Ashley and I got together to write a second album as ‘the grapes’ in 2009. I’d just returned to Melbourne after ten years in the US and remember feeling a little nervous, wondering if we could still write together. Luckily we took up where we left off and the songs flowed easily, as they had ten years earlier. We compliment each other; I don’t let Ashley get lazy with lyrics and he deals with my arrangement phobias. When I’m stuck on a song he seems to be able to unlock it and finish it. We love the same kinds of music. I’m a little bit country, he’s a little bit rock and roll. We’re both redheads and vegetarians. It all adds up.
Working on ideas for songs we noticed common themes emerge. Obviously in the years since making the grapes debut album in 1999 our lives have changed. We are a little older, we have families, and the songs that we’ve written reflect a darker more introspective side influenced by experience. There is still sweetness but not without shadows. Art follows life after all.
The songs, with universal themes of lifelong love, separation, loss, pain and longing, evoke characters that could just as easily inhabit West Footscray in 2013 or West Virginia in 1840. To me ‘Western Sun’ feels like a concept album or the soundtrack to a movie never made.
We wrote about the conflicting feelings of parenthood in ‘Make it Out Alive’ and ‘The Boy Who Could Not Sleep’, of child abuse in ‘Mama Why You Hurt Me’, of unrequited love in ‘Step Inside’, and of love enduring a long separation in ‘Ride on Lonely.’ I took a poem by American poet Richard Watson Gilder called ‘The Night Pasture’ and set it to music with Ashley’s guidance.
After the eleven songs had been finished we struggled for three years to find the time between our other projects to devote to the grapes. Not for lack of devotion to the project, but simply because life got in the way. We would steal away into the little home studio belonging to our trusty engineer James Bellew and grab an hour here and four hours there to record and mix with every intention of releasing it into the world before 2013. But you just can’t rush the natural course of things and so here we are and it feels like the right time. I hope you are one of those rare breed of music lovers who does still respect ‘the album’ and I hope you enjoy the songs on ‘Western Sun’ as a collection and as a journey that taps into some themes and feelings in your own life. That after all is what a songwriter really aims for. Ride on.
Sherry Rich, June, 2013