Grim Tilla talks us through each track of his immersive new EP

Canberra artist Grim Tilla crafts sprawling soundscapes that’ll transport you immediately to a central Australian desert area.

It’s a unique and clever brand of songwriting, and it’s completely immersive – Grim Tilla doesn’t write songs, he paints incredibly detailed portraits of the landscapes that have impacted his life.

Fresh off the release of his incredible new EP Might Be Something, Canberra’s Grim Tilla takes through the stories behind each track.

Think I’m Ready

The town of Mparntwe (Alice Springs) is situated along the banks of the usually dry, sandy creek bed of the Todd River. Fed by a network of catchment systems to the north, the river can swell suddenly, consuming roads and cutting off one side of town from the other, without it actually raining in town.

It is said in Alice Springs that to consider yourself a ‘local’ you need to have seen the Todd River flow three times, which potentially could take up to nine years. One night – almost two years ago – the sun, earth and moon aligned for a total lunar eclipse, the Todd River flowed and big change came to my world. Think I’m Ready contemplates the circumstance and forces that surround and influence big change in one’s life direction.

Might Be This (Interlude)

Most often my songs find their initial inspiration on guitar. Then after enough noodling, melodic vocal ideas and possibilities start to reveal themselves. On Might Be This (Interlude) I wanted to recreate the atmosphere, intimacy and the hint of magic that exists in the moment when an idea arrives and starts to take shape.

In the studio, the acoustic guitar and vocal take were captured simultaneously by microphones that are cranked up and close to the point of invading personal space. I love that you can hear every breath, every finger and fret noise, the cicadas buzzing outside and my heart beat ticking away.

Might Be Something

Along with his role as producer, Rohin Jones also played a bunch of instruments on the EP. We wanted to take full advantage of being in the studio, to add layers and achieve a lush sound but without detracting from the fundamental guitar and vocal performance that is at the heart of each song.

In the lead up to the sessions, we discussed specific textures that I envisioned hearing across the EP, like fingers tapping and the wood of percussion, but nothing as instantly recognisable as a djembe or bongo. On the song Might Be Something, Rohin played drum kit, bass, electric guitar, backing vocals, shaker and two of my favourite found percussion textures; a repetitive popping rhythm heard throughout the song of fingers tapping cajón and a set of timpilypa (clap sticks) hitting a large wooden storage chest in sync with the snare drum.

Small Town Big City

Small Town Big City came to me soon after relocating from Central Australia to be with my love in Canberra. It’s a song that hopefully anyone can relate to, but it speaks specifically to anyone who has grown up in or experienced life in a small remote town. It speaks of the reasons people have for moving on from such a place and the reasons others choose to stay, without passing judgement on either.

Eucalypt Ghost

I moved to Mparntwe in early 2014, but before I managed to find a place to live I often drove out of town and stayed at one of the many campgrounds dotted along Tjoritja (West Macdonnell Ranges). A favorite destination for me at that time was Kwatatuma (Ormiston Gorge). There, a towering ghost gum perches on a shimmering red rock wall, high above a permanent water hole. Eucalypt Ghost began to take shape on the guitar at that time. And like the landscape that inspired it, formed slowly over a long period. Fans of the band Tinariwen, or for that matter, any West African Desert Blues music, will recognise that sound’s influence on the song.

Might Be Something is available now.