The You Am I frontman and debut author spends his life on the road but he’s no tourist. It’s familiar haunts – and family – that make his heart sing. As told to Di Webster.
New York City, United States
The first time I went was with the band in 1993. I now go at least three times a year because my 16-year-old daughter lives there.
Great Jones Cafe in NoHo closed recently but it was always my first stop. I’ve been drinking at that bar since that first trip. I also used to go there before leaving; it was a tradition.
I tend to spend my time in neighbourhoods with history.I love visiting Louis Armstrong’s family home in Queens. A few years ago, I was writing about Greta Garbo and I discovered her walking route in Manhattan. I followed it day after day, hoping to glean something. I wasn’t entirely successful but that woman knew how to walk.
For a crowded city, it can offer incredible solitude. When my daughter was at school, I’d sometimes go to the Amiable Child Monument in Riverside Park. It’s a humble tribute to a little boy who died in 1797. It sits amid the chaos of the Henry Hudson Parkway and the Upper West Side but it’s so peaceful. I’d sit there and read and write.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Madrid over the past 20 years. My daughter’s grandparents live 130 kilometres north in a town called Cedillo de la Torre. I see Madrid as a subterranean city; it takes on a different character when the sun goes down.
My favourite tapas bar, Los Gatos, is run by bullfighting twins. When I was living in Madrid, one of the brothers clearly didn’t like me and the other one did. I never knew how I’d be greeted. If I was offered manchego cheese and a little caña [glass] of beer, I’d know it was my guy. If I was met with the stony look that only a former bullfighter can give you, I’d think, “Oh dear, it’s the brother.”
I don’t enjoy looking like a tourist. I’d rather get lost than spread a map open. Being an undesirable middle-aged male, getting lost isn’t that scary – people tend to leave you alone.
When I was on tour last year, my partner, Rosemary, met me in Madrid. Showing a place to a partner who doesn’t share your history there is a little nerve-racking but if it works out, it’s wonderful. You feel this extra warmth in your heart for that person and for the place.
Rosedale, New South Wales
You Am I started from a conversation my schoolmate, Nick Tischler, and I had at his family’s holiday house in a little town called Rosedale, south of Batemans Bay. We sat around a table with a crate of Coopers Sparkling Ale and plotted how we’d get a scrappy rock ’n’ roll band together. That gave me a life, really.
For about 47 years, I thought I had to be close to a city – that fumes were the air I needed to conjure the muse – but no, I don’t. I’ll never feel anything but rabid affection for Melbourne but, increasingly, I’m having very clear ideas about the way I want to live. I’m craving the silence of NSW’s South Coast, somewhere between Rosedale and Milton, and being able to get away from crowds and people.
Nick and I are planning a fishing trip there when I finally learn how to go on a holiday. ￼
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