After 20 years in some of the Illawarra’s best-known bands and penning around 15 albums, Stewart ‘‘Leadfinger’’ Cunningham feels he’s finally ‘‘come of age’’ as a songwriter.That’s evident on his current band Leadfinger’s third album - We Make the Music - which has received great reviews for its diversity since it was released earlier this year. ‘‘I really feel I’ve hit my straps as a songwriter,’’ he says.‘‘I’ve found my voice and have started telling stories and writing lyrics that are pretty damn good! I think this album is the one that will filter through to people - it’s a lot more accessible.’’The theme of the album is a nod to Cunningham’s journey so far, and a bit of a critique of the way the music industry is headed. ‘‘It’s a celebration of the artist, of the people who ‘make the music’, the people who write the songs,’’ he says.‘‘I guess it’s a response to the age we live in where pop stars are so manufactured and controlled by television and the media, they often have no real connection to the songs they sing.‘‘The great songs are written by real people, real musicians who have a poet’s tongue and whose life experiences and love of music inspires them to write these songs.’’The other theme of the album is of adolescence and Cunningham drew inspiration from growing up in the Illawarra.‘‘The song 14 is biographical, it’s about finding adventure and discovering music while growing up in Wollongong in the late ’70s and ’80s,’’ he says.‘‘It was a time when you rode home from school on your bike and then went to the pinball parlour or the pool hall, a time when records and cassettes were big. ‘‘And 14 was the age I got my nickname ‘Leadfinger’ after my brother shot me with an air rifle and the lead pellet stuck in my finger and I had to go to hospital to get it cut out.’’In keeping with the air of nostalgia on We Make the Music - the band used vintage recording techniques to give it a sound reminiscent of classic ’70s recordings by Big Star and The Rolling Stones.‘‘We went to a studio in Sydney with nice old vintage gear - old microphones and amplifiers, an older-style recording desk and old processing equipment and recorded it onto tape,’’ Cunningham says.‘‘We were going for a bit of a ’70s sound - we didn’t want anything too raucous or in-your-face. The resulting sound is full but still has a lot of that warm tone and depth you associate with that era - it’s more pleasant to the ear.’’Cunningham started his musical career in the mid ’80s as a founding member of Wollongong’s Proton Energy Pills before going on to form Brother Brick, Asteroid B612, Challenger-7 and Yes-Men.Leadfinger - which includes other Illawarra natives Michael Boyle (guitar), Adam Screen (bass guitar) and Dillon Hicks (drums) - continues with the rock ’n’ roll but in a more controlled manner.‘‘I’ve played in a lot of heavy bands, in-your-face rock bands, but there’s a bit more depth in what we do now,’’ he says. ‘‘This band is a lot more accomplished musically and a lot more diverse.‘‘Yeah we play rock ’n’ roll but to me rock ’n’ roll is a lot of things. There’s country, hard rock, blues and pop influences in what we do. It’s got a good groove, an energy to it.’’That diversity is clear on We Make the Music which crosses genres and uses a range of instruments including the piano, mandolin and slide guitar.It’s been a busy year for Leadfinger - the album was released in April, the band also made some videos and toured the east coast and interstate. They have also put together a new EP I Belong to the Band which will be launched at Dicey Riley’s on December 2 and released digitally on December 1.