In like Finn as New Wave icon looks to the Folkie

THE Port Fairy Folk Festival is less than two weeks away and first-time performer Tim Finn believes he'll feel right at home despite his stature as a New Wave icon.

The New Zealand-born song-smith has been part of Australia's music scene since the mid-1970s and is best known from multiple ventures with his brother Neil, including Split Enz, Crowded House and the Finn Brothers.

Outside those acts, however, Finn has had a prolific solo career, releasing 10 solo albums since 1983 - all but two charting in Australia and New Zealand's top 50.

The 60-year-old, who described his recent activity as "pottering around", said he was excited to join the Port Fairy lineup after hearing so much from fellow musicians.

Admitting he identified with the "pop music" label more than folk, Finn said this year's lineup was proof that the genre had influenced so many different styles of music.

"It's quite an eclectic bunch," he told The Standard.

"I like the fact that it shows quite a wide range description of folk music.

"The Sydney band Smudge saw me once and said 'It's Celtic, isn't it?'

"There's a jazz singer in Melbourne, Vince Jones, who looks like he embodies the whole ethic and when he saw me and Neil play he said to us afterwards, 'It's folk music, isn't it?'

"Maybe compared to jazz it is. We were always compared to pop."

While Finn's hits throughout the past three decades may not embody the archetype of folk tunes, his honest songwriting and Celtic influences make him an artist many look forward to seeing on a Port Fairy stage.

The complexities of human relationships and the common encounters of everyday life are ideas he still seeks to explore when he sits down at the piano to write new music.

"There's something in my music about upward spiraling melodies; there's an uplift and bittersweet thing.

"Irish people can embody that melancholy of life and still there's an uplift, so I like to try and find those things in music.

"If you can dig deep you're going to find stuff people can relate to and not be afraid of the honesty of that or revealing too much of yourself.

"The more you go into your personal imagination or your thoughts and emotion, the more your writing is common to all.

"Human relationships are very complex.

"We mess up all the time but we keep trying.

"There are things going on in relationships between me and people I'm living with and there are things in the human field I'll never get tired of exploring.

"It more or less comes up and I'll get a title or theme out of everyday life and I'm chasing the beauty in that everyday celebration.

"In the end it's beauty and seeking that hint of perfection that life that pulls you in."

Now more focused on his family life, Finn boasts a particular fondness for festival performances, especially as they've become more common on his lighter touring schedule.

With his earliest fans now an aging crowd, younger audiences are stumbling across his back catalogue thanks to the regular festival appearances in recent years.

"You get the 'all ages' aspect of it, especially at the Falls Festival, playing to people in their early 20s or people who are not even 20 yet and know quite a lot of my songs.

"It's an amazing feeling for any songwriter to connect with a new audience.

"Playing to people who have never seen me, I like that because it gives a good energy.

"For the older fans I don't mind playing some older songs either.

"There's an instant kind of ripple effect through the crowd.

"I still get excited about writing songs and I don't think that will ever stop.

"I'll still pull out an acoustic guitar, sit down at the piano and write songs they way I always did."

As well as Finn, the Port Fairy Folk Festival features a lineup including Xavier Rudd, Kate Miller-Heidke, Shaun Kirk and Glen Hansard, plus local artists Tank Dilemma, Tom Richardson Project and Shane Howard.

j.pech@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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