Lacking sleep after flying across the world, award-winning Australian songwriter David Bridie’s humour did not fall victim to jet lag.
“Yes, our prime minister did refer to it as Canadia,” Bridie said of Australia’s Tony Abbott’s stumble over the name last month in Ottawa, setting social media on fire. “I have been telling everyone in Australia since that I am touring Canadia this week.”
The ability for the two countries to take jabs at themselves is just one of the parallels that fascinates him.
“We have similar histories, similar big landscapes that are not overloaded with population. We see ourselves thinking a bit more than our bigger neighbours, we are a bit less full of ourselves, which enables us to laugh at ourselves and be critical of ourselves,” said Bridie, who is performing at the Dream Café on Wednesday with Frank Yamma.
Being a careful observer, and a somewhat critical one at times, is what Bridie does best. His songwriting documents the character, political mores and identities of Australia and its neighbouring countries.
“Different artists play different roles and certainly I like music that you wouldn’t necessarily say has a social conscious perspective but I prefer music that can be revealing. Music is part of a broad church of commentary whether it be movies, visual arts, documentaries or the role journalists play, playwrights things that human beings use to be able to reveal issues or discuss things,” said Bridie.
The singer-songwriter is joined by Frank Yamma on their Australian Stories Tour, which is also stopping at folk festivals in Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg. Yamma, an indigenous songwriter who hails from the central Australian desert, tells brutally honest tales of alcohol abuse, cultural degradation and respect for the old law and the importance of the land.
“There are some good stories that go along with our songs. Frank’s perspective of the world can be heard in his songs. I guess we show a side of Australia most people don’t get to hear,” said Bridie, who is from Melbourne.
Yamma put his career on hold for over a decade but with the support of Bridie in 2010, he released Countryman which received a ton of praise from music critics.
“Frank is an aboriginal Australian, he has been through prison and writes about the cultural impacts his people have been through. He writes with real power. He is an extraordinary artist that way and quite unique,” said Bridie.
Bridie isn’t one to shy away from making comments through his music on pressing topics from his homeland. Recently he was invited to sing the national anthem before a fundraiser Australian rules football game. He reworked Lou Reed’s Perfect Day and sang that instead as a comment on Australia’s policies on immigration.
“Musicians are often portrayed as the role of the jester in the court observing on things from the outside. That is not just about social matters but relationships or the human condition. They often come in a tangent that can be revealing. That is what I like most about other songwriters and people say they see it in my writing as well,” said Bridie
His fourth solo album, Wake, was created after going through relationship turmoil. The songs all written by him, except for a cover of Hank Williams I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, are about everything from old lovers to challenging the government’s attitude on asylum seekers. In between cutting records, soundtracks for TV and movies, Bridie is also the head of a not-for-profit record label Wantok. It is dedicated to releasing music from artists from the islands surrounding Australia.
“It’s a very fascinating part of the world. The first time I went to Papua New Guinea I met people in the Highlands who for the first 20 years of their life never had met anyone from the outside world. Every word, every observation they make, it shakes your foundation, for me in a good way. I thought as a musician that has travelled internationally this label was a way I could do something useful and something enjoyable. I love it,” he said.
Bridie and Yamma will share their stories and songs at the Dream Café on July 16. Tickets are $24.