Facing setback after setback, Andy McGarvie’s second album is an inspiring story of resilience

Facing setback after setback, Andy McGarvie’s second album is an inspiring story of resilience

Words by Augustus Welby

We chat with the Melbourne singer-songwriter as he readies himself for album number two.

Casual conversation is at a premium in 2020, and singer-songwriter Andy McGarvie isn’t in the mood for shooting the breeze about his favourite condiments or preferred brand of razor.

“One thing that we as a species have proven time and time again is that we do not learn from history,” says McGarvie.

We’re on the phone to speak about McGarvie’s new single, ‘All I Wanted’, which is the second taste of his upcoming sophomore LP. The record is set to highlight not just McGarvie’s prodigious guitar skills, but also his partiality for adult contemporary songcraft.

But small talk inevitably precedes our discussion of the new single. And these days small talk can’t help but be marked by gravitas.

“As soon as [COVID’s] gone we’ll all go back to doing everything exactly the same way,” says McGarvie. “We are creatures of habit, whether we like it or not.”

It’s hard to disagree, although most of us have displayed remarkable malleability in recent months. McGarvie’s own life was upended in March 2020. After releasing his debut album, Not Soon Enough, in 2016, McGarvie relocated to South West London. He enjoyed the life of a Londoner so much that he renewed his working visa earlier this year, and was on his way back to the UK as corona-pandemonium took hold.

“By the time I landed in London basically everything had been cancelled,” McGarvie says. “And ten days later I was like, well there’s no work for me and one thing my visa says is, ‘No access to public funds’.”

McGarvie’s a guitar player’s guitarist. The sort you’d expect to see duelling with the saxophonist in a venerated jazz club or holding court at a summer blues and roots festival. So along with spruiking his solo project in the UK, he’d been operating as a gun-for-hire session musician.

But with gigs off the table and his visa explicitly prohibiting any government support, the only option was to come back to Melbourne. It’s definitely a deviation from the plan, but things could be worse.

“It’s been a funny blessing in a way because I’ve been back in a more creative space and with a bit more time to do things,” says McGarvie. “I don’t know if I would’ve got this done in London.”

What is he getting done, exactly? Well, most notably, he’s preparing to release an album that’s been in the works for more than two years.

“I started recording it in 2018,” McGarvie says. “I had cysts on my vocal folds in 2018 and I had to get an operation on them. So I had to take some time off singing and that also changed the way that I sang and it changed the way that those songs felt.

“It’s been setback after setback. I’m now keen to push stuff out and finish it and be done with it. And also stop over-analysing it and just say, ‘That’s the album that we made. That’s what we’ve got. That’s a snapshot in time’.”

The album’s first single, ‘Going About This’, came out in March. The track merges singer-songwriter traditionalism with the dynamic thrust of a hard-working rock band. The lyrics are the real focal point, with McGarvie reflecting on getting sober and learning from the mistakes of his past.

“What I really wanted to get across with this album is my own realisation that honesty is more important than anything,” he says. “‘Going About This’ is about my own personal battles and to that end it’ll always be emotionally driven in the way that I perform that song or the way that people listen to that song because it comes from a real place.”

‘All I Wanted’ arrives on Friday July 24. McGarvie believes it’s a good primer for the album in that it represents his optimum musical orientation as well expanding on the lyrical candour heard in ‘Going About This’.

“‘All I Wanted’ is about the end of a relationship, but there’s a lot more on the album that’s about personal growth and understanding the world a bit differently as a 30-something rather than a 20-something,” he says.

“This is what I’m most comfortable musically sounding like. Lyrically the album is much more reflective of just growing up. I’m not 21 anymore; I’ve lived different experiences and I know different things now.”

Andy McGarvie’s new single, ‘All I Wanted’, is out Friday July 24. McGarvie will be performing a live stream set via YouTube on Thursday July 23 from 7.30pm.

Check out McGarvie’s website here and keep up to date with him via his Facebook page.

Never miss a story. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories three times a week.