Jesse Forde reminisced over Thirsty Merc on Tuesday and to follow on from that, here’s my chat with Rai Thistlethwayte.
It seems that all of your songs have a certain story behind them. Is there anything in particular that inspires you to write these tracks?
Life, basically. Tommy And Krista – I didn’t know people of those names, but I lived in suburban Australia, north of Sydney and this was a description in a way of my first love as a teenager. In The Summertime – talks of getting out of the office and going to the beach – the Australian dream. I was working in a studio and wanted to ‘not work so hard.’ Someday Someday was written about a real person – a medicine student I was dating when I was younger, and the prospect of professional music career taking me away from Love. 20 Good Reasons, I wrote in New York. It was about losing loved ones, not just in romantic senses but when people die. I think it was written about my Grandmother. The fact that life has to change. They are all pretty much written about things that are real to me. Sometimes they have a fun, positive message, not just heartfelt ones – music is there to be a soundtrack to ALL our times on this earth, to help and join us on our whole emotional journey.
Let’s be real here, every single song you have produced has been a huge hit… how does it feel to know that over a decade you have produced a stack load of extremely popular songs?
I don’t really think they have ALL been hits, we’ve been lucky to have a good handful of them. I think we do care a lot about clarity, strength, authenticity in our songwriting, and we try and have things which are memorable. Beethoven’s 5th is very memorable. Beatles songs are memorable. It doesn’t matter what you’re saying in music, say it with CLARITY. That’s one thing I learnt from Mike Nock at Jazz School at the Sydney Conservatorium, and I believe it applies in ANY type of art form. Even if the message is to HIDE clarity, it’s about that intent behind that and staying on message with what the artist wants. I think we wanted to connect with people, not because it might lead to financial gain, but because it would lead to COMMUNICATION. We on this earth need to communicate in a TRUE sense as much as possible, it’s what helps us through the hard times and makes us understand each other.
Were there any artists that inspired you to create the music you made?
Probably a lot, actually. Deep Purple for the blues and rock crossover. Riffs. Frank Sinatra because of the interpretation of a lyric, and being able to make it a real performance. Donny Hathaway for the vocal control, and the soul. Prince for being off the wall. Michael Jackson for being ‘Off The Wall’ haha. The groove. The rhythm and spontaneity of jazz artists everywhere that is the deepest thing I think. The energy. Keith Jarratt, for bleeding heart piano honesty. And my mother, the greatest artist in my mind, for sharing music with me earlier than anyone else.
What are some of the most insane places that you’ve performed at?
Insane? I think I know what you mean here. One time we played in Albany and a guy had his middle finger stuck up at me the WHOLE gig. I don’t know why he was there if he hated me so much, but he was also dancing and having a good time. Also, there’ve been fights in the crowd, for certain gigs, what, at a Thirsty Merc concert? That’s nuts. Maybe it’s too much alcohol. We played at the State Of Origin Grand Final in front of 42000 people, that was pretty crazy in a way. Gigs in people’s houses, radio station rooftops, crammed into tight spaces for music video shoots, we played on the back of a truck 2 times – once in Adelaide at the horse races there, and one time in Glen Innes. That’s a hard thing to fit on. But, we’ve done it. I guess big gigs seem insane, and we’ve done our fair share, festivals and the like, but really, it’s just whatever vibe seems crazy at the time, and you can never pick it.
What plans do Thirsty Merc have for the future?
We’re releasing our 4th studio album at the 2nd half of 2015. That’s gonna be great – and there’s gonna be a tour to support that too. Maybe after that there’s been talk of a rock EP!!! Love to keep the wheels turning!
Now on my phone, the most played song that you guys have produced would be none other than the classic track Tommy and Krista. Which track is your personal favourite and why?
I have a few faves, I think there’s one that’s coming up for us and it’s called Understanding Love. I think that’s a special song, it’s really autobiographical and it was a bit of a lynchpin in terms of this new album being made. It kind of opened the floodgates for us. So, maybe check that one out soon!! :))
If you guys could tour with any other artist/s… who would it be?
Jeeeez, there are too many. Foo Fighters, The Script, if we were able to tour with those that have left us, I think the guys would say people like Jimi Hendrix, Ella Fitzgerald haha!
What music are you currently listening to?
I love KNOWER, Louis Cole and Genevieve Atardi’s group, I’m actually going to be going to Las Vegas with them in a few days to play some solo music with them!
Now for some fun questions…
How does Rai keep his hair in such perfect condition?!
Come on, my hair sucks a lot of the time. I have dandruff and my travels in my weird urban camping adventures leave my hair pretty horrible most of the time. If I need to get serious, though, I just get V05 creative glue. It’s rock hard.
You’re stranded on an island and you can only bring 3 things, what would they be?
Probably a super yacht, a girlfriend, and a good fishing rod!
Now for the hardest question… Tenacious D or Foo Fighters?
I have to say the Foos, in this case, although the merc had the pleasure of opening for Tenacious D in Melbourne one NYE, which was super fun, they were hilarious!!!