When It All Comes Down To Urth

Column: Features   |   Date Published: Wednesday, 11 May 16   |   Author: Molly McLaughlin   |   1 year, 1 month ago

     There are incredible female artists out there and that just makes me want to work with them as equals

While writing his fifth solo album, aptly titled The Past Beats Inside Me Like A Second Heartbeat, URTHBOY – or Tim Levinson to his mum – spent some time finding a place for himself and his family within Australia’s wider historical context. He recently dropped the video for ‘Daughter of The Light’, a tribute to his mum from the album, which features a shot in its final seconds of her sitting across a table from her son, smiling. Behind the camera, and beneath the surface of the song, there was a lot more going on.

“We were doing the shot and I could tell that she was quite nervous and overwhelmed by the experience,” he says. “When I first sat opposite her and we performed the song, I could see in her eyes that she was welling up, but the camera didn’t capture that because it was shot from the side. Even if it was just a personal moment between us, it was a beautiful moment.”

Levinson began researching for The Past Beats Inside Me Like A Second Heartbeat at the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra. Initially, he planned five EPs that would span specific historical periods, but the end result is more tightly linked and intensely personal than any of his previous work.

“I feel like there’s a billion stories that are underneath the surface of our history even today, and we need Australians writing those stories,” he says. “That gave the project a bit more focus; I became focused on finding stuff about us. I’m interested in stories and the way that they resonate.”

Songs like ‘Hey Juanita’, ‘Long Loud Hours’ and ‘Rushing Through Me’ tell tales from Australian history that many Australians have never heard before. With the overarching presence of his daughter Jetta also felt throughout the album, it’s obvious that Levinson wanted to tell a new story of his own too.

“I’ve never felt at home with the culture of misogyny, but recently I’ve learnt a lot as I’ve listened to different perspectives,” he says. “I wanted to honestly engage with that. Songs like ‘Little Girl’s Dad’ are a lot more potent because I have a daughter in my life. There’s nothing about a world where she has limitations imposed on her because of her gender that I am comfortable with, so it’s important to tell her what I think.”

The Past Beats Inside Me Like A Second Heartbeat is packed full of diverse and unexpected collaborations. Among them is the regular feature from Jane Tyrell, but also Bertie Blackman, Kira Puru and Okenyo – all of which reflect Levinson’s dual role as both a rapper and a music industry insider through his work at label Elefant Tracks.

“I just really liked the women who ended up being on the album; I’m a big fan of their work. To me, it’s a no brainer that there are incredible female artists out there and that just makes me want to work with them as equals.”

Through The Herd, Elefant Tracks and his solo career, Levinson has had a hand in shaping the Australian hip-hop scene since the early 2000s, but for him it has always been wholly about the music.  

“I’ve never been involved in the music business because of the business. It’s always been the art that keeps me inspired and interested and involved,” he says. “I will never be a suit, I’m just not into it, but I do love working behind the scenes as a manager on other artists’ stuff. With Horrorshow and Joyride and Hermitude, I love watching them do their thing and seeing it all come to life. It’s pretty fun.”

Yet again Levinson reflects on the past and the future, but this time of hip-hop and music more generally. He is inspired by the voices of young, Australian musicians who are breaking the rules.

“Musically, the thing that excites me are artists like B Wise, Sampa the Great, Okenyo and Ecca Vandal that are coming up from nowhere and creating their own thing,” he says. “There’s a great sort of energy around them. These artists are intriguing because they’re not musically weighed down by their past. They’re coming up with new ideas and they’re changing the ground that we walk on.”

Urthboy is about to embark on his biggest national tour to date – with young guns Okenyo and L-Fresh the Lion – and is looking forward to loosening the grip of perfection on the album in a live setting. He last visited Canberra three years ago and explains that the Second Heartbeat tour will be different this time – not only because of the show itself (featuring three additional vocalists and a DJ), but also because his aim has always been the same.

“Live is where music breathes,” he says. “You get swept up in the audience’s enthusiasm and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up if you do it right. There’s only one word I want people to walk away with and that’s a sense of joy. I don’t really care about everything else. You want to talk real stuff and have heavy songs and be dark and be light and be everything, but I want people to feel joy, that’s all.”

Urthboy will play at Academy on Friday June 10 at 8pm, supported by Okenyo and L-Fresh The Lion. Tickets are $25 + bf through Moshtix. 



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