Looking for fine music is like casting your net out into a humongous sea. You will sometimes come up with a catch that will stay with your memory forever and bring you joy whenever it hits your ears. The problem with the size of the sea and the small net that we all have the time to fish with is that so many other artists and songwriters slip through our grasp. Some could be sitting playing at the pub in your hometown or some could be plying their trade in pubs in other towns or countries and you will never be exposed to them unless someone shines a light on them. Van Walker is simply one of these fine catches.
Van, now settled in Melbourne after his younger days in the countryside of Tasmania, is a prolific songwriter who has been influenced by Dylan and the classic sounds of the 70s. You will hear his influences as you peruse these tunes. He had formed a band with his brother (The Swedish Magazines) in 2003, but at the same time began writing a catalogue of songs that is well into the hundreds by now. His music verges on that genre Americana, but in my mind, his music can fit under the label of ‘pop’, whatever that may mean to you. To me, and to Van, it means that it is accessible. So where did all this music germinate from and why are we not hearing it? Van caught up with me from sunny Melbourne to give us the low down.
“Well, I first started playing guitar when I was 15 or so and I was really into Bob Dylan so I guess he was a big influence on my writing. He just sort of ripped everyone else off and just wrote and that is what I did. It’s interesting that you say that you have not heard my music because I do more writing then I do promotion and that is why Fuse has put this Underneath The Radar compilation together. They said you make this all this music but no one is hearing it and they helped me stop writing for a moment and put it all on one album,” said Van.
So did Van come from a musical family in the hills of Tasmania playing around a roaring fireplace as the winter winds howled?
“There was really no music in my family. My Aunty and her boys were musical and got into a bit of metal and the like. My brother and I just got into this classic 70s stuff and we just loved it. We taught ourselves to play a bit. I think this is why I make American sounding music. I did not really have people around me teaching me songs and sitting around and playing as a family. It all comes from records and it was a huge influence on me. People like Neil Young too had a huge impact on me,” said Van.
Music, as stated earlier, can be overlooked.
“You can be hidden even if you are right there because you are not putting ads in the paper or going down the same avenues that everyone is on. A lot of people see me play, even people from Melbourne, like when I am interstate and ask me if I ever play in Fitzroy. I laugh and tell them I am down there playing every other day on Brunswick Street. It would be nice to have the wider reach of people hearing my music but it is a lot of wasted time when I could be writing music instead. I’d like to be able to do both but it is very hard for me to write and promote myself like others do,” Van said. As you can see Van is a man who his dedicated to his trade, he does it for the love and what money comes his way, so he tends to live very carefully to be able to continue down this trail of songs and tales.
With this excellent compilation, Fuse is trying to make that a bit easier for Mr. Walker. His music, for the uninitiated, is hinged on folk, rock and Americana that leans towards that musical genius from Minnesota to that poet from Adelaide named Kelly who also moved to Melbourne to ply his trade. Van has released five albums, The Celestial Railroad (2008), The Last Record Store (2009), Greetings From Penguin Tasmania (2009), Love Fate (2010) and Bush League Bard from the same year. Prolific is the word and the words flow from him like water from a rambling stream. But before you get too deep into Mr. Walker, check out this latest compilation and see if the groove and stories move you.
Van will be accompanied and supported on this tour by the very talented singer/songwriter Liz Stringer. These shows are bound to be magical in the tales that each will spin and will give you a chance to experience two very talented musicians who hopefully will warm your soul and make you smile from the inside out. Van has been under the radar for too long and this is his opportunity to shine for you. Go out and catch him while you can and while you got him in your sights. You won’t be disappointed.