“I remember standing side of stage when they were about to go on,” says Lior when I ask him about performing with Carole King and James Taylor. “I had this sort of accidental voyeuristic moment. They were sixty-nine years old and about to walk on stage to play for sixteen thousand people but they just took a moment and hugged each other and said ‘how lucky are we to be doing this?’ ”
Even though it’s been six years since he supported the pair of songwriting immortals – not to mention a decade since the release of his debut album, Autumn Flow – Lior is showing no sign of letting up. With new material and a national tour in the works for 2017, Lior takes some time out to chat about his affection for the songwriting craft and its masters – an affection that’s as deep as ever.
“Around fourteen I kind of discovered singing and felt that that was really the core of my musicality,” he says. He started out playing classical guitar at age eleven but that soon took a backseat. “I became much more interested in seeing what kind of songs I could come up with.”
He rattles off a long list of influences that includes King, Neil Young and Nick Drake; the free-flowing songwriters of the 60s and 70s. They’re the musicians, along with Canadian, Leslie Feist, that shaped Lior’s lush, earthbound sound. James Taylor, it seems, was particularly inspirational.
“The biggest thing for me is his believability,” says Lior. “I just believe what he is saying. I think as a songwriter you strive for a sense of authenticity and I don’t think there’s anyone who has more of that than James Taylor.”
Keeping it genuine means that Lior now casts his own influence. I ask him to pull apart This Old Love. It’s the song that kick started his career and inspired a new generation of songwriters. He can sense, I think, that I’m a fan.
“You know I really can’t remember,” he says, laughing just a little when I inquire about the process behind the song. “I think I probably would’ve had that guitar progression going on and then maybe I had the chorus lyric. I remember wanting to write this sort of love song that was grounded in reality, you know? Rather than fantasy. And then I just kind of combined the two and started filling in the gaps and putting the puzzle together.”
It’s not the first time that he’s referred to songwriting as a jigsaw. The analogy fits well too. Whether it’s orchestrating a string quartet and fingerpicked guitar or coupling burrowed-in chord progressions with diary entry lyrics, Lior’s work is all about musical marriages. He took a similar approach on a recent songwriting trip to New York, though the results could be a departure from his previous style.
“I collaborated with some great musicians and producers,” he says. “It was all about seizing the inspired moment, and as we were writing it and then recording it that naturally lends itself to a bit of a different sound.”
But whatever the future holds for Lior, he doesn’t want to lose the visceral charm that those master songwriters captured so fluently.
“It’s always gonna be organic and made by humans,” he says, in what might be a cheeky dig at the washed-out, electronic production that some of his peers have adopted of late. Lior however, is defiant. “It’s something I’ll always have at the core of what I do.”
School of Music students Brendan Keller-Tuberg and Hayden Fritzlaff host Woroni Radio’s Songs To Grow Up To on Mondays at 6:30pm.