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On his deeply engaging seventh solo album The Sentimentalist, Naarm film composer, producer and former member of 90’s indie faves The Earthmen, Nick Batterham is ready to lean into the power of a lifetime spent looking back.

Batterham’s sentimentality becomes a strength to call on as he delivers the most honest solo album of his career. From alt roots adjacent folk through to noisy guitar driven and orchestral pop, it’s a carefully crafted exploration of love and hope that is all things heartworn, heart-warming and irresistibly relatable.

“My whole life and livelihood has depended on reading, reflecting and communicating emotion both for myself and for others”, Batterham explains. The experience of looking inward for his work in music, film, sound design and record production has served to deliver the conclusion that, “what might feel like a weakness can actually be an asset”.

In recent years, Batterham has been recognised for his collaborations with celebrated visual artist Rone, composing contemporary classical music and creating sound design for large-scale immersive installations. Rone’s latest project Time ran for six months at Melbourne’s iconic Flinders Street Station and was seen by over 100,000 visitors.

As guitarist and co-songwriter with renowned 90’s indie outfit The Earthmen, Batterham toured internationally when he was just 21 years old, later recording an ARIA nominated major-label album. Since 2009 he has also featured on six string duties in beloved Melbourne indie rock band Cordrazine.

After studying film at VCA he began a career in film and television, twice being nominated for an AFI/AACTA award. His latest film score was for a feature documentary about artist David Bromley.

Batterham’s previous solo release, the warmly received, pop leaning Lovebirds was buffeted by lockdowns, its live launch at Melbourne Recital Centre postponed three times. As a result, Batterham found the togetherness of rehearsing, then re-rehearsing with his long-time collaborators for these performances delivered a much-needed balm of human contact.

“I realised just how much playing music with my friends is a cornerstone of my wellbeing”, he states. “We also got really tight as a band, so I wanted to capture our elastic chemistry on (this) record, as faithfully as possible.”

The ensemble featuring Batterham on piano or guitar, with Ben Wiesner on drums, Nick Murray on electric guitar and Jethro Woodward on bass and mandolin, tracked The Sentimentalist live in the composer’s own studio, with the players parts coming together during the sessions, the resulting arrangements are sympathetic to the intimacy of the vocals on the album.

“Nick, Jethro and I have been playing music together for 25 years. There’s a lot of love and a deep connection, which I can hear in the recordings. I especially wanted to present the sound of our voices singing together”. By singing together Batterham feels it can make difficult things easier to say. “It lends authority and can deflect how exposing singing can feel at times”.

The writer admits that some of the material on The Sentimentalist were written by a “younger iteration” of himself. “Words and feelings I was too self-conscious to share at the time. They’re still uncomfortable, but having outgrown some demons, I can now view them through a more sympathetic lens.”

Adding to the core group of players on The Sentimentalist, Batterham also sought out two of Melbourne’s premiere rising vocal talents in Georgia Knight and Loretta Miller to add their sublime tones to the mix, “both their voices can reduce me to a puddle of mush”, the song writer admits.

The band tracking was augmented by instrumental overdubs. “After working with Budapest Art Orchestra on the most recent Rone soundtrack, I was excited to bring that orchestral lushness into this context”. The album also features brass and reeds by Dan Beasy and Carlo Barbaro respectively. “I was aiming for the immediacy of a 1960s record, a live band with some added orchestrations to make it extra swoony.”

The Sentimentalist opens with the title track, a buoyant yet melancholy exploration in sepia, tender playing and production sets the album’s tone, intense and deeply personal. Batterham explains that his songwriting is a compulsion. “It helps me process emotions and better understand myself”. Adding that his observations of relationships, familial, romantic, or otherwise, “often reveal the tension between my ideals and reality”.

A little under a third of the way in, the moving “A Boy Is A Bee” is perhaps the most perfect summation of the addictive nature of love. It’s aching soundtrack cushioning Batterham’s most fragile vocal as Georgia Knight adds her signature breathy longing.  Ode to a lifetime chasing the intangible, Batterham concedes “home is no place to leave”.

On the symphonic pop of “HMS Loneliness” Batterham considers the refusal to accept being loved over preference for the familiarity of loneliness.  “Sing while your ship goes down.” It explores isolation as a sense of identity, “you are what you say you are.”  Like an anxiety, thinking about it makes it worse, “a loneliness complex, an empty nest circles you”.

Across its 12 tracks, The Sentimentalist is a celebration of love. “I’ve always written about love and its importance, but my perspective constantly shifts, my fascination with it is endlessly sustaining. It delivers us the best and worst of life”. Be it romantic, of self or just the love of being in the moment, being present enough to feel everything fully is a triumph of love. In art and in life. So, love wins in the end. As the album concludes with the aptly titled and tender “Rise Above”, the writer ensures, “Given love, I will rise above.”

Nick Batterham – The Sentimentalist Launch for tix click here
Sunday June 2nd
Doors: 1pm
Stephanie Cherote: 1:30pm
Nick Batterham & band: 2:30pm

Nick Batterham – The Sentimentalist is out now through Cheersquad Records & Tapes

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