Perth jazz musician Mark Turner is set to launch his new EP Slow Down at the Charles Hotel this Sunday, June 10. It comes just a year after his debut solo EP Made For Us and sees Turner drawing on the expansive musical tastes and talents of not only himself but also a wealth of other elite Perth musicians he has come to call his bandmates and friends. With more of a blues and folk flavour this time round, Turner turned the expectations of slick modern recording on their head, instead opting for a more wholesome, and not to mention brave approach of putting a microphone in a room with a live band and letting the moment work its magic. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with Mark Turner to discuss the triumphs and turbulence that comes with a changing creative direction, a hectic international touring schedule and how it’s all going to culminate onstage this weekend.
It’s almost a year to the day since you released your debut EP Made For Us so it’s a pretty impressive turnaround to bring out a new one in such good time. Did you already have some of these tracks in the works?
It’s been an absolute whirlwind to put these tracks together in the last few months with my band but it was something that I knew I just had to do. Some of these tracks I’ve wanted to record for years and I kept procrastinating or perfecting them. I just wanted to start from scratch and rebuild everything from the ground up.
And how much of this year has been focused on Mark Turner, as opposed to your countless other projects?
It’s always a juggling act to be in a few different bands but I am quite lucky to be surrounded by incredible musicians who really support what I do and give me the freedom to explore my own music. I often get to play some of my own music with Adam Hall & The Velvet Playboys. Jessie Gordon and I play together often and we love to be able to share eachother’s songs on stage.
I heard you’ve been travelling to a bunch of different remote schools in Australia this year. What’s it like bringing your music to places that might not get to experience that kind of thing very often, and especially the kids?
It’s an absolute joy getting to travel and play music in schools around Australia. The kids have often been learning our music before we arrive so they are exploding with happiness when we rock up and play the songs to them. Sometimes at nine in the morning you might be feeling a bit low in energy and the kids bring you straight back to all the good vibes.
This EP is called Slow Down, which almost seems ironic considering the pace at which you are performing, travelling and writing – was that maybe a little bit of a “note to self”?
I actually didn’t even think about it when I wrote the song. It’s a very saucy song and super fun to sing. But the whole album has little themes of taking it easy. The second track is Relax and is totally a “note to self” song. I’m at a point in my life where I get to do all these amazing things and experiences so it definitely involves a hectic schedule trying to make it all fit.
And how was writing and recording this EP different from your first? There seems to be more of a folk and soul element to it?
This EP is really a true insight into the roots of the music I like to play. All of my influences like folk, jazz, blues, soul and big band are in all these songs. Recording was a really great vibe, having the band all in one room and tracking all the main rhythm section parts together was amazing. Adding in the string quartet that I worked with from my last EP was also a real treat.
I especially liked the title track Slow Down. It has a real Ray Charles vibe to it with the big band and all. How did you go about capturing that sound?
That track came about playing with the incredible Perth Cabaret Collective. I performed at Fringe with them this year and the Musical Director Jess Herbert, who will also feature on saxophone on Sunday night, asked me to write an arrangement for the band. It was recorded old school, all together in one room and just putting the microphones in the right place to capture the vibe. It was a killer session to be a part of.
And how are you going to go about translating that to the stage for your EP launch this Sunday? Can we expect any of that same treatment that these songs got in the studio?
I will be recreating the same vibe from the album featuring my full band, strings and three piece horns. It’s great to be able to share the stage with such incredible musicians and bring the music to life.
And who else can we look forward to seeing on the night?
I will be joined by my best friend Jessie Gordon who will be with her band and three part backing singers. There will also be my very good friends Kings and Queens who are just crushing it on the scene at the moment. It will be a really lovely night of beautiful music.
And so after another great release, what’s coming next for Mark Turner this year?
The year to come will be a lot of touring around with other bands and also just creating little bits of music here and there. I would love to write a whole bunch of new tunes that reflect where I am right now, and just build, share and play music for anyone that might want to hear it.