Want to shout meep meep and sing doobedoobedoo under your breath or join a driving school in Phnom Penh? Well, ask Scott Bywater as he talks about the songs, covering a songwriting period from 20017 to 2014, in his debut album From Shore to Shore.
Toothpaste and gin (2013)
This was a song I wrote specifically for Moi Tiet when I was starting the band up in Phnom Penh in early 2013. A bit of a statement of purpose, a running-to (rather than a running-away) from my old wasted life in Australia into a less restrictive existence, without such things as, for example, timesheets and tablecloths.
The Love Bank (2012)
After three years of Phnom Penh, living quietly in Montpelier in the south of France was quite a contrast, and a fertile period for writing. The Love Bank pretty much sums up my world view – whatever it is you want, don’t wait. Go out and put energy into the world, and be bold about it.
The Long Division (2007)
Of the handful of songs that I brought from Hobart, Tasmania to Phnom Penh in 2008, this is the one that really stuck, and it also pleased the French when I went there. A simple idea, well executed, and peppered with music nerd in-jokes.
Stuck inside of Phnom Penh with the Memphis Blues Again (It’s not the Mississippi, it’s the Mekong) (2008)
The first song I wrote in Cambodia, and still a crowd favourite despite some of the references going out of date – although certainly there are still Tintin tee-shirts and spiders at Romdeng. The title is an allusion to Bob Dylan’s song Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again (happily, Memphis is on the Mississippi). Half tongue in cheek, a hodgepodge of images to approximate the experience of first arriving in a new and baffling place where everything seems to make sense to everyone but yourself.
Phnom Penh Driving School (2013)
My little public service announcement and novelty song. It’s not that there is no logic to Phnom Penh traffic, it’s just that there are rules and practices one would not expect when coming from the west. The initial idea for the song came back in 2008, then years later I actually sat down and put it all together. A favourite with the kiddies, this one. I comfort myself with the thought that Chuck Berry’s biggest hit was My Dingaling.
Guernsey Girl (2012)
For many years, my big closing song was Jersey Girl, by Tom Waits. A friend of mine, Dave, from the Guernsey, used to ask me to sing it as Guernsey Girl for him, on account of the ancient rivalry between the two Channel islands. I did that a few times and then thought, hang on, that’s a title. One day the song all came cascading out and was finished in about 10 minutes. Now it’s my big closer, and has been very good to me.
Who is the greater fool (2013)
Another song written for the first version of Moi Tiet. I was trying to do Al Green here, and instead it sounds like an Australian beer barn rock anthem, with the poor man’s horn section (sing along backing vocals). I like the classical pop song feel in the lyrics, leaning on my apparent fascination with dualities.
Doing what needs to be done (2014)
A nice little piece of nonsense with a good hook, written in Nantes, France, and taken up as a jamming tune immediately due to its simple form and structure, lending itself as it does to improvisation of all forms – on the album Ukulele James Speck was good enough to contribute some fine silliness. This is the other song that sticks in people’s heads – I fear that long after I’m gone people will still be singing meep meep and doobedoobedoo under their breath and wondering why.
Lost along the way (2008)
The second song I wrote in Cambodia, and one of my favourites. Nostalgic without being too sentimental. The recording owes a lot to Pavel Ramirez’s guitar work and Marianna Hensley’s lovely vocals.
This song was originally written in Montpelier, France, with the final flourish on the recording contributed by my friend Kak Channthy of the Cambodian Space Project, who wrote a new verse and melody on the spot in the studio in 10 minutes. A highlight of both the sessions and the completed album for me.