Diesel’s childhood inspires Americana album of musical memories


Mark Lizotte, better known as Diesel, pays tribute to American and Canadian songwriters who have influenced him as a musician on his latest album Americana.
Mark Lizotte, better known as Diesel, pays tribute to American and Canadian songwriters who have influenced him as a musician on his latest album Americana.

AMERICANA is not just Diesel’s tribute to great American and Canadian songwriters.

It is also a reflection of Mark Lizotte’s childhood and, as an artist born in America and raised in Australia, a link back to the land he left behind.

“I was just shy of my sixth birthday when we came out (to Australia), then we went back again when I was nine then came back again when I was 12,” Lizotte said.

“We did quite a lot of moving back and forth.

“As a kid, when you have to move schools that many times it has quite a big impact but it was good.

“I don’t remember feeling like it was ruining my life or anything but it was challenging I have to say, having to make friends so many times.”

However, he says being brought up with both American and Australian musical influences was “the pay off”.

“Just getting a big wide picture of the world, it definitely gave me that,” he said.

“He (dad Hank) moved all of us six kids across the globe to Australia and that’s part of the Americana fascination for me; being moved away from America.

“I probably wouldn’t have had as strong a fascination with the whole American music thing if I hadn’t been on the other side of the world and wondering about it.”

Lizotte said the idea for Americana, which was released on July 1, started as “an idea that was dropped on the table in front of me”.

“I just instantly was attracted to it without even thinking about the songs; just looking at the artists’ names on a piece of paper was very enticing,” he said.

“It just got better as I started thinking about the reality of which songs we were going to actually do and it just exploded outwards from that.

“It ended up being a platform for me to go through my musical memories, a closet of memories I have from listening to all these people’s music.

“I guess they’re embedded in my brain these songs.”

He said his aim was to “move each artist to another part of the country”.

“Take James Taylor from Boston and move him down to Memphis,” he said.

“Take Johnny Cash and move him to LA, just rock it right up and get away from the country two-step with the mariachi horn.

“With (Bruce) Springsteen, I just thought well I want to make this work with guitar.

“The original has bells and pianos and all kinds of things, it’s a wall of orchestral stuff.

“I did have horns come and play but I thought ‘I’ve got to try to make this work without that sax solo, even though it’s so signature; surely I can flip it to a guitar solo and it’s still going to be cool’.

“It was an experiment.

“I don’t think I completely did them in such an unrecognisable way but some of them more than others are very different to the original.

Thirty-something years of living inside my brain comes out and it’s my version of it with all the experience I’ve had from my recording and performing career I suppose.”

While Lizotte “let a few people put their two cents in” with which songs should go on the 13-track album, such as the suggestion of covering the less-obvious Rag Mama Rag by The Band, there were some he insisted on recording.

“(Here Comes My Girl) is not the most known Tom Petty song but when people hear it, they recognise it,” he said.

“I remember the album Damn the Torpedoes and I just used to put the needle on that track and then I’d listen to the rest of the album but I couldn’t wait, I had to listen to that one first.”

He said the inclusion of Joni Mitchell’s The Circle Game could be one that would surprise fans.

“People might think of me more as a full on, full frontal guitar guy and they don’t think of me as a Joni Mitchell folk lover, but my sisters played that song in the house when I was a kid and my sister used to play it on her acoustic guitar when I was two or three years old and I had a love affair with that song, so it’s in me forever,” he said.

The family connection continues through the album with his parents wedding photo on the cover and an instrumental ode to his father to kick Americana off.

“My brother was down in Tasmania and he was going through my dad’s stuff and it just happened,” Lizotte said.

“He sent it to me and I thought ‘I can’t believe you’re sending this to me right now, I’m just about to start making a record and you’re sending me this photo, this is the cover, I can’t believe it’.

“It certainly helps when you have an image for a cover before you’ve even started recording; it sets a tone.

“Just before I started recording I went over to New York for a month and didn’t sleep for like three days with jetlag so I wrote this instrumental.

“Why I don’t know, it just came in to my head and I thought ‘I’ll call that Hank’s Dream because my dad’s name is Hank and it was like part of the journey.”

Lizotte will play some of the Americana tracks as well as many of Diesel’s hits when he brings his Americana national tour to WA in September, including a solo show at Friends Restaurant and band shows at the Ravenswood and The Charles hotels.

THE ESSENTIALS

Diesel – Americana national tour

Friends Restaurant, Perth – September 15 (solo)

Tickets: www.friendsrestaurant.com.au

Ravenswood Hotel, Ravenswood – September 16

The Charles Hotel, North Perth – September 17

Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com.au