Through the Lens of William Crighton
With his debut album drawing widespread accolades, William Crighton takes Chris Familton inside the themes and physical locations that inspired the self-titled collection of songs.
Thirty kilometers past Yass, in the South West Slopes region of New South Wales, Australia, there’s a sign to Burrinjuck and a road that snakes down the hill into the top of the Murrumbidgee River, which was first dammed the early 1900s. This is where William Crighton -- along with his family and friends -- wrote and recorded his self-titled debut album. The cottage, from where they tended gardens and fished, was a place Crighton and his wife had chosen to live after returning from extensive overseas travels. They needed a low-cost house, fresh air, and “time and space to reassess.”
Crighton goes on to explain that “the songs came really quick. I’ve written a bunch of songs over time," he explains, "but none of them made the record. These songs were written over a three-to-four-week period. I’d been living there for three or four months and hadn’t been writing at all, really. The themes of the tunes that began to quickly emerge were the themes that I was going through in my mind. I had the space to ask myself questions that, when you’re surrounded by contemporary society, are hard to find the time to ask – where you reassess your belief system. That whole process inspired these songs and brought up stories that I’d forgotten, or were real and happened when I was growing up. I could write about them from a perspective that was honest and my own take on it.”
There is an honesty and intensity to Crighton’s music that reflects the environment he has grown up in. Though many of the themes in his songs are universal ones, he brings a unique Australian perspective to them.
“I was conscious of being as honest as I could about my own stories, with my own observations, and naturally that came out sounding somewhat Australian – because it’s such an inspiring place and I’m from here, and these are the stories I know best,” he states, matter of factly. “I will say though, some of the songs are inspired by some of my travels to America [including living in Nashville for a few years] and China, and just people in general. People are people, it’s just a matter of what lens you’re looking through. We all deal with the same struggle and the same love.
"In Australia and this corner of the globe," he adds, "we do have unique stories and we do have unique landscapes, and there’s spirit here we can really key into. I’m in awe every time I step out into the wilderness of this land because it is such an inspiring place. It can bring out things in you that you didn’t know were there, and [it] gives you the space to think.”
Growing up, Crighton’s source of music was the radio and his dad’s classic country records. Over time, he began exploring iconic songwriters and drawing inspiration from both their albums and their approach to their music. “Neil Young’s been a big influence," he says, "as have Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa and Leonard Cohen. The greatness and honesty of those artists is hard to deny. One of the most influential things has actually been listening to how some of those artists speak about their music. People like Young and Nick Cave. It’s from that place of expression and opinion and expressing your innermost self and asking questions. That was what we wanted people to do on this album – put their full selves into it and express themselves artistically.”