During June, 2005, Jim conducted a wide ranging interview with his namesake, Jim Smedley.

Part One
covers some of his early musical memories and recalls some musical highlights.

In Part Two, Jim talks about his own music and his approach to songwriting.

In Part Three he talks about some of the songs on American Dream


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Jim Lesses Interviewed: Part Two 
by Jim Smedley

Part One | Part Two | Part Three 

 

Let’s talk about your new album
Sure… Fire away!

It’s an album of political songs 
That’s right.

That seems like a rare thing nowadays… 
Well, it wasn’t like I had some premonition of the future or anything. In fact, it was quite accidental to begin with. As many people would know, I had, on numerous occasions, announced that my follow-up album to Sometimes I Wake Up Naked, was going to be called Dance Like No-one Is Watching,
and that it would be a ‘party’ album, that is, a CD of upbeat, happy songs.

In September or October 2003, I sat down in front of my computer with the intention of recording, not my new album, but a bunch of songs, ‘just for the record’, as the saying goes. I was concerned that if something were to happen to me, something life threatening, or what ever, that family members would find dozens of my song lyrics, and have no idea of what their melodies might be. So my original intention was simply to sit down in front of the computer with my guitar and record 60 or 70 songs!

Sixty or seventy songs?
Well, actually, there were lyrics to around 80 songs posted on my website, and I was determined to work my way through all of them! The first song I recorded was, Heartache To Heartache, and the second song was American Dream. Just with guitar and vocals.

Now, a funny thing happened on the way to completing this project. As I listened back to what I had recorded, I began to hear additional arrangements for other instruments and voices that were insisting on being recorded as well. So, being the slave to my Muse, that I am – I complied, and began recording additional tracks for each song.

Before I knew it, this crazy idea began to form in my head, that what I was recording wasn’t too bad at all, and that if I worked at it, I might just be able to record my second album at home by myself. Eighteen months and hundreds of hours later, I seem to have done just that, and even I’m not quite sure how I managed it!

So why an album of political songs?
Oh, that’s right. Sorry, I got sidetracked for a moment…

Because the first three or four songs I initially recorded, just happened to have political themes running through them, and rather than put them aside and start recording songs for Dance Like No-one Is Watching, I thought I might as well continue recording songs with complementary social and political themes and release that instead of the ‘party’ album.

 

You said something about a ‘premonition of the future’, what did you mean?
It wasn’t until I had almost finished recording the album that it occurred to me that if George Bush, John Howard, and Tony Blair were to lose office, and changes in governments took place, the album might become almost immediately dated – or worse, irrelevant. But after looking at the songs again, I realized there will always be a need for the sorts of songs on this album, which examine various political and social aspects of contemporary life.

In fact, none of the songs, mention any politician by name, and none of the songs mention Iraq, or Iran or other countries by name, except the title song, American Dream.  However, having said all that, I do think the album has more relevance and immediacy since Bush, Howard and Blair have all been returned to their respective positions of power in each of the elections conducted over the past eight months or so.

Why American Dream?
Well, it was a toss up between that or No Blood For Oil, and I thought American Dream was a more representative title for the collection of songs that would be on the album. Having said that, the songs are not specifically about the failure of the ‘American Dream’. The title serves as a metaphor for the failure of the ‘Australian Dream’, the ‘British Dream’, or any other national ‘Dream’.

It’s a very eclectic mix of songs
It sure is! One of the things I’m really happy about is the varied mix of songs and genre’s on the album.

You’re not worried about upsetting your fans?
I can honestly say, that my ‘audience’, as important as it is, did not have any bearing whatsoever on what I chose to record, or how, or why. In fact, to be brutally honest, I recorded these songs for myself. The fact that others may happen to like them too, is purely coincidental.

Are you saying you don’t care what other people think? 
Not at all. I think I’m saying, I have no control over what other people think...

Ultimately, I don’t write songs for other people – I write songs for myself. I write songs because for some reason, that seems to be the best way I have of expressing my inner thoughts and feelings; my frustrations; my ideas; and even my fantasies. The fact that other people also like them is an unexpected bonus.

Don’t forget, I have been writing songs since my teens. The bulk of which I never performed – and never saw the ‘light of day’. I wrote songs, like some people write poetry, or keep diaries or journals. It was my form of self expression. My way of making sense of the world. It wasn’t important to me that people hear the songs. In a sense, these songs are my personal diaries and journals. Which is why I say again, they weren’t written for other people to read or hear, they were written for me.

But now you are recording and performing them… 
That’s right.

So your audience’s expectations must have some bearing on what you record…
No, I don’t think so. For instance, having released one album of ‘political’ songs, I know some people will want more of the same next time, and will be disappointed when they don’t get it. Some are probably disappointed that I recorded an album of political material in the first place, and would have preferred ‘more of the same’ type of songs that were on my first album. Again, some people will feel that a ‘party’ album will be a cop out, or a quest for mainstream recognition, or whatever. And finally, when I record my fourth album, a CD of ‘country’ songs, I’m sure I’m going to upset just about everyone – even country music fans, since my interpretation of ‘country’ music will almost certainly be different from what some people will expect!

You don’t believe in giving the people ‘what they want’, then? 
To be quite honest – I have no idea of what the people want. In the end, all I can do is write songs that have some meaning and relevance to me, and offer them to my family, my friends, and my supporters. If they like them – that’s great. If they don’t – I hope they can at least appreciate that they were written with honest intentions, and may represent a side of me they were not previously aware of.

Having said that, hopefully I am giving the people ‘what they want’. Because if they are anything like me, what they want is honesty and integrity. And if my music and songs are the way I present that honesty and integrity, they should be happy with that.

 

Ok. Umm, we seem to have gotten sidetracked again from talking about the album itself…
We have, haven’t we.

I think it was my fault this time…
Does that mean we’re even, now?

If you like… 
<Singing> …moving right along…

Yes! So, let’s talk about your thinking processes as you recorded some of these songs… 
Sure.

 < Read Part Three of this interview here… >
 

JIM LESSES: Sometimes I Wake Up Naked

Go straight to CD Baby and order the CD...

 

JIM LESSES: American Dream

Go straight to CD Baby and order the CD...

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