For almost 20 years now, Tim Minchin has been one of the most arresting and enigmatic performers, with his flamboyant showmanship, eclectic musical stylings, and razor-sharp wit seeing him go from an up-and-coming musician from his childhood home of Perth, to a critical success at comedy festivals around the world.
Though primarily pigeonholed as something of a musical comedian, the last decade seen Minchin spread his wings even further, proving to all and sundry that he’s far more than just a musician, but an acclaimed actor, composer, lyricist, and more.
In 2010, Minchin set his sights on the stage, composing the music and lyrics for the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Launching to critical acclaim, the production would go on to open on Broadway in 2013, earning an almost never-ending stream of awards, including seven Olivier Awards, and five Tony Awards. A few years later, Minchin once again looked to the stage, with his production of Groundhog Day once again serving as a critical success, launching on Broadway, and earning another Olivier.
Earlier this year though, Minchin announced his signing to BMG, revealing that this year would bring with it the release of his first studio album, after years spent delivering live records. “I’ve been writing songs for 35 years, and have never released a studio album,” he quipped. “Too many distractions.”
Although plans to release the record throughout the year were quickly halted by a global pandemic, Minchin continued to release tracks from the record in the lead-up to the official launch of Apart Together in November. Though the years have seen him establish a reputation as a comedic performer, Apart Together is as far from comedy as possible, with the heartfelt, emotive songwriting on display congruent with his role as an award winning stage lyricist.
In anticipation of the record’s release, Minchin spoke to Rolling Stone during a brief stint in Perth to discuss the creation of a record such as this, his aversion to simply being categorised as a ‘musical comedian’, and his unashamed individualism.
Firstly, congratulations on the new record. It’s a really special record that you must be feeling proud of.
Oh, thanks man. I think like a lot of my stuff, it gets better with a few listens. It’s not designed to be “radio hit, here’s the hook, I’m going to play it seven times”. It’s more a little journey, so I think repeated listening is good. So thank you so much for spending time with it, that’s great.
Before we really dive deep into the album though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask how you’ve been dealing with this year?
Yeah, it’s a hell of a fucking year. We’ve been alright, mostly. We’ve been lucky because we’ve been in Sydney and [then] in Perth for a little while. It has given me time to concentrate on the release of this record, which includes making music videos and stuff. Like “Airport Piano”, that was made in a garage in quarantine for $2,000. And I really I get a kick out of going, “Right my job is to make art. Bits of stuff.” And right now the world’s a bit fucked, so, “If all I can have is four crew and a thing, then what do we do? Or if I’m in quarantine, “What do we do?” And just letting the material be influenced by the restrictions – [it’s] kind of right up my alley.
The year has… The reason we’re in Perth is because my mum suddenly got very sick out of nowhere, and we all had to rush back because it was looking pretty bad for a moment, although she’s stable for now. And so the COVID thing now [presents] this problem that I have to go back to Sydney, because my kids have school and stuff. But then, when am I going to get to see mum again? Because she, you know, there’s no guarantees she’ll be around for long, and she’s very young. So I guess our whole COVID experience has now been completely overshadowed by this new thing. And I lost a very good friend a couple of weeks before mum got diagnosed so it’s yeah, it’s gone to shit.
But it’s been so amazing to still, still have this work to concentrate on. And weirdly the work, the album, has kind of come into focus like it did for you listening to it two or three times. The way the world’s gone has kind of brought the album into focus for me, because it really is an album about facing grief and facing the passage of time, and seasons going by. And even contemplation of whether or not you’ll be able to keep your cool when you’re facing your own death. And Apart Together, obviously the inevitability of the falling apart moments. I don’t know, it’s kind of added profundity to the project. It definitely added focus to the project for me.
The record was announced back in March when you signed to BMG. That was just before everything this year really began to take hold, so was the record originally set to arrive sooner than it has?
