Lawson Hull's debut EP, Dreaming Is Easy, is out now! We chat to the musician about his music and more.
Image: Arlo Pyne.
On his debut EP, Dreaming Is Easy, Lawson Hull captivates listeners with his mesmerising vocals and genre-bending sonic soundscapes. Combining folk and dream pop sounds, infused with hints of country and 70's rock, the release feels like it could be a lost Fleetwood Mac release.
With vulnerable lyricism that navigates the multifaceted avenues of heartbreak, the breakdown of relationships as well as new love and self doubt, the emotion stirring release offers moments of reflection, allowing listeners something to grasp onto and relate to. Hull crafts six tracks of pure musical mastery, whilst also carving out his own place within the Australian music industry.
Hull worked on the release with Sydney-based producer Billy Otto. Together, the pair curated a body of work that captures the experimental state of music that comes with your debut release. It is a mix of the genres Hull enjoys working within, never swaying to close to one over the over, but existing in perfect harmony together.
Dreaming Is Easy is out now! Read our full interview with Lawson Hull below!
Tell us a bit how your musical journey began…
I remember dad’s speaker setup with a big old amp that churned through hundreds of CDs. My mum loved Cat Stevens, America, Ice House and Led Zeppelin. Dad was all about Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Paul Kelly, James Reyne and endless others in that songwriter/rock vein. When I was a teenager I discovered all of these artists again and was sent way back to these early memories of running around the house with so many classic albums playing. When I was seven, dad started teaching me a few one-string melodies on his old guitar. I kept some interest in it over the years and eventually started writing some songs about imaginary breakups that I hadn’t even had yet, being pre-teen days. One day dad gave me his guitar and that was the biggest step in the right direction I’d ever take. I grew up on some land, so I’d come home from school most days, all angsty, frustrated or loved-up, so I’d grab my guitar and walk around making up songs in a paddock. I played my terrible songs to nature.
On Dreaming Is Easy, you explore the multifaceted avenues of heartbreak, the breakdown of relationships and forming new ones. What prompted you to explore these themes?
Dreaming is Easy is a backlog of shit that happened a long time ago and thus probably should’ve been released a long time ago. I guess that’s the nature of releasing music. The releases are always old news.
There were a few key events that needed to be written about for some cliche closure. I like using songwriting as a way to sign off on something, a means of letting go. It can also be therapeutic. I love writing fictional songs, but 5 out of 6 of the EP songs are written about heartfelt stuff.
Writing Paint was too easy, because I was just getting into my current relationship and things were way too good. I wrote the whole song in like 20 minutes and played it for my partner on Valentines Day. I was hit with imagery of us moving in together and got this idea of two people painting the inside of a house, and how it’s kinda fun when you start out together in the same room, but as the day progresses, you go seperate ways, painting different parts of the house.
Another main conceptual thread throughout the release is the struggle to believe in yourself as an artist, wondering what makes someone worthy of being in that position. How important was it for you to convey and represent that internal struggle?
Not believing in myself as an artist wasn’t something I’d thought about much until I recognised it, then I knew it was always there and it became a problem for a bit, but it comes and goes. You question everything. All the time. Like many areas of someone’s life, we can’t help but make comparisons. I’d go through phases of comparing myself to other artists in various ways like Spotify monthly listens or followers, how many streams a song got, who featured/premiered your song, how many people show up to your shows, what record label they’re on, how many instagram followers they have. It’s a pretty fucked up and flawed way to go about your life because we all know there’s someone achieving more or becoming more successful than you in certain ways. It doesn’t make them better or worse.
Bad Habit is a simple song that casually addresses my lack of enthusiasm for following music. It’s funny because most of my life I’ve enjoyed making music and have played with the dream of doing it full-time but was never proactive about it. People who hardly knew me were always saying “how’s the music thing going?”. In my head I’m like “yeh good, haven’t written a song in a few months but it should come together one day”. Meanwhile I’ve unofficially quit music 10 times in a month and then decided 10 times I want it back.
The chorus line, “God only knows the chances I’ve had and everyone thinks I’m trying”, says it all. On the outside, I was trying just hard enough to make people think I was serious, and on the inside I was flaking out. It’s also not an arrogance thing, saying “look at all the chances I’ve had and I don’t give a shit”, it’s more like, everyday that goes by and you don’t follow your dream, is another day you don’t spend doing what truly makes you happy.
The release as a whole is so captivating, sonically and lyrically. How did you arrive at the folk and dream pop melodies sounds prevalent on the EP?
Sitting in a genre is something I’ve struggled with. By the time this EP came around, it had turned out to be a pleasant mix of everything I wanted but not completely one way or another. I’m almost there, nailing my vibe, that is. When you’re an artist and have a lot to say and you have a massive blank canvas, it’s so hard to get your sound right. I’m a few years into the process, but the debut EP was always going to be like this; me finding my way. The sound I’ve got going on is super comfortable with me, and that’s important.
Almost all the tracks were recorded with Sydney-based producer Billy Otto. What was that experience like and how did the two of you work together to create the sonic soundscape of the release?
