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Today Melbourne technicolour folk-rock collective The Elsewheres release Run Away With Me, their five-track collection of songs that address love and romance in its many different forms. While songs such as Long Long Way, If Your Love Was Still Mine, and Take My Hand ruminate on deeper, more serious forms of romance and love, the likes of Hurricane speak to joviality and wholesomeness, while Run Away With Me is a head-on, all-in celebration of reckless love.

Though Run Away With Me will serve as The Elsewheres’ debut EP, it’s been a long time coming for the group and its founder, Oliver Northam. Penning the initial version of Run Away With Me while at high school in 2010, recording of the EP began in earnest during the heady days of lockdown. With Run Away With Me being finalised at university alongside the formation of The Elsewheres (and winning the approval of Oh Mercy’s Alex Gow), the Push Songwriting Competition gave Oliver the chance to work with Alice Skye to refine Long Long Way and If Your Love Was Still Mine, and the Box Hill Music Industry Mentoring Edge program provided Oliver with guidance from Liz Stringer. The result is a collection of work far more accomplished than most debut EPs, and one that tugs on the heartstrings more than expected due to a masterful command of songwriting.

As Oliver explains, “My songwriting has shifted a lot over the years and the EP marks that change well. I moved from songs with really morose stories of regret, to songs that begin bleakly and culminate in a happy ending. Now I really want to write uplifting tracks, partly for my own mental health and partly because I think writing a truly happy song that is uplifting without being tacky is one of the greatest challenges. I love a challenge.”

In addition to the release of their new single and forthcoming EP, The Elsewheres will celebrate their myriad accomplishments with a special launch show at Melbourne’s John Curtin Hotel on August 10. A special opportunity to witness what makes The Elsewheres one of the most compelling groups in Australia, it will be a celebration of music, life, love, and – one of their most important elements – fun. Urges Oliver, “Come for a boogie, a laugh, and perhaps a tear or two. There will be a display of local visual art exhibited around the venue as well as special guests Fairtrade Narcotics opening up the night!”

To celebrate the release of their EP, Oliver Northam goes track by track through the EP for us to give you a first hand account of how this music emerged.

For many years I wanted to write a song about falling in love with my best friend. I had that nerve-wracking yet wonderful experience with my first long-term girlfriend in high school and although I’d written songs about that relationship before, I never felt they had captured that feeling in the way I imagined.

In the early days of its inception I remember feeling I had just about found the right angle for the song but I couldn’t nail the bridge. I played around with a few ideas on the guitar but it never came. Then one afternoon I arrived early to the little music school I taught at during lockdown. With the extra time I decided to play the tune on piano for the first time and soon enough I had improvised the bridge with those lydian scalic hits at the end, I knew that was going to be killer with the band.

It was on my dad’s rusty dobro that I wrote this tune. I still remember sitting in my room playing the finger picking line over and over while I figured out the lyrics. My fingers were stinging for days after that, but I was so pleased with the shift it marked in my songwriting.

During the past few years I became known for writing very morose ballades and as my mental health declined I wanted to change that. I wanted to write a track that began sad and became uplifting at the end. This was my first attempt at that trajectory. The tale opens with regretful love but at the end of the second verse we find out that the ex-partner misses our protagonist too.

This one was only meant to be a little joke for my partner. During lockdown she accidentally broke my favourite mug. Her clumsiness had become a somewhat notable feature of hers and I started calling her a hurricane. Whilst strumming away one evening in the kitchen I had the idea of writing it into a song as a joke. Within minutes the song had manifested itself and I went right into the next room to play it to her. We laughed. The band laughed too. We knew we had to record it. She bought me a new mug, it’s still my favourite.

Undoubtedly the track that means the most to me on this EP is Take My Hand. Amidst an interminable depression at the height of the pandemic, I found myself at my lowest point. In a bid to snap me out of it, my beautiful partner at the time suggested we take the greyhound for a walk. I recall kicking a stone along the footpath utterly despondent. As we came up to the crossing, she lent down trying to teach the dog to sit. I saw a white bus approaching around the bend and I kept moving forward. As I put one foot onto the road, she took my hand and pulled me back. I don’t think she ever knew. Take My Hand is my thank you to her. The bridge says everything; ‘I might not be here now, if it weren’t for you’.

After wrapping up countless performances with this tune over the years it seemed a perfect end to the EP. We all love this track, it’s got so much energy and it’s such a youthful tale of reckless romance. The first iteration of the track was created on my dad’s 16-track digital recorder in my makeshift bedroom studio when I was in high school, and it’s undergone quite the evolution to arrive at its final destination.

Once it became the alt-country rambler that it is today, I brought it to Reuben Maskell (drums) and Ned Morris (guitar) in a tiny rehearsal room in south Melbourne. We were waiting around for someone else’s rehearsal when I started playing the guitar line. They soon joined in and before we knew it, we’d played our very first song as what would become The Elsewheres.

In addition to the release of their EP, The Elsewheres will celebrate their myriad accomplishments with a special launch show at Melbourne’s John Curtin Hotel on August 10.

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