When we left LA and moved to Sydney, really, once we finished filming Upright, I thought, “Gosh, finally after 20 years, here’s the window I’ve been waiting for to get into the studio.” Because I’ve just gotten so busy. I thought I’d just do what I always do and put it out independently, and then we started looking at little indie record labels and then eventually Michael [Lynch, manager] had meetings with a couple of the majors and we ended up, to our surprise, going with BMG.
But they were so great and have been so great – it’s been such fun. I always swore I would never sign with a major. It just didn’t seem to fit my philosophy about how I make stuff and my fierce independence. But they’ve been brilliant and I’ve really enjoyed having more brains on it. And then when it became a BMG project, the whole point was that we were going to do a sort of headline slot on the Saturday night at Splendour in The Grass, which was July. So it was all arcing for that. Then when COVID hit, they bumped Splendour to October and we thought, “Alright, we’ll do it in October. We’ll push it back.”
And then of course, everyone realised that it’s going to go for a lot longer. And so we just picked an arbitrary date and said, “Well, we’ll get it out in the pre-Christmas spot.” And now we’re going to do a big televised launch and play an epic live version of the record for people to watch streaming. We were going to do it live, but why stream live when you could just do it a few days before and make sure it’s all lovely? Because we’ll film it as [if it was] live.
Of course, it seems very relevant to be releasing an album called Apart Together during a pandemic. Do you know something we don’t, or does your work just have that ability to find relevance at all times?
I actually seeded the coronavirus just to support my album release [laughs]. No, it is funny how as I say, that the change in world has sort of made the album make sense. And “Apart Together” obviously in the context of the song, is about falling apart together, and it’s a sort of unromantic, romantic look at monogamy – like so many of my songs are unromantic, romantic. But the other thing that I really find interesting is not only that a lot of the themes feel like they resonate with what we’re going through now, but also that I feel like I’ve made a record that is worth listening to as an album.
And of course, no one does that anymore. But I feel like maybe this is a time when people are spending more time at home, and are trying to be a bit more mindful and to not be rushing through every moment. And I hope that when we put this out, my aim is to really promote the idea of “put some headphones on [and listen]”. Especially with this concert. I hope they listen to it the way people come to my shows.
“I feel like I’ve made a record that is worth listening to as an album.”
When I put on a show, even though my gigs are pretty big gigs sometimes – sonically and you know, big bands and stuff – people are seated, because there’s a lot of talk and you know, you don’t want to stand up to it. And I tell people to turn their phones off and no filming’s allowed and all that.
So I really still promote this old idea that when you come and see my show, which I see as a sort of theatre show, I want you just to come with me. Let me tell these stories and just stay engaged. So I’m going to be promoting this album as like, a non-double screen. Don’t double screen, fucking get good headphones or good speakers, get a couple of friends, get a bottle of wine, and come with me on this journey. So in a way the pandemic plays into this hope I have that people will see it as a thing they should listen to as a whole.
A lot of artists have noted how people have had a greater chance to listen to their albums more closely this year than they would have otherwise.
A more present listening, yeah.
That even plays into the first few songs on the record as well. They sort of transition into each other, and it’s an effect you can really only experience while listening to it closely.
Yeah, that’s right. The first three songs kind of just roll on in, and yeah, it all sort of gels. I’m pretty passionate about making lemonade out of lemons, and this whole album has become a bit of a lemonade project. Won’t be as big as Beyonce’s Lemonade, but who knows?
It’s become a bit of a testament to the idea of making the best out of… shit. Which is kind of what my TV show Upright is about as well; understanding that the crappy stuff is the fertiliser for future beautiful stuff.
In “Talked Too Much”, you allude to the fact that you’ve done serious songs earlier on in your career, but what inspired the decision to say “Let’s put the comedic side on ice for a bit and work on more serious things”? Or was there ever actually a conscious decision to do so?
