When Mark Sholtez hit the Australian music scene it was with his ARIA-nominated first album Real Street, a jazz-inspired collection of songs which debuted at number one on the ARIA Jazz and Blues chart.
Now, three and a half years later, he’s back. But this time he’s changed direction ever so slightly, arming himself with a guitar and a fist full of songs.
The result is The Distance Between Two Truths, a more sincere, heartfelt album, influenced in parts by low jazz, the music yielding to the sensitivity of the lyrics.
“I wanted the focus to be on the song writing,” Sholtez told the Star, “More than the stylistic elements so it was quite a conscious decision at the heart of this that I was a singer-songwriter and that I really wanted to focus on that.”
The progression toward guitar arose more out of convenience than some grand gesture of breaking with his roots.
“If you’re travelling all the time and sitting in hotel rooms, relying on a piano in order to play music, you never get to play and also if you walk into a radio station [for] an interview and you can play the guitar, you can play an acoustic song and you don’t need to be somewhere with a piano up against the wall.
“I started getting more and more serious about playing the guitar and everything just shifted. Everything I wrote for the new record I wrote on guitar which immediately changes the way things feel. And then I just started doing all these little intimate acoustic gigs.
“It just seemed to make a lot more sense. The format just seemed to suit me more.”
On this record Sholtez brings together a selection of, by and large, first takes. It’s influenced by producer Larry Klein whose ‘preservation of imperfection’ prevails on this album, tweaking and auto tune noticeably shunned.
“It feels really natural and honest, this new record. I think crucial to the heart of this record is everything is anchored to my guitar playing and singing… I think I’ll continue to try and anchor [future] records to the way this new record feels,” Sholtez said.
“But it’s hard to know because if you want to be really honest and just let the song writing and the stories you’re writing guide the way the record sounds, you can never forecast.
“I may write a really optimistic record that needs a very different treatment or a really kind of dark, grey bunch of songs that want an entirely different treatment again.’
But for now Sholtez’s second opus harks back to the music of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. It’s a classic sound Sholtez has made his own, his approach to song-writing “finding that one little thing and hanging a story off it”.
In fact, in the process of recording this album, he had 80 songs to choose from.
“I get into songwriting mode and it sort of just falls out. I just love writing and if I had to choose one thing I would choose songwriting, over being an artist and playing live. I just love it.”
It’s a proliferation and determination that is seeing Sholtez forge a formidable career, no matter what distance he has to travel to get there.
“This is a version of me that’s honest and true,” he concluded, explaining the simplicity of the album title, The Distance Between Two Truths. “And so is the other one, just a different version.”
info: The Distance Between Two Truths is out July 2 through Warner Music.
By SCOTT-PATRICK MITCHELL