There is a curious, and satisfying, metatextual sensation to be had in listening to singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Shane Nicholson’s new single, ‘Harvest on Vinyl’. The song is fundamentally about what music means to us throughout our lives, as it charts Nicholson’s teenage discovery of his parents’ copy of Neil Young’s album Harvest on vinyl and his continued attachment to it, and to other albums. The mextatextual part comes about because Nicholson’s songs and albums themselves would, no doubt, mean a lot to some of his fans, so he’s singing not only about his experiences but those of his own fans.
To be personal – for the first time in writing on this website, I think – Nicholson’s songs mean a huge amount to me. Ten years ago I came very close to dying (thanks to Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney I’m still around); the album I was listening to just before it became clear I needed to go to Emergency – that I was, in fact, listening to in order to keep myself conscious and functioning – was Nicholson’s It’s a Movie. After I was out of hospital and slowly recovering, trying to walk even a few metres, It’s a Movie was all I could stand to listen to. Arguably, that album got me back on my feet. In that same period of time I started writing about Australian country music as a way to re-engage my brain and with the world. That was almost ten years ago; I’m still writing about Australian country music. So I could even say that without Shane Nicholson’s music this site wouldn’t exist. And just as Nicholson has two copies of Harvest on vinyl (in the song he only has one, but in real life he has his parents’ original copy and another recently acquired) I have two CD copies of It’s a Movie because it’s the only one of his albums not available on streaming and, well, I don’t want to risk not having it.
Others who listen to Nicholson’s new song may not have the same sort of his relationship to his music, but for sure they’ll have it to the music of others, and in that neat way that the personal becomes universal, Nicholson’s specificity in this song is the key to listeners finding their own experience in it.
The song was created as part of a trans-Pacific songwriting club set up by Nashville-based Australian artist Sam Hawksley – every Thursday each writer in the club had to contribute a new song, freshly recorded, by midnight.
‘It was kind of fun having a song that I had to write in 30 minutes, record it and upload it before the deadline,’ says Nicholson. ‘I think it needed to be what it was so I just left it the way it happened in that half-hour.’
Nicholson’s previous single was the Golden Guitar-winning 2020 single ‘The High Price of Surviving’. Nicholson creates his own music in between producing albums for many other Australian country music artists, and playing on others’. The video for ‘Harvest on Vinyl’ gives an insight into what Nicholson’s working day might be like, as it shows him playing several instruments and recording vocals. It’s not your typical music video, but for anyone interested in the work of music it’s fascinating.
‘Harvest on Vinyl’ is out now through Lost Highway Australia/Island Records Australia.