Well, I think that it has been conscious, and not so much to sort of retire from comedy, as just to take power back from the thing I got known for. Just because you’re known for something doesn’t mean it’s the sum total of what you are, and obviously people who get known for something grapple with that a lot. Just the fact that people see them as “just that person on Strictly Come Dancing“, or “just that Neighbours actor”, or whatever. When actually they’re a person with a life and family and struggles, and everything.
I have a slightly more luxurious problem, which is that I do a lot of different things and I think I do them all fine. I was obviously okay at comedy, but I don’t see myself as a comedian – I never have. And so it’s not so much that I went, “Okay, I’m retiring from comedy”. It’s just I went, “Well in that period where I became known as a comedian, I wrote Matilda and that became the biggest thing I’ve ever done. That’s the thing that millions of people have seen and that’s obviously got plenty of comedy in it. But it’s a very different thing”.
And you know, I’ve always felt like I want to be an actor and even just my turn as Judas in that ridiculous touring version of Jesus Christ Superstar. I did a good Judas, you know, I took it deadly fricking seriously, and I guess it’s not so much I’ve turned my back on comedy as it’s just not all I’m interested in. And I did it very intensely for a while, so now I’ve got to get on with other stuff.
All I’m doing is going back, and I’m going back to where I was before comedy swept me away. Back to theatre, back to making albums that I never quite got made. So yeah, it all feels very natural to me. I know from the outside it might sort of look like I’m a comedian whose tried to do other things, but I’m not; I’m an actor/songwriter who briefly did some funny stuff.
You consider yourself solely a performer, while others do view you as more of a comedian first and foremost. Does that pigeonholing bother you at all?
I think I’m a lyricist, really [laughs]. If I’m one thing, if I had to sell just one thing for the rest of my life and everything else had to go away, I guess I’d sell myself as a lyricist. But you know, I’m not a bad pianist, I guess. I mean, I’m no classical virtuoso and I’m certainly no jazzer, but I’m an okay contemporary pianist, and I can sing a bit.
The pigeonhole thing bugs me in that I’ve spent my entire life working out how to not be pigeonholed. So my whole career is about going, “You thought you knew what I was and I’m going to show you that you haven’t got the whole of me”. Actually, in Australia is where I’m most successful at not being pigeonholed. I mean, in Britain people still say, “Comedian Tim Minchin writes another musical”.
“The pigeonhole thing bugs me in that I’ve spent my entire life working out how to not be pigeonholed.”
And you’re like, “I literally composed and did lyrics for the most popular family musical of the century. When do I get to be called a composer?” So I guess I have a bit of a chip about that. I’m so lucky that I get to do all these things and I’m very motivated by the mission of being un-pigeonhole-able.
It does seem as though the comedy often overshadows the music, and leaves people unable to seperate the two.
There’s no doubt that I’m not the greatest comedian ever to live. The thing that made me famous, the thing that made me known is that it was… Most musical comedy is like someone who has learnt four chords, and [my work] was very technically complex. It’s much more like some of the older, vaudevillian performers where the music’s like a magic trick, where people go, “Oh shit!” And it’s very showy and very flamboyant.
The image I was presenting was this sort of mad genius, which obviously was a difficult thing to get away with when you’re not a mad genius, but that was the character. Very fast thinking, very intellectually high status whilst a little bit scatty, and then suddenly playing piano at a level that a lot of people probably have been to a concert where someone plays piano at that level if all they’ve ever been to is indie gigs and stuff. So it was quite razzle-dazzle.
Did you have any sort of worry about how the album could be received? Obviously you’ve shown that you rarely put a foot wrong, but if fans are used to one thing, they’re not always going to follow over to another style or focus.
I think my fan fans are fans because I change course. I mean, Upright has been watched by millions of people as well and hopefully any question about whether or not I’m a proper actor, hopefully that’s sort of gone away. And obviously people who love Groundhog Day understand that it’s a massive philosophical sort of contemplation.
