November 2016 Featured Artist: Mcrobin
Melting Pot puts the spotlight on artists within the community that are doing something special.
Following on from the success of his debut EP Fault Lines, Melbourne based Alt-Folk Singer-Songwriter James McGuffie, (aka Mcrobin) has had a busy year building up to the release of his latest EP Shallow Diver. For those that are yet to see Mcrobin live, it is something that you should do now because he is mastering the craft of songwriting, producing and performing at an incredible rate. The first single, ‘Concrete Feet’ (launched to a packed room at The Wesley Anne in September), gave us the first taste of just how far Mcrobin’s songwriting has come since releasing his first EP in 2015. “This song has tones that feel inspired by Fleetwood Mac with a sprinkle of Leonard Cohen (when he’s in a really good mood).” – AAA Backstage. For the launch of this new release, Mcrobin and his band will be taking over the Edinburgh Gardens Community Room on Sunday December 4th – turning it into a kind of pop-up venue for the night. Mcrobin is making the event a Movember fundraiser, donating 100% of the proceeds from the event and 50% of all CD sales on the day to the foundation. Melting Pot are stoked to have Mcrobin as our feature artist for November in the lead up to the launch. Melting Pot’s Liam Dixon caught up James – the man behind Mcrobin to talk about the EP, the creative process, his range of influences and the upcoming launch.
Liam Dixon: Thanks so much James for your time… what a year you’re having! Already this year you’ve recorded, mixed and mastered your sophomore EP Shallow Diver, you‘ve headlined your hometown festival, performed a beautiful show at St Kilda Sacred Heart Church for St Kilda Fest, released your single Concrete Feet with a packed out show at the Wesley Anne and you will shortly release your EP. There seems to be real interest in what you’re up to – it must be a good feeling to have your hard work paying off?
James McGuffie: Thanks for having me. I’ve had such a blast making and playing music with the band this year. It’ll be a big relief to finally get to share this new record with all the good people who’ve been supporting the project.
LD: Where does the name Shallow Diver come from?
JM: It’s about not letting yourself experience the depths of your own emotions. The songs are all tethered to ideas of numbness and disconnect. Writing them helped me to make sense of it all so that I could work out what I should embrace, and what I should change about those qualities.
LD: A few weeks ago I read the fantastic Cabin Fever interview with you where you covered topics of mental health and mindfulness which are important for artists to be talking about. I’m going to continue the inquisition! Performing at Melting Pot’s Songwriters in the Round last year, I was struck by the range and control of your voice, the complexity of the guitar work combined with your pop sensibilities. But I was also struck by the deep thinking behind your lyrics. I imagine like many great artists, your tendency to overthink things and to strive for perfection can be a blessing and a curse at times! How do you keep yourself in check?
JM: I don’t really strive for perfection, I just do whatever it takes to bridge the gap between what I hear in my head and what I express in my playing. Sometimes it’s a quick and relatively painless process, other times it can be a real slog.
LD: If you had to explain in words what it feels like to be creative – how it feels when you’re filled with inspiration writing a song – how would you say it?
JM: For me, the best thing about creativity is being able to channel feelings that I either didn’t know I had, or hadn’t been able to express with words or actions before. Whenever I’m working on something new, there’s an anxiousness to get it finished, to chip away at it until it resembles something that’s honest and refined. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think the reason anyone creates, is because of the sense of worth you feel when you’re in the space. I just do it because I can’t not.
LD: You worked alongside drummer/collaborator Jim Rindfleish on your last EP Faultlines. Seems like you make a good team – how does this work?
JM: Jim is an outstanding drummer and a really musically conscious and deliberate person to work with. He has a real producers knack for helping me assemble the pieces of the puzzle that I create in the months leading up to recording, and he helps me be more focussed and direct with what I’m trying to express. Without his input, as well as the input of the other guys in the band (Joe and Eamon) this record wouldn’t have been half of what it has become. The band’s chemistry really hit its stride this year and I think you can hear that in the EP.
LD: What differences did working with Simon Moro (recording/mixing) and Lachlan Carrick (mastering) have this time round? Were there any fork in the road moments / was there any special knowledge imparted that you will take with you to your next recording project?
JM: I was really stoked that I got to work with Simon and Lachlan for this project. It was refreshing to not have to be constantly switching hats of being an engineer, a producer and a musician, like I did on the first EP. The biggest thing I learnt from making this record is that getting a good take can take much longer than you want it to. We were sort of racing against the clock (we only had 2 days of live tracking in the studio), but I came to trust that, even though the first 10 takes might have been rubbish, the right take would happen eventually. Simon helped me keep a cool head around that 9 or 10th take mark of each song and without him I don’t think we would have got the final takes that we did.
LD: I like how you love the classics – Bill Withers, Fleetwood Mac, Beatles, Dylan, Dolly Parton etc, exciting new releases of established acts such as Radiohead, Big Scary and Bon Iver and place equal weight on incredibly talented but perhaps less heralded acts such as Imogen Pemberton, Mickey Cooper, RAThammock and Hue Blanes – you must listen to a lot of music! How do you keep up with it all? Do you have a system?
JM: Discovering new (or old) music excites the hell out of me. There’s so much amazing music out there and I think I have an unhealthy obsession to hear of much of it as I can. It’s probably the best and worst thing about cheap music streaming; it’s all accessible, all the time. That being said, there’s still a handful of records that I keep coming back to.
LD: And just on Bon Iver… what do you think of the new album?
JM: It’s a great record. He’s always two steps ahead of the herd and he’s constantly challenging the rules of songwriting and production. I have no idea what any of the songs are about, but nearly all of them have hit me in a strong way. I’m sure the songs are about something but his music, and most of my favourite kinds of music, transcends language and meaning.
LD: I know you’ve said previously that you want to make 3 or 4 EPs before considering working on an album. With the buzz around Concrete Feet / Shallow Diver, has your opinion on this changed?
JM: I’m still pretty keen to try a bunch of different approaches to making and recording music before I give the LP a go. I have a lot of respect for the art and craft of the ‘album’, so I think I’ll have one or two more ‘warm up’ EP’s and, hopefully, by then I’ll have refined the Mcrobin sound enough to feel confident enough to have a crack at a full length release.
LD: And finally, when can people get their hands on your EP?
JM: The EP will be out digitally in mid-November. We’re having the launch show at the Edinburgh Gardens Community Room on Sunday 4th December. I’ll be sharing more details about the show over the next few weeks but basically, we’re just turning the hall in the middle of the gardens into a venue for the night. I’m also getting on the Movember train so we’ll be donating all proceeds from the show to the cause. P.S. The line-up is a cracker!
Mcrobin launches Shallow Diver with Mickey Cooper & Maritime on Sunday 4th of December at the Edinburgh Gardens Community Room with all proceeds being donated to the Movember Foundation – click here for the facebook event. You can also make a donation to Mcrobin’s Movember campaign here.
And exclusive to Melting Pot readers, CLICK HERE for a free download of the title track off the EP – Shallow Diver
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.
Author DetailsLiam Dixon
Liam is the founder and director of Melting Pot. Once a regular performer at Melting Pot events as the writer / frontman for local band Creatures of Karma, these days Liam works as a commercial lawyer by day. When hes not busy doing lawyer stuff or with Melting Pot, Liam loves to write, play and record his own music and see the odd gig around town.