Jed Rowe started his recording career with two albums under the name The Jed Rowe Band before shortening the moniker to just his own name for The Last Day Of Winter in 2015. Now he’s decided to further spotlight his personal talent as a songwriter and guitarist on the intimate and restrained A Foreign Country.
The process of writing, recording and then touring and promoting an album can often inspire and determine the path a musician chooses to take when the prospect of tackling the next collection of songs appears on the horizon. In Rowe’s case that cause and effect was stronger than ever this time around.
“The end of the previous album cycle flowed straight into a lot of solo touring and then all of that flowed into this next album. Lots of people came up at shows and asked for an album and wanted to know which one is like what they’d just seen me do – solo and with lap slide. I didn’t have an album like that so I thought maybe it was time to do a more solo-oriented album and pick songs on the lap slide that stand alone well,” Rowe explains.
A Foreign Country has a decidedly Australian flavour to it yet most of the songs were fine-tuned and completed while Rowe was touring overseas. “I’d had all these song ideas in various stages of completion from the previous year and when I was touring in Europe on my own I had a bit of time when I was holed up in accommodation and I decided to use that time to see if I could finish off a bunch of stuff. I finished off half the record on those days I didn’t have to drive too far to the next gig,” he recalls.
The aforementioned Australian-ness of the album is is embedded in Rowe’s lyrics which are peppered with references to characters and places from across the continent. It’s a quality and theme that Rowe strives to do well and one that he finds hard to avoid.
“My songwriting is never pre-planned. I don’t find I write good stuff that way. It comes across a bit contrived and forced if I try and do that. The Australian things came about from a lot of Australian touring I did before I went overseas. Just from going to those places and from growing up here. It’s the old advice to write about what you know about. I aspire to write well about Australia, maybe partly because people do comment on it and I think about that feedback and it is a bit unusual – of course I do write about this country, I’ve lived here all my life,” says Rowe.
The other noticeable change on A Foreign Country is Rowe’s voice and a subtle shift to a more effortless and melodically nuanced sound. He puts that evolution down to increasingly receptive and attentive audiences where he doesn’t have to fight to be heard over a din.
“When I started I did some singing training but once you’re out gigging, that’s where most of your development comes. It’s a natural development over time. The kind of things you’re doing influence how you sing and play. Going to Europe I played to lots of quiet listening audiences and I didn’t have to sonically punch them in the face to get their attention,” Rowe laughs. “It allowed me to sing in a more relaxed and gentle way and tell a story. In the corner of a noisey pub you have to by nature be a bit more strident to grab people’s attention. I do more of those listening shows here now too. It’s a combination of lots of playing and realising I can connect more by telling a story rather than being loud and attention grabbing.”
A Foreign Country features in our 20 Favourite Antipodean Releases of 2017 list.