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Julia Stone announces charity album, Songs For Australia

Julia Stone, Sons for Australia

Story by Jack Foley

SONGS for Australia is an extraordinary album made by a collection of global artists who have each donated their time to record a cover of an Australian song.

The LP was made to raise money for organisations in Australia who are working towards creating a better future for the country and helping to rebuild during and after the bushfire crisis. It will be digitally released Thursday, March 5, 2020, through BMG. The album will be released on vinyl and CD in June.

At the heart of the record is Australian songwriter and musician, Julia Stone. Recording in London over the new year period, Stone learned her mother was being evacuated from Lake Conjola on the south coast of New South Wales.

Stone watched the unfolding bushfire crisis on the news, along with the rest of the world, feeling helpless, frustrated and distressed. Despite the vast distance between her and her home, her deep connection with it and her horror at its unfolding destruction dominated the days that followed.

Late one night, she showed her producer and good friend Thomas Bartlett her favourite Australian songs, songs that over time had settled themselves in her heart. Together they decided that she should record one.

The next day they recorded Midnight Oil’s Beds Are Burning.

At first, their collaboration was simply a creative outlet for the sadness Stone was feeling for the situation at hand. But she realised her sadness was even deeper and more far-reaching than that, connected to the history of intense sadness in Australia in relation to many of the misguided political and social choices that have been made.

Stone wanted the song to connect with its origins – written 33 years ago about indigenous land rights – and so began exploring the information relating to the inattention to indigenous wisdom on land management. She decided to make a clip to accompany the recording that would incorporate a broader commentary on these issues.

Stone began to reach out. First, she asked artists from the Karrabing Community in the NT Natasha Bigfoot Lewis, Quinton Shields and Deborah Sing to add some vocals to the song.

You can view these additional lyrics and further information on the project and nominated charities on the dedicated website.

With the help of producers/publishers Monster Children, video editors The Editors and sound mixers SqueakeClean, a beautiful, moving piece was created that speaks to the integration of indigenous knowledge and the urgency to make changes in this country.

Watch Beds Are Burning

Inspired to reach out further, Stone felt that something truly tangible could be done to help if she could involve the power of a greater number of artists. She began contacting musicians she had a personal connection with to ask if they would be interested in contributing a cover of an Australian song to an album that would raise money for the bushfire crisis. The response was international, immediate and immense.

- American friends The National signed on instantly and offered to record a version of INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart.

- Kurt Vile put his hand up to cover Nick Cave’s Stranger Than Kindness.

- Joan as Police Woman covered Gotye’s Hearts A Mess.

- Avant-garde American folk artist, Sam Amidon offers his take on Let Me Down Easy by Gang of Youths.

- From Ireland, friend Damien Rice delivered Sia’s Chandelier and fellow Irishman, Dermot Kennedy covered Matt Corby’s Resolution.

- Touring buddy from years back, Canadian singer Martha Wainwright, gave Nick Cave’s The Ship Song. Friends from France, Petit Biscuit and Pomme also volunteered songs.

And back at home, long-time friend Paul Kelly offered his cover of Archie Roach’s Native Born, Dan Sultan gave Nick Cave’s Into My Arms and brother Angus’s Dope Lemon covered The Go-Betweens’ Streets Of Your Town.

On the collaboration BRIT nominated Dermot Kennedy said: “Thank you to Julia Stone for inviting me to be a part of this project in aid of the Australian bushfire crisis. I have been lucky enough to visit Australia multiple times with my music, and have always felt so welcome.

“It’s been such a joy every time to experience the culture, to feel the love and pride of the people there, and to see the incredible wildlife and the beauty of this country. I can’t wait to be back soon.”

It wasn’t just artists that wanted to help, mix engineer Eric J Dubowsky jumped on board to offer his services and mastering legend, Greg Calbi put up his hand to master the whole project.To top things off, Swedish contemporary artist David Stenbeck came on board to create an original artwork for the project – a beautiful floating cloud in the shape of Australia, reflected in the water.

The image represents a hope for better times, where the beauty of the country is reflected in ethos and spirit. World renowned Australian photographer Jennifer Stenglein offering an image for the Beds are Burning first single from the record. A beautiful image from Australia’s NT, the colours of the lights and sunset, a tip of the hat to the original album cover by Midnight Oil.

Stone commented: “I couldn’t believe the responses I was getting. I received the most heart-warming replies from the biggest, busiest artists in the world. Most of these artists have toured here, have family here, friends here, have lived here or spent time here.

“Everyone has such great memories of this country and to see it in flames was breaking everyone’s hearts. I often got the response that people were so happy to be offered the opportunity to do something. Everyone feels helpless in times like this.”

Together these artists offer a collection of incredible covers of iconic Australian songs, made with love and sadness and the desire to help.

Money raised from the sale of this record will be going to…

Firesticks: The Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation provides leadership, advocacy and action to protect, conserve and enhance cultural and natural values of people and Country through Cultural Fire, land restoration and wellbeing practices. www.firesticks.org.au

Landcare Australia: The keystones of Landcare are that it is community owned and driven, it encourages integrated management of environmental assets with productive farmland, and it promotes a more sustainable approach to private land management. www.landcarensw.org.au

SEED: Seed is the First indigenous Youth Climate network. Their vision is to create a sustainable future with strong cultures and communities, powered by renewable energy. www.seedmob.org.au

Emergency Leaders for Climate Action: ELCA is comprised of 30 former senior emergency service leaders with first-hand experience of escalating climate change impacts, who are uniting to push for strong leadership on climate change action. www.emergencyleadersforclimateaction.org.au

WildArk: WildArk is a global not-for-profit conservation effort that was founded in 2016. In relation to bushfires they are currently raising money to support the following organisations working on wildlife rehabilitation and habitat restoration in bushfire affected areas, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Two Thumbs Koala Sanctuary, Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital. www.wildark.org

NSW RFS: NSW RFS Is the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. It is the world’s largest volunteer fire service, with over 72,000 volunteer members, providing a community-based fire and emergency service, to protect the community and environment. www.rfs.nsw.gov.au

The record is available to pre-order at www.songsforaustralia.com with exclusive limited edition bundle options also available including personalised vinyl artwork, tote bags, T-shirts and more.

The songs will be digitally released Thursday, March 5 through BMG, with the album released on vinyl and CD in June.