The Yarra Sessions, Episode 4: Michael Waugh @ Uncle Drew Cafe

23 Groom Street, Clifton Hill
HIS SONG: Deep Down in the Valley
(jump to song info)
MANDY’S SONG: Colourblind
(jump to song info)

COVER: Enda Kenny’s Heart Tattoo
(jump to song info)

“Michael Waugh finds the poetry in Australia, and Australia in his poetry”

– Greg Champion, Coodabeen Champions, ABC Local Radio

Our fourth guest, Michael Waugh joined us at Uncle Drew. Michael lives just around the corner and chose it from a list of suggestions our producer Clare sent through. It was at Uncle Drew that our producer Clare Bligh joined the team. It’s also where we planned the launch, and chose the Yarra theme.

Uncle Drew has a beautiful, open feel, achieving a lot of light, with clean wall space and big windows. I am always drawn to the local artist’s work on the walls, and the food is delicious, very generous in portion size (which I value in a brunch), and clearly labels good gluten-free choices.

Michael is a regular and they have his order started even before he’s opened the door. John and his staff are really friendly and dedicated. It was really becoming clear by this episode, what qualities make a small business thrive, and what that kind of professionalism can do to get your community behind you. I have learned a lot from this project, and Uncle Drew in particular showed a good example of what a positive attitude and a gregarious style can achieve.

I often tour with Michael and I love his story songs. He is known for writing about his family and their home in Gippsland. He is unbelievably empathetic and cares deeply about people. His passion for people inspires his songs and I think that comes through in his everyday demeanour. I hope we captured that in the video.

We got the conversation flowing a bit better in this episode, I think. I had some advice from Ben Campbell (our Audio Engineer) and was getting used to it. I’m still awkward. Andrew Denton I am not, but in this episode the framework is beginning to take a better shape and flows a little easier. SO MUCH easier to edit, too. And such a beautiful space to film. Although we could never quite escape the sounds of the kitchen packing up, or the low-level hum from the fridges.

His Song: Deep Down in the Valley (top)

He is always writing, so on the day of our rehearsal he had a brand new song Deep Down in the Valley written about the sudden closure of the Hazlewood coal mines and the overall decline of the local economy around Morwell. Michael’s songs are always hard-hitting and often controversial – I bloody hate coal mines. But no matter whose side of the fence you’re on, this song brings out the feels for the locals.

Mandy’s Song: Colourblind (top)

I was chuffed to re-jig my own song Colourblind to perform as a duet with Michael, as it’s written from the perspective of a gruff man. Michael likes to joke that he fits in the “beardy-man-with-guitar” category, and in this case he captured the humble, male, working class, (white) voice I heard in my head. So perfect for the lyrics of Colourblind. A song about a colourblind man wishing his photographer ex would come home.

Cover: Enda Kenny’s Heart Tattoo (top)

I was thrilled when Michael suggested we cover Enda Kenny – one of my biggest influences in songwriting. Enda was one of the first people to cover one of Michael’s songs (New Releases). The song Heart Tattoo is the title track of Enda’s latest album (he is recording a new one), and sticks in your ribs.

Michael Waugh BIO

Nominated for a Golden Guitar at this year (2017’s) Tamworth festival, Michael has been amassing a surprising following across Australia for his heartbreaking Australian Story Songs.

Produced by Shane Nicholson, his 2015 Album What We Might Be covers a range of topics such as you’d expect to find on an ABC “Your Story” special. His crowds are often found waiting for up to an hour after seeing him perform to share their own stories, tears streaming down their faces. A fresh album is currently in production, again with award-winning producer Shane Nicholson.