Interviews

Q+A with Tim Wheatley

Alt folk rock troubadour, Tim Wheatley is back with a unique dose of melancholy and Australiana, today dropping his deeply personal single, Lying Low.  The song is complemented by a fittingly dark and manic video clip that showcases the private suffering and switching of personalities that inspired the song. We caught up with Tim who filled us in on everything going on in his world.

H2Z: Hi, thanks for taking the time to chat with Hear 2 Zen, what have you been up to today?
TW: Today has been a success on all fronts. It hasn’t rained, I haven’t been scorned by disgruntled neighbours for playing music all day, I’ve managed to stay home and I have successfully refrained from having a single drink. It’s 6.30am. 

Tell us about yourself, how long have you been performing/creating music for?  

 I’ve been playing music since I can remember. But I can distinctly remember my first ever show at the Ashburton Festival when I was fifteen. We went on after ‘Humphrey B. Bear’ and his legion of fans savaged us throughout our four song set. I was wearing cargo shorts and god dammit it was a baptism of fire. I still fall asleep at the traffic lights and dream about the voice under the suit scolding us for putting our amps on the stage during his performance. 

H2Z: Who are your greatest inspirations?  Why?
TW: My mother and father. They could have pulled over and left me at any number of service stations over the years. But they didn’t. And for that, I owe them everything.  

H2Z: How do you create music?  Are you lyrics/story driven, or does the music/melody come first?  Explain your process. 
TW: I suppose it’s both. I’m constantly writing (stealing) words and turns of phrase from what I’m reading, watching or people I’m talking to. Then I take to those words when I stumble on a melody and do my darndest to make it all fit. One thing I have always found impossible is writing something in its entirety and then fixing it to music. In one way or another I have to compromise either the lyrics or melody and have an internal battle with myself in the process. If I want to leave room for lyrics, I find writing on the piano gives me a bigger canvas in which to move around. 

H2Z: What has been your greatest challenge so far in performing/creating music?
TW: Just that. It’s performing the music I have created. As a solo artist that hasn’t reached dizzying heights, the opportunities to present my music as intended with a large band are few and far between. Having said that, touring for years and years solo with nothing to hide behind on stage is character building and something I wish a lot more artists would do. 

H2Z: Tell us about your new release, how did it come about?\
TW: My new release, ‘Lying Low’ is a single from the forthcoming record that has been written and recorded since I moved to England from Los Angeles, and the struggles associated. I found that being in such a hectic headspace whilst making the transition was echoed in the songs I was writing. Lonely, sombre, angry, mildly frantic – and that was just my dog.  I wrote and recorded most of the songs nearly two years ago – but the powers that be thought that holding off on the record and releasing it during a global pandemic would be the smart play. 

H2Z: What advice do you have to artists who are just starting out?
TW: You don’t need to choose between which pill to take. Take them both and then Triple J will decide anyway. 

H2Z: Tell us your favourite Zen practice.
TW: I wake up at 5.30am every day. Trying to figure out why this is merely keeps me up the night before. But I find those hours in the morning by myself as the sun comes up to be the most important part of my day. It would seem there is nothing I like more than a cup of coffee over a hard hitting Q&A. 

MORE ABOUT TIM

Produced and engineered by Michael Badger (King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, You Am I, Amyl & The Sniffers) at Jaya Jaya Music in Melbourne, and mixed by ARIA award winning Steven Schram (Paul Kelly, San Cisco), Lying Low tells a tale of darkness with that raw, raspy voice Wheatley is best known for, and his intensely introspective songwriting shines. “It was the first song I wrote after moving from Los Angeles to London. The adjustment from sunny California to the cobblestone streets of East London was near impossible for me. I wrote this song feeling more isolated than ever, in a new city, away from family and friends, and without the ability to perform live,” explains Wheatley.  “I stopped talking about how hard I was finding it, because I was drowning in other people’s well-intended but cookie cutter advice. I was going stir crazy in my own company all day and night. It was a true test for my mental health, I was suffering and switching up a few different sides of my personality trying to find the one that could best get me through each situation. It was exhausting ‘getting out there’ and making new friends, for some reason during this period I felt I needed to keep to myself to get to the other side.”

Directed and filmed by Ben Cook (Bombay Bicycle Club, Bring Me The Horizon) at the Sony Music Studios in Sydney in the midst of the bushfires raging across the country, the video’s intent was to demonstrate the solitude and strain the move had on Wheatley. “We wanted it to be frantic and dark, but ultimately strong enough to stand on its own,” says Wheatley. “Ben and I deliberately went in to the filming of the video wanting to capture something completely unrehearsed and candid with nothing but a light and his new Super8 camera, and possibly a bottle of scotch.

Despite not being written during or about the current global isolation situation, Wheatley insights, “In more ‘normal’ release circumstances, this song – that is now a year old – would be a memory, or about a circumstance that has since passed. But this time, ‘Lying Low’ is somehow becoming more relevant by the day. Either that or I’m stuck on a carousel.”
Lying Low was be released on June 12 through Sony Music Entertainment Australia.

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