They say the great songwriters draw from their own lives and write what they know.
For diplomat and Canberra folk musician Fred Smith, his personal experiences are a little different to most.
He’s served in Australian government stabilisation and peacekeeping missions in Bougainville, the Solomons, and Uruzgan province, Afghanistan.
And in those places he wrote a lot of songs, some of which have found their way onto the prolific singer-songwriter’s new album, Warries.
Warries is a retrospective work, documenting a fertile phase in Smith’s life, but also a remarkable period in which Australian soldiers and civilians deployed into conflict zones in the Pacific and Central Asia.
Smith kicks off Warries with a rendition of Henry Lawson’s Scotts at the Riverina, a work he describes as “a remarkable piece of poetry”.
“Undoubtedly there is this tradition of Australians at war songs … Lawson started that with this poem and I thought it would be a nice place to start.”
Smith says throughout his career he’s prided himself on creating thematically driven albums, telling cohesive stories.
Playing off those links throughout Warries is rich diversity in the story content and musical stylings.
“There are some different styles of approach from a long ballad like Derapet, which is seven and a half minutes long and tells a very big story, to more whimsical material like a jingle I wrote called Radio Bougainville,” he says.
Smith will launch his new album with a live performance at The Street on Thursday 24 April.
He’s renowned for counterbalancing the serious nature of some of his music with humour in the way he introduces and presents the songs in his live shows.
He also complements his music with imagery, projecting photographs to help the audience better understand his music.
“I think that’s the power of song, story and imagery combined, you do give people a three-dimensional sense of what these places are like,” he says.