Lap Around The Sun is out on Commonfolk Records
Upon its release in 2018, the new album landed at #2 on the ARIA Australian Album Charts, with singles “Love Me Now” and “Laps Around The Sun” landing at #37 and #42, respectively, on the triple j Hottest 100. We caught up with Ziggy Alberts in the middle of his U.S. tour, which made a stop at Firefly 2019, to chat about his new album, unreleased music, and the environment. Read on below.
For those new to your music, can you tell us a little about your background as a musician?
I’d say I’m your quintessential busker – playing little cafes while making acoustic folk music. I very quickly picked up songwriting from early stages of playing the guitar and from there I’ve just been a complete road dog. I’ve just been touring a lot, I think a lot of the success I’ve had in my career has been from taking a more traditional or old school approach to touring. I’ve always been an independent musician and I now run an indie label through which I release all of my music alongside my family management team.
You recently released your fifth album is called Laps Around The Sun. How is this album different than your others?
With this album, I think it was the first time that I allowed myself the room to actually try something new and not stick to just folk music. I think I’ve always been a folk musician, first and foremost, and I think with this album I really tried to throw in some pop sounds, country tones, and not just folk. I really tried to step into my true singer/songwriter sense and I think this album is a big step forward in that direction.
Although you’re experimenting with your sound, thematically, you’re still talking about important issues and there seem to be two really present themes, one that advocates for the environment and another that explores an ongoing/evolving relationship. Can you tell us how the two relate?
Yes! Amazing pickups. I think with the environmental aspect, I really try to vouch for it in a way that is subliminal and I try not to be too forthright about it because the whole point is that I’m also learning. That’s why the way I share things, through music, about the environment is always changing. I’m constantly learning every day about how to improve my position and decrease my environmental footprint.
With the latter, I think my music has been a big sign of personal growth. From being 16 and finally picking up a guitar to now eight years later, you go from being a kid to going on a world tour and having released five pieces of work, running the label, and finding some success – touring America, which is huge in itself – it’s a constant growth and that is strongly reflected in my music because I write about the things I’m going through at the moment. So, that’s why those themes keep popping up in different ways.
In that sense, your lyricism is very intentional and honest. You can hear that growth over time. What’s your process for writing?
At first, it was just pouring out of me. I have a song called “Gone” that I wrote when I was 16 or 17 and it was just a literal outpour of exactly (with a few metaphorical changes) what happened one night with me and a girl, a childhood crush if you will. From there, I started to progress and become concerned lyrically with the structure of the song and now it’s about what stories you’re choosing to tell, both obviously and subliminally. That’s kind of been the growth of my songwriting. I tend to stumble across ideas, recently I stumbled on one or two lines and it was a constant. I just by accident found this guitar riff and then the melody just fell into my lap. It’s really magic how that happens because I’m not classically trained and I can’t read music. With the lyrics, I’m really particular about it and what I say but the musical side is completely by chance. I tend to have a little story in the back of my mind, find an interesting melody and then they somehow fold together.
The song you just mentioned, is that one you’re still working on?
Yeah, I just finished recording it in New York and it looks like it’s going to be released a little later in the year. I don’t have a date for it yet but it’ll be called “Intentions.”
Awesome, we’ll look out for it. Back to Laps Around The Sun, you’ve mentioned writing most of the tracks with a fictional girl named “Koda” in mind. Why did it feel important to write from that aspect?
It’s really interesting, it just clicked for me, but I feel like I thought I was writing about a fictional character but in reality, I’ve been writing about someone that I just haven’t met yet. Whether songwriters know they’re doing it or not, and I didn’t know I was doing it, but it’s like oh shit, this is just someone I haven’t met yet in this time-space continuum because that person is very much likely out there. In my perspective, “Koda” is like the good that is innately in people, there’s that bit of Koda in everybody. It all ties into my creative writing and I think writing from that perspective really helped me tell the story of moving from one relationship into another at a time when I didn’t have that same existence in my life at the time. It was my way of picking up hope and inspiration and what I’ve realized is that you’re always writing about someone, you’re sometimes just writing about people you haven’t met yet – which is hilarious.
Is there a song on the album you connect with the most?
There’s a song called “Yu (A Song for Koda)” that feels really timeless for me. It’s the closing track off the album but there’s something really special about writing a song with a chord progression that’s been used millions of times and finding a way to twist the chords, structure, and melody to make it unique. Lyrically, when I finally finished that song, it was like damn – I really said what I wanted to say – and when I wrote that, I was really trying to put myself in the shoes of writing as if I had known somebody for half a century. That’s very different from writing about the things you make up. The way that song came about and the way I wrote it was totally different from other songs I’ve written before – whether or not other people picked up on it. That song has a sense of purity to it and I feel really happy to have found that in a song at 23/24 years old.
What would you advise someone looking to do more to preserve the environment?
The first step is definitely to learn, learn, learn. I’d say the better prepared you are and the more informed you are, the better chance you have at doing the utmost good. Principally, be patient with the other humans. Everyone is at a different learning point – I once used to go buy individual cups of coffee which is wasteful but there’s a time for everything. I was once really sick in England and that was the first time in years that I had to buy multiple plastic bottles of water because I was throwing up relentlessly. Sometimes, it’s just the way it is, so that’s where you have to have a bit of grace and patience for the others. Meet people at a place where they might actually take on what you’re saying because they may just not have the same level of interest or knowledge as you do. I think if you have that patience, we’ll have a higher chance of meeting people where they can learn something and take onboard what you’re saying.
You’re playing Union Stage in DC on Monday. What does the rest of your year look like after that?
That’s right, we’re in DC on Monday and then we have a few more stops in Pittsburgh and Chicago before I play Electric Forest next weekend and then run through dates in Canada. I’ll return in September to do a U.S. west coast run as well.
Ziggy Alberts will play Union Stage in DC on Monday, June 24. For complete dates, which include stops at Electric Forest, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Toronto, LA and more – click HERE.