Tim Finn answers our questions
Regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, New Zealand native Tim Finn continues to embrace the true definition of a renaissance man while fuelling an all-inclusive, creative fire that constantly drives him onwards and upwards. Having established himself in the early 1970s as a founding member of art-pop-rock pioneers Split Enz and later as a member of the internationally successful band Crowded House (alongside brother Neil), Finn has penned some of the most treasured songs in contemporary music.
When I was asked to interview Tim I thought what could I possibly ask Mr Finn that hadn’t already been asked – so I sought ideas from my Facebook family. Of course, there were at least six suggestions that involved leaky boats but there was also some cool stuff.
Hi Tim, I’ve asked my Facebook family to send me questions for you – here we go!
What historic musicians, artists and writers and composers did you study to create such unique chord progressions and phrasings in your songs?
Well, definitely the Beatles – it’s almost hardly worth saying, because everybody who grew up when I did, a childhood in the ‘50s, I was listening to music intensely and obsessively – and I think it’s the same for most people, when you’re about 13,14,15, – it’ll never again be as intense as that time and you’ll continue to love music, hopefully.
There’s something that happens at that age and for me that was the Beatles. I was fortunate to live in an age when the most popular music in the world was, I think, the best music. They influenced everyone.
If you want to talk about chord progressions, you know, you’ve only got to listen to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ or ‘Here, There and Everywhere’. Any of the greatest Beatles songs, and even their average ones, which were very good, but their greatest songs are brilliant. They have a harmonic richness that is so far beyond early kind of blues and R&B, not in terms of quality, but just in terms of chords and harmony.
The Beatles exploded that side of music. Were they listening to classical music? I don’t think so. I wasn’t listening to Bach. The Beatles were my classical music.
Someone wanted me to ask about your opera, but I sort of wanted to extend that and ask how does it feel to be writing music that’s commissioned, rather than music that’s just stirring inside of you?
Well, it was a bit of both with the opera, for example, the original title was Star Navigator. It’s about the Tahitian navigator who travelled with Cook on the first voyage of the Endeavour. We gave it a double-barreled name Ihitai ‘Avei’a – Star Navigator.
It was seven years of gestation. I started writing music for that story, I found it so compelling, this idea of two navigators on one little ship, and only one could prevail, and it had to be Cook and he was threatened by the mere presence of [Tahitian priest] Tupaia. He could sense that he was extremely knowledgeable, but also he had a certain innate nobleness of character.
It was just a really interesting story for me. So I began writing music.
What do you love about Bluesfest?
Well, I mean, what’s not to love about Bluesfest – people are there for a good time. It’s not like playing in some pub, where there’s 20 people at the back of the room, and they just want to talk.
I’m going to play a very kind of crowd-friendly show – take people on a journey through all these songs – Split Enz, Crowded House, solo, whatever. Byron is one of the greatest festivals, for sure.
One of the ladies asked me what you’re doing tonight?
I don’t know what I’m doing tonight here. But on Friday night I’m going out to see my daughter play. She’s got a two-piece band. And they’re really great. So I’m gonna go and watch. She plays drums and sings.
Does it make you nervous having children who are moving into a similar field that you’ve been in?
It doesn’t. I just kind of accepted it. I mean, would I have rather they became physicists or plumbers or something? Probably initially, but you know, I think it’s in their blood and in their genes and I’ve seen it with Neil’s kids. When a child is around music from the time they are conscious of what it is, they get drawn into that world. It looks like a lot of fun. They don’t understand that you’re going to be in the back of a van, travelling for 15 hours to the next city. They don’t care. To them that all sounds amazing.
Fingers crossed they get a bit of luck, as you need a lot!
Are you having enough fun?
Well, I mean, depends how you define fun, of course. Fun is used in so many different ways. You know, some people have fun with sport or with their friends or getting drunk after work or going to the beach and having a swim in the ocean.
I mean, there’s plenty of ways to have fun as well. And I do have enough fun. Sometimes I probably do get a bit serious. And that would, yeah, be something that I would be wanting to work on and cut against. I mean, having kids does take care of a lot of that for a few years. And then they get older. And they become your best friend if you’re lucky, but it’s not the same kind of fun.
Tim Finn is playing at Bluesfest.www.bluesfest.com.au