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The Asphalt & The Oval
Release Date: 16/02/2018
Catalogue No.: PSMMW002
Record Label: Michael Waugh
Format: CD

Finally, I get to share with you the follow up to my debut album (‘What We Might Be’ – nominated Best New Talent, 2017 Golden Guitar Awards and Best Country Album, The Age Music Victoria Awards 2016). Featuring ‘Little C Word’ (number 1 on the ‘Australian Country Radio’ and ‘My Country Australia’ charts) and the singles Footy Trip and Baling Twine, ‘The Asphalt & The Oval’ is an album about our culture – and what it means to grow up in country Victoria. Produced by ARIA and Golden Guitar winning producer, Shane Nicholson, I’m so very proud of what this record has to say and how it says it. The launch for the record will be at launches at The Spotted Mallard (Brunswick) Friday March 23. I’ll be joined by Australian folk luminaries, including Lindsay Martin, Mandy Connell and Rich Davies. Following the success of my Golden Guitar and The Age Music Victoria Award nominated debut ‘What We Might Be’, this new album features ‘Little C Word’ (#1 on the ‘Australian Country Radio’ and ‘My Country Australia’ radio charts). And I’m excited to announce that I’ll be supported by Australia’s bluegrass sweethearts, The Weeping Willows and Canada’s troubadour storytelling genius Scott Cook. As much folk festival as CD launch, this is going to be a night of story, song and (sort of) football anthems. When I wrote ‘They Don’t Let the Girls in the Game’ I had this incredibly strong memory of a girl called Marie who could boot a football further than anyone in my class – especially me. Truth be told, I hated football. I wasn’t very good at it and the only time I tried to kick a ball I slipped in the wet grass and winded myself. Marie was good at football. And yet, every lunchtime, I was forced to go out on the oval and she was forced to play swap cards and elastics on the asphalted parts of the school. She used to hang around near the edge of the footy game – and when the ball was kicked out on the full she’d drop punt it across the school, putting most of the legitimised players to shame. When I wrote the song, I also had this really strong memory about how the worst insult that you could be given in Grade 3 was if someone called you a ‘girl’. As a kid, it made sense that you wouldn’t want to be like a ‘girl’ - left out of the games or ‘useless’ at sport. Despite the fact that the most powerful people in our lives were our mums and our teachers – we childishly believed that being a ‘girl’ meant being weak or not belonging. Now that we’re grown-ups, I would hope that we are a little bit smarter about the fact that gender has very little to do with capacity and that not every girl or boy neatly fits on the asphalt and ovals where they are sent to play. There’s nothing wrong with girls who enjoy playing elastics or with boys who enjoy kicking footballs. And there’s nothing wrong with boys who like playing swap cards and girls who’d rather play cricket. A friend of mine recently said about that song ‘you’ve missed the mark there – they’ve already let the girls in the game.’ He was referring to AFL football. And, yes, it’s fantastic that women are being recognised in sport. But there’s many more games where the rules still aren’t fair. And, besides, I’m just telling a story. This album has many stories about women who are much stronger than me. The women who worked on Willy’s chicken factory line (on the track, ‘Willy’s Chickens’) worked 10 hour shifts with their hands in the arse of a Sunday dinner – for very little pay. When my mum was battling breast cancer, her only real worry was about the worry that everyone else was going through – and she maintained a sense of humour through all of it just so that we wouldn’t get too sad. And those women who work in bars and fend off the drunken insistent attentions of some of those male patrons, do it with jokes and power through, deflecting what’s unfairly put in their way while they try to go about their work. If that’s being a ‘girl’ then all of us should wish for that kind of strength! The reason why I’ve been thinking about all of this is because of my granddaughter, Kiara. I didn’t grow up with a little sister and I only have a son – so before Kiara came into our world I’d never been responsible for a little girl. And as someone who is now responsible for a little girl – I’m scared because of those things that my mum, my wife and my friends had to go through. I don’t want Kiara growing up in a world where her gender might prevent her from being anything that she wants to be or where she could be hurt because of some man didn’t grow up out of Grade 3. I think that all of us who are dads and granddads want a better world for our daughters and granddaughters. For a Moment and Kindergarten Fete are about that motivation in my world. I’m at a place in my life now where I want to be part of building a better society as one of the elders in the community (and that’s why it is such an honour for me that I get to work as a teacher when I’m not playing music – and that I get to play music when I’m not being a teacher). I’ve never been a writer who uses a song to bang a political idea into someone’s head. I’m just telling stories – and hopefully they are honest enough for people to recognise some truth in them. They can draw their own politics from what it is that I’m saying. Just, in this record, I’ve been thinking a lot about those stories about women. