Tim Rogers, musician, writer
I’m a happier person when I’m working so I can share a bit of joy around and be a better friend, father, lover, dishwasher, neighbour, stranger ...
To say Tim Rogers is an iconic figure in the Australian music landscape is almost an understatement. As front man for You Am I and as a solo musician, Tim had a hand in shaping the minds and hearts of generations with his music. His songs are an integral part of Australia’s rock lineage, blending savvy introspection with raucous revelry. Part rebellious rapscallion, part world-weary poet, there’s probably nothing Tim Rogers hasn’t done or seen. Earlier in 2017 Tim Rogers released Detours, a literary memoir detailing his various soaring highs and crushing lows. In the wake of the book’s release, Tim Rogers has decided to do what he does best – hit the road. Tim will be in town next month to perform with a live band as part of the stage production What Rhymes With Cars And Girls, and will then return in November with band in tow for a national tour. We jumped at the opportunity to talk to Tim about his music, his writing and where he is finding inspiration at this stage of his career.
This year has been a particularly big one for you as a standalone creative force! What do you love most about performing and creating under your own name?
My first love – artistically – is being together with the band. We can’t be under the same thatched roof regularly, so to keep me off the streets I go looking for other projects and thankfully, gratefully I get offered others. I enjoy studying and preparing for other modes of entertainment – treating them as jobs that need to get done well. Getting on the road, or sitting at a desk with a pen is when I’m a contributive human, and times when I enjoy being part of humanity.
Has your artistic ethos changed as your career progresses, or does longevity only solidify the need to stay true to the beliefs you had at the start of it all?
Good question. I didn’t start with any beliefs apart from wanting some peace, and conversely, to make an unholy racket. As I’ve gone on the free drinks mean less and I notice more how hard everyone else works to get shows together, and I try to pay respect to that and join in with the team work needed to put on a show. Turn up, dress up, get up.
Take us through the process of writing your latest album An Actor Repairs – how did the creative process begin for you? We heard it started out intending to be a musical …
It was envisioned as an orchestrated piece with a script, but money was scant. I reduced the scope, or rather, made it a more intimate collection that required less orchestration and as luck would have it, ended with a better record. The original music exists, and I may use it for something else.
What topics and themes resonated with you enough to want to embed throughout the album?
The stage is a great place to hide, and when you are deemed to be ‘done’, the ghosts you have collected around you to summon a performance often don’t disappear. It was an attempt at fiction, blurring with the non. Writing fiction, purely, still eludes me but I’ll keep working at it.
Now that listeners have had a few months to ruminate on the album, what are some of the key things you hope they’ve picked up on?
When folks pick up on lyrics it’s a bit of a thrill, but all I can really hope is that there’s some beauty amongst the dirge.
From one album to another, you’re bringing the stage production What Rhymes With Cars and Girls to town soon. What has it been like to see your record take on a different life on stage?
Gorgeous. I had nothing to do with the script, and it’s a good ‘un, so I can be onstage and watch these beautiful performances with two scorching actors who inhabit these songs I feel are barely mine anymore. It’s a privilege.
You recently released your book Detours, which gave readers a more personal insight into your life and career. What spurred the decision to relay your stories in written form?
I had nothing to ‘reveal’, and once I recognised that I wanted to write some prose that had, again, some beauty. Some joy amongst sadness perhaps. I am a fan of the essay form, and of memoir that isn’t autobiography, so being in the shadows of writing heroes of mine was the only intent. I also thought the hours were great and the wardrobe suited my tastes.
Detours seems to turn a page in the story of your career to date. What do you hope the next chapter of your life holds for you?
The book is in no way comprehensive, and doesn’t feel like the end of something for me. I learnt a lot about process and editing and the craft, so I can only try harder, keep my ears and eyes open and proceed. I’m a happier person when I’m working so I can share a bit of joy around and be a better friend, father, lover, dishwasher, neighbour, stranger.
You’ll be sitting down with Paul Barclay at the Brisbane Powerhouse in October – any tales you’ve saved up that you are hoping to weave into the conversation?
No. I like Paul a lot, and respect him, so I see it as a two-hander. I always have stories and if someone buys me a drink I’ll tell them. The formality of the evening demands that I do more than just blag about myself. I’m there to learn also. Again, the writing process interests me more than most things, so I may ask more questions than I answer.
What do you find to be a reliable source of creative inspiration these days?
Humans and their foibles. Books, always. Overheard conversations. Walking. The great prankster that is the heart.
On a similar note, what music coming out of the Australian scene is really exciting to you?
Too much. Community radio is so strong here in Melbourne and an endless source of information and inspiration so when travelling I flick the dials and look for conversation or music. Clowns’ new LP Lucid Again is a masterpiece, Jen Cloher’s new LP will break your heart. Emma Louise is cooking up a majestic new record. Davey Lane’s new record. I’d encourage folks who have the opportunity to take a punt on something they haven’t heard before. Check gig guides and drop in on a show, some theatre, ask a bookseller what’s good – don’t wait for the big events. Get amongst it. Whilst everyone doesn’t have the opportunity, if you do, turn off your phone and your television and get rambling. It’s out there, and it will feed you.
Tim Rogers will be in Brisbane to perform as part of What Rhymes With Cars And Girls from Wednesday October 25 to Saturday November 4, and will also be in conversation with Paul Barclay on Monday October 30. Following that, Tim will hit the road for his Detouring shows, including a performance at The Old Museum on Friday November 17.
Image: Luke Henery