Family has given music greater depth for The Anecdote

Despite what the movies might have told you, being a musician – particularly when you’re just starting out – is a cold, hard slog.

You never know how much money you’re going to have coming in; you’ve got to make your own way to gigs at far-flung locations around the country; and you work long, strange, mostly nocturnal hours.
But no matter how hard being a muso might be, Andrew Darling is aware that there are jobs out there much, much more difficult. In fact, he works one of them. Aside from being the lead singer and songwriter for The Anecdote, a genre-blending folk/blues/world music/jazz group, he is also the father of four – an occupation that he argues is much more time-consuming.
For example, though his interview with Beat falls on Easter Sunday – a day of rest, relaxation and celebration – he isn’t exactly kicking back and having a quiet one. “I think I’m just about hanging in there,” Darling says as way of introduction. “I’ve got four kids, it’s Easter morning, but I got a call from this promoter I am doing a show for saying, ‘We’ve got the time wrong, you’ve got to come an hour early.’ So I’ve had to leave early. It’s been a pretty stressful morning.”
It’s not like his morning is even proving particularly atypical. Chaos is part and parcel with his lived experience these days, and he is constantly having to find room for both his art-making and his family. “I’m 44, and I’ve got twins who are seven and a little one who is two, plus an older stepson,” he says. “And all my life, I’ve lived in this very freewheeling way, never having to grow up. But then suddenly I got catapulted into this world where I’ve got to work to support my family. Juggling that and making music is intense. Music gets pushed to the backburner all the time.”
That’s not to say that family is some tyrannical force that always stops him from doing what he wants to do, of course. Although Darling might be realistic about the pressures of being a dad, he’s also well aware of its supremely positive impact – he knows that family isn’t just good for his art, it’s good for his life.
“Family has such a profound impact on my music. Because you’ve got so much time pressure, you’ve got all this focus. I had this conversation with Peter Knight, he’s an Australian jazz trumpet player and when I was studying at uni he was one of the lecturers there. He had kids, and I’d just found out that I was having twins, and was freaking out. I asked him, ‘How has family impacted on your music life and your music making?’ And he said, ‘You’ve definitely got less time, but everything that you do has a far greater depth.’
“I really think that’s true,” Darling continues. “For me being a father has been an initiation into the deeper mysteries of life. It has had such a profound effect on everything I do, and everything that I do as a musician.”
You can certainly hear that greater depth in Darling’s music – that sense of profound mystery and wonder. His debut album as The Anecdote, Carved Upon The Air, is a beautifully complicated, freewheeling release. Every time you think Darling is going to do something, he does something else, and his music has a kind of spontaneity to it that is rare these days.
But fatherhood hasn’t just impacted Darling in thematic, hard to define ways – it has directly had a hand in his writing. “There’s one song on Carved Upon The Air that I wrote for my children,” Darling says. “I wanted it to be a little ballad that would get them to sleep, because a friend of mine did that a few years ago, and I was always really jealous that’d he’d written something for his kids that was also a really good song.
“So I wrote one, but my song ended up being this intense warning about how the world might fuck you over,” Darling laughs. “I don’t know that my wife is exactly happy that I’m using it as a night time ballad. But oh well.”
By Joseph Earp

The Anecdote will launch Carved Upon The Air at Wesley Anne on Saturday April 29.