"I am not an honest man
There's more to me than you can see"
- Famous Last Words
The Overland EP (2017)
Recorded by Tomas Strode at Rolling Stock Studios, Collingwood, in mid-late 2016, The Overland was a giant leap forward for me in terms of songwriting and production. For the first time I was working in a proper studio, rather than a friend's bedroom or garage. Also accompanying me for this record was a newly assembled backing band, the very lovely 'Not For Prophets' (Olivia Hand - piano, Bob Hutchinson - guitar, James Kemp - Bass, Aoife Murphy - fiddle). For the most part we recorded live, with as few overdubs as possible so as to give the music an authentic, organic feel. Some of the songs featured intricate three part harmonies, which were painstakingly arranged by Olivia, Bob and I over the course of many rehearsals.
Olivia played the in-house grand piano on the record, which was built in 1938 and previously belonged to the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. It sounded absolutely beautiful. The folks at Rolling Stock had attached wheels to the bottom so that it could be moved anywhere in the room with ease. We were all very impressed by this!
The Overland was made during a very chaotic time in my life. Mental health issues, poor living conditions, several stressful jobs and a lack of money meant that I was in a pretty dark place most of the time. It didn't help too that I didn't really look
after myself that well, nor that I didn't have a stable support network around me. The resulting material, written over a period of a few months, was coloured by these experiences. While making the record I envisioned 'the overland' as a metaphorical/ mythic space, full of dirty old towns and desolate open spaces. None of the songs, with the exception of 'Famous Last Words', were set in any specific real world location, existing instead in the universe I had concocted in my head. I found this space to be comforting, as it allowed me to distance myself from my real world problems. I could deal with my current predicament, but from the safety of afar.
It wasn't all doom and gloom though! We all had a lot of laughs making this record. I remember band practice to always be a happy mixture of gossip, puns, anecdotes, topical conversations and
Netflix analysis. We were a good group, a very cohesive unit. I am incredibly grateful to all of the Not For Prophets for their time, energy and commitment to my music.
I am very much in awe of the brilliant cover art, made by my friend Tom Cartoonist (check out Tom's work here). He used coloured pencils to depict 'the overland', just as I imagined it. For inspiration, I suggested he refer to Russell Drysdale's 'Man Feeding his Dogs' (1941) to achieve the colours and textures I saw in my head. We also looked up a heap old pencil drawings of steam trains. He did a stellar job in blending the two concepts. The finished image is very enigmatic. Is it a train? Or a felled tree? I love the ambiguity of the finished product.
Early Hours of Morning Single (2016)
This single was conceived during a crossroads in my musical journey. After releasing Always a Drifter in 2014 I was at a bit of a loss as to which way to go. Being a musician is hard sometimes! There is no roadmap, as in other professions. For the first time in my artistic life I felt truly in charge of where I was headed, but I lacked the experience, maturity and resources to make any hay from this newfound sense of freedom. There is a fairly long gap between Always a Drifter and this release purely because I was uncertain what should come next. I embarked on a number of musical projects and collaborations in this period, hoping for a light bulb moment where my future path might become clear. In time it did - I realised that I needed to make another record (duuh!). A Greg Steps
record. It needed to be solo, acoustic and intimate. This would turn into Early Hours of Morning, and was a rebirth of sorts.
I met Kevin Dolan at an open mic and he and I hit it off pretty quickly. We had a lot in common - we we both loved and wanted to make music, and we had both recently moved to Melbourne, he from Ireland and I from Brisbane. We were outsiders, looking a place to be. Unlike me however Kevin had a good job, in advertising. And with that came a disposable income. He started buying recording gear with the goal of being able to make his own records. Genius! After acquiring some half descent mics and primitive software he was hungry for people to record. That's where I came in. I would go round to his house in Richmond and spend a whole day just recording my songs. Later he would send me the tracks from the session and I would mull over the take. We struck upon a mutually beneficial relationship, where he was learning how to record while I was learning how to perform for a recording. We each kept getting better and better, and after some time had some half decent tracks up our sleeves. I
decided to put the best two out as single release, Early Hours of Morning backed with Long Distance Call.
Sometimes when I can't sleep I like to do a block or two to help settle my mind. I find it to be a meditative process. I wrote Early Hours of Morning one evening after a late night walk through the streets of Brunswick West, where I lived at the time. As I traveled along Dawson street I could see Melbourne's city skyline poking through the gaps of the buildings and trees that I passed. I had walked along this street many times before, but never truly appreciated the view. It looked absolutely stunning, and I was the only one around to appreciate it. In that moment I didn't feel at all alone though, but rather completely at one with the universe. All the world was mine! It was a beautiful experience.
On a side note, in recent times there has been a lot of discussion about women not feeling safe walking alone at night. This to me is very sad, as for me late night walks are a very fun and fulfilling activity. As a man I have been afforded a luxury that most women will never know. Feeling safe in public spaces is something that should be afforded to every person, regardless of their gender. I am a bit of a pessimist, so I'm unsure as to whether things will ever be any different. Nonetheless I am glad that we're now having the conversation. Had we had it earlier, this song would have most certainly gone in a different direction. I feel strange performing it now. Some things date in ways that you can't foresee.