The Old River Knows: A collaboration between Warwick Hadfield and three champions of Australian music

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The Old River Knows: A collaboration between Warwick Hadfield and three champions of Australian music

The new song is a stunning collaboration between Geelong-based songwriter Warwick Hadfield and Lindsay Field (Farnham Band), Glyn Mason (Spectrum) and Sam See (Sherbet, Fraternity, Flying Circus.)

If you happen to be plugged into the Australian music scene of the 70s, there’s a good chance you’ve heard Sam See‘s music even if you haven’t heard of Sam See. A successful musician since the 60s, See was a member of legendary Australian bands such as Sherbet, Bon Scott’s Fraternity, country rock pioneers Flying Circus, the ubiquitous Stockley See & Mason and who could ever forget The Zarsoff Brothers. 

He’s lent his talents to plenty of other projects too, writing John Farnham’s ‘Reasons’ and producing for Olivia Newton-John, but now he’s extending his gaze to Geelong, teaming up with songwriter and Australian sports broadcaster Warwick Hadfield once again on new single ‘The Old River Knows’. 

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Previously working together on an EP, Platonic Ironic, for Hadfield’s former band Dancing With Socrates, Hadfield – one of Australia’s best-known sports broadcasters – decided to reconnect with See to help bring his poetic reflections and authentic storytelling to life. 

“I was both stunned and thrilled when a musician of Sam’s standing agreed to work with me, and so far we have done an EP, Platonic Ironic, and three other songs, and most recently have begun writing together, my contribution the lyrics,” Hadfield says. 

“As ever with my partnership with Sam, it was a case of doing a rough demo and sending it to him and waiting for first his approval that it was good enough to go, then for the magic. I have been a fan of Sam’s since he was playing in The Flying Circus back in the early 1970s, but only began this process in recent times, when another singer/guitarist with whom I was working was unavailable.

“It took a fair bit of courage to write to him and then do the original four songs in his studio, when the more he told me not to be nervous, the more nervous I became.”

This partnership flowered further, with the link to See’s long-term band mates, Lindsay Field (NZ) and Glyn Mason (UK). A mini-Commonwealth of music, Field, See & Mason (as they are officially referred to) have sung and played together and separately in some of Australia’s biggest acts over many years, having first teamed up in Brian Cadd’s band in Melbourne, Australia in 1923. The trio’s years of friendship and love of singing together led to the creation of Field, See & Mason to showcase their distinct harmony blend, inventive acoustic rock guitar arrangements and high energy musical experience.

Recorded in 2022, Field and Mason join See for both the recorded and live version of ‘The Old River Knows’, featuring their unique blend of vocals and inventive guitar work.

Released on December 30 last year, ‘The Old River Knows’ pairs Hadfield’s warm and sentimental songwriting with Field, See & Mason‘s meticulous musicianship, blending rock roots with vibrant country and bluegrass elements that help the spaces resonate with someplace deep down inside.

The song bounces along gently in wistful reflection, with See’s rich and warm vocals carrying you through various scenarios; the whole-hearted arrangement perfectly mimics what compassion would sound like if it was put to music.

“This song began with an idea to pay tribute to the people who farm along the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales, one in particular, an old school friend of mine,” Hadfield explains. 

“His farm is right on the river and sits underneath The Terrace where Sir Arthur Streeton painted The Purple Noon’s Transparent Might, one of the greatest of Australian paintings, hence the opening line: Where the painters come, for the purple noon.

“Generally, I played cricket against a lot of farming characters from the Hawkesbury, timeless horny-handed sons of toil as Thomas Hardy would call them who would fizz the ball out of fingers gnarled by years of hard work, tell me I wasn’t as good as my grandfather, and then retire to the slips to talk about the price of caulis.

“Unlike me, they had no need for headlines or heed for deadlines.

“The words for the song developed slowly, with odd moments of inspiration, then the music, too, came at its own time, including the chords for the middle eight.”

Driven by the classic kind of storytelling, one with simple anecdotes of life, together Hadfield, See, Field and Mason excel here in making thoughtful and introspective yet warm and inviting music, brought further to life by the vibrant production by See himself.

“The inspiration for the production was simply a case of Sam and I had been talking about Molly Tuttle and Billy Strings, and I said let’s do it a bit like Molly Tuttle, and away Sam went, doing all the playing, singing, mixing and mastering.”

Since the release of ‘The Old River Knows’, Hadfield and See have moved to writing songs together, signalling the beginning of what could be an incredibly exciting and fruitful collaboration for years to come.

“Sam is a gifted musician and a great songwriter, best known I guess writing for Reasons off Whispering Jack, John Farnham’s epic, but there is so much more to his CV than that, including his successful stint as music director on Steve Vizard’s ‘Tonight Live’,” said Hadfield.

“To be able to work with him has just been a tremendous experience.”

“Glyn Mason, whom I have long admired since first seeing him on black and white television shows in the 1970s, has one of the defining voices of Australian music,” Hadfield continues in reference to the collaboration of greats, “Lindsay Field was an integral part of the Farnham phenomenon that followed the release of Whispering Jack, what else needs to be said.

“It is just amazing to have these blokes sing one of my songs.”

With a clear knack for crafting distinctly conversational stories that hold the same sense of intimacy as the greats, it’s notable that Hadfield has only recently embarked on music, having worked tirelessly as a journalist on radio and in newspapers for five decades, including with The Australian newspaper and ABC Radio National. With a dozen books and three plays to his name, his music journey is still in its infancy with four CDs of original music, the most recent being the aforementioned Dancing With Socrates with Mike Wilcox and Ross Teders.

“As for this dalliance in songwriting, I have been involved in music over the years, but mostly life as a sports broadcaster and writer got in the way, now semi-retired, there has been time to concentrate on songwriting, greatly enhanced by the happenstance of Sam agreeing to work with me,” Hadfield shares. 

“Post March, I will continue to plod away on my Fender acoustic, fitting words and music together as best I can, and hope they pass the audition with Sam, while hoping my words do much the same on the tunes he’s writing.”

With a lifetime of experience with words, ‘The Old River Knows’ shines a bright, bright light on Hadfield’s strong ability to communicate narratives through his songwriting and See, Field & Mason’s satisfying blend of commanding vocals and beautifully cinematic music, resulting in wonderfully heartfelt Aussie music at its core.

‘The Old River Knows’ is out now. Field, See & Mason will perform the song live at Bird’s Basement in Melbourne on Saturday, 4 March. Find out more about the gig here