In a world rampant with climate grief and political instability, Jack Botts offers a 20-minute solace with Northern Rivers; a stunning, lucid effort in a world that might not deserve it.
Released today, and having already picked up a 4-star review from triple j Unearthed’s Dave Ruby Howe for the title track, Northern Rivers is set to bring in the summer wind.
The Brisbane-born, Byron Bay-based artist has graciously proffered up the below track-by-track for Northern Rivers. We recommend playing each track as you read the stories behind them – enjoy.
Jack Botts Northern Rivers Track-By-Track
‘Gypsy’ was one of the first songs that I was really satisfied with. I can’t exactly pinpoint a moment where I thought, “yep, this song’s done”, it kind of just wrote itself, but it felt good.
It started as more of a poem/short story about a gypsy I met in late 2018, and the words just kept rolling out. I looped a four-chord progression over it and it never changed from that.
Although our meeting was pretty brief, I was super intrigued with her lifestyle, and outlook on the world we live in. She is someone who is ‘doing life’ the way she wants to do it, not by the book, and I think that gave me some closure on accepting how I’m currently living, doing music out of my van.
2019 is my first year of doing music full time. There have been lots of awesome, new experiences and moments where I’ve been chucked in the deep end both musically and personally, but touring in particular has blown my mind.
I’ve had a lot on this year and been lucky enough to support heaps of amazing artists around Australia, but I’ve found myself also pushing it to the limit sometimes.
‘Sleep Easy’ is mainly about getting home from being on the road, and just wanting to take a moment to stop. I often find myself falling into some pretty bad habits on the road, like eating crap food, not sleeping enough and driving a bit too much, so I try and ‘recharge’ when I get home.
With all this going on, I found it pretty hard to find the energy to invest in a companion/relationship as things get tricky.
In the second verse it says “there’s a couple things that you and I are gonna disagree on”, which is about the struggle to find compromise when two people are on two different wave lengths.
For me, ‘Northern Rivers’ is almost more of a story than a song. It’s about a conversation I had in 2016 with a total stranger who was going through a rough stage in life and found herself on her own, but completely opened up to me.
I was 18 at the time and really struggled to give advice or fully comprehend what she was going through, all I could do was cop it on the chin and listen. When I got home that day, I wrote down all the things we’d touched on.
There were some pretty big smiles when she said she “showers with Jack Johnson on”, that little quirk stuck out to me – she clearly has great taste in tunes!
Not long after it came to life as a song, but I wasn’t very stoked on it. I gave it a bit of time and swept it under the rug for a few years and came back to it early this year with a new kind of love and appreciation for it.
I’m not sure whether or not she’s heard the song, or even knows it exists, but that’s kind of the beauty of it for me.
Whilst travelling, you’re bound to meet some epic people along the way. The tricky thing is, everyone is in transit most of the time.
‘Let Go’ is about a moment when you meet someone, you instantly click, have the best time, but it’s short lived, and you both venture off your own ways. It’s a really bitter-sweet thing.
I’ve been on the road a lot this past year and had a heap of awesome experiences along the way, but I’ve also learnt to appreciate them for what they are, at that moment in time, and not hold on for too long.
I think holding on for too long can sometimes be a touch unhealthy and mentally draining. You’re always thinking, waiting and anticipating the ‘what ifs’, rather than be grateful for the time you had.
Meeting up with old friends can be difficult. You’re either going to pick up where you left off or you’re going to have to re-introduce yourselves which can feel pretty daunting.
‘Polaroid’ is about being somewhere in between those two scenarios. For me, there was a lot of uncertainty of where I stood with someone in an ‘on and off’ romance.
You kind of want things to work and feel good, but pushing it just isn’t the way to do it. In this story, the word ‘Polaroid’ is used as a metaphor and a way to describe what stage we were at.
I was once ‘special’ enough to “make it on the polaroid wall, but now I’m here looking up and I see that there’s nothing at all”.
This is the line that kind of ‘finalises’ the status, and cements that things have fizzled. There’s a real scent of desperation in this song.
Jack Botts Australian Tour
Saturday November 2
Land Of Plenty, Shepparton
Monday November 4
The Grace Darling, Melbourne
Friday November 8
Oxford Art Gallery, Sydney
Friday November 22
The Northern, Byron Bay
Wednesday November 27
The Forum, Melbourne (supporting Tash Sultana)
Friday December 6
Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane