WILLIAM Crighton has never aspired to be a political songwriter.
The Hunter Valley artist's latest single Your Country might be a forceful damnation of Australia's lack of climate change policy and how "our elected leaders become bottom-feeders to the corporate man", but Crighton says it's not political.
For him, it's simply common sense.
"I hate it when people reduce music to the word 'political', because it makes no sense," Crighton says. "Don't put it in the sphere of these morons you don't deserve to be in charge of the country anyway.
"The ones who are selling it off and destroying it for our kids. I don't want to be put in the same basket as them."
Your Country is the first single from Crighton's forthcoming third album, due for release in early 2021. After two acclaimed albums - William Crighton (2016) and Empire (2018) - the wider Australian music community has woken up to the intensely charismatic performer's infusion of psych-rock, folk, country and bush balladry.
Even Channel Nine's The Today Show featured a small preview of Your Country's video last week.
Crighton again teamed up with long-term collaborator Matt Sherrod (Crowded House, Beck) in Byron Bay during the COVID lockdown to record the bulk of the third record.
ARIA Award-winners and good friends William Barton (didgeridoo) and Jeff Lang (guitar) were also invited to contribute to Your Country, alongside bassist James Hazelwood (Kasey Chambers, Tim Minchin) and Crighton's wife Julieanne (backing vocals).
In the past Crighton hasn't shied away from weighty issues. His debut album famously dealt with child sexual abuse (Priest) and suicide (Riverina Kid) and on Empire he explored white settlement's deadly impact on Indigenous Australia (Fire In The Empire).
But the father-of-two has never sounded so outraged - and as passionate - as he does on Your Country.
"I think it's been building in me for so long," he says. "I've seen so many of our leaders give disingenuous words to the community, while signing away the community's future to these multinational corporations who have no moral compass and no clear care for future generations or the land itself.
"It's whatever the bottom line is."
Crighton is aware advocating for the phasing out of fossil fuels is an unpopular sentiment in some quarters, particularly in his Hunter Valley backyard, where generations of working-class communities have grown and prospered from coal mining revenue.
He's even "copped it" from family members who have worked in farming and mining.
However, Crighton says the multinational mining corporations have never cared for their employees and are already moving towards a more automated workforce.
"The Hunter and Australian economy has been built on innovation and industry," he says.
"It's time now for the corporations and government, who have benefited so greatly from the hard work of the workforce over years and years, to commit to retraining them or appropriate redundancies and provide a path out of pollution to renewables that will benefit everyone. We need to demand that."
Crighton stresses the album is not completely dominated by environmental rage. It also features stories, past and present, and reflections and musings about relationships and his world.
For example, the second single This Is Magic details life in Cessnock.
"Your Country and the rest of the album is all about that hope and strength that we can pool together," he says.
"If I get angry and let myself be defeated by that, I'm defeated. Hope, love and kindness defeats all of that other shit. It's important to remember that.
"That's what the album has too. There's some narratives and stories about our history and some about now."
Crighton continued to develop his piano playing - which he debuted on Empire tracks like Mr Brown - during the writing of the new album which has opened up his sonic palette.
"I've grown in whatever ways that I can and I see the world a bit differently now," he says. "No better or worse, just differently.
"So I try to reflect that in my songs about my personal relationships and observations.
"Hopefully it's a development. There's definitely things on this album I've never done before."
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