Carus Thompson is an Australian legend. From his work with The True Believers as well as solo stuff, he has developed over the past 15 years into one of the country’s finest songwriters. Touring the Surf Coast and Geelong for many years, Carus is returning for a performance at The Piping Hot Chicken Shop in Ocean Grove.
Hey thanks for chatting to Forte Mag, how are you and what have you been up to lately?
I’ve been living back home in Fremantle for the last two years. So it’s a bit harder to tour the East Coast, but it just makes me love it more when I get back. I’ve been busy getting this new album ISLAND out there, had a couple of very successful tours. Sold out The Chicken Shop on the launch tour in February, so I’m really looking forward to getting back for another ripper show.
How has it been since the release of your album back in February, have you been working on some new tracks?
Things have been great with the release of the new album – fans have really dug it, but I’ve also had great radio support with national play listing on Double J and also ABC – haven’t had that kind of radio support for a while, so it’s a real endorsement of what I think is a great record. Then I’ve also had some success from overseas with the song Beach Fires (a narrative about crystal methamphetamine and its effect of regional Australia) getting shortlisted in two massive worldwide song competitions – the International Song writing Competition; the Unsigned Song Competition. It was also nominated for West Australian Song of the Year. In terms of new tracks, I always find that I write really hard for a while, then record and then focus on getting the album out there – so I have a break for a bit and let the ideas rebuild. Having said that I’ve just started writing again. ISLAND was my first album in over five years, so with the great response its had, I feel like it’s sort of rebuilt my fan base, and also my standing within the industry. It feels like the next one will be building further on this, so I’m actually pretty excited and thinking about the next record already.
You’re returning our way for a show in September, the same venue you played back in February for a sold out show. What do you love about touring parts of Australia like the surf coast; do you see it important to visit these areas?
I love getting out and about around Australia. My career has been built by me getting on the road and taking my music to the people personally. With the exception of this latest album, I’ve never had much support from radio. I’m also fully independent, so the only way for me to really get my music out there has been to tour. Get in front of people and play my songs to them. Places like the Surf Coast & The Bellarine, people really appreciate music and musicians that come and do it for real. No pretending – just get up at the pub in front of a crowd and do it. My music is a mix of styles and it’s so much about the energy between the crowd and myself, so the best way to understand what I do is to come to a show. So, I think that’s really helped me, as people know that and always want to bring friends to a gig so they can understand what it is they dig about my music.
For this show, you are reunited with old touring buddy Loren. How did you first meet each other, and what has kept the friendship going to lead to this, six years since your last performance together?
Loren and I were in a band when we were 19 years old. He is the cousin of a best friend of mine who died young. We met at my late friends wake – I was jamming with some mates from school and Loren was singing. We just heard him and thought ‘this guy is the most incredible singer we need him out the front of our band’. So we formed “Motherfunk” (bad name, I know… but it was the ’90s!). We were like a mix between the Chilli Peppers, Pearl Jam and Rage Against The Machine. The band eventually broke up and Loren moved overseas and then to Queensland. We met up again when I was touring early on in my career and I got him to come on the road with me. That kicked off his touring career and we used to do an annual acoustic tour together, then also a special tour called The Roots Road show. I love performing with Loren and just our depth of history together means that we’ll always be friends and we’ll always be connected – it’s like family really. I could be on stage with him tomorrow and it’s like six years haven’t gone by. It’s a special musical connection and I think people can see that on stage when we perform together.
Your show falls on Grand Final Eve – was this on purpose? Are you a football fan at all?
I love Victoria around Grand Final time; especially last year with the Doggies in the final, it was such a wonderful energy. As my friend once said – Grand Final day is better that Christmas! Everyone is so upbeat and there’s so much excitement around. I think this energy and vibe spills into everything, not just football, so yes it was on purpose as I felt it will make for a great gig! And for the record I’m a Tigers fan – so it could be on BIG time this year!
Since touring the album and settling in back home, how has your view on music and yourself changed – if it has at all?
I think having the critical success with this record has made me treat what I do with a bit more respect. When you don’t have the big hits or the huge crowds you can lose sight sometimes of what it is that makes you unique, so a bit of encouragement and success can re-invigorate you. I’m an Australian songwriter who engages people, tells story and also knows how to rock a crowd. I think that’s pretty cool.
Speaking of your album, it was your first in five years. Now having it been a while since its release, how have you found the response? What was the most challenging moment in creating the album?
As I mentioned above, the response has been incredible. The reason it’s been so long has been two children. They made the whole thing a bit harder than before – as a parent you just don’t have the time
that you used to. But you are much more efficient with the time you do have, and also you just feel things a lot more. And because you have these little humans that will go out into the world, you really take notice of things outside your own space so much more. This really helped with the themes and stories on ISLAND, as the record is about Australia and where I see our country at today. The break was actually really good. It gave me some time off the road to write, and really work up a bunch of songs, from which I chose the best.
Your album sets sights on dissecting a country where refugees, isolation, apathy and Ice have taken over the national conversation. Has this always been a passion of yours? What would be your next step here in the conversation?
I’ve always been a storyteller with my songs. I’ve always wanted to find and tell good stories. It turned out there’s a lot of stories to be told at the moment in Australia. But I don’t want to “yell” at people, I rather just paint pictures and characters and let that make the point that I’m trying to make. I think the next step in the conversation is talk about the kind of country we want and what we think is important.
For me I want to see a country that again values compassion and a “fair go” for all. Politicians always bang on about the fair go, but then they just make decisions that take advantage of and exploit people. You can’t be cruel to vulnerable people like refugees and then expect to have a country that is kind and full or honour and dignity. The cruelness that is dealt out at the top just filters down through everyone and everything.
Where would you like to see your music take you next?
The world is such a small place now with music and streaming over the Internet. Once upon a time you needed a record label in every country – now you can release a record worldwide with the touch of a button. For someone like me who has a small to medium sized following all around the world, this really works. Spotify has been really delivering for me – people from Melbourne to Berlin to New Jersey have all been listening and helping spread my music. I just want to keep making good records and keep building my fan base around the world, then backing it up with shows and touring. I love playing live, to me that’s always been where it’s to be really won or lost and feel like I’m winning these days so that’s good.
When & Where: The Piping Hot Chicken Shop, Ocean Grove – September 29 (Grand Final Eve)
Tickets are available from www.geelongtickets.com.au