Australia's most underrated legend Stephen Cummings brings forth his latest album recorded in a grant total of two days in Melbourne. The ex-The Sports frontman chatted to Naomi Shimoda about his latest release and his national tour making its way around the country this month, finishing up in early October.
Your latest album is titled 'Nothing to be Frightened Of'. What's the story behind the name?
[It's about] what the point is in this day and age, thinking about getting older and dying and why we should live forever. Just thinking, "Whatever is going to happen is going to happen and there's nothing to be frightened of". I wrote simple, soul-ey kind of songs done in a kind of immediate, in your face sort of way with sparse instrumentation.
Where did you record the album?
Producer and guitarist Shane O'Mara's studio in Melbourne. We set up the lounge room and he ran all these leads from the studio outside. We just sat down facing each other and I had about 3 mics taped together and played lines. He likes usually doing overdubs and stuff like that but I just said, "Just leave it".
What did you do in the three years between your last release and the release of this album?
I just existed. I lived and played music. I played a few shows in Paris. I had a memoir that came out 3 years ago. I went away for about three months to go away to Europe and went to Japan earlier this year. Life went on.
You're also releasing two more albums with fresh material with The Sports. How did this come about?
They're being remastered and they're having about 15 other additional tracks. Weird tapes that have come from somewhere. Most of the songs I don't remember doing! It's good to get them out with a good mastering job.
You've been touring and recording for decades now. What are the biggest changes in the music industry and what are the challenges?
The most challenging is keeping at it because the whole music business has changed its basic mechanism now. You don't make money from records now. You make money from touring and selling tea towels and t-shirts and playing live. It's still hard doing something different. People who have been around for as long as I have will normally be doing their own hits over and over but I don't do that. I do a few old songs, but I do a lot of stuff from my own albums and new stuff. I've chosen a harder path to go down. That's why I like music.
Your memoir 'Will it Be Funny Tomorrow Billy?' has been turned into a documentary by Mike Brook. Who approached who to bring this to life?
He approached me. I said "Yeah, sure" because I thought there would be no chance of it happening. I didn't think it would happen but the guy made it happen because he had the money and equipment at his disposal. He surprised me by getting it all done. He just asked, "Can I come and film you?" It got shown ahead of time at the Melbourne International Film Festival.
The basic idea for the film was to talk about various occasions in my life, be vaguely amusing about various people and cut to those people as I read out what I've [written] and comment on it. It's very funny but slightly disturbing for me. For the viewer it's quite funny, watching me squirm. Who can remember what they wrote? Not me. It was a few years ago so I was surprised how honest I was.
Did he get to film Mick Jagger (mentioned in the book)?
laughs). No, but he filmed Billy Joel and Michael Gudinski!
This memoir of yours is the third book you've written so far. Do you think that your experience song writing comes with an ability to write well beyond music?
I'm a big reader so I do have enough skill to write a book but it's not my main thing. I can put a book together if I can if I've got such a strong idea. The book business is even worse than music! I don't like the idea of readings and stuff like that. The best thing about a book is between you and the page and whatever happens in your head. I think extra things make it less powerful.