Thistlethwayte flying solo for now
IT'S pretty usual to do background research on a musician before you interview him, especially if he's Rai Thistlethwayte of Thirsty Merc.
What's less usual is to find YouTube clips of said musician playing incredibly complex John Coltrane jazz tunes on piano.
Although according to Rai, it's not unusual at all.
To him, all music is a pretty fluid concept.
"I don't see any boundaries," he said, speaking to us on hands-free as he drove his car in for a service.
"It's counter-productive as an artist to put boundaries on anything. Last night I went to a 'jazz' gig with a drummer and a guitarist that was more like heavy metal than jazz - things cross over all the time. People put too much restriction on style. If you want to get smaller than style you can talk about tonality, major or minor..."
He drifts off, concentrating on driving, and then comes back to finish the thought.
"At the end of the day we're trying to communicate - that's what music was originally about."
Rai's getting some chores done in Sydney, including servicing his car, and planning an east coast solo tour.
"I'm back for a little while in Australia and I thought I should do some shows - water the garden," he said.
"I'm working on new stuff and it's probably better to show it with just a piano. Some of it could definitely be Thirsty Merc stuff, I'm thinking along those lines... you can look forward to a solo record - I don't have a date in the book but I have various things under the solo auspices, some things I've been working on that I haven't had a chance to complete."
Rai's looking forward to road testing his new tunes at the Hoey Moey, July 27. It'll make a change from being in the studio, Rai reckons.
"It's one of those things if you do too much you want a break, and when you've been labouring over a selection of work, locking yourself in a darkened room with sound engineers and too much coffee, you want to get out again," he said.
"It's bloody fun. It's like a roadshow. The North Coast is pretty rocking. I do enjoy it."
All this hard work has been put in Rai's new base of operations - the glittering Los Angeles.
"I've been over in LA for three months, like a semi-relocation," he said.
"It's a pretty mind-blowing place, multi-layered, crazy, bigger than Sydney. It's got a very diverse music scene. It's got that general feeling on the surface, you have to be nice to it, there are layers there you have to get to know over time."
It seems the change of scene has been good for Rai, who's been bashing around Sydney for years in the music scene.
Nominated for APRA awards, ARIA awards and having multi-platinum album sales with Thirsty Merc, it's been a different experience for Rai, unrecognised in LA.
"It is refreshing - I came home and got recognised a number of times, but over there I got on with it a bit more," he said.
But he decided to shrug off the topic.
"Yeah look, you know, everybody's got a little bit of fame now with social networking."