There’s no denying that COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the Australian music scene. Festivals have been cancelled or rescheduled, and countless tours have been grounded.
Even though restrictions are starting to lift, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about the situation and the pandemic’s lasting impact on the country’s music and arts scenes. And yet, throughout these uncertain times, artists have been continuing to release singles and records. Through what it is undoubtedly a period of great upheaval, there have been plenty who have attempted to make the most of the downtime to write, to record, or simply to recharge and reconnect.
That’s what Gold Coast singer-songwriter duo Tully John & Liza-Jane have been trying at least. Liza-Jane has described the period of quarantine as a chance to “pause and take a breath”. It’s also been a chance to dabble, to jot down lyric ideas, prompt words, and more. It’s also been a time to take in some other creative pursuits; cooking and photography and just getting into nature.
Perfect for artists that often find inspiration amidst the hills and mountain tops.
This week the duo will release their new single, “Airport Lights”, their first release since the single “Embers” last year. According to Tully, the single was inspired by a past New Years, when Liza was travelling overseas. “We spent New Years on the phone to each other in different time zones. At the time I was camping on a clifftop in the Gold Coast Hinterland while Liza was in Germany watching the fireworks in the street.” With so many people unable to see families and loved ones, it’s a particularly apt and timely sentiment.
As we’ve come to expect from the duo, it’s a particularly beautiful track. There is a tenderness and warmth to the single that is just so endearing. Although it is born out of a particular personal moment, there is a wonderful universality to the feelings it expresses.
“Airport Lights” doesn’t shy away from the emotion of the situation, but you’re not left with a feeling of sadness. Instead there’s almost a feeling of reassurance. The interplay and harmonies between the two vocals suggest a deep sense of connection, despite the apparent distance. The inclusion of the cello, from Kate Derapas, and Zane Versacci on Saxophone, is a lovely touch, and really helps to elevate the track further.
According to the duo, “Airport Lights” came together in “two long, very full days”. Working with friend and producer George Carpenter, they opted for a more stripped back approach. One, which I have to say, has really paid off. It really allows the dual vocals to shine and keeps the focus on the song’s emotional core. It also ties in neatly to the duo’s desire to achieve connection through their songwriting, and to create something that is relatable to others. A stripped back approach ensures that goal isn’t muddied.
“Airport Lights” will be released exactly a year since the duo’s last single, “Embers”; a track which we had the pleasure of premiering. A year could be considered a long time between releases, but the pair have opted for a more sustainable release schedule, with “bite-sized single releases”. Thanks to owning a home studio, they’re also not beholden to anyone’s schedule but their own. This also, perhaps, suits the pair’s divergent approaches to songwriting. According to Liza, Tully “spends hours refining and re-workshopping his work”, whilst she adopts a more laissez-faire approach; “I like the idea of letting the song be and not revisiting or trying to perfect it too much after it’s written”.
The pandemic has also scuppered any chance of a normal single release celebration too. Normally there would be a show to celebrate and launch the new release. Instead, Liza suggest’s they may just “just crack a bottle and eat a heap of cheese” to celebrate. The desire is there to play live again, with the pair having really missed connecting with audiences.
But, until then they’re contenting themselves with using their time to write and record as much as possible. That and continuing on their music making journey. One that started in 2017, in part with the release of their debut EP Wonder. It’s a journey which has seen them go from strength to strength. Each release has proven to be bolder and assured than the last. “Airport Lights” is the product of artists confident in their abilities and at home in their respective genre.
“Airport Lights” is released Friday, June 12th.
All photos supplied by the artist.