In a musical career spanning back to the mid-’80s, Diesel – AKA Mark Lizotte – has been touring as a solo act for over 20 years. So it goes without saying that he has a fair idea of how to get things done on his own. Yet despite a long history of doing it all by himself, 2013 has found the celebrated singer-songwriter in a very collaborative mood, both in the studio and live onstage. His latest album, Let It Fly, includes contributions from his daughter Lila Gold and Canadian folk artist Tim Chaisson, and the upcoming Sydney Blues and Roots Festival will see him reunite with blues musician Chris Wilson to perform as Wilson/Diesel.
Despite the inbuilt isolation that is part and parcel of being a solo artist, Diesel is not one to turn down the help of other musicians. “Collaborating comes naturally to me, it’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing right from the start,” he says. “Even back in the Johnny Diesel and The Injectors days I’d jam and work on songs with bandmates. I like collaborating but I can be a bit of an island sometimes when I’m writing. I’ve never written with three or four people – you see some songs credited with, like, seven writers. That’s not me.”
The two collaborations on Let It Fly are two of the highlights of the album, yet they both came about almost by accident. The excellent ‘Last Shower’ features Chaisson lending his vocals and fiddling skills to the record, but it was only a chance introduction from a mutual friend that brought the two artists together. “I was playing with another great Canadian musician, Matt Andersen; we were doing a live record together and he suggested we get Tim Chaisson in to play on it, and I said, ‘Who?’” laughs Diesel.
“It could’ve gone either way, but I trusted Matt’s judgement and Tim turned out to be great. Then we were at a songwriting conference in eastern Canada, and we were paired off together to write a song. We wrote ‘Last Shower’, and then performed it at the conference and people were really digging it, so we went from there.”
The duet with 18-year-old daughter Lila Gold on ‘If You Let Me Give’ came about more tentatively, after Diesel senior had problems with the song in the studio. “It was one of the last songs written and I needed to get somebody to sing on it otherwise it probably wasn’t going to make it onto the album,” he says. Having already done backing vocals on the album, Lila was a natural choice. But not wanting to look like a “daggy dad”, Diesel approached his daughter with hesitation. “I asked her to come in and sing a verse. I never used the word ‘duet’ because, you know, I’m still Dad,” he laughs. “But she was great; I’m really chuffed with how it came out.”
Another partnership is the one Diesel is about to reignite with Wilson. As Wilson/Diesel, they’ll be playing songs from the 1996 album they released together, Short Cool Ones. It’s been 17 years since the album’s release, but Diesel is looking forward to the challenge of playing the collection of blues covers in one of his favourite settings. “I love that we have a blues and roots festival in Sydney, and to play in such a cool old place in Windsor … I’m really looking forward to getting out there.”
BY KEIRON COSTELLO
*Image: Todd Barry
Diesel plays The Basement with Tim Chaisson on Friday October 11 and Saturday October 12. Diesel is also playing Sydney Blues and Roots Festival in Windsor on Thursday Otober 24 – Sunday October 27. Let It Fly out now through Liberation Music.