Australian indie-folk singer/songwriter Mike O’Dowd invites listeners on a poignant journey through the intricacies of love, anguish, and self-discovery with his debut album ‘One Lover Leaves’, which was released on September 29. Available on vinyl and all major streaming platforms, this collection is a raw and honest exploration of the human experience of love, painted with O’Dowd’s signature evocative storytelling and poetic lyricism.
Australian Musician wanted to know a little more about Mike O’Dowd so we threw a few questions his way
1 What was the spark which lit your flame for music?
My first introduction to music was hearing my grandparents play Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins when I was a little kid. I remember being obsessed with ‘Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs’ by Marty Robbins. As a 4 year old that album was like watching a movie for me. That was definitely the moment I fell in love with storytelling and music.
2 What are the main tools you use in your music making?
‘I always start writing on my acoustic guitar and demo everything live on GarageBand. I like to capture as much as I can when the song is starting to form. I find listening back is the best way to judge if a song is worth pursuing.’
3 What was your first band t-shirt?
‘The only band tshirt I’ve ever owned is a late 70s Bob Dylan tshirt from his ‘Street Legal’ era. It’s paper thin and has been completely worn it to death.
4 A record that changed your life?
‘I’ve gone back to Astral Weeks, by Van Morrison for many, many years and I’m always blown away by how beautiful it is. For me it’s as close to a perfect record as you can get. I can’t think of any other album to compare it to. It’s completely on its own.’
5 What’s your latest recording?
‘I released my debut album ‘One Lover Leaves’ at the start of October. It was written when I was living overseas and recorded during the pandemic. I was lucky enough to work with some amazing musicians including Jesse Williams (Girlatones, Leah Senior) and Burke Reid (The Drones, Courtney Barnett, Julia Jacklin) The album cover was painted by the great Australian artist Paul Ryan. You can also pick up a copy of the album on vinyl from my bandcamp page or stream it across all platforms now.’
6 What do you know about recording now that you didn’t the first time you entered a studio?
‘While recording my album, I found that the perfect take can be flawed. Capturing the moment is far more important than getting something right. The main thing is capturing the energy of the room. The best way to do that is to record as much live as possible.’
7 What’s on your gear wish list?
‘I’d love a pre-war Martin acoustic guitar. That’s a long way off, but it’s at the very top of my list. I played the perfect guitar a few years ago in Greenwich Village in New York, but it was far too expensive at the time. It was a 1930’s Shade Top 00-18 in perfect condition. Hopefully I’ll cross paths with it again at some stage.’
8 What would you like your music career to look like in 5 years time?
‘I’d like to have a few more albums under my belt. I’d like to be able to put all of my time and energy into music too. That’s my main goal. Right now it’s a bit of a balancing act.
9 What would be your dream collaboration?
‘My area of focus is on lyrics and songwriting. I’m always in awe of any musician that can pick up an instrument and play on a song after hearing it once. For those reasons I’d love to work with Warren Ellis. I’ve seen him perform many times with ‘The Dirty Three’ and ‘Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’. The amount of energy he puts out is incredible.’
10 What would you consider to be your greatest musical achievement to date?
‘Releasing my album has been my biggest achievement so far. Not just the writing and recording, but everything else that goes along with getting a record out into the world. I learnt a lot about how to make an album, so the experience was very rewarding. Now that I’ve released the album, I can’t wait to start on the second one and keep moving forward.’
11 What gigs are coming up in the next few months?
‘I’ll be announcing gigs in Melbourne very shortly. Also, I’m planing an east coast tour during the summer months. I haven’t played in Sydney or Brisbane for quite a while, so I’m really looking forward to heading back.’
MORE ABOUT MIKE O’DOWD AND HIS DEBUT ALBUM ONE LOVER LEAVES
Featuring O’Dowd’s previous singles ‘Game Of Love’, ‘They Walked Past A Work Of Art’, and the title track ‘One Lover Leaves’, the album boasts an irresistible blend of captivating indie-folk and stripped back contemporary sounds infused with subtle hints of country.
At its core, ‘One Lover Leaves’ delves into the breakdown of a relationship, serving as a chronicle of O’Dowd’s emotions at each crucial juncture. The album navigates the complexities of love and human emotion with unflinching honesty, offering listeners a deeply personal and introspective experience.
O’Dowd shares his creative process: “This album is about the breakdown of a relationship. The songs chronicle how I was feeling at each particular moment. I tried to not censor or second guess myself in any way during the writing process. Because of this, I feel certain truths are embedded in the songs. I’m still discovering exactly what a lot of them mean, but I know the album is honest and every line is true. That’s the most important part for me.”
‘One Lover Leaves’ unfolds across nine tracks, each a mournful chapter in the story of a relationship at its end. The lead single, ‘Game Of Love’, sets the tone for the album with its dynamic blend of laid-back country-blues guitar riffs and driving drum beats. The track tackles the complexities of love head-on, offering a sense of hope amidst the difficulties.
Following is ‘Early Morning Rain’, a composition that embraces a dark country-folk ambience. It gradually unfurls with delicate layers of tremolo guitar, sweeping strings and sparse piano notes that interplay with the lyrical themes of jealousy and regret.
Continuing to paint a vivid emotional landscape are ‘Only Cross Her Path’ and ‘Moonlight On Your Garden Of Thorns’, touching on themes of guilt and destructive jealousy. Each captures the essence of a slow, full-band ambiance, seamlessly blending sincerity with a soothing touch with ‘Moonlight On Your Garden Of Thorns’ drawing inspiration from the golden era of 1960s country music.
‘They Walked Past A Work Of Art’ showcases O’Dowd’s tender lyricism with a lulling melody, creating a space for introspection and self-reflection as he weaves metaphor after metaphor about a disintegrating relationship. In the title track, ‘One Lover Leaves’, O’Dowd takes the forefront with a tenderly plucked electric guitar, his compassionate vocals leading the way while drums and bass provide a solid foundation. This song embraces a dark and somber tone, skillfully conveying the perils of investing too deeply in another person.
‘Painting Light Across Her Lilies’ and ‘When Autumn Leaves Fall’ both radiate a sense of hope and change to the album’s narrative. These tracks embody the seasons of relationships, acknowledging their ebb and flow. Heavenly finger-picked acoustic guitars and O’Dowd’s heartwarming vocals take centre stage, complemented by the gradual emergence of string accompaniments and pedal steel courtesy of Jon Graboff from Ryan Adams & the Cardinals.
Closing out the album is ‘Mona Lisa’, a stripped-back reflection on growing apart and the possessive nature of love. O’Dowd’s poignant lyrics are paired with gentle accordion and airy strings, offering a beautiful conclusion to this heartfelt journey.
‘One Lover Leaves’ is a heartfelt and impassioned music journey that paints a vivid picture of a relationship at the end of its story. Mike O’Dowd’s debut album is out now on vinyl and all major streaming platforms
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