BRASH OPTIMISM & SONGWRITING PROPHECY
Striding the early morning Los Angeles pavement and scared about returning to his life in Melbourne, the musician had revelation. Maybe he could just disappear? Dissolve into the weird and wild world of LA. That thought was quickly tempered by reality but it did result in a song about just that, from the perspective of his friends trying to find him. That’s how songwriting rolls in the mind of Ben Mastwyk.
Winning Streak is Mastwyk’s new album which follows his well received debut Mornin’ Evenin’. It’s a curious title for a record that often deals with the breakup of a relationship but it’s a clear sign of Mastwyk’s outlook on life.
“I’m not much of a wallower so despite it being an incredible difficult time I was processing it and looking for positives in the situation and ultimately it did turn out that way for me. It’s one of those big life changing things which is very hard but also essential for your life to develop as well. I think there’s a bit of brash optimism to the album, even naming a break-up album Winning Streak. There’s sincerity behind it though. How do you deal with a difficult situation and use the difficulty as energy to propel you forward into a positive space. I love the sentiment of the title, when everything is just rolling in the right way, I live for that feeling. There’s a little irony to it but it’s about getting on that winning streak and going with it for as long as you can,” Mastwyk explains.
The album was made in collaboration with producer and guitarist Michael Hubbard and it was his encouragement, song selection and production that gave Mastwyk the confidence that they were onto a good thing that needed time and attention to do it justice.
“I played Michael a bunch of songs and he picked certain ones and we talked about how to change them around, play with different feels etc. In your head you have an idea of how they should sound but on this album I just trusted Michael with his ideas and that combination of what was in both of our heads. That was my first experience of really working with a producer and working in that way,” says Mastwyk. “He’s a real master of style and feel and so on a song like the single ‘This Country’ he said ‘country funk’ and I knew what he meant, that old funky Dolly Parton sound which I love. That early 70s country when it got rolling and rollicking and the horns came in. ‘This Country’ started out as a Dylan thing in my head and then we started adding saxophone and it ended up being one of my favourite songs on the album. I want to explore more of that kind of sound,” he enthuses.
There are extremely personal thoughts and emotions at the core of Winning Streak but Mastwyk’s songwriting style is one of obfuscation and creating ambiguity with what seem to be, on the surface at least, fictitious stories and characters.
“I rarely confront a topic head on when I’m writing. I tend to write pretty subconsciously, as in starting to write and not stopping until it’s done. Not questioning it too much. It’s a process of discovery for me to find out what’s going on in the back of my head and emotionally. I find it quite interesting to see what comes out,” Mastwyk reveals. “I’ve written so many songs and these characters come into my head and there might be hints of people that I know but they’re generally fictitious characters that I’m writing about. I come to the end of a song and I’ll wonder who or what it is about. Most of the time when that happens, a few months down the track I’ll realise it’s about me. There’s a prophetic aspect to the songwriting process. dragging these things up from the depths.”