I gave up songwriting forever once.
My girlfriend wasn’t a music lover.
Foolishly, I tried to please her.
I tried my hand at furniture design, produced a few nice quirky pieces.
They didn’t really sing to me.
The songs came back – in the shower, walking down the street, doing the dishes.
I couldn’t stop them.
I gave up that girlfriend forever.
My first band, the Moomba Victims, was described as a cross between Bruce Springsteen, the Clash and Dave Warner from the Suburbs. Later on I’d forge my own identity, but back then I liked that description a lot. Those three all sang songs of depth, wit, heart and soul.
We played a lot of loud, sweaty inspired nights down at the Tote in Collingwood.
THE WHIRLING FURPHIES
Bands rose, faded, died. My writing developed, I started singing instead of shouting and surrounded myself with great musicians. The legendary Whirling Furphies were born.
The Furphies appeared on the Australian music scene in 1989 with a brash swirling mix of acoustic instruments. My hooky pop-style songs coupled with the band’s brilliant musicianship quickly established us at the forefront of the acoustic and folk scene in Australia. I wrote with images that reflected the urban experience of Melbourne in the early nineties. Along with Paul Kelly and Mick Thomas we were out there establishing a new and very contemporary Australian folk song style.
“The originality, excitement and sheer musicality of the Whirling Furphies can make genuine claims on a significant place in the history of Australian roots music.”
John McAuslan - Brunswick Music Festival
I’m really proud of both of the Whirling Furphies’ albums, “Lizard Tree” and “Head Over Heels”. They have stood the test of time surprisingly well and are testament to the high quality of our art.
MY BROWN YARRA
Sometimes you get “lucky” and write a song that touches people’s hearts. “My Brown Yarra” started life as a nasty little rhyming ditty:
I found a tune to stir it with and it blossomed into something much more beautiful than I imagined.
“My Brown Yarra” is claimed by many as their “Melbourne Anthem” and is sung around campfires, at festivals and funerals, in bars by expats all over the world, and even on the banks of that muddy old river. Apart from the Whirling Furphies version on “Lizard Tree” it has been recorded in a most interesting and beautiful way by the great Margret Roadnight and also by the wonderful Kavisha Mazzella.
(One day I’ll write the story about how I nearly drowned in the Yarra ….. I guess she let me go as payment for her song.)
Port Fairy Festival in 1998 was the finale for the Furphies (or was it?) but it was the beginning of a new era for me.
New sounds and three more albums have followed: the self-titled singer/songwriter album “Frank Jones”, the pop-inspired “Where in the World” then a return to folk with the band BiG FOLK and our highly acclaimed album “Small Ball”.
And, oh yes, we have bowed to the pressure of fans and re-formed the Whirling Furphies (after a 16 year hiatus!). Together again – bigger, brighter and better than ever!
WRITING WRITING WRITING (and a bit of teaching)
As well as continuing to write my own songs I’ve been writing with and for other artists for most of this century. It’s a challenge and a refreshing change from doing the singer/songwriter “I, I, me” thing.
Renee Geyer recorded a sweet version of my “She Loves Me Not”. I’ve had the great pleasure of co-writing songs with the likes of Ross Wilson, Brent Parlane, Gary Pinto, Nathaniel Willemse, Jamie McDell, MDC, Stephen Blackburn, Emmanuel Kelly, Bobby Flynn, Andrew Lowden, Jess Guile, Dave Darmasana, Rod Bustos and Vanessa Amorosi.
My main songwriting partnership of the last decade has been with pop songwriter Brad Pinto (writing under the moniker of the 'Phatbacharachs'). The highlight of our collaboration so far has come with a song co-written with Australian rapper, 360 (Matt Colwell). Our song, "Boys Like You" was nominated for the 2013 ARIA Song of the Year, 2013 APRA Urban Song of the Year and Most Played Australian Work of the Year. It is a quadruple platinum selling single and made it to Number 8 on the 2012 JJJ Hottest 100.
UPDATE: That same chorus of ours has now been released as the chorus on high flying USA rapper G-Eazy's song 'Mama Always Told Me' off his 'The Beautiful and Damned' album.
Also worthy of note here is my ongoing project co-writing with one of Western Australia's great singer/songwriters, David Hyams - David and I have been performing together on and off for over a decade now and our songwriting is an exciting new expression of our mutual admiration.
As well as all this writing I have been teaching the craft of songwriting, through classes and workshops, in High Schools and communities and at music festivals across Australia. Requests for further information and bookings can be made directly or through Nexus Arts agency.
When I die put me in a barra
Wheel me down to the banks of the Yarra
Dig a hole both deep and narra
Bury me by my brown Yarra