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Byron Shire
October 16, 2021

Catching fish and writing music, the life of a modern-day musical outlaw

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Folk rock artist William Crighton is a son of the Riverina, a storyteller with a sound that is bold, visceral and unique.

Launching his debut self-titled album last month, he paints a picture that is romantic, spiritual and deeply moving.

The writing of this album was inspired by the time spent with his wife Jules (and fellow musician) and two kids in Burrinjuck.

‘I had a bunch of songs my whole life but none of them made this record; this record was spawned when we moved to Burrinjuck when we’d just got back from the States and we needed some fresh air. We moved to the village; there were about three or so other people. The songs started coming to me a few months after moving there; the space came to me in that place.’

After the hustle of the city, Crighton fell into the slower and deeper space offered by the Australian landscape.

‘It’s such a rugged and sparse location; it enabled me to have the space to think about things and ask questions I hadn’t considered before. I had a lot of answers I had when I was a kid – like is there a god or is there not? I got a fresh perspective on things – it opened a lot of inspiration…’ says Crighton of his writing time in Burrinjuck.

‘It’s a flawed idealism,’ he admits. ‘I love the bush – it is my home, it creates that space. You don’t get much time to contemplate inner thoughts these days. We are all about that – and that chance to escape. For me it was the power of space, and having that blank canvas, and even though it’s a rugged landscape, it’s uniquely Australian, and you can feel a deep spirit down there; you can find that spirit anywhere, making your mind blank and allowing fewer thoughts.’

So what did he work out about the existence of God?

‘I realised there was still no answer!’

For William and his family, living remotely was a chance to reconnect by disconnecting.

‘I lived there for more than a year, so that enabled me to become very isolated from society and contemporary life. We didn’t have mobile phone reception or landline; we had landline twice a week. We did our own gardening, caught our own fish, and got me back to what was important…’

William and his wife brought the feel of the place into the album by choosing to record in situ.

‘We recorded down there. We set up the house, and recorded it live over two weeks with some friends, and then once we’d recorded had the beds down. Matt Sherrod went back to Nashville (drummer from Crowded House) to finish the album. It took a long time. It turned out to be a record because it felt cohesive – a representation of the time and place we were in when we recorded it; a lot of the songs were from my childhood, like a forced awakening.’

This is an exceptional album played out front by a man who’s been hailed as a true musical outlaw. He is a featured artist this year at Bello Winter Music Festival but you can catch William Crighton at the Hotel Great Northern on Friday with his five-piece band featuring Matt Sherrod, his brother Luke Crighton on bass, and the extraordinary vocals of Crighton’s wife Jules.

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