After 25 years in rock n roll, the artist otherwise known as Mark Lizotte has delivered an album that melds together all the varied sides of his musical personality (and reveals a few new ones).
World, meet Let It Fly.
“It’s all of my life’s work so far brought to fruition, in many ways. It’s pretty encompassing,” says Diesel. “There’s a lot of stuff I’ve never tried before either – like, there are folk elements that are quite different for me … I guess when you start using mandolin and fiddle, it’s gonna happen!”
Let It Fly is his eleventh album, give or take, and his first studio set of originals since 2008. The album “started out as a bit of a hodge-podge” –
“I thought, while I’ve got a bit of a flow happening, just get back in there quick and put a few things down. For some of the songs, it’s been two years since we recorded them – they were put in the back of the bottom drawer. It was quite a different process, but we got there in the end.”
Diesel’s multi-tasking reaches new heights on Let It Fly – while Lee Moloney takes care of the drums, Diesel sings, plays guitar, bass, mandolin, banjo, 808 drum machines … “Basically everything that’s not the fiddle, which Tim Chaisson played, and anything that sounds like a female singer, that’s Lila Gold, my daughter.”
Over the simple soul and memorable melodies of ‘If You Let Me Give’, 18-year-old Lila duets with her father. “It’s like capturing an exotic animal, it’s very hard to get your hands on and you don’t wanna scare it,” Diesel laughs. “I just threw it out there at the very end, I didn’t put it to her as a duet, I just said, ‘I need some vocals’. I wasn’t sure if she even wanted to sing with me, but she was right into it.”
Fellow album contributor Chaisson was found slightly further from home – a gifted player from a long line of folk musicians in eastern Canada. After Chaisson supported Diesel in Australia, Diesel joined him at a songwriting seminar in Canada, which is where the classic- sounding co-write duet of ‘Last Shower’ was born.
“He’s one of these guys you put a mic in front of and it just pours out. He doesn’t even ask what key the song is in. No preamble, no discussion, he just plays. That’s exactly what I like in the studio,” says Diesel.
Chaisson’s fiddle talent also makes a stellar contribution to Let It Fly’s other great revelation, closing track ‘The Miles’, which charts the epic journey of “two restless souls running wild” and the impact it had on their young son. Without being flashy, it’s one of the grandest songs Diesel has ever crafted.
“I never thought I’d write a biographical song about a family moving to come to Australia,” he says, laughing in disbelief. “When the first couple of lines popped out I thought, ‘OK, I’m writing about something here, our journey …’ ”
The restless souls are Diesel’s parents, who left the United States and settled in Perth when their son was only five. “They were controversial with what they did, I s’pose; no one else was doing it, that’s for sure. Their relatives didn’t understand it, so there was anger as well. But they just kept going, it made them even more headstrong, I think.”
Thsong paints striking images of Diesel’s first Aussie Christmas (“nothing familiar, except our LPs”) and his struggles to fit in (“hair that’s too long, pants the wrong style, Coke-bottle glasses …”) Is he nervous to let the world hear such a personal story? “At my age now it’s
‘What the heck?’” he says. “If anything, people might laugh at it – ‘Surely you weren’t that much of a dork’. But I really was!”
Of course, from his first Australian Christmas in an immigration hostel to one of the most storied careers in Australian music, the tale has a happy ending: “From there, we made a new lives for ourselves, embraced it, you know?”
There is so much more to be found within Let it Fly.
The rare banjo folk meets 808 grooves of ‘By Your Throne’. The utterly beautiful, deceptively minimal ‘Navigate’, a song for a friend who passed away too soon – “That’s me trying to figure out the whole riddle of why time is longer for some and shorter for others … Is there any real meaning at all?”
The stupidly fun ‘Sound of Guitar’ – think ‘Love Junk’ stripped back to its bones then layered with a record number of guitar tracks and a choir of grumpy blokes captured in the Bundaberg Best Western Motel at about 1am. And the sexy, bluesy stomp of the title track – “Stylistically,” says Diesel, “it’s got the R&B DNA in it that’s very me.”
That Diesel DNA, so familiar for 25 years, has sprouted new strands – new instruments, new friends, new stories, new insights and a glimpse at the next generation.
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