Even through my comedy career, apart from “Prejudice”, the songs that have had the most traction are “White Wine in The Sun” and “Not Perfect”. And my most famous songs are “When I Grow Up” and “Naughty,” and stuff from Matilda. I guess I hope that mostly people are already past the idea that comedy songs are my thing.
The other important thing is that I’m not trying to get bigger or more famous, or get richer or break any records. I would love it if the industry acknowledges this album for the musicality and for Dan Denholm’s beautiful production and for the lyrical… There’s no doubt it’s lyrically very me and I want to occupy my own space as a singer/songwriter in the music industry, not the comedy industry.
But I have absolutely no expectation that this is going to sell as many copies as my Albert Hall DVD, or whatever, and I just couldn’t be less interested. I don’t suppose I’ll ever even ask how many copies have been sold. It’s not my main income. My concerts and Matilda and my writing songs for movies, that’s my income. This is just my offer. It’s an offer.
So I don’t think about it at all, is the answer. I don’t think about letting anyone down because that would be crazy. It’s like, “This is just an offer, you don’t have to buy it. But you should.”
Since you aren’t reliant on the income an album brings in, was there a feeling of liberation in being able to go ahead and make solely a record that you want to make? Then again, that’s an approach you’ve tended to always keep at the forefront of things.
Yeah, I think so. I mean, I didn’t become a comedian by like, “I’m going to become a comedian”, that’s just how I wrote. I wrote these quirky songs and once people started laughing I went, “Oh, how far can I take that?” And all the punchliney, the big tension and release songs like “Cont”, and “Prejudice” and “Boobs” [also known as “Confessions”]. You know, I sort of pushed as far as I could in that direction, but all the while “Beauty” was in the orchestra show and “Beauty”‘s one of the best songs I’ve ever written. It could be on this album. It’s more in the “If This Plane Goes Down” sort of realm.
Also of course, what was so freeing about this record and it took me a long time to kind of get comfortable. But I kept going, “What am I going to write? I write in all these different styles and I write in sort of different modes. Like, what is a me record at age 40?” And especially with the prevailing contemporary sounds being all this pseudo analog synthy stuff and electronic… I love all the music, I don’t really care, but I can’t write like that, I don’t know what that is. So what is it, what’s it going to be?
And what I really enjoyed is realising that I don’t have to go, “Okay, I’m going to be serious.” Because even in the middle of “I Can’t Save You” on this record – which is a tiny simple song that’s meant to make you cry, or it makes me cry – there’s the lyrics “and if you lose your passport in a country where no one speaks English, I’ll call the consulate for you. And if you one day have a kid who God forbid should need a kidney, a spare I will donate for you.” There’s all these little Minchin-y, quirky lyrics and “If This Plane Goes Down” obviously makes people laugh, and “Airport Piano”‘s very close to some of my old sort of Ben Foldsy, rock’n’roll nerd vibe.
So actually, all I’ve done is stopped thinking, “Oh, I need to make them laugh,” or, “I need to write from the point of view of a five-year-old girl,” or, “I need to write a song for an animated kangaroo to sing.” All I’ve done is taken the breaks off. So to answer your question in a long, long way round is, its been really freeing to go, “Oh, I know what I am. I’m like a storytelling bent pop, real instrument songwriter with a few resources. So if I want 30 strings and five French horns I can fuckin’ have them.”
I’m making music born of my history and of my experience. That’s really not particularly like what’s coming out at the moment. And I’m very comfortable with that, even if it’s a little bit ’90s or noughties, or dated, or something. I think it’s actually really me. It’s a bit introspective and a bit quirky and a bit ostentatious and I don’t know… I quite like it. I’m surprised how much I like it actually.
You noted how you weren’t sure what you were going to write. Were all of these songs written specifically for the album, or did you have some that finally found a home on this album?
