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Paul Kelly has won no fewer than eight ARIAs in his distinguished near 40-year career as a singer-songwriter.

Yet he is, as we’re surprised to find when we chat with him ahead of his forthcoming 19th album Spring And Fall and London show, one who doesn’t even think of himself as a singer-songwriter at all. Well, not until now that is. 

“I’ve played with my nephew Dan a lot over the last seven or eight years and we’ve developed a sound I felt would be good as a starting point for a record,” the 58-year-old explains of his latest long player’s birth.

“I had never made what I would call a singer-songwriter record before even though that’s what I’m known for – I usually put a band together and play and write with them.”

Spring And Fall comes out of what has been, even for a man with such a formidably prolific back catalogue to his name, a particularly productive few years that birthed a retrospective record, tours and accompanying book.

The eight-disc The A-Z Recordings is a live document of Kelly’s career to date that’s seen him earn a global fanbase with his bold personal tales and political observations, and folk-infused acoustic rock. It’s comprised of 100 songs from his career, drawn from shows between 2004 and 2010 when he took this retro-format out on the road, including four-night stops at the Sydney Opera House in 2006 and London’s Bush Hall in 2011.  

An accompanying book emerged, as well; Kelly had initially started to write a few words to accompany each song, only for this endeavour to mutate into “mongrel memoir” How To Make Gravy. And it has been this all-consuming and introspective period Spring And Fall has reacted against. 

“All writers fall into habits and I definitely do,” Kelly tells us, with his inimitable frankness and honesty. “I am pretty limited as a musician and you tend to find most artists write about the same things – sex, death, memory, love. You have to try and do things differently.” 

The secret to finding things to write about, and to his longevity, Kelly tells us, is curiosity – “Not doing the same things all the time and just having an interesting life.” It’s fair to say that Kelly has certainly had that, and Spring And Fall is definitely him avoiding repeating himself.

As well as starting out on the project without his usual accompanying band of musicians, the record differs from previous Kelly albums in that it is a single cohesive piece of work that tells the story of a relationship.

“It’s a love story from the beginning of a relationship to the end,” he says, adding that it is influenced by his own life (Kelly’s been married twice) but is not autobiographical. 

“The point of view shifts, sometimes it is more of a third-person voice, sometimes a first-person perspective, sometimes it’s the man, others the woman,” he tells us.

Kelly’s musical output has varied, taking influences from acoustic folk and rock, bluegrass and even dub reggae since he first emerged with Paul Kelly and The Dots in the mid-Seventies. So naturally Fall has its own sound, too. 

“I wanted to keep the instrumentation sparse and make each song lead into the next,” he explains of what is shaping up to be a new chapter in his ever-evolving career. 

“What happened was we invited a producer on board, J Walker, and he ended up playing a lot of double bass and harps on the record, so we did kind of become a three-piece band. We used a combination of differently tuned acoustic guitars and that was our bedrock sound for the record.”


Interview - Paul Kelly: The legendary folk rocker opens up about new album Spring and Fall and upcoming London show
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