The term troubadour is bandied about as a kind of romantic notion of a songwriter riding the rails, traveling and singing for his supper. Josh Rennie-Hynes fits that description more than most singer/songwriters in Australia, regularly relocating to different cities and countries – all in the name of spreading his music and developing his songwriting craft.
Rennie-Hynes recently returned from a songwriting trip to the US where he’s developed a valuable friendship with a Californian benefactor who is passionate about Americana music and a strong supporter of his songwriting.
“It was quite surreal actually. I played at this guy’s house amongst the Redwoods last year and he invited myself and Steve Grady over again this year to play some shows. He paid for everything and we ended up writing an album, doing some house concerts and some camping. It was a really great trip!” enthuses Rennie-Hynes. “He’s already hit us up again to do it again next year. It started out as a professional thing; he heard us at AmericanaFest and invited us up to his place. Now he’s a friend, a really nice guy.”
The physical and emotional experience of traveling has resulted in Rennie-Hynes’ new album Furthermore containing less introspective songs and a stronger connection to being on the road.
“Someone said to me that my first album was more about myself and this one is about being on the road and touring. It definitely has more songs about the road, people you meet and their stories, though often they’re subconscious things that feed into the songwriting. I went through another breakup as well so there are also a few songs about that,” he reflects. “Just being away and having freedom and space is a really big thing for me. On this last trip to the States I had nothing to think about other than just writing songs. We didn’t have to fit in writing around going to work,” he says with the relief audible in his voice.
While discussing his approach to the writing and recording of Furthermore, it is clear that intuition, independence and self-belief played a big part in its creation.
“I’m always writing, always trying to get better. I wrote a whole bag of songs, went into my home studio and just picked what would be best ones for the album. It wasn’t a choice to specifically make an Americana record or anything like that, it was just a collection of songs I wrote. I think that’s why it has turned out to be quite eclectic this time. I wanted to capture where I’m at as an artist and I think I did that a bit better than I did on February.”
Working with Steve Grady, the pair constructed a studio in Rennie-Hynes’ house, producing and playing on the record themselves. Production-wise, the results are impressive, with a warmth and intimacy captured on the album.
“I really wanted to try and do it ourselves, that was an exciting prospect, getting that sense of achievement and satisfaction. It took a bit of setting up, stripping my house down and having guitars in one room, piano in another room. We hired a drum kit and microphones and once we had it all set up we knocked it out pretty quickly in about six weeks, including recording Steve’s album which we did at the same time too. We just had a great time, it was a great experience,” he recalls.
Music, it seems, is a lifestyle and career choice for Rennie-Hynes. “The more you give to it the more you get from it,” he says, and he’s certainly throwing everything into making it a successful one.
“It’s all I want to do. I just have to keep putting myself out there and keep getting better. I won’t be content within myself unless I’m making a living from my music so I just need to keep working on it to get there.”
this interview was first published in Rhythms magazine