There’s a common word thrown around when the music press writes about a Christopher Coleman Collective show: ‘captivating’.
Coleman’s style of folk music shows off an incredible singing range and a songwriting sensibility that swings between the observational and the personal, all with a subtle Australian accent. Or as Coleman laughingly puts it, a “North Hobart bogan drawl”. The Tasmanian native is looking to branch even further out from the Apple Isle, particularly now his first album is done.
“It was a long process,” Coleman admits of the recording. “It took two years to be remotely satisfied.” A hard process was made even harder as Coleman was still writing material that he had to ignore to keep his music chronological. More than anything, the songwriter was embarrassed about constantly promising his album would be out soon. Now the time has come, and Coleman says touring the album will feel “heaven-sent”.
Not to suggest some intervention from a higher power. Ultimately, the Christopher Coleman Collective record is the result of hard work. Coleman has been playing in bands in Tasmania and Melbourne since he was 17, and has built up quite the reputation as a live performer. So why the collective? They’re his songs, why not go solo? “I guess for one, it’s lonely [playing solo]. I like collaborating as well, it’s an ever-changing lineup, so a personality comes in and polishes the turd in a different glitter,” he jokes.
That’s no fair descriptor of his music, though. Coleman grew up inspired by the great storytelling songwriters like Paul Kelly, with Kelly, Paul Dempsey and others providing reassurance that a performer can sing in their natural accent. For Coleman, that accent is most present on the single ‘Dandelion Flower’, while the storytelling aspect of his writing comes out on the magnificent ‘Man In The New Sydney Hotel’: a part-fact, part-fiction track Coleman wrote almost as a stream-of-consciousness poem. “Generally the ones that stick are the ones that let the pen do the work,” he says.
Another standout is ‘Go Home’, a sweetly rising track that features The Choir of High Hopes Hobart. Coleman speaks glowingly about having the group on board.
“It was beautiful, it was such a great process. It was an overdub that just came in very late – we thought that the album was done, then I saw them in concert and it was a moving performance. I was struck with all these ideas thinking, ‘Could there be collaboration?’ And they were up for it, 30 people or so from all different walks of life, people who’ve lived on the street or have an intellectual disability or just people who sing to make themselves feel better – a great human collaboration, no ego on anyone’s part.”
The ego applies least of all to the down-to-earth Coleman, though it makes him no less ambitious. He’s already thinking about albums two and three before he’s even toured the debut. “It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes to get the next couple of albums out – then maybe I’ll be on par with where I’m actually at creatively now!”