Updated: Oct 29, 2020
This week I sat down with up-and-coming artist Rod Coote to discuss the musical inspirations, opportunities and projects that have shaped his new single ‘Ghost Town’ and influenced his evolving sound.
So first off, could you tell me a bit about yourself?
I’m an indie folk/pop solo artist from Newcastle. I originally grew up in Manilla just outside of Tamworth, NSW. So basically I’m a rural country boy and that’s where I sort of started playing music in high school and writing my own songs, which were shocking- very cringey- but then I kind of refined my music skills throughout high school and just kept releasing songs and that pretty much brings us to now.
I also wanted to know some of your musical inspirations; what are the bands, songs or albums that have inspired you and influenced your sound throughout your music career?
Yeah, so when I started out music during high school, I was listening to a lot of Pop and the stuff on the charts. Then when I left school started listening to a bit more Triple J and immersed myself in that fan base. But my biggest influences would be Dustin Tebbutt (he’s a Triple J artist originally from Armidale and his debut album Home is great) and Bon Iver’s first album For Emma is also a big one. Fergus James and Garret Kato (who I recorded with actually) are some of my favourites as well. I also like a lot of big solo pop artists like Harry Styles, Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes. I think a lot of the inspiration for my pop melodies come from them and the more stripped-back acoustic stuff came from those indie/folk artists.
That’s awesome, I can definitely hear some of those influences in your music. Could you tell me what you think have been the highlights of your music career so far? You can flex a bit here if you want.
The biggest highlight up until this point would definitely have to be recording with Garrett Kato. He is someone I’ve looked up to for quite a few years and I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to work with him or record with him and then we got into the studio and recorded three songs together which was great and ‘Ghost Town’, (my new song) is one of those. That was a big highlight because he’s recorded with big artists like Tones and I and Angus and Julia Stone.
Some other ones, I supported the Aussie rock band Chocolate Starfish in 2018 when I had just moved to Newcastle and was getting into the music scene. And then I also supported an Irish folk duo at Lizottes last year- they were called Byrne and Kelly and they were a big highlight. And you know I’ve been played on Newcastle ABC radio but other that that nothing too big as of yet. Stay tuned though.
So you mentioned your new track. Can you tell me a bit about ‘Ghost Town’ and where the inspiration for it came from?
So it was initially about returning back to Manilla after leaving for my gap year in the Air Force before uni and feeling like I don’t really belong there anymore. You know you go away for a year and you come back and feel a bit like a ghost like haunting the town. And then in the pandemic I wanted to expand on it and I thought that Newcastle looked a bit like a ghost town with no one around so I tried to put that eeriness into the song and meld both concepts into the track.
And you mentioned that you worked with Garrett Kato on this recording. How did you get in touch with him and how did you guys set that up?
So during COVID I knew wanted to record some music with someone maybe a bit more higher profile and hopefully someone that I looked up to and I was kind of poking around and I was just doing heaps of demos in my room. I was trying to figure out what songs I liked and I was sending so many demos to friends trying to figure it out. So I’d be like “Aright what’s your top favourites out of maybe 10 songs?” So I did that and sent like five of those demos to Garrett via email. Then I got in contact with Lemon Tree Music Management because I knew that they managed a lot of big names like Tash Sultana and Tones and I and they pretty much organised it from there. So pretty much like a month after lockdown I went up to Byron between the two COVID waves and spent about a week recording.
Well that brings me nicely into my next question, I was just gonna ask: What has it been like being a musician during COVID? Obviously there have been a lot of negatives during this time but have you found any positives have come from it for you?
Yeah, honestly in terms of music, I’ve found it to be mainly positive. I was really in the cover scene before all of this and I was playing a lot of cover gigs and I was getting kind of sick of it to be honest. So I’ve tried to use this time to project myself into my original music to hone my production and songwriting skills. As I said, I’ve been recording heaps of demos so I came out of isolation with about 20 songs that I had to kind of figure out what to do with. So really I just spent the time hidden away in lockdown, writing and recording. I was doing a lot of zoom collaborating with local Newcastle artists. Actually, one of the new songs I recorded is a duet with …I won’t mention who yet...someone special to be revealed soon. But on the whole I’ve just found that everything really has a silver lining- I know that’s kind of cliché to say- but you can always turn a negative into positive which will hopefully be a common narrative for a lot of artists.
Did Garrett bring anything to the track that you weren’t expecting; anything different?
Garrett was really inviting and he and I just seemed to see eye to eye on everything. I’d be like “We should do this!” and he’d be like “Yes, that’s what I was thinking!”, which was really good. And he’s just got so much more experience; he’s probably like 10 years ahead in his career and he knows what its like to be an emerging artist. I wanted to improve my sound (really with every song I release I want to improve more and more) and we really just met eye to eye. I was a bit nervous to meet him because he is someone I’ve looked up to for quite a few years but then after five minutes he turned into a mate and now we can just have normal conversations.
I wanted to also talk a bit about the Naked Sailies, your other musical project. Could you kind of give me a run-down of the band and how its similar/different to your solo stuff?
Yeah so we’re made up of myself (vocals and guitar), Mitch ‘Pops’ Lennon (lead guitar), Matt Koch (drums) and Lachie Sturgeon (bass guitar) and we formed while living on college at uni and it’s funny because we all have different musical influences; I’m more drawn to indie rock and pop and others are a little more inspired by classic Aussie rock so we kind of mix those genres together to form an indie rock band. At the moment we’re working on getting our debut single out hopefully by the start of next year. So right now we’re working out recording dates and figuring out what our first song is gonna be. It’ll be a bit different to my stuff which is a bit more stripped back and “poppy”, but ours is gonna be a bit more of a rock track you can jam to while driving.
Has it been a bit harder to be part of a band during COVID? You obviously haven’t been able to get together for practise as much so how have you been working around the challenges?
Yeah it definitely has been hard. We just do a lot of zoom chats. So like every Sunday night we have a chat and check in with each other and we’d have stuff we wanted to get done individually every week and then we’d come together and brainstorm what was next. Really we’ve just been trying to keep the ball rolling and didn’t want to let the pandemic stop us in our tracks. We obviously didn’t play as many gigs but we’ve got a gig coming up which will be our first gig together since before COVID which were really excited about. We’re gonna play one of our new songs which could possibly be our debut single so we’re really excited for that.
And finally, what can your listeners expect from you and/or the Naked Sailies in the future?
For myself, this is the first single I’m releasing from my recording so this is really the song to get out to get the ball rolling and show everyone how my sound has developed and how the production value has improved. Then, I’ve got another song coming out in November which I’m excited about and I’ll have a duet out at the start of next year.
For the band, hopefully we have a debut single out at the end of next year. So it’s all happening.
Rod Coote ’Ghost Town’ Single Launch
Friday 23rd October
The Lass O’Gowrie Newcastle
Featuring The Naked Sailies, BERLYN and Jesse Morrison