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2003-03-25: Ghost Notes from Genevieve

Drum Media
by Michael Smith

"I SEEM TO HAVE BROUGHT AN ENTIRE BOOKSHOP WITH ME," SINGER, SONGWRITER AND PRODUCER GENEVIEVE MAYNARD ADMITS APOLOGETICALLY. "I HAVE A FRIEND WHO LENDS ME A LOT OF BOOKS WHENEVER I GO ON TOUR AND I?M ASHAMED TO SAY THAT BROUGHT 12 BOOKS, SO I HAVE A MINI-BOOKSHOP!"

It might not sound very rock'n'roll but, as she goes on to say, the whole touring thing can be a bit odd.

"I've obviously been doing a lot of interviews lately and I've noticed that in conversations, all I do is do an interview! I'm really having to watch myself when I meet people that I know in all the towns and watch out that I don?t fall into 'interview' mode when they ask me a question! I think that's the unreality of life on the road though. It's a very surreal experience. The Internet is actually a very surreal thing too, but when you're on tour it keeps you in contact with your friends and family and that is a grounding influence."

When you're up against everything from the gruelling distances between cities to dodgy PAs in dodgier rooms to the potential threat of colds and losing your voice (and Genevieve was just recovering hers when we spoke, after a cold, two weeks into her national tour), keeping grounded is very important, and books seem to be her kind of "retail therapy".

"I take a lot of luggage with me when I tour 'cos when you're performing every night, you need to have an endless supply of t-shirts, so it's very heavy already, with the books as well, so I try not to notice bookshops whenever possible, especially second-hand ones, 'cos they're like little goldmines! I don't want to come back with more books than I went away with.?

One could have far worse vices on the road, but books tie in nicely with the point of touring for Genevieve - showcasing her debut solo album, Ghost Notes - because they can become part of the songwriting process.

"The stories in the songs come from different events that have happened to me over the past seven years or so, and also from my imagination, when I've had songwriter?s block. So some of it's pure fiction and other bits are direct experience. I quite enjoy being the 'fiction writer' to tell you the truth, but I know that I tend to be quite prolific when I?m deeply upset - that sounds a bit morbid doesn't it?!!"

Older readers might remember Genevieve first bursting onto the local scene back in 1988 with the indie band Bughouse, and their fiery second album, Fish Tank (Ursula/MdS).

These days, she's part of Stella One Eleven, though that wasn't the original plan.

"It's always been my aim to release a solo album, and I started trying to go solo before Stella One Eleven started. I got sidetracked into being in Stella. I wasn't initially going to be in it, it was just going to be me producing. When I got in, I love being the band, I love the music and so I decided I'd stay and I had to put my solo stuff on the side for a while. Also Anthony, Wow Records, is one man and the financial resources available to him aren't those of a huge record company, so he can only manage to run one project at a time. So I had to wait for Stella to be established enough for me to be able to do my thing too."

Her "thing", on the evidence on Ghost Notes, encompasses quite a broad spectrum, from cruisey lowkey acoustic ballads to melodic pop/rock to more groove-driven numbers.The songs on Ghost Notes are a mixture from different periods of Genevieve's past few years of writing.

"When I started I had about 30 songs, and when you're choosing songs for an album the danger is that anything that's new sounds more exciting than something you've had kicking around for a few years, which doesn't necessarily make it bad. So I was careful not to exclude songs on that basis. I was also conscious of the fact that in this industry you often only ever get one go, and I was also conscious of trying to meld the different styles that I have on the CD into one cohesive whole, so people wouldn't freak out about the differences in style say between Aurora Borealis and Fifteen Letters, which are probably the two most polarised in terms of what I'm actually doing.

"So I wanted to make it a journey that made sense to people when they were listening to it. It's like a book I guess, and the songs are chapters, so you can have different styles next to each other and it'll still be a good book. I found it to be a challenge, and I worried about it with the EP (The Genevieve Maynard Trio), but with the album it was easier because I had six more songs to play with to make my story clearer.The EP was a good taste of what the album would be so I wanted to expand on that, so I deliberately chose to put on a couple of other acoustic-based things and some softer stuff as well as the programming, loopy-type things.

"The last track for instance was one of my first efforts at programming, six or seven years ago, and my style of programming's changed quite radically since then, but when I started looking at the songs I wanted to put on the CD and how I wanted to produce them, I couldn't find anything that was wrong with what I'd done then. Some bits were really bodgy and I wouldn't do it in the same way now because I know better ways of doing things. But I found it all to still be really appropriate for the song so I decided to stick with that older, crunchier sound that I was using then."

Genevieve plays the bulk of the guitar, bass and keyboards parts as well as doing all the programming, and produced Ghost Notes.

"I've got several different people that I worked with. I've got two drummers, Dave Aston and Brian Cachia; and my ex-bass player (Mary-Anne Cornford) played on a couple of tracks. Cindy (Ryan, Stella One Eleven) sang on Aurora Borealis and then there was the Marrickvilla Spackfilla Choir on Bulletproof. The name of the Choir came from Bernie Hayes. The first time we used the Choir was on a Stella recording and I think that all the people were residents in Marrickville or the suburb next to it, and Marrickville seems to be composed largely of ex-Newtown residents who just simply can't afford to live there anymore.

"I use a sequencer live, so that runs a couple of extra guitar parts and the odd baking vocal here and there, as well as loops and keyboard parts and things, so it does translate well live.The band I have now is really great. Richard Anderson, who used to be in Swirl, is playing bass and he sings as well, and Josh Shuberth, is the drummer but he also plays guitar and bass, so they're both multi-instrumentalists. It does tend to a little bit more space live because I?ve found from experience that the less-is-more approach tends to work a little better live."

Genevieve Maynard launches the album at the Annandale Hotel Friday 28 with support from Genshen and Rumanastone.

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