Interview: Angus Stone

— The Musician

Angus Stone is captivatingly humble - in that raw, understated Australian way. When asked about the defining moments in life he’s most proud of, you won’t hear reference to accolades that sit at the pinnacle of most careers (a debut album that went platinum in its first year, winning 5 out of 9 nominated ARIA awards, or a sold out national headline tour for his band Dope Lemon). Instead he’ll tell you the about the 50 year old sailboat he just finished restoring, as if his musical talent is secondary, or maybe so intrinsically part of who he is, he doesn’t notice its impact, like the rest of us. There’s a cool simplicity to Angus Stone, his sunny outlook on life, and personal measures of success - life as an evolutionary pursuit of happiness. His entire world is moulded around that very spark.  

Yet there’s also a soulful depth, a complexity, and creative genius behind the way he assembles thoughts - almost abstract in nature, to express the lens through which he sees the world. Spoken through lyrics, masterfully arranged melodies that delicately immortalize honest moments, or even his home - a secluded 120 acre Byron Bay farm that’s both a rustic hinterland retreat  and artful collision of structures and decor - nomadic yurts, ancient oak trees embellished with lights, a raw wooden pagoda that spills onto a lake housing an old wooden sailboat. Creativity infuses every part of the world Angus wanders. Even the art direction of our own editorial. When it comes to creativity - Angus is all in. Completely invested. He doesn’t know any other way to be.

We spent a few days away shooting Angus in the Blue Mountains of NSW, and sailing through his old stomping ground, Sydney’s northern beaches, getting to know what drives this Australian musician creatively…

Innately there’s a trigger that drives each of us individually. At a soul level, what is it that drives you?

I grew up with music and melodies rolling around me when I was a kid. My dad was a wedding singer and my mum's record collection was spinning any time she had the moments to enjoy... it was a nice reminder that music has a way of making the world slow down a little in those moments as a kid listening through the walls. I think music has driven me forward up to now, but at a soul level, I guess the trigger for doing what I do in the end is trying to find that meaning in amongst all the heavy noise surrounding us... I think with the world that it is sometimes it can get tricky to navigate how to focus your energy on that one thing that makes you feel like your here and not floating off with what's been portrayed as your path - when it's really someone else's. There's so much going on around us and I guess in amongst it all, music for me has a way of stripping  everything around me back, I find this peace in it and really enjoy getting lost in the story I’m wanting to tell through it. 

Where do you think that drive comes from? Growing up what shaped those characteristics?

Growing up amongst nature and having the space that we had as kids, I think plays a big part in how you come to move through the world as an adult. We grew up on the east coast of Australia among a sailing culture and farming life. We were in between our grandparent's cattle farm up near Seal Rocks and our folks place in Newport in Sydney, which was the sailing/surfing culture part of our lives. I remember as a kid our grampa was a great story teller... he had an amazing way of linking up our day into a magical adventure. I have great memories of us as little kids walking down the creek with him telling stories of lost treasure and pirates, always wanting to know what would happen next. I think growing up with the magic of that place, we came to understand the land, and really respected its beauty and strength through those times.

Who in your life embodies the kind of drive that inspires you, and why? 

I live on my own farm now and over the years people have come and gone for different goings on but a stranger at the time rolled in with a big purple dopey looking van... I thought to myself, man, who’s this idiot? Moments after finding out that this guy built that very car with his bare hands with an engine that runs sustainably from the left over vegetable oil from festival food stalls... I thought to myself, this guy is someone unique.

I don’t know how to categorise Uri… but he has pretty much taught himself to do everything from building, plumbing, powering a house from the ground up, to solar electronics, to building his own car fuelled by fish and chips left overs - an ace of all trades, and now a close friend. We laugh about how, for a guy that was only supposed to be staying for a few days, three years later he’s still here, and we are working alongside one another on the property creating great things. I think we will keep doing so because we share a similar approach to how we create using the things we have around us.

Creativity to you is?

From the coffee you get made by the girl at your local cafe, to the guy painting one dot at a time for a canvas the size of your door, I think the most important thing with creativity is that you're simply able to lose yourself in it and find your way back with more of an understanding of that desire to search deeper into the unknown and dig out a stronger part of yourself you haven’t yet discovered.

A song, a lyric, an artwork, or any creative piece that really moved and inspired you?

There's a one-of-a kind human that comes to mind, and the last painting I saw of his moved me, or didn’t - because I was standing still for what felt like days getting lost in it's grandness...he goes by the name of James Ettelson. It takes him about a month to complete the infinite spiral of coloured dots or what, to my eye, could be the anatomy of a magical moth's brain.. or whatever your eye will come up with. He's one of those artist’s that definitely wanders off into the unknown with his awesome creations, and you become lost in it, and inspired.

The best advice you were ever given, or a favourite quote that resonates?

I heard it said once in a documentary, "Life will teach you how to live it.. you just have to live it long enough."

It was in regards to someone really special lost from this earth... I was watching the Amy Winehouse documentary and listened to that quote explained by an old guy who played a part in her career, and loved her.  It was a real eye opener for me, watching the way that vulture culture part of media consumed such a beautiful soul...it should be watched and learned from.

A moment in life that stirred you enough to instigate change, or shaped your path?

Sometimes the best outcome are the things that never happened... I think things are blessings in that way. It's always good to take a step back and take a breather... overtime I’m learning to just take it more as it comes and things usually work out the way they should in the end.

A moment you’re most proud of?

Just recently a mate and I fully restored an old 30ft wooden clinker little sailing boat. Launching it and watching it glide into the water was a pretty great achievement for sure. And its history made it all the more special - it was sailed to Australia from Italy on a six year journey at sea, then sold to me a good fifty dishevelled years later. It was a nice feeling seeing it restored to its former glory.

Advice for anyone when pursuing a path that is deeply important to them?

I guess to build the world around you the way you want it, as best as you can. And that you can’t win all the battles you choose to take head on... but find that thing you love and let it take over you, and if you don’t know what it is yet, keep searching until maybe the search becomes the thing you might have been looking for… adventure into the unknown till you're satisfied... maybe then kick back on the couch.

Visit the Dope Lemon website to hear the new EP, and pre-order the new Angus and Julia Stone album Snow released this month.

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