In 2013 singer songwriter Dustin Tebbutt’s break-out track The Breach was a surprise hit that caught indie fans wanting more. Since then, he has created an interesting body of work that reflects the creative undertakings he’d rather do than simply just the commercial thing often expected from new artists. More recently, Tebbutt has relesaed a new single that continues to play on his strengths as an artist called Love Is Blind. In short, its emotive lyrics and playful melody marks a strong return for Tebbutt on indie charts in this country and across streaming services. That said, I had the pleasure to chat to Dustin about his new single and some of the more burning questions on my mind about his burgeoning music career.
I recently went back through your back catalogue and discovered how much it seems your music is quite a reflection of yourself and your experience, as much as it about creating interesting melodies. Your new song Love Is Blind dives straight into similar territory. It is kinda about love and relationships, right? What can you tell about its evolution from first being a demo on your phone?
‘Love Is Blind’ is definitely in the same territory. I’m not to sure why most of my work centres around that human connection, but it’s something I find endlessly fascinating as there are so many different versions, definitions and stages of love. With this track, it was originally a very rough one-take recording of me playing it through on an electric guitar. The song hasn’t changed much, but the arrangement really came to life once I started recording it properly in a studio. I did a session early on with John Castle, who has helped here and there on some tracks from my last record, and from that we had this really uplifting bed with the drum groves and instrumental lines around the chorus. I kept working on it and added a couple of extra layers, but my main focus was letting the song be and not filling up every gap with a sound.
The music video to Love Is Blind is a wonderful visual companion to the song. I understand you conquered a minor fear of dancing, which is something you don’t often do?
Haha, well if I’ve had enough beers and the music is right.. it’s a rarity. I don’t really know where it came from, I think being musical, people have always expected me to have a really good sense of rhythm but when ever I bust out the moves I usually just get some kinda laugh or chuckle. For the clip I wanted to do something fun and playful, so we went with a choreographed treatment. It was a wonderful process, but I didn’t really anticipate being uncomfortable in front of the camera… maybe it’s something I see more because it’s me, but it adds a really nice layer of vulnerability to the narrative.
You’ve strengthening your credentials as someone other artists really want to work with. Flight Facilities and Lisa Mitchell are two that come to mind straight away. What is it about the collaborative process that you really enjoy? Who would you like to work with in the future?
Collaborating is one of the most rewarding things, as you can give and take throughout the creative process in a way that is just impossible on your own. Having someone in the room to call your good ideas that would otherwise be thrown away can really short circuit the self criticism that can come with writing. Also having new ideas to work off is great because it breaks you away from your own process or patterns which can start to feel predictable or uninteresting at times. I’m looking to do more collaborative stuff, and at the moment on my dream list are Jon Hopkins and/or Nils Frahm.
I saw you play with Lisa Mitchell in Melbourne last year. It was an incredible show! How do you find the whole experience of playing live shows in general?
Live shows are completely different to the studio/writing stuff, the immediacy of the connection with the audience is really powerful and it gets pretty addictive. I think one of the reasons I really enjoy it is that it’s really the only chance I get to play through the songs with all the parts. To have some musicians there and see the tracks come to life as music in real time is really rewarding. I don’t really rehearse with my band before going in to the studio, and the way they are generally recorded is quite compartmentalised, as the drums will be done separate to the keys or guitars, and the vocals on a different day etc. so quite often it’s not actually till the song is out and it’s on a stage that it gets heard that way outside of the recording.
Earlier on in your career, I understand you demoed a lot of your songs on your MacBook. Not long after that you were nominated for an ARIA for Engineer of the Year. Do you still really enjoy that process? What has changed since your MacBook days?
Not too much has changed to be honest! I’ve now got a few more pieces of gear, and I’m currently building a new room in Melbourne to set up in for the next chapter, but the process is fairly similar except now I’m working on a desktop haha. I really enjoy working in the studio, that environment is really what got me started.
I read a while ago an old interview where you were asked who has had the greatest influence on you musically. You said, Tom Yorke because “he’s always pushed the boundaries and done the creative thing, as opposed to the commercial thing and managed to find a way to build a career out of that. Without a role model like that, it would be very easy to get swept up in trying to do the current thing.” You still seem like you are really standing by your convictions on that? Are you at all tempted by chasing a more commercial dream?
I still feel like I’m heading for the same thing, to create the things I want to create, but there are always some minor compromises to make when you are trying to live off your music. It’s not to say everything is suddenly driven by ‘success’ or money, but there’s just the reality of living in the world today where you can have a career doing something like this. I think it’s more about how you approach the non-creative side of it all, and finding what works for me and my audience in terms of releasing the music.
You have a number of EP’s and albums that you have recorded in quick succession over the last five years or so. Looking back through your catalogue which song(s) are you most proud of?
It’s amazing to have a growing body of work out there… I hear songs from time to time in strange places, and it’s alway a nice reminder that something is connecting. For me, I’m really proud of the stuff I’ve been working on this last year, I feel like I’ve really grown as a writer, and am starting to take control of the songs and sounds a lot more as opposed to that process being reactive. ‘The Breach’ of course still has a special place in all this for me. It changed everything for me and really started this chapter off. I wasn’t really trying to create ‘a hit’ or anything with it, instead it’s just a raw powerful moment that I was lucky enough to capture.
Finally, Dustin, I understand you have a new EP coming out soon? What secrets are you allowed to divulge about it?
The only hint I can give you is that I wrote one of the tracks with a new and dear friend of mine, Tom Rosenthal. I’d been listening to his music for a while so sent him an email to see if he’s like to create something and a few weeks later I was sitting in his kitchen in London drinking tea and creating something really special. Can’t wait to share it.
Check out Dustin Tebbutt’s new single Love Is Blind on iTunes and Spotify. Read more about Dustin Tebbutt via his website. You can also follow Dustin via his Facebook page. Follow him on twitter. Listen to him on Spotify. Watch on You Tube.
Photo credit: The header image of Justin Tebbutt is courtesy of Eleven: A Music Company. I am not the uploader of You Tube clips embedded here.