The monikers ‘Draught Dodgers’, ‘Temperance Union’ and ‘The Bamboos’ may not come to mind when thinking about You Am I frontman Tim Rogers, but these are just a few of the many and varied projects the rock star has been involved in over his prolific artistic life. Music, a suavely bohemian dress sense and unruly hair may come to mind, but not experimental theatre, a Jane Campion film, Play School, or cabaret show host. However, Tim Rogers’ poetic writing has been no secret over the years, as anyone who has taken time to listen to the lyrics of any of his songs would know. Now Rogers has written a memoir as a beautifully composed mishmash of vignettes that give snapshots of his life over no particular timeline.
‘Detours’ was released last year and Rogers will be appearing at the Byron Writers Festival in August in one of the festival’s many ‘In Conversation With’ chats, as well as discussing songwriting with Bernard Fanning. He’ll also be part of a panel tackling ‘How to Get Boys Reading’.
The honesty of living with anxiety is prevalent throughout ‘Detours’. However, neither writing about it nor talking about mental health issues is easy when giving an interview, Tim tells us.
“I didn’t want to raise any past mental health or current mental health issues that I’ve got as an issue and put it in the book, it’s just that I was encouraged to talk about it.” Thankfully, Rogers was willing to discuss what so many people in the public eye don’t want to talk about. That is, depression, anxiety and the myriad terms defining mental health issues so commonly suppressed.
“The words get thrown around so often and people can blame it for bad behaviour. When discussions are out there, it needs to be informed discussion and not people saying ‘guess what, I have anxiety’, or ‘guess what, I have depression’. Let’s talk about what they actually are, what the symptoms are, what’s practical, whether it’s pharmacology or what kinds of therapy need to be employed… people just want to be heard. People in the public eye being heard is one thing, but it’s people in regional areas and suburbs who need to be heard more. People saying I have this or this and are using it for publicity, well it’s not a good thing.”
While so many celebrities are out spruiking their healthy lifestyles and abstaining from alcohol, Rogers is reading.
“I think that reading literature or non-fiction or poetry is a wonderful way to escape some perpetuating thoughts and it’s a simple way to more rigorous mental health, particularly amongst kids when they know they can turn to books. Not for everybody, of course, it’s not a sure fire thing.”
“I don’t lead a particularly healthy lifestyle at all, so I turn to reading and getting off telephones and computers. I’m finding it to be a relief at that certain flashpoint and getting one’s imagination working. It’s very simple. I’m not out here to verify it. I’m just Uncle Tim talking about it if someone asks.”
Despite tales of drinking and ingestion of various other intoxicants peppered throughout ‘Detours’, Rogers says he doesn’t lead a particularly unhealthy life either.
“I try to be cognisant of people around me. I try to mix it all up because there’s too much work to be done. But, I drink to work and sometimes I work to drink. It’s just not a big deal. Some people do need to [give up alcohol entirely]. I don’t think I do at this point. For those people that do, they need to be listened to. If I was told that I need to stop I would find it very, very difficult, but fuck it, I’ve got people that rely on me.”
Rogers is an avid AFL fan and has a social kick with a group of people when he’s in Melbourne. Whether touring in a band or kicking a ball around, he doesn’t really enjoy the camaraderie of being around other people.
“It’s kind of the part I really don’t like. I’d rather be alone to tell you the truth. But sometimes you need to be in group situations. I try and give what I can, but I’m finding I have less and less to give.
“I try to be a little kind but not suffer fools.”
Touring means he’s away from his partner Rosie, referred to as ‘The Hurricane’ in the book, and he doesn’t get to see his daughter Ruby who lives in New York, very often. So does he still enjoy touring? “I do enjoy aspects of it. I don’t like travelling. But I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I was home for a couple of weeks.”
Having been dumped by Warner for refusing to dumb down his lyrics, Rogers has faith there are still poetic lyrics in songs these days.
“I don’t listen to a lot of modern radio but it’s always around, generally from a lot of other Australian writers. What Courtney [Barnett] is doing and the success she’s having, it’s a different style to mine for sure but there’s still some beautiful poetry in there. Not everyone wants to do that and I don’t always want to hear it. There’s always stuff out there and you really don’t have to go much further that this country. I think Baker Boy’s the most exciting artist in Australia in decades.”
Rogers is trying his hand at fiction writing now. “I’d like to write more about something that’s very little about my own biography. I still find there’s a way of writing memoir from the vantage point of a mildly successful, washed up musician.”
And some final wise words from ‘Uncle Tim’: “You just experience quite a bit if you’d just get your head out of your fucking telephone…It’s endlessly fascinating, the capacity for human empathy, sympathy, and the potential for extraordinary ignorance and nastiness.”
Tim Rogers will be appearing at Byron Writer’s Festival August 3 to 5 Visit byronwritersfestival.com for program and tickets.
If you are struggling with mental health issues, please reach out to Lifeline 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au
IMAGE (c) Luke Henery