the AU interview: Carus Thompson (Australia) talks Creature of Habit


Carus Thompson, perhaps more recognisable to some as the front man of the folk rock group Carus and the True Believers, has moved out on his own – donning the mantle of folk troubadour. He is a stalwart of the Aussie roots and folk scene, plays over 200 gigs each year and has a passionate and supportive fan base ranging from his hometown of Fremantle to the cities of Germany and the United Kingdom.

In this interview, Carus talks about who inspires him as a musician as well as talking about his style of music and his approaches to song writing and performance. This last year he has been touring promoting his latest album Creature of Habit, a solo venture, an album which highlights his prowess as a lyricist whilst his live shows prove he is a consummate performer, never failing to entertain, whether it be a reggae infused track to a soul searching acoustic track played from the top of a bar. So check out his latest album, or download some of the tracks off his website (or at the end of the interview) and discover more by this unpretentious folk come Aussie pub rock singer-songwriter. You won’t be disappointed.

For those that haven’t heard of you, how would you describe your style of music?

Folk Rock, I am a singer songwriter, but tend to shy away from the main conventions of that, I am songwriter at the heart of it, but when it comes to performing there’s more of a rockier edge to it.

Who do you see as influences on your music?

I was introduced to Paul Kelly by my girlfriend at the age of 20, and I just dug what he did as a songwriter. Also the Australian-ness of it appealed to me, and the fact that it wasn’t clichéd. Also influenced by Tim Rodgers from You Am I, most Australians of my age of 30-something would have grown up listening to You Am I. Neil Murray is another influence, especially in the way he writes about the land, and the way he is inspired by aboriginal reggae.

What are your thoughts on the West Australian Music Scene?

Living in Melbourne, not completely up to date on it, but it’s as it always was, vibrant and healthy. People say the isolation helps, and perhaps that’s true. But a lot of good music has come out of the west, members of INXS are from Western Australia, Bon Scott was from Fremantle. John Butler is another one, as well as Eskimo Joe; who have been touring consistently for a while now. As long as the venues don’t get shut down, then I think the music scene will continue to be vibrant. Perth seems to be a friendlier place to put on a show, more so than other parts of the country, Sydney for example.

On your latest album Creature of Habit you have gone it alone so to speak, what made you decide to break away and record as a solo artist?

There are a couple of reasons; artistically I have done a lot of solo touring, doing big support shows as a solo artist. Also for me performing solo has always been the main thing. There was also an element of a challenge, other than Acoustic at Norfolk I had never been into the studio as a solo performer. Another reason is logistics, I had two bands, a European band and an Australian Band, and it began to seem stupid being Carus and the True Believers. Also there was the simplicity, so no-one could get confused between the band and the singer.

What made you decide to include the trumpet on your latest album?

Greg Arnold, the producer suggested using a greater range of instruments on the record, to show what I could do, there was perhaps the idea that I was getting pigeonholed. Also it shows the songs to be more pop orientated, also there was the desire to strip it down to basics and shake it up. Andrew (Darling) is a performer, he brings something of himself to the stage, and it surprising how well his sound works with the songs; hopefully he will continue to play with us in the future.

Will we see you teaming up with the True Believers again in the future?

Yeah, will probably play with the band again, though probably not under the name True Believers.

In terms of song writing, how do you approach the crafting of your songs?

I never start with the lyrics, I always start with a good guitar part, it’s that that gives the feeling and the emotion, and then the songs just come together from there. Find a chorus or lyric and build it from there. If I have a strong guitar part, but can’t find the lyrics to go with it, I tend to sit on it, until something comes. A lot of the songs are based on personal experiences; about half of the latest albums are personal experiences, or stories I have been told by other people. A good song is where you can’t tell the difference between what is fact and fiction. It is the feeling that matters. The songs have got to matter and show your feelings. They have to have a weight to them or else it’s just a melody and a rhythm.

Do you have a favourite song of yours to perform and why?

At the moment “For the rest of my Life” it’s a song I wrote in about five minutes, when I was feeling emotional, but wasn’t sure about what. People aren’t sure what it’s about, and I don’t suppose I know either, perhaps about mortality and what is really important in life.

There seems to be a growth in the popularity of Australian music in the UK and Europe, with the likes of yourself, John Butler and Ash Grunwald becoming increasingly popular throughout Europe, what do you put that down to?

There is always the perception that everyone looks to the US and UK in terms of music, and that a lot of Australian music is influenced by America, but I think with roots music we got there first, and now the UK has picked up on it later near the end. I think one of the reasons why the music has become so popular is that its unpretentious, stems from the days of pub rock, it’s not so much look at me I’m fucked off my face on heroin, its more let’s get fucked and have a good time. I think people dig the unpretentiousness of that; it’s not just a slick and polished live show. In Australia if you aren’t good live that’s it, it’ll be they aren’t good live, whereas elsewhere they can get away with it can call it art. But in Australia you have to put on a good show, but still have some substance behind it.

What are your plans for the future?

(I’m) moving to the UK for a year in March, maybe make another record in Nashville, and I’d like to do some writing whilst I am in England.

What was it like making a record in Nashville?

It was great, its not just these big country and western stars, there are heaps of indie records and music being made in that town. They aren’t thinking about making a product to sell on the great indie highway, instead all they are concerned about is making that record and a work of art. I don’t think it’s that expensive to record there, you get your monies worth more so than perhaps you do in Australia.

In making your latest record, you had a Johnny Cash moment by playing in a prison, how was that?

It was one of the best experiences playing music, doing it purely for the joy of playing the music and playing my songs for them to hear. It was a beautiful moment, they were a great crowd, made sure I didn’t play any songs about prison, instead played more songs about the outside.

You seem to be having a great time up on stage, what are your reflections on this tour?

It’s the most extensive Australian tour that I have done, thirty dates, it’s been incredibly encouraging and gratifying, to see the depth of support people have for me and my music across Australia. It’s encouraging, shows you that you are on the right path, and that there are people who are interested in what you are doing and what you’re doing next.


Live In Melbourne // FREE DOWNLOAD
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1. On My Way / For The Rest Of My Life
2. This Time
3. Born With a Broken Heart


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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.