There are shifts that occur in the careers of musical artists which often redefine the way they create work drastically, and change how their work is regarded.
For Rob Snarski, whose career began in the 1980s playing with his brother Mark in Perth in the band Chad's Tree, his latest work has seen just such a change in the way he approaches the craft of songwriting.
Snarski is regarded as one of Australia's finest songwriters, a musician who delicately dissects the dangerous edges of relationships and obsessions. His career has seen him work with other fine Australian artists in his time in The Black Eyed Susans and as a solo artist.
The late David McComb, a fellow West Australian and songwriter for seminal band The Triffids worked with Snarski often; he's appeared on the same stage as Leonard Cohen, Nico and the legendary Johnny Cash.
Snarski's solo work and his partnerships with Melbourne guitarist and arranger Dan Luscombe has produced four albums - There Is Nothing Here That Belongs To You (with Luscombe), his solo debut Wounded Bird and an album of cover versions, Low Fidelity (Songs By Request), recorded by Snarski on the most low-fi of recording situations, an iPhone.
His latest album is called Sparrow and Swan. In it, Snarski says he moves from the role of songwriter as creator of the lyric to that of the listener, who teases stories from conversations he's had, remembered and recorded.
"We race along the avenue, where it's so cold your lips turn blue," Snarski sing on the title track, and we're immediately in a familiar world, Snarski's baritone guiding the songs and the listener deep into narratives of lost loves and ambitions thwarted and fulfilled; of girls searching for the Irish legend Van Morrison, hunting through the streets and badlands of Belfast, down the Shankill Road; of how Mitcham Station should be named for the actor Robert Mitchum - an elegy for the lost bucolic nature of the suburb and the actor himself.
Rob Snarski spoke to Caleb Cluff.
Tell me about Sparrow and Swan, and about turning conversations into songs.
"That has certainly become my process in terms of writing songs. I didn't think I had one before, in describing something tangible, but halfway through writing and collecting the songs for this record I found something new, and that was simply tuning into conversations, whether it be friends or strangers, and shaping them into songs.
"There'd be a moment where I'd recognise that it was more than just two people talking, and there's a story within this conversation that I could work with.
It's been fantastic for me, because it's like a goldmine. You just have to find yourself the right person, the right story and you're away. It's simpler, there is less waiting around. You sit around waiting for inspiration to come to you, for a melody to float through the air and land in your lap, but this is more direct, it makes more sense."
How does it spark in you when you have these conversations? Are you looking for something, or does it just present itself?
"It's almost cartoon-like. It's like a light-bulb moment in a Warner Bros cartoon, where an idea appears. You can sense it; it's hard to describe. Something rises to the surface, something clicks. There's a realisation, a moment: this is more interesting than just 'what's the weather like today' or similar.
"There has to be something that isn't standard; an element that draws me in. In the song Conversation with a Brisbane Cab Driver, for example: what struck me about that guy was how grateful he was to be alive. Here's half of us complaining about our middle-class problems, and he was happy to be just driving a cab and working a night job, working six days a week to get enough money for his family overseas to survive. He was happy with his lot.
"His catchcry was 'Everything in Brisbane is great!' That's what drew me in.
"Equine Dreaming is about two people who met at a TAB. Most gambling stories are fairly negative.There is not a lot of happiness that comes out of that. The fact that they are in the same place at the same time struck me as being quite an incredible moment. And we all have those moments where fate takes its course.
The songs have to be deeper now for me to engage with them. Will Oldham said it's a bit like throwing a sheet over an object; you have to describe what's within. I'm a bit exhausted by that.I want things which are more direct; that have more meaning for me."
You've got a history of writing really beautiful, amazing songs.
"Songwriting came late for me because I was lucky enough to have my brother (Mark Snarski) and David McComb and Phil Kakoulas write songs for me. It wasn't until I was in my early 30s that I started contributing to songs for The Black Eyed Susans and co-writing with Phil. That's a long wait.
"It was important for me to find a new way to write in order not to become stale or bored or frustrated. I needed something new that stimulated me, made it more exciting. It's great to recognise a song that you can carve out. My mood is lighter - it's my purpose, my being.
Sparrow and Swan is produced by Snarski and Melbourne musician and producer Shane O'Mara. Featured on the album are the vocal talents of Rebecca Barnard, acclaimed gal duo Broads, Kiernan Box on piano, Ben Franz and Rosie Westbrook on double bass, and Ben Wiesner on drums and percussion.
Rob Snarski is playing in Ballarat on Saturday night at The Lost Ones bar, Camp Street.