Liam Finn

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Liam Finn


While some artists are always trying to put on a gig they feel is worthy of their recorded material, others are more interested in finding a way to capture the elusive spark of their live performances on an album. Although Liam Finn – the fresh-faced, thick bearded and formidably talented singer/songwriter who has spent the past decade going from ‘Neil Finn’s son’ to an acclaimed artist in his own right – comes more from the latter camp, it is with the understanding that his heavily improvised live shows really aren’t something that could, or even should, be recreated in a studio.

“Those riffs that I come up with in a show, they’re offerings to the gods of rock ‘n’ roll,” Finn says. “You never remember them, you’ll never hear them again…It’s on ongoing challenge, to be able to capture that live energy on record. I don’t know if it’s possible, because on stage you’ve got one shot. There’s people there, adrenaline kicks in, and I’m a different person. It’s probably the most pure state I’m ever in. That’s ‘me’.”

At the very least, Liam’s previous solo release, the 2007 debut I’ll Be Lightning, did justice to his talents as a multi-instrumentalist, with Finn recording, producing, and playing every part on the album. While his live shows are apparently still the energetic, loop pedal-driven affairs they were back then, Finn explains that, both artistically and personally, much has changed since he made the album.

“I’m in a completely different place now than when I made I’ll Be Lightning,” Finn explains. “That album was written out of heartbreak, and a complete emancipation from my former life. I had a band (indie-rock outfit Betchadupa), a long-term relationship, and these things fell apart at the same time. It’s quite a creative time, when you’re feeling those things. Melancholy is great for inspiring songs.”

A few hundred gigs and some career successes down the line (and apparently back in love again), Finn found himself at a creative impasse when he set to work on album number two. Though he again decided he would play all the instruments, Finn thought he would benefit from a fresh perspective on the album, and recruited Burke Reid (of Gerling) as co-producer.

“I had an idea for what I wanted to create as a whole, but no idea how to get there on my own,” Finn explains. “It’s hard to listen to your own music a step removed, because you’re always so involved in it that you lose perspective. I needed someone who was going to have a different opinion, someone who would make me go: ‘Fuck, I would have never thought of that.'”

On the resulting album FOMO (an acronym of ‘fear of missing out’), Finn has managed to create something remarkably close to the rough ‘n’ raw energy of his live incarnation, while retaining the eclecticism of his debut. “This one’s a lot more up-front and in-your-face than I think I’ll Be Lightning was…” Finn observes. “It’s a bit more of a bridge between what Betchadupa used to do, and what I ended up doing on that album. There’s a little bit more of a rock band thing to it, without losing that colourful nature of what I do on my own.”

On the overseas front, Liam’s big break came when he was given a surprise opportunity to deliver a blistering performance on Letterman, bringing him recognition that he has worked hard to maintain. It has apparently paid off, with Finn now “super excited” to have landed a spot in Pearl Jam’s upcoming 20th Anniversary concerts.

“When I was asked to do it, I thought it was going to be a big festival…” he relates. “But there’s only about eight bands, and they’re The Strokes, QOTSA, and that kind of profile. Getting asked to play on Letterman was a total ‘stars lining up’ kind of thing. One of the show’s music supervisors just saw one of my performances, and went: ‘Let’s give him a shot.’ Same thing with Jools Holland. Those are the things that make you take another two steps forward, and the only way to capitalise on them is to follow up, keep touring… . I’ve driven around the States nine times in the last three years, and I’ll be doing it twice more this year. I’ve decided that while I’m young, and before I’ve got kids or other responsibilities, I’m just going to go as hard as I can to get somewhere, because there are no guarantees in this business.”

However strong Liam’s hunger for success not a bit of it appears motivated by a desire to compete with his father. Far from it; Liam shares a unique relationship with Crowded House that, when mentioned, elicits the most unreserved enthusiasm of our entire interview. “The thing that I really love about making music with Dad,” Liam says, “is that he identifies my commitment to playing off-the-cuff, and never doing anything the same way twice. I never really learned my scales when I was growing up… because I was told not to. I was told not to be restricted by these things. And I probably resented it at first. But eventually, you develop your own thing. Playing live, I love just hitting whatever comes to mind… and if it doesn’t work, then you make it work.”

“So when I play on Crowded House stuff, it’s really fun, because I’m basically told: ‘Go for it, do whatever you want.’ And I might start a bit timid, but eventually I’ll get them to turn it up loud, and just fuckin’ go for it. And piecing some of that together, I think, really gives things a more spontaneous feel. I’m proud and flattered that that’s what I’m asked to bring to a Crowded House record.”

Liam Finn plays The Corner Hotel on Friday August 19. FOMO is out now through Liberation.