TGW Q+A: Busby Marou

Busby Marou recently released their third album Postcards From The Shell House, and it debuted at #1 on the ARIA album chart – a first for the pair.

We caught up with Jeremy Marou during the band’s national headline tour which is in full flight; they’re appearing on Saturday at the Sea & Sound Festival on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and will play in major cities around the country until their last show at The Triffid in Brisbane on 1 July.

The Queensland duo recorded their latest offering over an 18-month period with Jon Hume (Evermore) at The Stables studios on the outskirts of Melbourne, as well as during sessions on Great Keppel Island. Interestingly, the ‘shell house’ from the album’s title is an old heritage-listed building on Great Keppel that holds great significance for the duo – early in their career, Tom and Jeremy would sit around a campfire at the shell house singing songs. Best Part Of Me is the second single from the album, and of course the video was shot on beautiful Great Keppel Island.

TGW: Congratulations on the new album, we love it. How’s the tour going so far?

JM: The tour is going better than ever. It’s nice to be singing new songs that we feel our fans have connected to really quickly. The duo acoustic set-up creates a ‘singalong’ atmosphere at the shows, which is everything Tom and I are about.

TGW: We hope you’re feeling better after your recent heart scare, Jeremy. How did that put things into perspective for you, especially as you were about play all these shows?

JM: Having that health scare put a lot of things in perspective for both Tom and I; not just with our career and music but with life in general. If anything, it simply highlighted what the important things in life are… family, health and music. In that order. This tour has been a little different than past ‘party’ tours; we’ve all made a conscious decision to start living healthier. This means big changes to our band rider – no takeaways on the road, exercising.  It hasn’t been easy, however we all feel physically and mentally better for it.

“This tour has been a little different than past ‘party’ tours; we’ve all made a conscious decision to start living healthier.”

TGW: Standout tracks for us on the new album would have to be Best Part Of Me, along with the song Yesterday. You harmonise seamlessly, like two halves of a whole. Did you always have this vocal connection or is it something that has developed over time? 

JM: The way we both sing together is definitely something we have perfected over time.  Fine skills like reading the timing in Tom’s phrasings, or following a melody line instead of harmonising on one note.  In saying that, my natural ability to harmonize is most certainly something I’ve inherited from my cultural background.  You only need to listen to songs at any Torres Strait islander event to see the ability to harmonise is something we’re born with.

“My natural ability to harmonize is most certainly something I’ve inherited from my cultural background.  You only need to listen to songs at any Torres Strait islander event to see that the ability to harmonise is something we’re born with.”

TGW: The new record includes some impressive collaboration with people such as producer Jon Hume, songwriter Alex Hope and guitarist David Ryan Harris. What standout qualities do you believe each of them contributed to this album?

JM: All the very talented people we worked with on this record were amazing. Jon Hume, who produced the album understood perfectly the direction Tom and I were after.  We trusted his direction in each song and he was spot on every time. Jon’s songwriting was brilliant, and his skill in being able to capture our sound worked ideally for us. Full Moon, one of my favourite songs on the album, we co-wrote with Alex Hope. You just have to see the things she is doing over in America now to realise the talent she really is.  David Ryan Harris was a standout for me. Being a guitarist, it’s not every day you get to work with one of the greatest guitarists around. Better known as John Mayer’s right-hand man, I was actually a little star struck (with him) in the studio.  Apart from his ridiculous guitar ability, David’s sense of melody was mind-blowing. Working with David will be something we remember forever.

“[Recording the album with] David Ryan Harris was a standout for me…better known as John Mayer’s right-hand man, I was actually a little star struck (with him) in the studio. Working with David will be something we remember forever.”

TGW: The lyrics (not to mention the video) for Paint This Land are captivating, and it was a great release for ANZAC Day. How does it feel to be able to send out such powerful messages to your fans?

JM: Tom and I have never been a political band, however we’ve always, in a sense, seen ourselves as the perfect example for Reconciliation in its purest form. I am black, Tom is white and we are best friends who both love music.  The song Paint This Land has hidden messages like ‘close the gap’ and ‘together we are one’ that pay homage to our amazing country and its heritage. With the song (and film clip) we thought it appropriate to pay respect to all our ANZACs, with special attention to our Indigenous men and women soldiers who for a long time never received recognition for their time in service. Performing this song live is most definitely a favourite for me.

“We’ve always, in a sense, seen ourselves as the perfect example for Reconciliation in its purest form. I am black, Tom is white and we are best friends who both love music.”

TGW: Some of the recording for Postcards from the Shell House was done on Great Keppel Island. Tom has previously said the island “provides the essence of the sound and the inspiration behind the songs.” How does working in a cold Melbourne studio compare with strumming under a palm tree?

JM: Most (if not all) the songs we sang sitting under a palm tree, or sitting around a campfire with family and friends.  So recording the songs, much like singing them at each show, is like reminiscing life on Great Keppel Island.  Jon Hume’s studio based in Gisborne on the outskirts of Melbourne is on a beautiful big block with a semi-rural setting.  Not quite the island beachfront setting, however inspirational in its own right.  We were lucky enough to take Jon (our producer) over to Keppel Island towards the back end of the recording process where we wrote another song Got Your Back which made the record.  We also recorded vocals on various tracks sitting on the balcony of the Shell House.

TGW: Rockhampton represent. You’ve both come a long way from your early days, playing the Oxford Hotel in Rocky. Following all this success do you feel any different? Or do you still consider yourselves as (to quote Tom), “two blokes singing with harmonies and a bit of storytelling?”

JM: We are loving life and [are] extremely grateful for where our music careers have taken us. We know all too well that it started with (and is due to) the support Rockhampton and Central Queensland gave us, and continue to give us! We both have very large families who have supported us from day one; they are also there to remind us where we come from.  They’re also the first to pop our heads if any ego creeps in.

TGW: We adored your recent nod to Amy Shark at this year’s APRA’s (pun intended), as well as one of our favourite ‘Like a Version’s’ ever – your cover of Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. How do you manage to make even the most light-hearted songs sound meaningful, understated and sincere? 

JM: We have kinda worked on a theory that a good song is one that can be stripped back to an acoustic guitar and vocal, and still be a good song.  Any cover versions we do are already great songs, we simply ‘Busby Marou’ them.

‘Postcards from the Shell House’ Tour Dates
  • Saturday 10th June – Sea & Sound Festival, Sunshine Coast QLD
  • Sunday 11th June – Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay NSW
  • Thursday 15th June – Fat Controller, Adelaide SA
  • Friday 16th June – Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
  • Saturday 17th June – Workers Club, Geelong VIC
  • Sunday 18th June – Sooki Lounge, Belgrave VIC
  • Thursday 22nd June – Settlers Tavern, Margaret River WA
  • Friday 23rd June – Northshore Tavern, Hillarys WA
  • Saturday 24th June – Mundaring Weir Hotel, Mundaring WA
  • Sunday 25th June – The Boston, Perth WA
  • Friday 30th June – Darwin Entertainment Centre, Darwin NT
  • Saturday 1st July – Triffid, Brisbane QLD

Buy tickets here.

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