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Song You Need to Know: Christopher Coleman & The Great Escape, ‘Paloona’

Featuring Christopher Coleman backed by a supergroup of Aussie talent, including Augie March’s Glenn Richards and the late Mike Noga, “Paloona” is a stellar taste of the group’s forthcoming album.

Ursula Woods*

As Hobart’s Christopher Coleman readies the release of The Great Tasmanian Escape, the semi-titular debut album from he and eight-piece band The Great Escape, he’s offered fans a taste of what to expect by way of new single, “Paloona”.

Having first given fans an idea of what to expect by way of 2019’s “Jesse”, The Great Tasmanian Escape sees Coleman delivering his third record, and first with the eight-piece supergroup which features some of Tasmania’s finest artists.

First enlisting a litany of names back in August of 2018, Coleman began work with Glenn Richards (Augie March), the late Mike Noga (The Drones), Stu Hollingsworth (EWAH), and Kelly Ottaway (The Stitch) before expanding the lineup with the inclusion of Frances White, Georgie Smith, and Louisa Hogue to finalise the live act.

Before long, the project had grown into a “Springsteen-esque Australiana rock thing nodding at The Go-Betweens, Midnight Oil and Paul Kelly”, which was made possible through the patronage of Kirsha Kaechelle (MONA). The record is a blend of fact and fiction, narrating a decade in the life of Jesse as he returns from serving in the Middle East, struggles with integrating back into his home town of Sydney, and eventually embarks on an epic adventure across Tasmania – arriving with nothing, and leaving with nothing.

While Jesse was first introduced by the titular single two years back, the record’s impending arrival now sees Coleman sharing new track “Paloona”, which serves as a stellar example of not only homegrown storytelling, but how to make a song that allows the listener to feel emotions they’d never before anticipated.

A slow-burning ode to the Tasmanian town, “Paloona” is bolstered by Coleman’s powerful voice, the deft keys of Ottaway, the pulsing bass of Hollingsworth, the shimmering guitars (and crisp production of Richards), and the crashing crescendo of Noga’s resonant percussion to craft a track that stays with you long after it ends.

“‘Paloona’ came about towards the end of putting the record together,” recalls Coleman. “It was always down on the map that I was working from, but I didn’t realise at the time of marking it down that it is a hydropower station 20km from anything remotely residential. So the commute for the workers can be 300km, they stay in a motel for a week and then make their way back home.

“I imagined the character, ‘Jesse’ or whoever, resenting the drive and the imposition of unavoidable reflections of the land which he’d feel under a tyre. But, ‘Paloona’ sometimes for me is more an ode to his lover. Other times it’s simply an escape, it’s just another little cog in the ‘machine’ of The Great Tasmanian Escape after all.”

Accompanying the track is a majestic video clip, directed by Ursula Woods, which captures Coleman lying in a field, camping by the water, and embarking on solo road trips, eventually culminating in what can only be described as “a sprawling escapist epic”.

“When I first listened to ‘Paloona’, I just wanted to run and move!” explains Woods. “The song is full of energy. The musical build up completely sweeps me up with it and I feel a connection to the emotion and expansive nature of the song. The lyrics too, are so beautiful and drive that feeling of going to a special place.

“We had a small window of time to shoot the video and so we took a chance on a sunny day to get out and capture some of that expansive, rolling, break-free feeling to go with the music. I had scouted the location and although it was not Paloona, some of the industrial and forest features of the landscape made me think of Paloona.

“Chris personifies the Tassie landscape in this video. His performance shows a real connection to place and how certain places can evoke certain feelings including that feeling that we sometimes just need to get away and be on our own in nature.”

“Paloona” is set to appear on The Great Tasmanian Escape, which is slated for release on Friday, February 25th, 2022, and is set to illustrate exactly why the MONA labelled Coleman “a legit Tassie treasure”.

Christopher Coleman & The Great Escape’s “Paloona” is released on Thursday, October 28th, while The Great Tasmanian Escape arrives on Friday, February 25th, 2022.