FEATURE: Lior “It is a sort of blessing and a curse, but I don’t think I would be happy only doing the one thing.”

“It is not just about artistic control, but also timetable control. There isn’t someone saying you have to do something because they want to get their money back. It is freedom on all those levels. You are your own boss and are in control.” Despite his 2005 album “Autumn Flow” having become one of Australia’s most successful debut independent releases of all time, Lior continues his musical journey as an unsigned artist. His 2008 follow-up “Corner Of An Endless Road” proved to be both a commercial and critical success, with Lior following his earlier ARIA nominations by being shortlisted as a potential “Best Independent Album” at the 2008 ceremony. Yet as we sip coffee in one of his favourite haunts to talk about his third album “Tumbling Into The Dawn”, Lior reveals that despite his liking for creative control, he never fully chose the independent route. “Initially it was more a necessity, as in my early twenties I made that transition from playing in bands to being a solo artist. I wanted to make my first record. I hadn’t made it quite yet and I could see it was quite a hard slog trying to get support in making it. I decided to spend that time just making the record rather than chasing people down to help me do it. I went about the modest task of borrowing money from friends and that sort of thing. I thought that whatever happens, at least I have an album that I had made of these songs that I want to capture.”

“So it was born out of necessity but then what ended up happening was Triple J gave one or two tracks a spin, just to try it out and it grew from that.” Realising that with “Autumn Flow” he was on to a good thing, Lior decided that if it ain’t broke, then he shouldn’t try fixing it. “Once all that organic stuff was happening, I felt it was such a beautiful way to grow, that I didn’t want to tamper with it. It was just a very real way to go about it, via word of mouth. It all kind of just fell in my favour. I found I had a very supportive, loyal fanbase and it was working.”

“It is not just about artistic control, but also timetable control.”

However, having conquered his home turf, Lior now has his sights set on Europe. Having played a few dates in the UK at the outset of his solo career, Lior was lucky enough to be snapped up by an off-shoot of Sony for distribution of “Autumn Flow” in the UK, only to find the company had been dissolved by the time he got back to Australia. He realises that in “Australia you can be independent successfully because there are avenues that support you doing it. But the limited times I have been overseas, I can see that it is not the way it works there. In those instances you need label support to do it.”

Lior realises that trying his luck in new territories will mean a return to the hard slog, yet in many ways a lot of the groundwork has been done. “I think it is harder when you have not had any success at home, so I decided to spend my time building my career in Australia. Now that I have established myself here, there is material to show that I can do what I say I can.” But for Lior, whose fine live performances lead to the release of 2006’s “Doorways Of My Mind- Live at the NSC”, an extended period touring the cities of Europe is far from daunting. He confesses that he “would like to do some touring in Europe and I hope to find a label to support me doing that.”

In the meantime, Lior is focusing his efforts on his latest release, the mid-period Beatles-esque “Tumbling Into The Dawn”. For fans of his second release “Corner Of An Endless Road”, his new material may appear to be something of a departure. Whilst Lior appreciates the differences, it is clear that there are still many connections. “This is probably the lighter take on the second record. It is also my most eclectic. The second record was very folkish, so with this one I returned to working with a band which is what I did on the first one. So you have got the full dynamics of the band.”

““Autumn Flow” and “Corner Of An Endless Road” sort of happened within five years and it ended up all blowing up and being pretty manic.” Despite the gap between releases having shortened, Lior feels that he was able to spend more time exploring new avenues as he sat down to write his third release. “It is spoken of so much, that second album syndrome after a successful first album that I was aware of it. It is funny, I probably to many people’s surprise ended up making a real sad second record. It was very orchestral and lot of the content was about struggle and the complexities of relationships. Looking back at it, that is what I wanted to do, make a record with lots of string arrangements. Perhaps a lot of that was my reaction to the temptation to doing something pop led, to be driven by those forces rather than the creative ones.”

Having proven that “Autumn Flow” was no fluke, the pressure was released. With “Corner Of An Endless Road” out in the public domain, Lior finally had a chance to sit back and breathe. “What I found at the end of that was that I hadn’t really given myself a heap of time to write or not feel pressured by deadlines and expectations. So I took about eight months off to write “Tumbling Into The Dawn” and ended up writing a whole stack of material. Because there wasn’t that pressure to write a record, I ended up writing whatever I wanted to write. At the end I had a really eclectic bunch of material and I could just pick the strongest eleven tracks. In terms of a natural journey of an album, this one probably had the most diversions.”

“It is a sort of blessing and a curse, but I don’t think I would be happy only doing the one thing.”

But it was not just time to write that Lior so badly craved. Having spent his first two albums soul-searching, he felt it was high time to switch focus. “I think I just ran out of things to talk about. In that sense I probably explored different lyrical avenues. With the first two records it was all very introspective, they were both about what was going on within me. With this record, I actually wanted to become a bit more of a storyteller.”

Equally on a musical level, Lior felt the need to ring in the changes. “It is a sort of blessing and a curse, but I don’t think I would be happy only doing the one thing.” Having tired of his fascination with the orchestral, Lior took a trip down memory lane and brought a band in to help create his sound. The choice was a natural progression for someone who grew up with a passion for “both the great songwriters and bands of the seventies. I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and The Doors. I also had a love of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Neil Young and all those great songwriters. Just naturally when I was growing up my musical identity was that of the troubadour, by I also had this real passion for the band based stuff. So I just wanted to explore taking these things that I had written and putting them in a different environment. I was more open to the influence of a working band, rather than me just guiding the songs I’d written.”

Given that “Tumbling Into The Dawn” radiates the feel-good sing-ability of the great hits of the seventies, it is apparent that Lior has achieved his goal. But as we sup the last drops of our coffees, Lior gives a little insight into what might be next. “It is funny after making a band record, I am now drawn to going back and making a real troubadour one.”

Words and Images: Jeremy Williams

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