MUSICIANS do it all the time - downplay the significance of winning awards.
But for Melbourne indie pop-folk band Oh Mercy - which boast guitarist Simon Okely of Perth's The Preytells as one of their own - the importance of becoming the recipients of the 'Red Bull Award in Recognition of Outstanding Potential' at the 2009 Australian Music Prize is not something lost on the outfit's singer-songwriter Alexander Gow.
Two years ago, Oh Mercy's debut album Privileged Woes was recorded in a tiny bedroom, but for their newly released sophomore LP Great Barrier Grief, it was a more mature musical scenario, no doubt thanks to the $15,000 Amp cash prize.
“It was fundamentally different in that we recorded in a recording studio with real instruments and musicians as opposed to the bedroom, where we didn't have any resources,” Gow said.
Gow managed to secure American producer Mitchell Froom, who has worked with Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam and Gow's musical heroes Crowded House.
He described the recording stint in Santa Monica as “the best summer of my life”, which beared considerable fruit with single Stay Please Stay receiving high rotation on Triple J.
Most of the album was written in Australia, with “refining of parts” taking place in New York creative hub Brooklyn, where Gow rented a basement room.
“People say all the time that you're going to be so inspired by Brooklyn and write the best songs you've ever written,” he said.
“But I don't necessarily find one particular geographical place any more inspiring than another; it's probably people I meet and music I hear which inspires me most.”
Of particular note on the inspiration front is that master of song-craft, Paul Kelly.
“Other people I love are Leonard Cohen, David McComb of The Triffids, and Grant McLennan and Robert Forster of The Go-Betweens.
“I have admired their dedication to their craft and integrity in their approach.”
Oh Mercy play the Amplifier, Perth, on April 30, and Mojo's, North Fremantle, on May 1.