Last Friday, Melbourne singer-songwriter Acoustic Foxx released his first single of 2021 titled 'Shine A Light'.
The follow-up single to his 2020 track 'This Time', which he also recorded with Joshua Whitehead at Crosstown Soundstudio, 'Shine A Light' continues Acoustic Foxx's exploration of dark acoustic, indie folk soundscapes that are influenced by '90s grunge.It's been almost a decade since you launched the Acoustic Foxx moniker; has the time flown and how are you different today as a musician compared to back then?
I feel time, in general, is just absolutely flying. I'm sure it must be part of getting older!
Before I launched Acoustic Foxx, it was all about doing the loud, hard, rock thing which I still love and I miss being a part of that. The acoustic thing really stripped everything back and I could really hear what was going on. No covering up mistakes with distortion or loud cymbals, it has to be spot on, not perfect 'cause that can be boring, but it has to be good.
I really started to hear everything properly. I could hear my singing and the flaws of my playing. All these little things became evident, so it helped me really hone in and work on those aspects. I feel I've grown enormously in the last ten years. I know I had a lot of room for growth and development, and I hope my works show that. I've been able to evolve and learn how to grow within myself, and I know more these days of what I'm trying to achieve with my songwriting and performing.Your style is definitely compelling with a dark acoustic, indie folk sound that your bio says is inspired by the '90s grunge movement delivered in a George Harrison way. That's a lot of influences being funnelled into Acoustic Foxx; are you inspired directly by certain artists or does your musical knowledge tend to seep into your own music subconsciously?
I'm inspired by a lot of different music, but I think my style would tend to lean more towards some more than others.
I'll go from listening to rap to metal, but my songs are not necessarily going to reflect that. You will probably get more a sense of the '90s grunge influence when you listen, but I'd like to think everything I listen to and am inspired by somehow funnels into what I'm writing and creates this nice texture of different influences.
At the end of the day, my gig is a vocal and acoustic guitar so it may make more sense to box it in with some of the acoustic grunge stuff that came out, although lyrically probably quite different. George Harrison had a very honest delivery and just seemed happy to be himself, which I totally appreciate. Your new single is 'Shine A Light'; how did the song come to being and was there a certain vibe, style you were working towards?
Well, I haven't really told this story before, but I started writing it after going to the movies to see 'A Star Is Born'. A little bit embarrassing to admit I guess, but hey, whatever works right?!
It was one particular scene in the movie that resonated with me and was something I had already been thinking about in relation to my own performances. Bradley Cooper's character gets up onstage kind of unannounced and plays this laid-back sort of tune where the song is just able to breathe and it resonates into the audience.
I tend to strum chords too hard when I'm nervous onstage and just bash it out. I'd been wanting to write and perform songs that can breathe more onstage and allow me to be more in the moment as a performer and hold an audience in a more intimate way. Slow it down a bit and really play on the moment.
I remember a Ryan Adams gig I went to years ago had that effect where you could hear a pin drop – it was incredible. So yeah, that movie scene at the very least inspired me to pick up the guitar when I got home with a belly full of popcorn and come up with the main guitar part that is now 'Shine A Light'.
I think I had put a few words to it also but it took a while to fully form the song and it totally went somewhere else, but that's where the initial inspiration came from. Lyrically, it's me looking inwards, as I usually do, and taking a wider look at the big picture of why I'm writing music and how I hope it can connect with people in a positive way if they need it in a certain moment.
Music has been there for me my whole life when I really need it, I'd be lost without it. Whether it's an Aerosmith ballad when I'm feeling kind of sad or sorry for myself, or the heaviest Pantera song I can think of when I need that sort of kick, I think most people will know what I mean.
I always hoped that my music would be that for someone. Lines such as 'in this cold world I'll be your beating heart, and your warm glow on a lonely night' are basically saying 'look, I'm here for you if you need me, I've been there too'. So, I was definitely going for that laid-back acoustic vibe and I think it also goes a little further too.
Was it a track whose parts came together almost effortlessly, or did you have to finesse and shake the song to get the end result?
I think the music came together pretty easily; I didn't have too much trouble coming up with the parts; it was more the shaping of the song and the lyrical content that took longer for me to be happy with.
I thought I had it finished when I entered the studio to record it, but I still ended up slightly altering some of the vocal melody in the louder parts of the song. From memory, I'd written quite a few different variations of the verse along the way.You've again worked with Joshua Whitehead at Crosstown Soundstudio on this release; how is that creative partnership fostering your current sound and will you continue to collaborate with him?
It's been great working with Josh as always and I'm actually heading in to work with him again on some more songs in March.
