Interview: Mark Moldre
Mark Moldre has slowly but surely carved out a wonderful body of work with more than a decade of releases to his name both as a solo artist and prior to that with the band Hitchcock’s Regret. His first solo album The Waiting Room was a wonderful collection of songs of which we said in our Doubtful Sounds review “There are sepia-tinged universal themes at work in The Waiting Room that conjure up feelings of nostalgia, loss, love and optimism and Moldre has captured the mood of the human soul with great artistic clarity”.
Moldre has now gone one step further and both refined and expanded his stylistic palette on his new 2013 album An Ear To The Earth, exploring his interests in jazz, blues and folk with a unique and honest take on those most traditional of musical forms. You can read our full review here and purchase a copy of the album direct from Laughing Outlaw Records or follow the iTunes link on their page.
Mark kindly took the time to contribute to our Six Strings feature that profiles some of our favourite musicians.
What was the album that first led you down the dusty path of americana music?
The two albums that likely influenced me the most came from my parents record collection during the 70′s – which I had no appreciation for at the time. The albums that stood out to me in my childhood were Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited and Neil Young’s Harvest. My parents drove an old, brown Holden when I was about 8 years old – actually it could have been a Valiant… I do remember though, whatever it was, it was all dented and scratched with vinyl seats that my legs would stick to on hot summer days. Dad had a really old fashioned cassette player – it took cassettes that were almost the size of video tapes. And we only had one cassette – Harvest – so I played it over and over. If Dad ever got out of the car and I had to sit there for a bit, I’d put it straight on. Out On the Weekend was the first track – so that was the song I heard the most often. That scrappy guitar strum, the lazy harmonica….even now when I hear that song I’m transported back to that car…my Dad in short stubbies and a blue, kinda crocheted singlet top. My Mum in huge sunnies and white tennis shorts. It’s amazing the way a song can make you recall things so vividly. They had Highway 61 Revisited on vinyl and I used to play that over and over at home – the lyrics used to scare me a little when I was a kid – so I’d go back and listen more closely trying to decipher what they meant. Funnily enough I still do that.
What’s been your favourite gig you’ve played?
My favourite would have to be supporting The Church at The National Theatre in Melbourne. Due to technical problems The Church were running really late – and their soundcheck had run way overtime, so that the audience were all starting to pile up in the foyer waiting to come in. Usually as an opening act, you get to play to a few early birds and everyone pours in after your set finishes – but in this case the whole audience had filled the venue and taken their seats before we even came onstage – and it was a full house. Everyone was so quiet during my acoustic duo set that you could hear a pin drop and the energy and appreciation from the audience practically knocked me off my feet. Both Adam Lang (my banjo, suitcase drummer, lap slide player) and I walked off that stage floating on air. You’d think that The Church audience wouldn’t be too interested in an acoustic folkie like myself, but I had the pleasure of playing lots of great shows with them after that and we always had really enjoyable gigs.
All of the above really, I had lots of friends who played and we’d carefully watch each others fingers. I would sit with my ear to the radio – recording songs that I liked on an old boom box – and I’d try to work out the guitar parts by continually listening to little snippets and rewinding – listen, rewind, listen, rewind. It was tedious but I was pretty tenacious. Later I had lessons with classical/jazz legend Don Andrews, who sadly passed away a little while ago. I also had lessons with a great English guitarist by the name of Carl Orr – who went on to tour with jazz great, Billy Cobham. He really opened my mind to the world of jazz – got me listening to more avant-garde stuff and thinking outside the box when it came to my guitar playing. I never became a fully fledged jazz guitarist but I took the things that I learnt from those teachers and tried to shape something of my own. I went on to love the guitar playing of guys like like Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell and John Scofield – those players who push the boundaries of the standard definition of jazz in the world of guitar. That being said, I still enjoy listening to Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian, early Benson and Grant Green.
Do you feel there is a strong folk/country music community in Australia?
I think there is, without a doubt. I think it’s getting a stronger foothold into the mainstream daily, there are more and more folk festivals being started and folk and Americana style blogs are becoming more commonplace. I think it’s a great thing – the average Australian music listener is force fed so much rubbish (much of it international) through commercial radio – the folk resurgence is breath of fresh air. I’m not sure that I’m a part of the Australian folk community as yet – but I’m working on that. My latest album is probably the closest I’ve come to making a “traditional” album – not that it’s all folk. There’s elements of calypso, dixie and jazz in there – but we treated all the songs as traditionally as we could.
What was your favourite jazz/folk/country release last year?
My favourite jazz album was Jenny Scheinman’s, Mischief and Mayhem. It featured Bill Frisell and Nels Cline and included a song inspired by PJ Harvey whilst crossing into avant-garde and rock territory in places and is surprisingly raw. It really hit the spot for me. Bob Dylan’s Tempest was a standout last year too. Lyrically that was a captivating album. Dylan in fine (and dark) lyrical form.
What are your aspirations over the next 12 months?
My goal is to play as many shows as we can muster. Hopefully I can make my way onto some folk festival line ups. I’m also hoping to play as many shows with my band as I can – which will feature Jamie Hutchings on guitar and percussion, Scott Hutchings on drums, Reuben Wills on double bass and Adam Lang on banjo and lap slide guitar. We may even have a small horn section join us for a couple of shows. We start rehearsing real soon so I’m looking forward to that. I also have an insane goal of filming a clip for every song on the album. We just filmed a new one yesterday and I have a couple in the bag so we’re slowly getting through those. And who knows, maybe I’ll get a chance to start writing some songs for the next release.