No, a couple of them came out of the vault. “Beautiful Head” is 12 years old and it was deliberately like, the album needed a bit of balance. I wanted to express that slightly you know, rocky, piano bar roots. And I just wanted a jam-out song and I thought, “Oh, I’ve got one of them.” And we only ever played it live at a few festivals and it always went down really well. And a few of my fans were like, “Are you ever going to record that song?” So I thought I’d put that in.
“Summer Romance” was a London song, obviously. You can tell it was written towards the end of our London stay and is really about the passing of seasons and letting go. And the move away from London was incredibly painful, really. In the same way that summer going away in London is very painful as the winter creeps in and so on. And you sort of write about those feelings of loss and a battle, and the hours the I spent running around North London.
So much of my life is about running. And it’s a really uncool thing to write about, so I try and… “Summer Romance” – if you ever know anyone who’s a jogger, listen to that song jogging. It’s fucking designed to be run to. It’s like you grow wings as it takes off. It’s really cool. But yeah, so I think those two are the main old ones. “Leaving LA” I wrote when I was still in LA, when we were sort of about to pack up. But yeah, apart from that, they’re all written for the record.
“Leaving LA” was the first song you released from the record. Did you manage to get the reaction you were hoping for with that song?
I think “Leaving LA” is probably the only real victim of COVID, because it literally came out as it hit. And it just sank, really. It got on rotation of Double J, which, as a. Aussie I’m stoked with that. Like every now and then it pops up on my Twitter, that Double J have played it. I guess they’ve played it 50 or 60 times, and I just love that. I never thought I’d get any songs on the radio because who the hell listens to five minute long songs by me? Especially because my songs tend to be sweary and a bit lyrically complex. They not made for radio and I’ve never been too bothered by that. But I really liked that.
I think people don’t realise how incredible the music video is. It’s so incredible that people assume it’s some kind of digital trick but it’s not – it’s all practical animation. By the time that song came out, all I really wanted it to be is an amazing, a promotional tour for Tee Ken [Ng] because he’s such an incredible artist. I think that song will live, it’s not going to age too badly. It’s got longevity and it’s got a real Beck vibe that I was going for, and I really like it. But because it was the first one that came out and came out the beginning of COVID I’m like, “Ah, that’s gone, what’s next?”
That song felt like a good way of easing folks into the album since it was still very clearly a Tim Minchin song but it didn’t have a punchline, so to speak.
No, it was quite depressed, but had lots of quirky lyrics and a bit of swearing. Actually, I don’t know if you remember but months before, I put out “15 Minutes of Shame”, which I made a music video for. I put it out independently and said, “This is the first song of an album. And I’m going to put out a song every two months until it’s an album.” And then it came out – and that’s a song that I think will probably keep popping up as public shaming becomes more and more of a hot-button issue.
But I realised after I spent more time in the studio, that that wasn’t the record and that it didn’t really belong on the record. And so that was sort of transitional and then I took it off the record and did a record deal and went, “Okay, starting again”, and started with “Leaving LA”, which again is a bit transitional.
And then I put out “[I’ll Take] Lonely [Tonight]” and “Apart Together”, which are very much the least funny songs on the record, really. And “Apart Together” especially is very meditative. So yeah, I went all the way in after that, and I’m stoked with it. I don’t really know how it’s meant to be received or how many people are meant to buy it or watch. I guess I wish millions of people would watch these things in the way they’ve watched some of my funny stuff, but I don’t expect it or need it.
“Lonely” also helped give a greater idea of the sort of ground this record would cover. You mentioned at the time that it was one that really affected people when you play it live. Why do you feel that is? Despite it being a relatively esoteric topic that is close to yourself, it seemed to resonate almost globally.
