Finn his own man

Five decades into an almost peerless songwriting career, Neil Finn remains devoted to the creative process. Between tours for latest solo record Dizzy Heights, the Crowded House and Split Enz legend is bunkered down in his Roundhouse Studios in Auckland working on new music.

Finn doesn't know where these fresh creations will lead but the 56-year-old can confirm that he and elder brother Tim are collaborating on a secret project.

"I can't really be too specific about it, because it's early days," he says from New Zealand. "There's a theatrical aspect.

"I don't want to pre-empt anything but at the moment it's getting us in a room together and thinking about songs, which is great."

While the Finn Brothers have released two studio albums, their first tilt at making music together post-Split Enz morphed into Crowded House's 1991 classic Woodface. Likewise Crowded House's 2007 comeback album, Time on Earth, was "nine-tenths" a solo album before Finn reconnected with Nick Seymour after the death of drummer Paul Hester.

That's just two of several examples where Finn has started down one path only to find himself at an unexpected destination. "I'm aware that it's slightly confusing for people to have so many entities in my background," says Finn, who has also released albums as the Pajama Club with his wife, Sharon, and 7 Worlds Collide with Wilco, Eddie Vedder, Johnny Marr and other famous friends.

"I just try to put the right name on it. To me, it's a continuous body of work. I don't really differentiate the process too much."

Finn notes how Neil Young fans are staunchly divided between devotees of his rock output with Crazy Horse, while others want nothing but folk music from the Canadian-born legend.

"I get a little bit of that myself," he says of followers even further sliced up between Crowded House, Finn Brothers, solo and other recordings.

"It's a good sign that people feel passionately but I just scratch my head sometimes. It doesn't matter. The songs, they're either good or they're not."

The affable Kiwi songsmith will dissect his history and methods in Brisbane next week as the keynote speaker at the BIGSOUND festival.

Then there is a five-date tour of New Zealand before he comes to Margaret River in November to headline a very tasty triple bill alongside indigenous superstar Gurrumul Yunupingu and Sydney indie-popster Megan Washington.

Billed as a solo acoustic performance, Finn usually switches between acoustic and electric guitars, with plenty of effects pedals, plus piano for the odd song.

That sketch should ring bells for fans who attended his gig with Paul Kelly at Red Hill Auditorium on Anzac Day, 2011, when his guitar noodling got a tad too indulgent.

"I'm better now than I was then," Finn admits. "I'm taming the beast.

"I haven't done a lot of shows on my own but it was such a joyous occasion to play on my own and find that people, some of them not even born when the songs were written, singing along to every word.

"I can cover a lot of ground (solo). There's something very nice and free and intimate about it."

While some of New Zealand's great wine regions are on his doorstep, Finn is particularly looking forward to trying Margaret River drops in situ.

"I've got to say my favourite Australian wines are from Margaret River," he says. "That's not going to be the main reason I go but I will be indulging myself a little bit. But not before I go on."

Neil Finn, Gurrumul and Megan Washington play Sandalford Estate, Margaret River on November 22. Tickets go on sale on Monday September 8 from Ticketek.

The West Australian

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