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the stories of men and what they are going through. In particular, those that work in the dairy industry. Life on the land was always tough for my dad – but you just made do with what you had and get on with it. I talk a lot about those things in my first record ‘What We Might Be’ – and especially in songs like Dairy Farmer’s Son and My Dad’s Shoes. Those songs are pretty raw in terms of describing the hard work of a farmer battling against the odds, including long hours, arduous working conditions and little financial advance. Yet, they also are about how beautiful it was to grow up in dairy country and to be surrounded with men like my dad who could build anything out of anything and fix anything with a soldering iron and baling twine. Baling Twine on this new record is a true story – but it’s not mine. With the first record, I’d had many opportunities to play music in different parts of Australia. I was playing a show out near Guilford and it was on a Dingo reserve. Dingo’s might not bark, but they enjoy doing backing vocals when there’s a singer entertaining people at a fundraiser near their paddock. While I was singing Dairy Farmer’s Son and My Dad’s Shoes there was a man sitting up in the front row, crying. He was a big man and he told me later that he often didn’t cry (especially in public) but that those songs had hit a nerve. Then he told me the story about twin brothers from the Bega area – and how the little farms around them had been bought up by massive corporations and how the ‘making do’ attitude and ingenuity that I’d grown up with couldn’t compete against the shape of the contemporary dairy industry. Finally, one of the brothers couldn’t take it anymore. When I drove home from the show, I wrote Baling Twine – I didn’t get the man’s name but I got his story. I hope that this song pays tribute to some of the true heroes of Australia – who are fighting every day just getting out of bed and putting on a pair of gumboots. I suppose, while the girls on the asphalts were told that they couldn’t play – the boys on the ovals were told other things about what they should be. And one of those things is that you don’t talk about your feelings and you don’t cry. One of the great honours that I get when I play is that often these stories and songs remind people of things that are very close to their hearts and they tell me so. Not because I’m deliberately trying to upset anyone but because I try to be honest about the things that are close to my heart when I write them. In fact, if it doesn’t feel real when I write it then I think that it’s bullshit and I scrap the song. I think sometimes it might take someone to say ‘hey, this is what happened to me’ or ‘this is what I’m really feeling’ for others to recognise that they aren’t alone. Even when you’re surrounded by howling dingoes in Guilford, you’re not alone. I recently saw a great documentary on the ABC about men’s mental health called Man Up. It’s too good for me to reduce it to a couple of sentences – so I suggest you go out and watch it on ABC iView. Part of what I got out of it was that there’s a mental health crisis for men in Australia – particularly in rural areas – because sometimes we’re not very good at pulling together a community and sometimes we’re not very good at expressing ourselves and saying what’s true. In one episode, there is this great footage of men involved in a Men’s Shed project. They might be there for the woodwork – but it gives those men so much more and I believe it has saved some men’s lives. For me, I’d cut off my bloody finger if you gave me a lathe, so music is my version of the ‘Men’s Shed’. Except, there are great women that I get to spend time with in music as well.

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Michael Waugh

The Asphalt & The Oval

Purchase CD
AUD $19.95 (inc. GST)
Track listing - Disc 1
1
Little C Word
2
Footy Trip
3
They Don't Let The Girls In The Game
4
Willy's Chickens
5
Baling Twine
6
For a Moment
7
Shit Year
8
Bloody Rain
9
Tapping
10
The Asphalt & the Oval
11
Acid Wash
12
Driving With The Window Down
13
Kindergarten Fete
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