One of the things that I do is make people cry, and ironically, “White Wine in The Sun” has probably made more people cry than most contemporary songs. It really affects people, and I used to play that as the encore of my comedy show, for years. And still do. So I run a bit of a racket in emotionally manipulative songwriting. And “Lonely Tonight”, musically and melodically… [Minchin sings a few notes of the track] All that stuff is quite theatrical and it’s triggering. I mean, musicians, especially people like me who write theatre, our job is to understand how music shortcuts to your brain stem.
“I never thought I’d get any songs on the radio because who the hell listens to five minute long songs by me?”
But also the idea of dedication goes right into people’s hearts and a lot more people than I realised have had the experience of having their fidelity tested. Because it’s not just touring musicians, it’s people who go to conferences, and people who travel for work or holidays where they are away from their partner or whatever. And so I think it’s a bit about people being able to relate to the circumstance, but I think it’s mostly about just the fundamental idea that monogamy is about rededicating yourself. It’s actually a hyper-romantic idea of this girl in a house on the hill and I’d rather murder than hurt her.
I also am very proud of the end of that, the very last verse of that song. I’m proud of a lot of these songs because they are slightly unconventional in form. Even though they’re kind of pop songs, they don’t follow the rule book particularly.
And the last verse of that song, which feels like a coda, which juxtaposes all that grand language about God’s siren songs and Jesus and deserts and the Devil with the absolute base domesticity of Pringles wrappers and Snickers. I really love that as a bit of songwriting actually. I’m not always proud of my work, but I’m proud of that little bit.
It’s really a good way of wrapping it up and delivering that really powerful closing line.
Yeah, wrapped up in a Snickers packet.
One song that is quite notable is “Talked Too Much, Stayed Too Long”. It’s obviously one close to you since it’s effectively an autobiography of your career. Do you find it difficult to put yourself so explicitly into a song? Or was it somewhat easier since you’ve had a prolific career full of so many highlights?
Yeah it’s my “Ballad of John and Yoko”. I mean I had to just pick bits. It was longer [laughs]. I just wanted to really do something that paid tribute to how much swing I’ve listened to and you know, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and even big band players in Perth. I really, really like that music and I used to write a lot more swing. Groundhog Day swings a lot, but I wanted… I love really heavily played upright bass. I pulled Phil Stack in to play, because he plays like he’s working a chainsaw.
I wanted to write something that’s a bit defiant without being self-congratulatory, right? Because a lot of my stuff is sort of self-deprecating and I had this idea for a lyric “talk too much and stay too long”, because every time I go out to a dinner party and have a few too many drinks I go, wake up the next morning and go, “Oh no,” and I ask Sarah, “Did I talk too much and stay too long?”
You can tell I talk a lot and I love a drink and I love a dinner party, and I’m always scared that I’ve got too verbose and not left when it was time. And I thought it was a really good hook. Then I liked the idea of, all through my life that’s the defining feature, that I’m another white motherfucker rambling on and.
But yeah, there’s a real defiance; a sort of letting the chip on my shoulder come out. Even though I’ve done all this stuff I still have this… I’ve copped a lot of flack, because of some of the contentious things I’ve written about and I have a lot of… Do you know what it was actually? When I put out that little song with Briggs. I think I must have written it before then but I’ve been thinking about Briggs a lot and how fucking defiant and epic, and like with his Australia Day song [A.B. Original’s “January 26”] like, “Fuck you man. You’re all dickheads, I know what I’m saying.”
And obviously I’ve done a lot of sort of activism stuff and when I put out “[(Come Home)] Cardinal Pell” or whatever and all the right wing press comes out and calls me… And they really want to diminish me in order to make their point. And it’s all the commenters when I make the mistake of reading: like, “You’re just a fucking ABC-funded comic who writes mean songs about people.” And they actually don’t know what I’ve done in my career.
They just know that I say stuff they don’t agree with and they’re like, “Get a haircut you fucking stoner.” And, “You fucking leftist.” And they want to make it easy. They want to make it easy to discard my ideas by going you’re just this. And I wanted to say in that song, “I’m not just anything, fucker. You might not agree with me, but not only have I done all these things but also you’re not going to shut me up. I’m going to keep doing this until I’m dead.”
