It’s a well worn truth: wearing your heart on your sleeve can be dangerous. But for Tim Hart, it’s the only way to sing. Redemptive and rollicking, Milling The Wind is the debut album from this talented Sydney singer/songwriter: 12 tracks of folk-inspired finery, from gentle, finger picked odes (“Architects”, “The Old Gate”) to jaunty, banjo offerings (“Cover Of Your Code”) and dark, under bellied ballads (“Borrowed & Vacant”). Steeped in tradition but looking firmly to the future, it’s an album that sits close to the bone for its young creator.
Best known to fans as the man behind the kit in Boy & Bear, Tim’s solo work has taken a backseat to the five times ARIA-winning outfit. Not any longer. A long-term fan of the classics – think Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills and Nash – inspired by more recent spins by the likes of Fionn Regan and Sam Amidon Tim began writing his debut over 18 months ago, knowing full well what sort of album he’d create when the timing was right.
Boy & Bear recorded their platinum-selling debut in Nashville, Tennessee – a process that wasn’t as smooth sailing as Tim had hoped for. This had to be different. “We didn’t have the greatest experience,” Tim admits. “I wanted to be able to make a record where I felt no pressure to write in a certain way. I was convinced that making records should be fun. I loved recording growing up: that’s what I was looking for – and for someone I could produce it with… be collaborative with, experimental.”
Enter Mark Myers: multi-instrumentalist/producer with ex-Townsville outfit The Middle East. A huge fan of their work, Tim had also caught Mark’s work with QLD singer Emma Louise. He’d found his man. “I’d gotten to know Mark through festivals we’d both played at, and thought he was a really good guy. I wanted to work with someone firstly who I trusted, but also who I really respected as a musical brain.”
Recorded over two weeks in September 2011, Tim headed north to Mark’s home/studio, a two-storey Queenslander in Cairns. The control room was Mark’s bedroom; Tim stayed upstairs next to a drum kit and a piano, once owned by Mark’s former bandmate, Rohin Jones. Tuned lower than normal, it would end up on tracks “So Come the Rain” and “Wicked Winters”, the pair invited friends over each evening for dinner and music.
Some of those friends are familiar: Boy & Bear frontman Dave Hosking lends vocals to “A Number Of Us” and ‘White Man/Our Share Of Decency”. The band’s Jake Tarasenko plays bass, flute and fife, while the Middle East’s Jordan Ireland adds banjo (“A Shadow Of A Man”. New Zealand singer/songwriter Luke Thompson offers backing vocals, amidst trumpet, harmonica, strings and much more. “This was always in the pipeline,” Tim says, of his stepping out alone. “This was the right time, and there was a real openness to it within the band – Killian [Gavin, guitar] recorded my demos, my brother Jon [keys/mandolin] came up and took photos. The boys are excited.”
Addressing themes of childhood, religion, family, love and heartbreak, Milling The Wind is an honest listen, whether Tim’s singing of his broken engagement or the brutal career dismissal of a family friend. “If at the end of my career the one thing people say about me is, ‘He was an honest songwriter’, that would be great,” he insists. “I want people to love my music, but I’d love people to feel inspired to put everything out there too. Maybe it’s all going to be okay?
“And maybe you can still make old school folk records, and not have to disguise it up as some cool, niche ‘indie folk’,” he finishes. “The most important thing is to make the music you love. This is a record of my life: I can’t divorce my personal experience from my songwriting. This is where I am.”