This is the third and last part of a multi-part interview with Lachlan Bryan, whose new album, Shadow of the Gun, is really quite fantastic. In this part of the interview we talk about songwriting, storytelling and changing lyrics.
The first two parts are available here, along with a review of Shadow of the Gun.
I noticed that quite a few of the songs on the album are either about women who are getting away or have gotten away but it’s – there’s a wistful tone to them rather than a sense of our narrator being wronged or having an ego being bruised. So, I guess that is more of the confessional nature of it.
Well, I certainly don’t claim that all the songs are of literal stories that have happened to me in any way. I was engaged when I first started writing some songs for the album and by the time I’d finished writing the songs I was no longer engaged, so I was also not married, so – that had all sort of fallen apart and there’s definitely an element of that relationship in the songs but it’s also – I mean, I do write songs from other people’s perspectives and other people’s stories so it may sound like it but I’m not actually harping on about the same girl. I’m not even writing from the same person’s perspective the whole way through that album, but it probably helps the listener to think that I am.
What is clear is that you’re a storyteller, you’re in the storyteller vein of songwriting and any confessional nature is not harping on a theme, for you, it’s actually you using the emotions you’ve felt to tell either your story or someone else’s, but it’s always storytelling.
Yeah, and I think that – I’m interested in storytelling and I also think that it’s not really a surprise that most songs in the world just seem to be – almost in contemporary music, most songs seem to be about some kind of romantic relationship. Because we do tend to define our lives by that a bit. I have friends who are not in relationships and the fact that they’re not in a relationship really seems to define how they feel about themselves – and vice versa, ones that are married – no matter what we do as a job or how we spend that spare time or whatever, we seem to decide whether we’re happy or not based on whether we’re in a good relationship or not, and I don’t necessarily think that’s healthy or right, but it’s certainly something that people find easy to relate to.
But speaking of unhealthy relationships – when you sang ‘Ballad of a Young Married Man’ in Tamworth, you were telling the story about how you’d come to write that song and I noticed that you actually had a lyric change between when you recorded and when you sang it, which was in the line, ‘I bought a gun and married young’, and in the recorded one it’s followed by, ‘No one but me to blame’, but in the live one you sang ‘The two are much the same’.
I think it’s simply a case of I wish I’d written it like that in the first place, it’s a better lyric and I think I sang as it as a joke one night and I just liked it better, so I just kept singing it like that.
Well, I actually wrote it down because I thought it was such a great lyric.
I know, I know, I’m like, ‘Why didn’t I think of that before I recorded the song’. If I ever record it again for some reason, I’ll use the new lyric.
It’s very effective, it’s like a punch out in the middle of the song. Now I’ll just ask you one more question because I’ve been keeping you talking for a while.
No, that’s okay.
The question is: which old country singer are you the reincarnation of? Because there’s – I really get a sense that you kind of an old soul, not that there’s an old-fashionedness but when I was listening to your songs, I thought, man, this is like some old country singer come back to life.
Right, okay. Well, that’s cool, I like that. I guess it would have to be someone that was dead before I was born to be a reincarnation.
You could be Hank.
Oh, well, that would be great but I think there’s a lot – there’s totally a lot of people trying to lay claim to that heritage, not least of all his grandson, who is very much like him and I’m a big fan of Hank III as well. Look, if we’re not being strict about it and – because we did cross over -maybe Townes van Zandt would be the one that I’d be most happy to take a bit of – I don’t know, if he’s left anything here that I can pick up on, then I’d probably like to, because he’s a beautiful songwriter. I suppose if I could be remembered like someone, then I like the fact that he’s not necessarily world famous in many ways but he’s left us with all the great songs.
Yeah, I think that’s a good legacy to emulate.
And if it has to be someone that was dead already, then I’m going to go for Gram [Parsons] because he definitely left a lot of songs out here, he should have lived a lot longer.
Cool. And are you going to tour in support of this album?
Yeah, I am and I don’t really – I can’t really enlighten you much on where or when, I know I’m doing things – like I’m doing the Byron Bay Blues Fest … I think I’m probably doing Gympie and a few things like that. So, I know a bit about the few festivals that I’m doing but I don’t know what the in-between dates are. I got a rough blueprint sent to me yesterday but I haven’t at all memorised it. So, I am leaving home quite a lot and probably trying to get back to America this year as well. I’m in the kind of happy position and slightly terrified position of [having] actually stopped working now, I’m trying to do this full-time and it’s – yeah, I’m living from month to month a bit, but it’s definitely exciting to think that it kind of has to work otherwise I starve.
I don’t think you’ll starve and it sounds like you’re going to have a lot of fun and – that’s a lot of good festivals and the Gympie Muster sounds like it’s getting bigger and better every year.
Yeah, we played there with The Wildes a couple of years ago and it was a pretty intense week actually.
I’m going to let you go now, thank you very much for your time.