So it’s got a bit of that like, “You don’t get to say I’m just. You don’t get to shut me up, mate. If you want an opinion in the public domain, learn to play the piano and grab a microphone. Write some good lyrics. Stop whinging in comment sections,” you know? It’s a bit of that. Bit of that chip on the shoulder stuff, which is not a big part of my personality but it’s there. That kind of defiance and, “I have a right to write what I want, because I do the practice man. I do the 10,000 hours. You can’t shut me up now. “
What can you tell me about “Airport Piano”? It feels like it based on real experiences in that sort of Billy Joel, “Piano Man” style, but how did it come about?
The scenario’s bullshit. With these pianos that sit in malls and especially in airports. I just look at them a lot and I tend not to play them. But I did. I don’t know where that phrase came from. It’s one of those phrases I wrote down somewhere, “I wrote the song on an airport piano“. That was basically like a title. And then somewhere else in another document in my file of half-ideas, I’d written “women in SUV Porsches always look miserable“.
And in my head I couldn’t stop it being Latin. [Minchin mimics how it would sound as a Latin song.] And it was like a bossa in my head and I was like, “I fucking don’t want to write a bossa. I want to make it a pop song because it’s a funny hook.” And then I realised that it could be the “Airport Piano” song.
And then suddenly the mushing together of those two ideas, I realised that the kind of theme is about, in one sense it’s about like grabbing moments. Like when your flight’s delayed, use that time. And this whole album’s really about this. It is an appeal to understanding that life is fleeting and that time moves fast, and you’ve just got to use your time. And the whole record resonates with that, I realised. It’s a bit of a heading towards middle age album. So this idea of like, “I wrote this song on an airport piano, I had a spare hour“. And this idea that you’ve got to create and observe and be present basically.
And on the flipside is the thing we actually spend our time doing, which is trying to buy more shit and this aspiration and the goals receding. And we’re trying to not let time beat us by cycling, and these middle class things that I have had very close relationship with because I’ve been so lucky. I live in a street [where] most of the other people like are bankers and stuff, because not many artists get to live in a house near the beach. And I’ve had this visceral experience moving back to Sydney and to a suburb thats mostly got privileged people.
And I know it’s a cliche, but I’m lucky enough to have experienced the ways in which wealth corrupts happiness. I know a lot of famous people, I know a lot of really wealthy people. And I, and people don’t want to hear about that because it’s like, “Oh yeah, I’m rich and famous, how hard.” I don’t want to talk about that.
I do want to talk about this fact that we all know but most of us don’t have the luck to experience, which is at a certain point money doesn’t make you happier. And buying the new car and getting the new yacht, and getting another house just doesn’t help. What helps is being present and all that. So it’s all very hippie, but I also really like the song because it starts quite fun and gets more and more anxious, and more and more like a mid-life crisis.
This idea for this music video that came from my brother in law, we ended up having to make in quarantine after we found out mum was sick, by sending my dad to Bunnings and getting him to do drop-offs, is actually a person desperately trying to fill the canvas of their life.
He’s writing, putting all his anxieties onto a blank canvas, and it’s like writing “I was here” on a wall. The human condition or the artist’s desire to go – like we were talking about with “Talk Too Much” – “I was here. I said my piece, and I had something to say.” And this idea of someone desperately writing their experience onto a blank canvas which happens to be an instrument, it’s a real visceral sense of having to scrape “I was here” into a toilet wall. It’s a similar vibe.
I’m looking at it like an observer now, because I didn’t write it with that intent. Now I’m like, “Oh right, look at that! It’s like life’s a canvas and you’re trying to figure out how to fill it, you know?” But I’m just a fucking arts grad gone haywire. That’s my whole life story.
Tim Minchin’s Apart Together is out now via BMG.