Vulnerable, visceral, and beautifully stirring, Lisa Mitchell has been shining an uncompromising raw light on the world since she first captured the nation on Australian Idol in 2006.
Since then, Mitchell has hit all the marks as an emotionally potent, lyrically powerful, and musically catchy singer-songwriter across three brilliant albums, all of which have landed in the top 10 of the Australian album charts.
Now, Mitchell returns with her fourth studio album and her first studio album in six years, A Place To Fall Apart, and while a lot has changed in that time, Mitchell’s aptness for story-telling has not, leading to a record that is as radiant as it is raw.
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Following on from 2016’s Warriors, the collection of thoughtfully poetic songs on A Place To Fall Apart was spawned in the years just before the pandemic, with the songs remaining in hibernation alongside Mitchell for the past few years.
“It’s a massive release; we had been ready to go before the first lockdown in Victoria,” Mitchell explains.
“We were able to record it at the end of 2020 in the break between the two lockdowns, but we had just been rearing to go just as we got locked down. We are pinching ourselves that it’s finally happening; it’s just felt incredible and so beautiful again to just have that connection with my audience and just hear which songs are people’s favourite. It just makes it feel real after such a long pandemic kind of time.”
Initially attracted to songwriting as a way of processing emotions while documenting snapshots of her life, Mitchell returned to studying following the release of Warriors, undertaking a Bachelor of Arts degree at Melbourne University. For Mitchell, this – alongside her own Celtic history – served as a new source of stimulation and inspiration, eventually informing the themes she explores in A Place To Fall Apart.
“I’m very cyclical and have phases when it comes to songwriting; it just kind of fits into the rest of my life but I had a big burst of writing around 2017, 2018 and a bit of 2019. I was fortunate enough to do some study in Melbourne and that was incredibly simulating and just got me thinking a lot about identity and Indigenous rights and climate and how that all kind of fits together; of how much of a huge role music plays in society and culturally for all the stories that get handed down through songs.”
“I grew up with a very big influence of UK culture and Scottish culture as a kid,” she adds.
“My dad would always take us to folk festivals where we would just hear the violins and the tin whistles and the ancient traditional melodies and so I feel very lucky that I got that exposure as a kid and as a 32-year-old woman, now really appreciating my connection with that and noticing it coming infiltrating into my music a lot more.”
Finding ground in her natural progression, however remaining faithful to the fundamental sonics tied to her honoured style, the album is a glorious and heartrending tribute to what it means to be alive and learning in the world, having been old enough to feel its bruises and heartbreaks, but also be at the beginning of understanding our insignificance within it.
Accompanied by her beguiling melodies, sweet yet soaring choruses and hushed tones, the lyrics within the album are deeply introspective and impactful. From the wonderfully warm indie-pop track ‘Zombie’, an ode to being alive and the glory and tragedy that comes from feeling and thinking; and the all-acoustic, all-natural instrumentation of ‘I Believe In Kindness’, a song written the day before the Global Climate Strike (2019) in Melbourne/Naarm (also featuring Celtic Uilleann pipes played by Matt Horsley); to the dreamy and wistful ‘Dreaming, Swimming’, which was inspired by the melancholy of unrequited love; A Place To Fall Apart is an incredibly raw, ethereal and grounded, with lyrics rooted in lived experience and flooded with dazzling metaphor and imagery.
“It’s hard to think about it when you’re so close to it but when I do zoom out a little bit, I can see that so much of this writing is about a longing to connect with the land and connect with belonging; a sense of belonging.
“There’s a song called, ‘Let Me Stay Here’, ironically written before the pandemic when we were stuck here, but it’s very much about like a yearning to slow down and connect with where you are and watch the seasons turn and watch the trees change colour.
“It’s all about thinking to that deeper wisdom in a metaphorical sense of what that teaches us about ourselves and our bodies and our minds and our families and our relationships; just really allowing the beyond the human world to inform us.
“I think some of the songs in this album are kind of trying to reach through the dribble of modern-day society and reach down into the more essential.”
Described as her favourite song from the album, ‘Summoning’ saw Mitchell team up with Indigenous singer Jess Hitchcock for a beautiful song about connection to country, offering both a non-Indigenous and Indigenous perspective.
“It was a really beautiful symbolic kind of moment in the album where she and I, who are both from different lineages, different cultures, come together and talk about just this curiosity that we have towards the oldest trees in the continent, the Wollemi pines, only discovered ten years ago in the Blue Mountains, after being presumed extinct and asking them for answers to our modern problems.”
