w/ Stonefield, Way Of The Eagle
Waves Towradgi, Saturday
A successful record, a sell-out national tour and praise from coast to coast - Dan Sultan is riding high with his latest album Blackbird, but even a year ago, he was feeling low.
"I was in a bad place," he confessed bluntly. At home in Melbourne, having just returned from shooting a video clip in Broome, Sultan has put time and space between himself and prior problems, opening up about his head space before going to record Blackbird in Nashville.
"I wasn't inspired. I didn't want to write songs, but that's what I do. I write songs, I'm not a personality or a movie star. That was a bad place to be, to be a writer and not be writing," he said.
Touching on prior issues with alcohol and hard partying, Sultan says he has moved on from problems that blotted earlier parts of his career but remains defiant over how he will live his life in the future.
"I've done plenty in the past to have people doubt me, I've had a bit too much fun sometimes but that's who I am," he said.
"When I'm ready to make a record, I'll make a record. That's what we've done, and this is incredible. I can't express how proud I am of this album."
Blackbird is Sultan's third album, coming five years after his previous effort, Get Out While You Can. A guy who prides himself on writing songs and who has spent considerable time battling writer's block, Sultan said taking to country music capital Nashville with band mates Joshua Jones and Peter Marin reignited his creative flame.
"We went there and just started feeling good," he said.
"The first song we got back from the first day of work, we were listening to an unmixed version in the car and it just felt good from the first moment we got there. Going there was the best thing we've ever done."
The band travelled to Nashville to work with producer Jacquire King, the man behind releases from heavy-hitters including Tom Waits, Kings of Leon, Of Monsters And Men and Modest Mouse.
"We didn't choose Nashville, we chose Jacquire," said Sultan. "If he was working in Dubbo, we would have gone to Dubbo to record."
Sultan said recording in the mecca of country music was a bonus, and the city's impact on them was evident on tape.
"One guitar line, Jacquire said 'just minimalise it, keep it minor'. We recorded it, and he said 'that's a Tennessee guitar line'. You're always a product of your environment, even if you don't recognise it at the time," Sultan said.
The end result was Blackbird, which debuted at No 4 on the ARIA charts. Sultan is taking the album on the road, locking in a national tour with Stonefield and Way Of The Eagle. A renowned rock and roller, Sultan said the band would be kicking up a sweat on stage but wouldn't be quenching their thirst with the amber ale afterwards.
"We don't drink on tour any more," he said.
"It's a lot harder going to sleep at night, but a lot easier waking up in the morning," he laughed.