with your partner and get away from it all.

Was it recorded at home? It has a beautiful raw quality to it and yet it’s still very professional sounding.

I’ve always recorded at home because it gives me more space to experiment with what I’m doing. When I started I didn’t have a microphone, but I found you could record sound by plugging a set of headphones into the microphone input in a computer. I’ve since invested a little in a couple of mics and cleaned up my sound a bit, but I wanted to keep the raw, imperfection-ridden sound I’ve had from the beginning.

There are some other voices on the recording, are they people who feature regularly in your work?

Because the song is about my wife Amy, it seemed appropriate to include her singing some backing vocals in the second verse. I don’t really have a regular cast, but I do rope friends in when there’s an instrument I can’t play that I want to include.

Which do you enjoy more, song writing, recording or performing?

These days I love performing most. There’s a certain transcendent state you can get into when you’re playing to a room of people and you’re able to shift the atmosphere.

Do you spend much time working on new material?

It’s been a while since I’ve been working on new stuff. I’ve written about five albums worth of Greyhands material, and I plan to record the rest of that over the coming years. But it’s looking like Greyhands will just be “the songs I wrote when I was depressed” at this stage. That’s part of the reason I play under an artist name rather than using my real name, so that way I can make completely different music in the future as part of a different project.

Do you ever collaborate with other people?

Not as far as the songwriting for Greyhands is concerned. This has been a deeply personal project, so I like to maintain complete control for that reason. That being said, I do love working with other songwriters and artists in other projects. The recording process is the main way I like to bring others into the fold as Greyhands.

Do you make any special effort to try and sound original or are you happy for your influences to show themselves? I am sure I can hear a little Radiohead and also Leonard Cohen in there.

I mostly just do what sounds interesting to me, and the more unique something sounds, the more interesting I tend to find it. I think if my music sounds like my influences, it’s mostly because that’s just what my taste is. Though, that being said, I am always trying to write lyrics as good as Leonard Cohen’s, and chords as interesting as Radiohead’s.

Do you want to be famous?

Not me personally, but I would love for my work to be famous.

What are your plans for the year ahead?

I’ve got plans to record and release the second Greyhands album which will be called ‘No Future’, and possibly another one on top of that, but we’ll see how we go. I’ve got my first poetry anthology called ‘Spitting Ink’ coming out, I’m trying to get my novel ‘The Wonder Room’ published, and there’s a short film I’ve been wanting to make for years that I might try and get made too. And of course, I’ll be playing gigs around the place where I can.

You can hear and see more of Greyhands over here >>
Website: http://jamescfinlay.com
Bandcamp: https://greyhandsmusic.bandcamp.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GreyhandsMusic/

Greyhands will be performing at The Jade in Adelaide, along with Colds & Overcoats, for the ‘Sounds Rebound’ CD Launch on 17th January 2019.

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