Continuously delivering a sweet sonic immersion of buoyant folk-pop over the years as a purely solo project, Mitchell went into this new phase of her career intending to present it as a collaborative output, teaming up with Jessie Warren on bass/vocals and Kishore Ryan on drums and delivering a fresh captivating, warm, deep, emotive folk-pop soundscape.
“As I was bringing the songs together, I realized that I was ready to start thinking about being brave and putting myself out there again and with that, I was thinking ‘who can do this with?’,” she explains.
“From a performance point of view, it’s an incredibly difficult thing to do to get up on stage and hold space for a whole room of people for an hour. I’ve been so lucky over years and I’ve had dear friends that I’ve developed with, but I craved having friends on stage with me; people that we can energetically connect and create a vibe in the room that will just naturally spillover.
“And it’s coming from a place of ease and enjoyment rather than me feeling like I’m trying to hold everything together. So selfishly, I just needed to do this with some people that I love,” she laughs.
Shifting from ingenue to powerful truth-teller and weaver of magic, Mitchell, Warren and Ryan approached the recording process in an incredibly fitting and unique way. Guided by the desire to have an album that could easily be replicated in a live format, relying on musicianship over technology, the majority of the album was tracked live.
“When you’re recording parts separately, I feel what is perhaps lost is a little bit of the chaos and the imperfection, which is part of live music,” Mitchell says. “I think that there’s an intangible part of that that we can feel that as a listener you can feel that is different. I believe it’s not there if you micromanage it.
“With this album, we arranged everything together and Jesse and Kishore had a huge role in bringing their parts to this album. So for me, it was incredibly important that we recognised that in the recording we didn’t just go back to what’s easy and what’s perfect.”
With vulnerable storytelling at the heart of the project, Jesse and Kishore brought their beautiful and strange ways of seeing rhythm and melody to Mitchell’s songs before Tom Iansek (production) captured them in their natural habitat. For Mitchell, the album needed to be a reflection of all their hard work and friendship.
“It was much more important to me that we represented real life of the album, which was every Wednesday all through 2019 and bit of 2018 rehearsing in Jesse’s back shed, slowly working on these songs. I had written the songs, but we spent so much time just working on the instrumentation together and I think that’s what has given this album a unique space of its own.”
With her long-awaited fourth studio album out into the world, the beguiling melodies and hushed folk tones of Mitchell and her new lush band (with the addition of Danny Ross on guitars and Clio Renner) will wash over suspecting audiences as part of a 13-date Australian tour, delivering an entirely new Lisa Mitchell experience bringing the new album to life alongside vintage gems from her back catalogue.
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Kicking off on Friday, May 20 in Red Hill, Mitchell will perform locally at Volta in Ballarat on Saturday, May 21, Anglesea Town Hall in Anglesea on Saturday, May 28 and the Westernport Hotel in San Remo on Saturday, June 4, ahead of shows at the Theatre Royal in Castlemaine on Thursday, June 30 and at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne on Friday, July 1.
Travelling alongside her new band, Mitchell will also perform in Canberra, Meeniyan, Byron Bay, Brisbane, Maroochydore, Adelaide and Cairns, giving her album the welcoming it deserves.
“We’ve just been rehearsing a lot and getting ready for these new shows. We’re all incredibly excited to get on the road again and connect with people,” Mitchell says.
“Live music is just the antidote to lock down and all of the phobias that we’ve all developed around feeling worried about getting sick around each other. And I just think I’m just excited to be part of the healing of this really hard time.”
A Place To Fall Apart Album Launch Tour Dates
FRIDAY 20 MAY – MUSIC ON THE HILL, RED HILL
SATURDAY 21 MAY – VOLTA, BALLARAT
SATURDAY 28 MAY – ANGLESEA TOWN HALL, ANGLESEA
FRIDAY 03 JUNE – WESTERNPORT HOTEL, SAN REMO
SATURDAY 04 JUNE – CANBERRA THEATRE, CANBERRA
SATURDAY 18 JUNE – THE FACTORY, SYDNEY
THURSDAY 30 JUNE – THEATRE ROYAL, CASTLEMAINE
FRIDAY 01 JULY – CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE
SATURDAY 02 JULY – MEENIYAN TOWN HALL, MEENIYAN
THURSDAY 07 JULY – THE NORTHERN, BYRON BAY
FRIDAY 08 JULY – THE BRIGHTSIDE, BRISBANE
SATURDAY 09 JULY – SOLBAR, MAROOCHYDORE
SATURDAY 16 JULY – JIVE, ADELAIDE
SATURDAY 23 JULY – TANKS ARTS CENTRE, CAIRNS
Tickets to ‘A Place To Fall Apart’ album launch tour are on sale here.
This article was made in partnership with Lisa Mitchell.