Sleep, Australia, Sleep
Like most Australians, I’m a fan of Paul Kelly. I think of him as the Bob Dylan of Australia: a brilliant storyteller who never shies away from tackling the pertinent and sensitive issues of our times. He’s consistently uplifted burgeoning Australian songwriters such as a young Archie Roach back in the 80s and, more recently, Jess Hitchcock. In ‘Sleep, Australia, Sleep’ – released as a standalone single in 2020 – Kelly attacks the complacency held by corporations, government, and people in positions of power, with their stuck and endangering attitudes towards the climate crisis. The song is also an elegy to our precious native animals and plants: Australia has one of the highest rates of extinction in the entire world.
When it came to recording our version, I began by playing and singing it on acoustic guitar. In this stripped-back style, we realised just how devastatingly sad the lyrics are – something which is perhaps a little hidden in Kelly’s sardonic delivery and the waltzy, more uptempo production of the original. We initially intended to add double bass and lots of harmonies but realised this stark, unadorned version delivered the message with clarity.
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