While the majority of the Australian music industry is slowly picking up the pieces from 2020, Australian icon Bernard Fanning is preparing to wind down for some creative hibernation – making this weekend's Summer Sounds Festival appearance in Melbourne even more special.
"I'm only doing a few more shows then I'm really stopping and concentrating on writing a record, and concentrating on doing some things around the house and studio that need some time put into them," he says.
"I've been writing quite a bit. . . Not to completion stage; there's a lot of demo stuff, just trying different ideas."
Touring solidly since the release of 2017's 'Brutal Dawn' album, Fanning says COVID had thrown a spanner in the works of his original plans.
"I'd kind of planned last year to have a record ready, but there was a bit of home-schooling and those sorts of things that kind of got in the way, like it did for everyone," he laughs.
"So I'm not in any big hurry, I'm just kind of putting together a record as it happens. After these shows, I've got a bit of a break so I'll just be knuckling down doing that.
"I did a lot of touring up until the beginning of the pandemic anyway, over a few years, so I was kind of due to have a bit of a break from that anyway."
The pandemic did present Fanning and his former Powderfinger bandmates a unique opportunity to release a "new-old" album in November, featuring ten previously unheard tracks recorded between 1998 and 2010 that were stored on hard drives and tapes in the band's archives.
"That just kind of sprung up really from the circumstances that were going on," Fanning says.
"We were looking at 'Odyssey Number 5' anniversary stuff and we just kind of uncovered a lot of stuff that we had forgotten about that we thought was worth releasing and people hearing.
"And, you know, if it hadn't been for what kind of year it was last year, it may not have happened. The circumstances kind of dictated it, and we said 'no, it's not just a bonus record, it's just a record – so let's just put it out as a record and give our fans something to listen to'."
On the similar note, Bernard says the One Night Lonely project – which aimed to raise half a million dollars for Support Act and Beyond Blue – never would have happened without the circumstances surrounding 2020. "It was a much busier year for Powderfinger than we expected it to be, last year.
"We thought we'd have a few meetings and put out a 20th anniversary release, but we ended up doing a heap more stuff. It was good, we had a really good time doing it actually, so it was a real bonus. . . But no, there's no plans to get together and write new stuff or go on tour or anything like that."
As a solo performer, Fanning just released a cover of 'I Hope I Never' for the 'True Colours, New Colours: The Songs Of Split Enz' album - which was both a challenge and an honour, according to Fanning. "It's a song I've known since I was a kid; I was a big fan of that record and a big fan of Split Enz – and Crowded House following that.
"But I just love the melancholy of that song, in the lyrics but the music in parts of it is kind of playful as well. And really, from a musician's perspective, the way that song is put together and even the way the movements happen in that song is really very classy – it's really incredible songwriting the way that the melody goes with the way the chords move – so it was a big of a challenge.
"We kind of worked on it a little bit yesterday, so we might give it a go this weekend if we can get it together at soundcheck. But yeah, it's just an honour to be honouring a band like Split Enz, you know, they were trailblazers those guys."
After already performing a Summer Sounds event in Adelaide in January, Fanning says he believes this weekend's event will be similar – and is looking forward to performing with some of his oldest touring friends and the country's freshest new talent again.
"I've played more shows with Something For Kate than with any other band, actually," he laughs. "I think we did 70 or 80 shows together in Powderfinger, so we did quite a few tours together.
"They've just released an incredible record, I don't know if you've heard that album but it's really good. . . it's put together in that old-fashioned record kind of way, you know? It's definitely worth putting the hour aside to hear that.
"Mia [Wray] and Didirri. . . I mean they're both exciting. Mia's newer than Didirri is, Didirri's becoming quite an established artist now and he can really write a tune that guy. Great singer, too. He's a little bit against the grain of what's fashionable in music at the moment, you know – he plays an acoustic guitar and sings songs about life," Bernard says with a laugh, "he's just a really talented guy.
"And Mia – she's just got unlimited potential, that girl. Her voice is amazing, her songwriting's great - it's good to be on a bill with those younger acts who've got lots of energy and buzz around them."Bernard Fanning and Something For Kate play Summer Sounds Festival at Sidney Myer Music Bowl (Melbourne) 27 February.