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Jenny Biddle: Hero In Me - The Story Behind The Songs - Track 2 'Across the Nullarbor'


By Jenny Biddle.



Continuing the TEN-YEAR Anniversary of my album "Hero in Me", each month I'm diving into a track from the album to chat about all things songwriting.


Today we're diving into Track 2: "Across the Nullarbor".



The Nullarbor is a desert the stretches across southern Australia. It’s arid, flat, treeless, and expands 200,000km2. It’s home to one of the longest, straightest roads in the world, spanning 146km without turning - known as the “90 Mile Straight”.


It’s easier to talk desert facts than the origins of this song. Writing a song can be like a tattoo in time, and it takes you right back to when you wrote it and all the feelings that surrounded it. Ironically, I largely wrote this song lying on my back in the dark of a narrow, windowless hallway in my tiny flat in rainy Melbourne. Ack… I can taste the loneliness in my mouth when I think back.


I’d been in love with someone for years. It’s like one of those TV series where the two main characters have a crazy unspoken chemistry, but no one has the guts to say or do anything about it. So instead, the games of run, chase, run, say-something-stupid, put walls up, run, chase, self-destruct, run, write-a-song, run… go on and on like a never ending saga. You kind of grow sick of it… but by season 7 of the series, you’re well hooked, and you think maybe next episode they’ll get together and live happily ever after…


“Across the Nullarbor” stems from that.


Ashamedly, I’ve never actually been to or across the Nullarbor Plain, and yet its essence, the endless expanse of nothingness, was akin to the loneliness I felt during this time. My unrequited love moved across the country, and my cunning plan was to go to Perth and win them back. (Maybe that would have made for a more interesting TV series.) I wrote the first half of the song in this heartspace. But before crossing the Nullarbor, I found myself in a bar (this sounds like a legit TV show - I don’t actually enjoy going to bars like the people on TV seem to, but alas my gigs took me there). I got talking to a fellow bar-dweller, and my story came billowing out, as it inevitably does in a bar. Something the stranger said stopped me in my tracks, and I realised I was never going to “win the girl”. My elaborate plans to cross the Nullarbor, 3500km across Australia, were fast terminated, and instead, I finished writing the final verse and chorus for “Across the Nullarbor”, perhaps determining fate…


That was a long time ago now. But as I reflect, the feeling sits heavy with me like a dark stain leaking across my mind. I believe the process of songwriting is cathartic and healing, but often wonder if the rehearsing and performing old songs is a cocktail for unnecessary and unhealthy rumination and self-destruction. This person, this unrequited love, features throughout my works. Perhaps you’ll come across a song, or lyric, or ten in other albums. Perhaps you have your own unrequited love story…


What does this song evoke for you?



Guitar Tuning: EGDGBE (capo 5)

This guitar tuning creates an opening G sounding tuning, but the E on the bass allows you to throw in some deeper E minor flavours.



Pedal Steel:

Jason Walker played pedal steel and "wandered" throughout the song with his beautiful tones, almost to mimic the idea of someone wandering in the desert. I like the coda of the song, where the pedal steel, brushed snare drum, and guitar just kind of hang, suspended in space, like a contemplative, wandering soul.


Spotify:

To add this song to your Spotify playlist, here are the links:

Across the Nullarbor (Full Band, Studio Version - 2013) https://open.spotify.com/track



Lyrics:

You got dressed and you left

Sold your possessions on the web

Cos we don’t need many things

When all the baggage is in our head


And I wondered what you saw

In the girl across the Nullarbor

But she took your heart and your hand

And she stole you across this great wide land


But you know I’m gonna reach you there

You know I’m gonna find you out

And I’ll pull your heart right out of that town

You know I’m gonna reach you there

And I’ll woo that heart

And we’ll dance from shore to shore

Back across the Nullarbor


Seems there’s nothing in between

Just the stretch of the desert and one lonely tree

But in all our history

It’s got us hanging on that one fine string


But you know I’m gonna reach you there

You know I’m gonna find you out

And I’ll pull your heart right out of that town

You know I’m gonna reach you there

And I’ll woo that heart

And we’ll dance from shore to shore

Back across the Nullarbor


So I set upon my way

And I’m tripping over stones and the epiphany it came

When I came across the man amidst the dust

And he said to me...

“You know you’ve gotta go home”

“You know”.... don’t I know...

You’ll say no


You know I thought I’d reach you there

You know I never had a doubt

I thought I’d pull your heart right out of that town

But even if I met you there

I couldn’t win your heart

Gotta turn myself around

Back across the Nullarbor


Credits:

Song by Jenny Biddle

Recorded & Mixed & Produced by Sean Carey at Trackdown Studios, Camperdown, NSW, Australia

Mastering by Don Bartley, Blaxland, NSW, Australia

Album Art by Katrina Leighton


Jenny Biddle: vocals, acoustic, electric guitars

Sean Carey: bass, electric guitars

Michael Quigley: drums

Jason Walker: pedal Steel





Read more from Jenny


Track 1 - Hero In Me



Jenny Biddle is an Australian, Folk, Blues & Roots musician, she is a well seasoned guitarist, witty storyteller, poignant songwriter and winner of the Blues & Roots Radio International Song Contest 2020. Jenny fashions an infectious mix of down to earth modern folk for the wandering soul. Her 8th album 'Hoping For A Hero' is out now..

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