"A lone car stopped as I walked home that night/ I ignored all the warnings a young lady fears." - By Face, Not Name - Jeff Lang.

When Geelong reared guitarist Jeff Lang returned his hire car after a recent two month U.S. tour he was surprised to learn he had travelled 12,000 miles.

But it's not the mileage but learning on a journey started in a Belmont High garage band that have fuelled the lauded singer-songwriter's music.

Lang frequently turns observations from pit stops and car windows into songs adorning his 10 albums in just 12 years.

A plethora of pro-life road signs in Mid-West states Minnesota and Wisconsin inspired a gender change on his ABC Music debut Whatever Makes You Happy.

Lang wrote By Face, Not Name from the view of a rape victim who falls pregnant to her attacker and must make a decision on an abortion.
< Jeff Lang

"I saw all these pro-life billboards, it ticked me off because it was very preachy," Lang told Nu Country on the eve of his multi band CD launch at The Corner Hotel, Richmond, on Friday July 30.

"I imagined all these ugly blokes, Fred Nile types, who like to tell women what to do and can't do. What year is this? Whatever decision women make is not easy. We don't know anything about what it's like to carry a child and make those decisions about their bodies. I wrote it from the female perspective. I figure that unless you have a womb you are not in that argument in the definitive sense. You have your opinions. There's no point telling people what to think. I don't like preachy type songs, I don't generally write things that are political but this is. It puts the story out there and you make up your own opinion."

Melbourne country trio Git add authenticity by delivering the victim's tale with Lang.
Lang's prolific album output is an accurate barometer of his productivity.

"I'm pumping them out like trailer park kids," says Lang who moved to Geelong when he was 12.

"I was at primary school in Box Hill and started playing guitar in Geelong. In my garage band I was playing rock. I'm a songwriter and whatever comes out comes out. I got a chance when I was 17 to play in a blues band, Latrobe Terrace. I went through my dad's records, Dylan, Ry Cooder, Leo Kottke, artists like that. I spent every spare dollar buying records. My dad was in insurance."


Death has long been a staple of the best roots music - a local tragedy inspired You Should Have Waited.

"I did a show at the Royal Derby the night this musician accidentally overdosed," Lang revealed, "we were standing outside when he went past in his car. The character telling the story is a friend of mine who played in bands with him. I then played at a benefit for him. It was an extraordinary night."

But a local newspaper story on an attempted Japanese suicide inspired Rejected Novelist Fails Again.

"The writer was frustrated at not getting published and got his hands on a Suicide Manual that gives you creative means," Lang explained.

"He chose to go into town with a sledge hammer and belt shit out of all these working people's cars. The idea was that would beat the shit out of him and kill him but he was in the centre of town and there were police and ambulances nearby."

Lang wrote The Save, using an Indian Pacific metaphor, when he was living in the west Sydney suburb of Summer Hill.

"It was as song of hope, futile or otherwise," says Lang.


A musician friend inspired The Road Is Not On Your Only Friend - set in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with a Tailem Bend tentacle.

"I like to draw a big line around the world," Lang says, "I travel all over the place. The idea came from Skip Sales - a scholar of rural blues. He played me Hobart Smith, an influence on Dylan. I wrote it on a four string banjo and adapted it to a National guitar."

Fleshed out by Lang's mandolin and fiddle Greg O'Leary on fiddle, it has a radio friendly accessibility.

Slip Away was inspired by Melbourne blues act C W Stoneking.

"I was watching his gig at the Old Bar and realised how authentic it was," says Lang.
"It was like transporting you through a portal to 1925, back to Son House."

Lang tours Australia and returns to the U.S. and Europe to promote his 15-track disc.

He has won wide exposure on Americana stations and prestige live public radio shows such as Prairie Home Companion and Mountain Stage.

One of his favourite cities is Texas love music mecca Austin.

"Austin reminds me of Melbourne but I like Melbourne better," says Lang, "I've been to so many free shows in Melbourne recently. For a punter it's extraordinary. I caught two Susannah Espie and Sarah Carroll playing in separate bands.

Whatever Makes You Happy has been released in Australia and New Zealand and may inspire a bunch of covers by other artists.

"There was even a Jeff Lang tribute disc by electronica artists," Lang revealed on the eve of his launch.

Jeff Lang, supported by peers Git, Headbelly Buzzard, Matt Walker and C W Stoneking, launches his ABC CD Whatever Makes You Happy at the Corner Hotel, Richmond, on Friday July 30.

Check out our Articles page soon for a pictorial and literary review of this gala show by our web mistress Anne Sydenham.

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