Working with Billy is special. He’s all about being in the right mindset for creating, so if we felt like we were’t making progress or feeling flustered, we’d hit Maroubra beach (3 min walk) for a jog and swim, come back and make some healthy ass vegan food and get back to it. I get inside my head A LOT so it’s so important that I figure out ways of resetting.
In terms of the music, Billy always knew where a song had to go, and ultimately how the whole project had to tie together. Billy loves working organically and on the fly. Anything goes. If we liked this off-the-cuff acoustic demo take, we’d throw it in the final. I learnt to not be so serious about the recording process because nothing good ever comes from that.
If you had to pick one song off the EP to play to someone who had never heard your music to make them an instant fan, which would it be and why?
Paint is a classic way to start. As a song it kinda has the best of both worlds; some melancholy and angst in the verses, and the choruses open up and are a bit happier. Dynamically, it’s fun to play and can be played different ways.
What messages do you hope listeners take away from the release?
There’s something in there for everyone; relationship breakdown, new ones starting, family stuff, semi-existential worries, blah blah blah. There are some special and specific moments for the listeners, hiding amongst me finding my way musically. I’d say overall though, I want people to be able to chuck this EP on and vibe from end to end, feeling pretty good about things when they’re done.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process when writing and recording songs?
Usually I’ll plug into my amp, get comfy and scroll instagram for an hour with Seinfeld running in the background. Nah, I legit do that a lot, but I usually write songs based on a line I’ve got going around in my head. I’ll stand in front of the mirror with an acoustic and fumble around on verses until I’m sick of it, before I’ve even had the chance to make a chorus. The best lyrics come about when I’m doing non-music related stuff like driving or listening to my partner go through the grocery list. I try and base the song around the one line I started with. Lately I’ve been writing about 10 half-written songs in a row, realising they’re all the same, I somehow merge them into one and call it a day. If I’m not liking an idea, I basically drop it straight away and just try to use the idea differently in another situation. Some artists push through these situations and come out with amazing stuff apparently, but that life isn’t for me at the moment!
Australia has a diverse and vibrant music scene, who are some of your favourite Aussie acts and why?
I feel like in the Australian industry, there are female acts that are absolutely owning the folk/alt/country-ish/dreamy-roadtrip-rock scene. I’m in love with it. I’m talking about Maddy Jane, Shannen James, Charlie Collins, Stella Donnelly, Clea, Middle Kids, Julia Jacklin, Hatchie and so many more. All very straight beats and it’s what I’m all about. Solid front to back song-writing. You can throw any of their records on for a road trip and you’re sorted.
What do you think sets you apart from other Aussie acts?
No one is really writing grandpa spec songs like I am. I only write what I’m feeling and usually it’s not what’s current/popular/new. Mostly talking about the newer stuff I’ve been writing though. a lot of American influence (which I literally can’t wait to share).
What has been the most challenging part about creating music during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Trying to write songs with people in the house. Everyone was at home a lot more obviously. For some reason I can’t freely sing if I know people are around. They probably can’t hear me most of the time, but the thought of being heard is cringe. Writing a song is weird and personal. Another challenge was trying to collaborate with people over zoom, but it turns out it’s not that bad and kinda easy to organise. I’m writing a song with an artist in Nashville right now. I wouldn’t normally do that, but zoom is easy. It’s different but it works.
The current pandemic has obviously put a halt to touring and performing live, what are your touring plans post pandemic? If any, what can people expect from one of your live show?
We’re currently in the process of getting a bit of a band together. Will scratch a few songs together and hope for the best. I literally don’t care how many people turn out to a show, I just want to play some new music to people. Whoever shows up can expect a cover from The Eagles.
Anything in the crossover to country music, teetering on the brink of it.. and then sometimes full blown country music.
Obviously the band America (pls I beg you).
Album that has had the most impact on you?
This year’s Soccer Mommy album - Color Therory. It’s got some 90s nostalgia that gets me going. Been addicted to this since it dropped.
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Ill-prepared, mostly-heartfelt, kinda-cute. Sneaky six words.
Best song of 2020?
Cherub - Ball Park Music.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
A documentary on John Mayer’s life.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
The best/most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
Playing a song to 600 Canadian summer camp kids in 2017, all swaying their phone torches.
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Lost In The Dream - The War on Drugs
Best concert you have been to?
The War on Drugs at The Enmore Theatre, 2017.
Last concert you went to?
Sad to say but probably December last year at Fairgrounds Festival in Berry (Dope Lemon, Julia Jacklin, DMA’s). I hadn’t really seen anything in the new year before covid hit.
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Guilty music pleasure?
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
Texas band, Midland - I wouldn’t be able to handle how wild it would be, but I’d learn a lot
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
Your Tame Impala's, The War on Drugs' and your Flume's of the world. All good music flows back to them somehow. ALL artists reference these guys in production.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
Write music in some capacity every day. Don’t put it off for weeks on end because you think you’re in a slump.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
Probably after playing some terrible open mic night once