First of all, I trust Josh. I trust his insight, opinions and knowledge and I know that anything he might bring up is for the benefit of the song. I'm able to bounce ideas off him without feeling silly or self-conscious. I think we have similar beliefs in letting a song breathe and sound how it's meant to sound; sometimes those little guitar duffs that might occur are sometimes ok to leave in the final mix, it doesn't have to be perfect.
If it sounds cool and works, then leave it in. I think he's come to know my limits and how hard he can push me. We know each other pretty well by now. It's a really good creative working relationship.Lyrically, what subjects do you broach with 'Shine A Light'; what message do you hope listeners will take away from hearing the song?
I always stumble when I try and talk about my lyrics; it's the hardest thing for me to be able to talk about! I know I'm getting older though I'm not over the hill by any means, but I know time is getting on and I often feel like I’m running out of time.
"Shine a light on me before I grow old, throw a light on me before the flame gets cold." It's like 'hey I'm over here, come check me out maybe you will find some value or comfort in what I do'. A sense that everyone needs a light shone on them at some stage of their life, particularly during this last year that has been tough on everyone.
I always hope people get a sense of sincerity when they listen to my songs. I'm never trying to force anything, sometimes I feel like maybe I'm being too honest, personal or too revealing. I like how everyone can interpret a song differently; so long as people feel good when they hear, listen to it, I'm happy. 'Shine A Light' follows your 2020 single 'This Time'; are you edging towards another Acoustic Foxx studio album? If so, what can you share with us?
I'm definitely an album guy, but at this stage I think releasing singles and giving them 100 per cent focus at the time is working for me.
I like the idea of an album, a whole body of work in your hand, a chapter of your life on one disc. It's like a marker in a time of your life, but singles can be that too. I actually want to write a lot this year. I've got bits and pieces of new and unfinished songs littered everywhere in various notebook and voice memos.
With basically no gigs in 2020 and not playing those same songs from my current catalogue live, I almost want to leave them behind and want to start fresh. Although those songs will always be there, but I'd love to hit the stage with a whole new set of songs which in 2022 could end up being my third album.You've released two previous studio albums, so have spent plenty of time in recording spaces; what have you learnt from those experiences that you parlay into your new recordings?
The main thing is being prepared to go into the studio in the first place. I tend to just go for it sometimes a little unprepared, although I don't realise that at the time – it's not until I look back in hindsight. I'm generally pretty impatient and I just like to do, rather than think about it than possibly not do it.
I started a podcast called Foxx On The Wire a couple of years ago, which meant I had to learn how to use audio software that then helped me utilise that in the demoing process of new songs. Suddenly I had to knowledge how to use a programme like Reaper, which opened up my demoing capabilities massively. That helps me better prepare for going into the studio to record for real.
Also, it's important who you choose to record with, which producer and making sure you're comfortable in the space. Those are the main takeaways for me.The past year has been traumatic for everyone, but out of such chaos often comes real, tangible, positive changes; have you found your own musicianship has been affected in a good way having so much extra time on your hands?
I worked my day job through the whole lockdown, which was busier than ever and it was definitely a harder time mentally and was more draining than usual.
The only extra time I had was from not playing gigs, which I don't really think was a positive thing for me. I kind of need those live music dates on my calendar to keep myself on track.
So, I spent whatever spare time I had writing new songs and working on the podcast talking to other musicians, but I missed live music so much; having dates booked keeps me on the straight and narrow, but I guess it's been a year for everybody to assess their goals and what they are trying to achieve. I see a lot of people who used their extra time off in a real positive way, which was great to see.
The country seems to be edging back towards some sort of normalcy (aside from the odd state-focused lockdown); live shows and even the thought of touring – what is your plan/s on that front?
Well as I answer this, we have just gone back into a hard lockdown for five days but it's rumoured to go longer. I was due to shoot a music video a week from now for 'Shine A Light', which if lockdown continues will not go ahead.
I've got some shows in March booked so hopefully those go ahead. I feel for some many people and businesses during these times, it's just terrible. Being in Melbourne, the whole touring band thing and going to gigs feels a long way off.
I'd love to make my way over to WA in the next year or so to play some shows; that would be awesome to see that side of the country and meet some of the musicians I've spoken to on the podcast via Zoom.
Some fun questions: What celebrity/ famous person would you love to your spokesperson?
Dave Chappelle. He's captivating no matter what he's talking about.If you had to live in a city abroad, where would you choose?
Nashville. Anywhere that lives for music 24/7, I'm there.Three people you'd like to invite around for a dinner party?
Dave Chappelle: He's a great storyteller and hands done the funniest comedian. Steven Tyler: Also a great storyteller, very funny and has lived 1,000 lives. Paul McCartney: I'd love to pick his brain about all things music.If we were coming over to your place, what would you cook us?
It sounds like a good excuse to dust off the BBQ, which I've been thinking about doing lately, chuck on all the good stuff and yeah, that's about the extent of my cooking skills.