Today (June 18), Tim Minchin has shared his weightiest single to date with ‘I’ll Take Lonely Tonight’, a meditation on choosing fidelity over and over again.
Following ‘Leaving LA’, the new track is the second single from a forthcoming debut studio album, which Minchin has revealed is called ‘Apart Together’. Minchin stars in the music video for ‘I’ll Take Lonely Tonight’, directed by former collaborator Caro Constantine, as a “hairy guy singing in a boat”. Watch it below.
The musical polymath is dropping the jokes almost entirely on ‘Apart Together’, after releasing live comedy albums steadily since 2005. The record, out November 2020 on BMG Australia, is a determinedly auto-biographical effort that Minchin tells NME has finally given him peace with his own voice, musically and metaphorically.
Minchin is undeterred by the thought of alienating fans with a turn toward self-serious themes. Neither, he claims, is he bothered by the conservative media criticism he continues to receive – despite his habit of systematically replying to individual Twitter trolls.
NME spoke to Minchin about fidelity, his Scott Morrison-panning collaboration with Briggs and the making of his new “bent pop record”.
‘I’ll Take Lonely Tonight’ isn’t the first time that you’ve written about fidelity. On an unreleased song ‘The Absence Of You’ you actually detailed a single incident of unfaithfulness. Why write about it again, and what’s different this time?
Both of those songs are on the record actually… I don’t really mind that the theme comes up more than once, because the album’s quite auto-biographical, and I don’t like pretending to be something I’m not. I don’t write songs about shit I haven’t experienced. When you’re a 45-year-old man who’s been married since they were young, and you spend your life touring, it’s just… I think everyone writes about love, but most people write absolute bullshit about it. So, ‘Absence Of You’, although it addresses a moment of having that opportunity, is really just about absence, and ‘Lonely’ digs further into it.
The release you are driven towards when you are wanting to fuck someone is fucking. But the song, slightly ironically, drives towards a release of relief, the bliss, the almost-ecstatic orgasmic bliss of having not fucked up.
If you don’t mind me asking, how does it feel to show your wife these songs?
It’s not like I’ve gone 20 years of going “Hi darling, I’m home! When I go on tour, I’ve never once flirted with a girl and look at our happy marriage!”, then boom – here’s a song about how sometimes I’m tempted. You know I’m very open. And she [Sarah Minchin, Tim’s wife] knows that. Also ’cause she’s an intelligent person, she knows fidelity is a thing you have to choose over and over again.
The honest truth about love and long-term love is that you have to choose it again, again and again, and it only gets harder to choose, not easier. She’s unsurprised by the text and quite likes the song, but I think she finds it emotionally difficult when she first hears these things, especially in front of other people.
- READ MORE: Soundtrack of My Life – Tim Minchin
When you announced the release of the studio album, you said you’d made a record that isn’t defined by other people’s expectations. Do you think this material is going to shock your fans?
No, it’s not gonna shock anyone. I am not particularly resentful or worried about the idea that a large section of my audience will go, “Oh, I prefer the jokes”. That’s fine. If I was too bothered by not doing the thing I was known for I wouldn’t have got to make Upright and written Matilda for that matter. So every time I do something a bit different, it’s like – let’s see how this goes.
The driving force is simply there’s an itch I want to scratch creatively. For two reasons: one, because I’m slightly obsessive about making sure that I try and do the best work I can and two, because I’m financially secure enough to indulge. I’ve gone pretty hard at this record, and it’s a pretty full-on produced record – ‘Leaving LA’ gives you a bit of the production breadth. You can hear French horns and strings – it’s a big record. But it’s not a big record because I think the world desperately wants me to make a big bent pop record, it’s a big record because I thought the songs needed strings, you know.
The Scott Morrison diss track ‘House Fyre’ you released with Briggs a couple of months ago struck a nerve amongst the Prime Minister’s supporters on Twitter. You went through and replied to many of them individually – why?
You make a choice, don’t you? It depends on your mood. I find an influx of hate every time I do something sort of slightly agitating in Australia which is a bit depressing. I find it depressing because the binary nature of politics in all countries is depressing. But on a much more fragile ego level, I find it annoying and upsetting how much of a strawman they have to make me into in order to support their fury.
The vast majority of the tweets say “typical leftie, ABC funded, stoner, needs a haircut, he just doesn’t like Morrison because he’s sucking on the teat of the state”. I’m like… I’ve paid more tax, I’ve given more to charity in the last year than these people would have earned in the last year. I’m a fucking capitalist poster boy! I’m a self-taught, never took the dole, married to my first girlfriend, never taken any drugs, incredibly hard-working, eastern suburbs Sydney-living, high level of tax-paying, no-tax avoidance, an extra 10 per cent to charity motherfucker. And I have Order of Australia.
It’s fucking insane that they’re a bunch of Aussies that, because they read Andrew Bolt, think I’m a stoner. I don’t care if the trolls come after me, but if News.com.au or Daily Mail post a deliberately bullshit headline trying to blow the dog whistle, I unfortunately have found it quite useful to go through the first 20 abusive comments and incredibly politely correct their factual errors, so that under that thread on the record is a) me being polite and b) a bunch of factual corrections. Once I’ve put enough down on the record, I step away.
Does the title ‘Apart Together’ again speak to the touring separation between you and your wife?
‘Apart Together’ is actually a song title – it’s one of the songs on the album which again is about me wanting to speak honestly and interestingly about the experience of love. ‘Apart Together’ is a wedding dance for physicists. It’s all about how, when you commit to someone for the rest of your life, actually what you’re committing to is falling apart together; a life of decay. But it’s really romantic as well! It sounds really comic, but it’s a fairly typical example of the shit I’m interested in writing, which is taking a really common thing and finding a way to talk about it that is slightly bleak, but also elevating in some way.
What has recording an actual studio album given you that you’ve never had before?
It’s done two things quite profoundly. The first is more meaningful. I’ve spent years going, “When am I going to make my record?” ’Cause I’m a songwriter, and always was. Obviously, I’ve done a lot of shit in the last 15 years but I haven’t made a record which was becoming absurd, really. There’s not many people that have written as many songs as I have and made a living out of it, yet have never made a record. I was all confused, because I write to breathe. I’m like – yeah I could write a jazz album, funk album – I can write Matilda, Groundhog Day and I can write comedy songs. I just went: how do I write an album when I don’t know what I am? It relieved my anxiety that I needed to try and write in someone else’s idea of a genre.
Secondly, my hatred of my own voice – you just have to get over it, when you’re listening to the same tracks over and over again, and doing a million takes and mixing and mastering. It’s been quite nice to just go “Fine, that’s what I sound like. This is how I sing.”