Catriona Gray grabs a few words with the inimitable Conway Savage
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are legendary, not only for being the kind of band that other bands listen to, but also for each member’s impressive individual output. Conway Savage, pianist, organist and backing vocalist, is no exception to this rule, and has been turning out solo work throughout his time with the Bad Seeds. His latest album, Quickie for Ducky, was released last year, and, as he is about to embark on a six date tour of Ireland, his albums are available in record shops for the first time in this country. Despite his relatively low international profile, Conway Savage is an integral part of the Australian music scene, having worked on countless collaborations spanning almost three decades. Talking to Conway Savage is an experience in itself. He describes, in his slurred, softly-spoken drawl, how he taught himself how to play the piano, and later the organ, by ear, having never received any classical training. He has been playing with Nick Cave since 1990, when he joined the band for their Good Son tour: ‘I knew Nick for a few years before that,’ he says, ‘we had mutual friends, but I think the first time I played with Nick was at a wedding reception. We played some Elvis songs together.’
Nick Cave has released fourteen albums under the name Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, so it is hardly surprising that the band have got music-making down to a fine art. ‘Most of us live in different cities,
“Talking to Conway Savage is an experience in itself”
so when we come together we get down to business’ says Savage, who goes on to say that touring also gives them a lot of time to rehearse new songs: ‘It’s intense on tour. We’re together every day.’ There is a very perceptible difference between the music that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds produce and what Conway Savage turns out. Savage’s music is not as experimental in nature – it is very contemplative and reflective, and has a blues-y, melancholy tone, reminiscent of artists like Willie Nelson. When asked if he finds it difficult to make time for his solo work with his commitments to the Bad Seeds, Savage replies ‘not at all: there’s plenty of time for solo work and, anyway, Nick is a very inspiring person to work with.’
Savage has played a lot of gigs in Ireland over the years. Last year, he spent some time in Tumbleweed Studios in Dundalk, recording some tracks. When asked why he chose Ireland, he explains ‘I was staying with a friend who lived near Dundalk and they were doing up a studio so we just went over there one evening to play some songs. It was just convenient, really.’ Convenient or not, he plans to return there during his October tour to put some finishing touches to his next album, which will be out early next year.
When asked what he would do if he couldn’t be a musician, Conway jokes ‘I’d be a bass player.’ When he recovers from laughing he continues, ‘I’d probably have a crack at being an artist. I’ve been doing some sketches recently.’ Despite further questioning, he refused to give away anything else. Conway Savage plays Crawdaddy on 10 October. Check out myspace.com/conwaysavage for further details.