Cheersquad Records & Tapes is proud to announce May 5 as the release date for Stephen Cummings’ new album entitled 100 Years From Now, and the release today of the album’s first single “Carry Your Heart”.
Stephen Cummings of course needs no introduction to Australian music fans – the Countdown Award and ARIA Award-winning singer and songwriter has had a long, productive, creative and distinguished career since his days up front of Sports in the late ’70s and ’80s.
What does need an introduction however is the fact that in March 2020, Stephen suffered a life changing stroke and this new album is the product of that and the enthusiastic support he received creating it from the Melbourne music community.
100 Years From Now is a record of beauty, of humanity, and of unflinching honesty. And gorgeous musicality. Recorded and mixed with longtime collaborators guitarist and producer Robert Goodge (Essendon Airport and I’m Talking) and producer and engineer Simon Polinksi (Steve Kilbey, Ollie Olsen), the album is a collection of co-writes that put Cummings’ post-stroke physical condition to the fore, both musically and lyrically. The effect of Stephen’s stroke on his singing adds a layer of bittersweet heartbreak to his already emotive style.
“I was always a natural singer and assumed I could just sing as long as I wanted. After the stroke, I had a lot of rehab to learn to walk and recover fine motor skills on my left side. I couldn’t really play guitar anymore. I did some vocal therapy and found my tone still good but the control and breathing the hard part. I learnt I if I sang more slowly and more quietly it sounded better. I have to focus more and keep to different parameters.”
Robert picks up the story:
“This record started off from both our boredom at being locked down and Stephen’s double frustration at having a stroke just as the restrictions started…he got the double lockdown whammy.
“I thought it might be good therapy for Stephen to do some songwriting and singing with no pressure, just a bit of friendly creative noodling, to aid in his recovery…perhaps he would share them with his facebook friends… So I whipped up a few song sketches.
“Stephen had no trouble writing lyrics. They came as fast as I could supply the basic structure…Singing them however was more of a challenge, but that is what I expected and we just kept trying… gaining ground little by little…So a couple of ideas soon became quite a few.”
“Robert and I have been good friends for many years. He’s probably the most musical person I know and he was really patient getting me to record lines over and over until he was satisfied.
“I’ve had to accept now that things aren’t going to be the same but they can still be good and work with what I’ve got. Robert just kept turning up to record so I felt obliged to keep going but he and Simon really gave me confidence I could do it.”
“We started enlisting musician friends of Stephen to contribute and flesh it out. A lot of these musicians actually recorded their own parts (particularly the backing singers) …So it was built on the generosity of these players and their eagerness to help out…People even started to give us songs to work on so that helped broaden the whole outlook…The finished record is a testament of how supportive the Melbourne music community can be.”
“The album captures the state I was in during my recovery. The weather was always bad when I went on all my lockdown walks and that is a feature of the album too.
“It’s got a different sound to what I normally do. It’s very dreamy with all the female harmonies and exotic string instruments Robert used like the tiples.
“It’s one my favourite records I’ve made. I really like the mood and I loved having different people helping out like Lilith Lane and Glen and Philippa from the Underground Lovers. I’ve also known Wally for years so I was really happy for Cheersquad to release it.”
The record is also the coming together of many of Stephen’s musical partners from over the years, from his longtime guitarist Sam Lemann and bass player Bill McDonald (who shares with Goodge a background in Melbourne’s post-punk scene and has more recently been Paul Kelly’s long term bass player) to current band members Maxine Sutcliffe and Michael Davis. Graeme Lee of the Triffids (and more recently of Goodge’s reformed Essendon Airport) contributes some pedal steel, Philippa Nihilland Glenn Bennie of the Underground Lovers are involved together on one track, and Clare Moore of the Moodists and Chris Abrahams of the Necks both contribute. Stephen’s old friends Rebecca Barnard and Billy Miller of the Ferrets appear on a number of tracks, and Goodge also brought in friends Kim Beissel (Crime & City Solution, Hot Half Hour etc) from his late ’70s cohort at the Clifton Hill Community music centre, and Zan Abeyratne from I’m Talking. Lilith Lane and Angus Leslie and Beth Otenstein from Sex on Toast also contribute backing vocals.
25 years ago, Stephen told Rolling Stone‘s Toby Creswell that the music he was making at the time was “A-grade confessional roots music”, and that is as good as any description of 100 Years From Now as anyone is going to come up with. The mix of acoustic instruments and occasional electronic textures suggest great intimacy and make no attempt to disguise the damages to the singer’s voice. This is as confessional as it gets. And, as will be revealed in time, it is an album of surprising riches.
Out today, first single “Carry Your Heart” is a beauty, in which the key line “Every moment is a golden one for him that has a vision / to recognise it as such” is a beautiful expression of Cummings’ gratitude and positivity, two elements which are present throughout.
|“CARRY YOUR HEART” IS AVAILABLE TODAY AS A DIGITAL DOWNLOAD OR ON STREAMING SERVICES. THE ALBUM 100 YEARS FROM NOW, DUE FOR RELEASE MAY5 2023, CAN BE PRE-ORDERED AS OF TODAY ON LIMITED EDITION TRANSPARENT TEAL VINYL, BLACK VINYL, CD AND DIGITALLY.