'Finding Light' is out now!
Since taking out the title of Toyota Star Maker in 2019, Blake O’Connor has gone from strength to strength. His debut album, Everything I Feel followed. It reached #1 on the ARIA Australian Country Albums chart and garnered a Golden Guitar Award for ‘New Talent of the Year’.
His new album, Finding Light, released March 10, is more than a reflection on the singer-songwriter’s journey since then – it was his therapy.
“After the last few years of the unknown, I found myself finding light through song!” he exclaims. “It draws from all of my favourite influences. From country and blues to classic rock and gospel. I made an album that I would want to sit and listen to from front to back, and I cannot wait for everyone to do the same thing and feel all of the things I felt when making the record.”
Previously released singles ‘Kickin’ A Rock’, ‘Soul Feeling’ and ‘Willin’ and Ready’ embody his penchant for optimism, while Chained To The Ground is an epic slow burn of self-actualisation. The one-take, If You’re Looking Down, invites a warm intimacy from being recorded live, while Run With You and Let a Bit of Light speak to his rock music roots. The delightfully groovy, Honey appears late in the piece as the hardest rocking in the bunch.
O’Connor split the recording of Finding Light into two distinct sessions. The first half was recorded with Nick DiDia and Adam Eckersley in DiDia’s studio that he co-owns with Bernard Fanning from Powderfinger, and the second, on the NSW Mid Coast with Michael Lynch and Sinead Burgess at the helm.
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We’re so delighted to bring you this exclusive track by track, as Blake O’Connor talks us through each individual track: the creation, sentiment, and everything in between.
I wrote this song whilst at APRA SongHubs, a songwriting camp where myself and 20 artists and producers wrote songs over 4 days. We were told each morning who we would be working with for the day, and we had 8 hours to write, record and produce a complete song.
I was singing a melody in the shower while getting ready to start the final day of SongHubs, and once I teamed up with writer Sinead Burgess and Production duo MSquared (Michael Paynter and Michael Delorenzis) in the studio, it was like we plucked it straight to of the air!
Every time I hear it, it feels like I’m playing an old school country blues song with a church choir somewhere along the Mississippi.
In-between lockdowns, Sinead Burgess and I decided to get out of populated areas, so we hired out an old farmhouse Airbnb just outside of Casino NSW for a week to set up as a songwriting retreat.
I actually started singing a random song about 'Louie the Fly’, a character from an old Mortein bug spray commercial one morning, and we totally brushed it off and continued to write a different song, and by the end of the night, I came back to this melody, and we penned down Kickin’ A Rock.
It’s a free feeling song about not taking life too seriously and enjoying all of the little things that make life special.
So, Cover Me Up came about the same day as Kickin’ A Rock. We were writing outside right on dusk as the temperature started to cool and I began picking a guitar riff I’d had been messing around with for a while and singing the words ‘Cover Me Up, Cover me in your Poncho” because I was getting cold, and Sinead stopped me and was like ‘Let’s write that song!” So, we obviously swapped out the word poncho and after that the song pretty much wrote itself!
At the time of writing this song I was listening to a bunch of old soul records – Etta James, Nina Simone and the old FAME Studios house band, The Muscle Shoals Swampers. They all provided me a whole lot of inspiration to infuse into my sound!
It’s a real fun country soul bop that give me so much joy to play every night!
Chained to the Ground is up there to be one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written. I woke up one night with this song in my head, grabbed my phone and wrote down 7 verses in about 20mins and then went back to sleep.
I woke up the following day and looked over it, wrote a chorus and bridge and the song was complete! The song is about an outsider’s point of view of person being trapped by the company they keep and not being true to themself, and the effects at has on them and the people closest to them.
Throughout 2021 and 2022, I was a part of a song club group. We were emailed a prompt every week to inspire a song idea and the song had to turned in by the end of the week otherwise you’d be kicked out of the club. The prompt that week was “Has it come to this” so this inspired me to write a song about your line of work pulling you away from the one you love and wrestling with the idea of just quitting your job and running away with your lover.
This song came to me a few days before I was set to head into the studio to record the second half of the album. I was playing a very old out of tune piano we have in our house. After messing around for a while, I had a piano riff that made me feel something, so I wrote Little Bit Longer!
It’s about the emotions you feel when you can see the one you love slipping away, and those desperate last efforts you take to hold on.
Willin’ And Ready was written by me and country couple Adam Eckersley & Brooke McClymont. Taking inspiration from The Allman Brothers’ Ramblin’ Man (including reference in verse two “Learnt this life from the words of a rambling man”), the song incorporates influences from The Allman Brothers and Little Feat.
It was an awesome journey to bring this song to life. From writing to recording, it has been a high energy process that really comes out in the song. Reflecting on the lyrics, this song is really about where I am at right now: young, ambitious and I’m always on the move with my music.
Honey is a song I wrote with Sinead Burgess and it’s a real jammer on the record! I was in the studio live room with Evan Mannell on drums and James Haselwood on bass, and without any direction for this song we just jumped into it and got the take first try! Once Sinead added her killer gospel vocals and had a horn section from Nashville play on it, it really came to life.
Let A Bit Of Light is a really special song for me, it also came to me through the song club I was a part of. It’s about being there for the people who need it most and helping them find light when the days are dark. This song really grows from a soft acoustic entry and builds into a big southern rock gospel track by the end, it’s one of my favourites on the album and really capsulated the album as a whole.
I wrote If You’re Looking Down in a hotel room in Melbourne VIC while I was on tour back in late 2019. The song questions a lot of different feelings and ultimately realises that things aren’t always going to run smoothly and there will be hiccups along the way, so it’s best to take it all into your stride and find the positives in the negatives.
We recorded this song completely live with just me and my acoustic guitar, I feel songs like this one shine the brightest when it’s simply just the song without any bells and whistles.