Over the years Mark Moldre has played music in a variety of settings. He’s suited up to sing Chet Baker styled standards in jazz quartets. He’s donned white pants and bad floral shirts to play in traditional Jamaican calypso bands. Late at night you may have caught him in purple flares and star shaped sunglasses in a variety of psychedelic 70’s funk outfits. He’s been a gun for hire in blues and country bands.
Yet on previous occasions when the time came for starting an album he would brush all those styles under the rug in favour of writing more standard singer/songwriter type songs. “On An Ear To The Earth I hoped to make a completely different recording – a more eclectic one – I didn’t want to make any of my usual choices. This time I wanted to exit the highway and explore the lanes, alleyways and side streets of my musical history” says Moldre “I’ve always buried those sides of my past when the time came to make a record. This time I wanted to find a way to bring those elements out rather than hide them. I also decided that I would not write any songs about my feelings or myself. No heart on my sleeve stuff. No confessionals. No crying in my gin. I wanted to collaborate more. I’d fallen into musical habits. I needed to break all my unnecessary self imposed rules.”
Mark started to write – finding inspiration in a newspaper headline for the song “I Don’t Know What’s Become Of Her”. “Madeleine” was inspired by the Hitchcock movie Vertigo. “Everything I Need” was conjured after an unsettling dream. “O, Dreamtime Blues” practically spouted from his pen after finishing Paul Kelly’s brilliant autobiography. “Nowhere at All” was written after a late night session reading up on Hermann Hesse and “Where Will I Be?” evolved after watching a scene in the movie Big Fish wherein 3 boys witness their future demise in the eye of an old woman.
As the songs began to take shape – Moldre started to incorporate parts of his musical background that previously he’d pushed aside. A jump up, percussion driven calypso, a riotous Dixie romp, a late night Mexican infused jazz ballad, a couple of old fashioned holler and stomp blues tunes, even European and Country waltzes. “I needed to shake things up and I needed someone who could pull all these diverse threads into a cohesive album. I called my old childhood friend Jamie Hutchings (Bluebottle Kiss) and asked if he’d be interested in listening to my demos with the idea that he would produce. Things clicked, rehearsals began and Jamie beat the arrangements into shape with his familiar spit, grit and sandpaper approach…. and we co-wrote a couple of tunes”
Hutchings decided that the best way to capture these songs was live, with a band, – straight to 1” reel to reel tape. Not a computer in sight. So he called up engineer Chris Colquhoun and scavenged, borrowed and begged for as much gear as would fit into a couple of station wagons and set up shop in a small guest house in the beautiful beach hamlet of Avalon over a period of six days.
An Ear To The Earth is filled with dark corners, tender romance, redemption and death, human struggle versus biblical consequences, dreams and bad weather. It’s gritty and smooth, poignant whilst occasionally raucous, diverse – and yet somehow it all hangs together. It’s Moldre’s musical history across 10 varying chapters.
Find out why Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst chose Mark in his Top Ten creative Sydney-ites for the VIVID festival and was moved to say (about Moldre’s last solo album The Waiting Room): “A beautifully produced album of melancholic melodies; sad, grand, scary. 4 stars.”