Tyrone and Lesley: Songs of Gentlemen Songsters

Tyrone and Lesley’s third album is Gentlemen Songsters. Here are some notes on where the songs came from. You can preview or purchase it here.

All Dressed Up

This song’s about the journey from home to a dance hall,  echoing some of the great songs of the 1930’s that talk about the romance that can be found on the dance floor. The lyrics are about how so many years of wall flowering are just unintended preparation for that moment when you meet ‘the one’. Laique do an amazing version of this song on their second album The Last Bend.

Old Fashioned

old fashioned coupleThis is an old fashioned tune about the harmony of life-long love. Like a song. It was partly inspired by Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Broadcast’. This song has its own story here.

Gentlemen Songsters

We wrote this song around a song title which was suggested by Trevor and Lindy,  two supporters of our crowdfunding campaign, which you can read about here.

You May As Well Smile

In late 2012 I broke my elbow and therefore couldn’t play music for three months.

Once I could type, I focused on lyric writing, and came up with a bittersweet little set of words – an old-fashioned statement of optimism and hope and sent them to Kellee Green who wrote the music,  she said,  while waiting for her children’s headlice treatment to act. I was pretty amazed to have her tender little demo arrive as an mp3,  birds in the background,  dogs barking and all. We’ve since written a number of songs together including Ukulele in your Pocket,  also included on the album, as well as a selection of tunes for her band The Pockets.

No Harm In Trying

old kitesI was doing a gig in an industrial space in West End, Brisbane – it was called ‘The Forest’ but it was a big shed where they sorted fruit. I was performing with my ukulele, slide projector and images of the sky taken in the 1950’s. Rose Turtle Ertler was there, on a national tour. She showed me a particular strum on the ukulele that night – the first I’d learned, as I generally don’t pay any attention to technique at all.  Subsequently,  in spare moments would pick up my old 1950’s uke, which enjoyed being strummed like this: that’s where the simple chord pattern for this song came from. One of those rare tunes that took only slightly longer to write then play. It all seemed to lift off together.

Unaccompanied

Songs about songs, music about music,  concert about concerts – I was interested in writing these things as a lyricist,  and considered the idea of writing a song that was about being unaccompanied,  that was meant to be sung unaccompanied. Ironically this is a challenge I probably wouldn’t attempt on my own as a composer – but luckily I’m in the company of Sam Vincent who’s a great melodist. Sam came up with this incredible music. It’s a torch song, I’m not much of a singer,  but any voice could take a journey in a vessel like this. And now we play it together, accompanying each other. Apart from one moment.

True Collars

110aI love dogs,  though I’ve never owned one – their faithfulness and joy. Comfort and companionship. This song first emerged out of a children’s music project Sam and Kellee and I worked on with Barbara Fordham. The first version was written very quickly – for this version I re-wrote the lyrics, taking more care to consider the beauty of the hound.

Kedron Brook, Stairing, The Day you Vend Away

In 2012 Tyrone and Lesley experimented with asking fans (who’d purchased the limited first edition of our first album Ukulele Heart) to suggest things they’d like songs written about. We were surprised by the response,  and quite a few songs came of it.

Terry Sasaki suggested Kedron Brook which is a waterway and park in Brisbane. In many ways it’s a very ordinary place,  and what’s what’s special about it. People walk there in the evenings.

Elizabeth Shannon shared a childhood memory of living on different floors of an apartment building, her grandparents living two floors below, with an aunt,  where they had “…a colour TV. We used to eat ice cream and listen to records, play boardgames and card games.”  This story (and family photo) inspired Stairing. 

Ewan Foster, 7 years old at the time, suggested a song about lifts or vending machines,  so we wrote The Day you Vend Away as well: the demo featured Sam’s piano playing as I couldn’t hold,  let alone play a uke at the time.  There were other suggestions as well that we demoed,  but didn’t make it onto the album: Joyce Seitzinger’s ‘Cat’s Pyjamas’ and Maitake’s suggestion ‘Yakisoba’ coming all the way from Japan. It’s a risk to write a song from a suggestion, but worth it.

RSVP

rsvp2You could write a song that performed as an answering machine message,  that has  been done before – our friend Kylie Southwell from Laique had the idea of writing songs that might work as automated replies to social requests (not that Tyrone gets too many of those). Sam and I played with the idea and this is what we came up with.

Last Song

This was the another song in a series of songs about songs – making music about making music. I was interested in pursuing the idea of a song that you played after the audience had gone home – it’s a distant relation to Jackson Browne’s ‘The Load Out/Stay’ (I suppose) in content,  but not in style, form,  or intent. The tune is rather different for Tyrone and Lesley,  a kind of languorous,  angular jazz. When we recorded it,  a late night train rumbled and sang along as it passed. At the centre of this composition  is the notion that life is a song,  and the act of playing it, and connecting with others in the moment of playing it,  (and making something neither of you could make on your own) might just be good enough. Even if there’s nobody watching.

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