Writers are frequently asked about their writing day – how many hours do they spend at the desk? Morning or night? Wine or coffee? For veteran songwriter Don Walker the routine goes something like this: “I try to leave the house or hotel I may be staying in and go for a drive.
“It will usually be late afternoon and I’ll look for a cafe where the coffee machine is going to be running for a couple of more hours. I’ll sit down and read the paper online. Then I’ll pull several pieces of paper out of my pocket. Each one will represent a song I’m working on, there might be six or seven at a time.
“So I gradually start playing with the words, moving them into the right places.”
Walker avoids projects with preconceived themes and looks for inspiration to happen in a more organic fashion.
“If you are staying at the one place for a time, or if things happen around you, then concerns will leak into what you are writing.”
He makes it sound so easy. A few scraps of paper and a bit of inspiration but his creative ability has been honed over 40 years.
First there were the wild days with Cold Chisel, followed by Catfish and Tex, Don and Charlie as well as solo performances.
There are the songs that stay in the public conscious like Khe Sanh, Flame Trees, Cheap Wine and love songs as well.
The “concerns” that leak into his writing include Four in the Morning and The Way You are Tonight.
As Walker says in his latest book Songs, “Maybe all songs are love songs. To someone dear. To God. To the writer. To money.”
Even in the prose which punctuates Walker’s lyrics in Songs there is a certain preciseness. Not all songs are gifts, many are worked on for a long time until Walker is satisfied with the narrative and the arousal of sometimes elusive emotions.
Walker still makes records with Cold Chisel and is working harder than ever. Although work is probably the wrong verb. He loves writing songs.
“Jim sent me some lyrics not so long ago and not unusually they were brilliant.”
Walker isn’t at all surprised by the success of his mate’s two volumes of memoirs, Working Class Boy and Working Class Man.
“Jim’s voice reflects Jim. His charm, the way he draws people in. I knew he could write because of the way he sings.”
Walker reflects on his and Jim’s longevity – the perils of the rock and roll lifestyle – and says even when he was younger he never bought the line that you had to damage yourself in order to create something.
As for his mate Jimmy Barnes, Don Walker reckons the fates have been kind to him.
“He’s lived hard but some people instinctively know they’re lucky,” Walker laughs.