GETTING TO KNOW: MARK LANG

Mark Lang is an Australian singer/songwriter. A renowned lyricist and storyteller, he has written three critically acclaimed albums making many album of the year lists as the singer-songwriter of Australian indie band Skipping Girl Vinegar. His performances are immersive live experiences.

Thrilling audiences from the main stages at Australia’s premier festivals including solo sets at Bluesfest, Port Fairy Folk Festival, Splendour In The Grass, Woodford Folk, Falls Festival and many more. Mark’s work has received extensive airplay on major national broadcasters Triple J, ABC, Double J and community radio, as well as US college radio play with 7 weeks in the Top 100 CMJ charts, 46 top 10s and numerous #1 & #2 positions across the US. Mark has just returned home from an extensive North American and European tour including an appearance at the legendary Cambridge Folk Festival.

The Street talked to Mark before his live performance at The Street Theatre with special guest Lilly Among Clouds from Germany.

DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MUSIC.

I have been obsessed with writings songs since I was 8 years old. I have always seen music as a way of communicating stories and ideas and a powerful tool to both understand and release emotions. One school holiday my grandmother sat down with me and transcribed a little song I had made into notation using a piano and paper. Seeing that little song written up in that way sparked something in me that has continued over the last 35 years

HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SOUND? 

I guess the best description is a contemporary folk singer/songwriter. I tell stories and explore the human condition we all share. The performance is designed to be immersive and take you into an experience.

YOUR NEW SINGLE PICTOU LANDING IS BASED ON THE MAN-MADE DEVASTATION OF NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA’S BOAT HARBROUR. TELL US MORE

The song ’Pictou Landing’ came from a conversation I had with a member of the Pictou Landing First Nations whilst on tour in Nova Scotia Canada. I was haunted after hearing his story and seeing first-hand the devastation of Boat Harbour and its generational impact on the community. I was on a North American tour and spending time with Pictou local and legendary singer/songwriter Dave Gunning who has been championing the closure of the Boat Harbour treatment facility for many years.  The song is accompanied by a film clip and short film I made on the issue whist I was there. 

YOUR VIDEO FOR PICTOU LANDING IS MOSTLY MADE UP OF DRONE SHOTS OF THE SWIRLING UNDULATING CLOUDS OF POLLUTION IN BOAT HARBOUR. HOW DID THIS PLAY INTO THE WAY YOU PRESENTED THIS IN THE VIDEO?

Yes it’s a surreal image and hard to believe that this level of pollution has been allowed to go on since the sixties. Using aerial perspectives like this and storytelling can help bring a different perspective and scale of the issue that often gets lost on the ground.  The Mill’s effluent is pumped kilometres away from the Mill and hidden away in Boat Harbour alongside the First Nation’s Reserve.  Accessible only through the woods / gated road, I was taken on a guided tour to see where the Mill discharges its pulp waste. It is hard to describe how horrific it is. The smell is so potent it burns your lungs and mine felt burnt for days afterward. I had brought my camera and drone with me to Canada by chance to capture some of the shows/festivals I was playing. When I saw Boat Harbour I realised I needed to help in any way I could.  From the air the pollution looks like a growing cancer cell which in many ways it is… a dark cancer destroying what was once a pristine natural body of water and way of life to the Pictou Landing First Nations.

WHAT WAS THE AUDIENCE RESPONSE TO YOUR MUSIC IN CANADA AND EUROPE

The response in Canada and Europe has been incredible and deeply humbling. 

From working away writing songs in the small Victorian Coastal village I call home to invitations to play some of the most renowned festivals in Europe and Canada has been beyond what I could have imagined stepping into a solo career only a couple of years ago. I have been deeply fortunate to both meet and play alongside many of my musical hero’s over the last 18 months.

WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS FOR WRITING SONGS? WORDS FIRST? MUSIC?

For me it varies from song to song but often it’s a turn of phrase I might hear or a melody that drifts on the breeze and gets lodged into my brain. It’s hard to describe but once a new song begins to form in my mind, it’s very hard to shake until it becomes fully realised.

YOU HAVE BEEN THE SINGER/SONGWRITER OF MELBOURNE-BASED INDIE BAN SKIPPING GIRL VINEGAR. TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY AS A SOLO ARTIST.

It has been a big few years, my wife and I went through a Cancer journey as Skipping Girl Vinegar was slowing down. The band had been together for 10 years and as my wife and I came through the other side of treatment we began to question what was wanted next for our family. I was unsure if I would continue music until I was offered a tour with legendary Canadian songwriter Ron Sexsmith. One thing leads to another and in that process I fell in love with music again and found a new freedom and fresh voice to explore musical ideas. This lead to invitations to tour internationally and opened up a new way to express the music I was writing. I continue to play songs from my catalogue with SGV but these act to serve the bigger story the show explores. I am very excited to be returning to The Street Theatre in Canberra. It is one of my most favourite places to play.

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