THERE’S a period in the lives of most people when they realise they’ve fallen short of their own expectations. Dreams have gone unrealised.
It’s that feeling of melancholy and loss that Tim Hart has mined to ironically fulfil some of his own creative aspirations.
The Narrow Corner, released next Friday, is the Boy & Bear drummer’s second solo album, following 2012’s Milling The Wind.
In those ensuing six years Boy & Bear have released two more albums and strengthened their fan base to become arguably Australia’s leading indie-folk export.
The Narrow Corner takes its name from the 1932 novel written by Englishman W. Somerset Maugham about a man escaping a murder in the South Pacific.
“I read that book years ago and I found it interesting because it’s all about expectations and the expectation we have for a perfect or a nice life and the expectations people have on us,” Hart says.
“And in the end we never quite measure up to what we want. And even if we do, we let people down along the way.
“A lot of songs and albums are about the exciting times and the very passionate times. Sometimes I’m more interested in when the passion dies out of things a little bit and there’s just reality left there.”
Is the interest in failed expectations reflective of Hart’s own fast-approaching descent into middle-age?
Sometimes I’m more interested in when the passion dies out of things a little bit and there’s just reality left there.- Tim Hart
“I’ve watched a lot of people in my life strive for things and give up and move on to different phases of life, whether it be kids or moving overseas for work,” he says.
“Yes, things change and there’s always those few people who are trying to hang on to their late teens and early 20s and it never quite happens. I suppose in a sense, it’s some of the reflections that are happening in my own life.”
The Narrow Corner is a beautiful record. It’s full of warm Australian folk, that probably steers closer to Paul Kelly and Augie March’s most contemplative work, rather than Boy & Bear.
The songs were written over a four-year period as Hart struggled to find time to concentrate on his solo compositions outside the hectic demands of Boy & Bear.
It’s also allowed Hart to indulge his own creative interests instead of being tied to the democratic constraints of working inside a five-piece band.
“That’s honestly the best part of this solo thing,” he says. “I love the democratic nature of Boy & Bear and the fact each song we go through a whole process to write it. I just like the freedom to be spontaneous with my solo stuff and record whatever I feel.
“That for me is bit of a relief. I’m someone who likes to work fast, and I guess in Boy & Bear we take a more considered approach and do things over a longer period of time.
“That’s something I have to contribute to Dave Hosking and Killian [Gavin] because they’re good at etching things out and making sure everything is well though of.
“Whereas for me, I like to get in there while the inspiration is happening.”
The upcoming solo tour also presents Hart with an opportunity to expand himself as a performer.
In Boy & Bear Hart is stuck behind the drums, and relegated to singing harmonies to support frontman Dave Hosking. Hart can’t wait to take centre stage.
“I would be completely lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun. I feel a great freedom playing on stage solo because it’s a different thing.
“The onus is on you and if you don’t quite get it right it’s bare, raw and out in the open. I like that challenge. I like that pressure.
“I do miss the band vibe when I play solo, but when I’m in the band I miss that freedom too. It’s horses for courses.”
In recent years Boy & Bear have cultivated a growing foreign audience through regular touring to North America and Europe.
However, Hart makes no bones about The Narrow Corner having an Australian focus. The music almost sounds like Australian balladry in parts and lyrically Hart frequently pays homage.
“I love the soul of this country, it’s where my heart keeps me. It is Australia in my blood,” he sings on All In All and then “Gold digging sailor, grief stricken failure/In the middle of Australia is where I lay my head,” on first single I’d Do Well.
“I love all that and travelling, it’s one of the greatest parts of being in this band, but I miss home so much when I’m away,” Hart says.
“I really love Australia. It’s a massive part of who I am. When I finished the record and I was showing a few people and they were saying, ‘it sounds so Australian’ I had to go back and listen to it myself.
“I take it as a great compliment when people say that. It means a lot to me and it means I’m hopefully writing honestly and authentically.”
The release of The Narrow Corner is certainly no indication that Boy & Bear are approaching their conclusion.
Work has began on the follow-up to their 2015 No.1 album Limit Of Love and Hart will continue writing with his bandmates throughout February, while he spends the weekends playing live solo shows to support The Narrow Corner.
“At the moment I’m doing both at once,” Hart says. “The boys have been so gracious to allow me this time.
“I grew up with my dad working long hours every day and he was an accountant, so for me, any chance to work I’m going to do it. I feel it’s not too bad.”
Hart is tight-lipped over the direction of the new Boy & Bear material, but he’s excited by what he’s hearing.
“We’ve had a longer time than usual between albums, so we’ve had more time to write for various reasons,” he says.
“I’m really happy with how it’s coming together. I reckon by the end of March we’ll probably be ready to go into the studio.”
Tim Hart’s The Narrow Corner tour comes to Lizotte’s on February 10.
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