Words by Niki Dahlenburg
Photos by Jye Talbot
Australian indie-folk darling Lisa Mitchell and emotive storyteller Dustin Tebbutt have just begun their 10-stop national Distant Call Tour. The duo played Sydney’s Factory Theatre over the weekend and will finish up in Adelaide at The Gov on July 1st . Performing together on stage for the first time, Tebbutt and Mitchell share more than just the stage and a backing band, covering a selection of each other’s songs in their own unique style over the course of the spellbinding hour and a half performance. A couple of weeks ago, with Mitchell away in Europe, Yewth put forth a few questions to the hugely talented Tebbutt about the tour.
Yewth: Your Distant Call Tour has been promoted as a collaborative experience. You mentioned previously that the idea of the shared tour sprung from a coincidental situation where you and Lisa happened to be using the same keys player. Is the band you’ve complied made up of musicians from each of your own ‘regular’ touring bands, or did you pull together a new group of people specifically for this tour?
Dustin: We were really lucky with this. One, my drummer also actually played bass and guitar for Lisa on her last run, so he is pretty familiar with the songs too... there's a few adjustments for him to learn new parts, but it really worked out well.
Lisa mentioned in a previous interview with the two of you that she felt you ‘inhabit the edges of a similar world, both musically and in our visual worlds’. Has this shared aesthetic influenced how you plan to present the show visually?
Yeah, I guess a lot of those decisions are reinforced directly from the moods and emotions in the music — and we are both on the folkier, songwriter end of the spectrum, so there's a bunch of lighting setups and moods that tend to work better for that than a really pumping electronic act, or whatever. I think for us, the stage just needs to feel like an intimate environment, so the music can do the talking.
How did you guys meet? Did you come together due to your ethereal musical sensibilities, or did you meet socially first in the melting pot that is the Australian music industry?
I’ve met Lisa a few times before, at gigs and just around Surry Hills. It’s all pretty close knit in Australia, and everyone kinda knows everyone else.
Collaborations are a big thing here in Australia and almost every week there’s a new ‘feat’ song being released. You and Lisa have taken the whole idea one step further with this shared national tour.
What do you think it is about the Australia music industry that cultivates this method of music making?
I think there are a few layers to that question. First off, there are so many people making great music here in Australia. If you just look at all the new uploads daily onto, say, Unearthed... it's staggering. It’s a really buzzing scene.
I’m not sure if that's a larger macro economic thing, or just a cultural thing, but it's great. Secondly, the way we consume and release music has changed so much — it’s very singles focused now, and lifespans of tracks or albums are just getting shorter and shorter.
Even the algorithms of social media are pushing and favouring new content constantly, so there is this real sense that you always need something new to roll with. It’s really hard to constantly produce that on your own now, so I think collaborations have stepped up to help artists try to keep up when they are off cycle.
There’s also the social media reach aspect, where we are all trying to get the most reach for posts or content, and two platforms can be better than one... that's not to say that always makes for the best art, but it certainly is a factor.
Speaking of collaborations, any possibilities for a studio collab between you and Lisa in the not-to-distant future?
Yes, for sure! Lisa and I would love to write some stuff together, but due to our touring schedules, we haven't really had any time to get into a room ahead of this run to do that yet.
Which is your favourite song of Lisa’s to listen to and which is your favourite to perform live on stage, and why?
Lisa has a lot of amazing songs, but my favourite is ‘Pirouette', which has the most incredible and delicate melody, yet lives in such a grand and epic space. I really love singing that one. The other track I love is ‘Oh Hark’, it’s just got this driving energy to it that's really infectious.
You’ve lived in Sweden and toured extensively around Australia and the world at large. Being on the road would no doubt be a little lonely at times — when you’re feeling a bit down and homesick, if there was one person you could make a ‘distance call’ to, who would that person be, and why?
I don't really find it all that lonely, I’ve always had great people around supporting me... it depends, too, where you're at creatively, as sometimes it's really good to be away.
However, my sister has just had a little cub, she's the first of our family, so those Skype calls are pretty precious. My folks too have been the most supportive and understanding people over the past few years, so it’s great to know they are there no matter what.