Throughout his career rock and roll legend Jimmy Barnes has continued to raise the bar. His latest release, My Criminal Record, has been no different. Upon its release My Criminal Record immediately rocketed to the top of the album charts, making it Barnes’ 16th number one album and the most ever in Australia. Despite its success, Barnes told J.A.M that this record was a success in his eyes even before release.
“The best thing about My Criminal Record is that I made the record I wanted to make. I feel like I got everything I wanted to say down on record, so it was successful for me already. The fact that it then went out, sold well and had people connecting with it is a really good thing.”
This mindset is something which Barnes said a younger version of himself never would have been able to have.
“For years and years, I was one of those people who always measured my self-worth externally. If other people liked something I made then I thought I was worth something. I’m not so much like that anymore.”
When Barnes speaks about this record being “the record he wanted to make” he is referring to both the subject material and the method used to record the tracks.
Barnes explained to J.A.M that he was inspired to write My Criminal Record when he was writing his bestselling memoirs, Working Class Boy and Working Class Man. The memoir process was something which Barnes described as both a difficult but positive time in his life.
“Writing those books was such a process, but it was also really great for me… I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I wrote about things that had been killing me for years, and things that I had been running from for years.”
My Criminal Record may have been inspired by the memoirs but Barnes is quick to say that whilst he “was writing about the same subject matter” it was “from a different perspective.” Barnes says this because the record was polished and finalised long after the books, so he was “through the thick of it and could see the light.”
In regards to the recording process, Barnes also chose to simplify his approach with My Criminal Record. He did this by looking close to home, choosing to record with his live band rather than outside musicians.
“I wanted to write songs and record songs that would fit into my live set and that I’d be able to easily play live every night of the week, Barnes explained before continuing excitedly, “So to do that I had to use my live band, which includes my son, my son-in-law and my girls. These are all people I’ve worked with for 20 or 30 years so they knew exactly what I wanted to deliver on stage and they helped me get that really easily.”
According to Barnes, this approach allowed him and his band to record this album almost entirely live. Something which Barnes said is crucial to preventing songs becoming “too sterile” and thus losing their character.
"Songs are like people. The things that differentiate people are normally their flaws. So it's the little bumps and stuff that isn’t perfect that make these songs so great.”
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