Le Forum, Vauréal, France, 14 January 2006

Mick Hart is arguably the Central Coast’s most hard-working and talented export, touring relentlessly for close to a decade in Australia, Europe and the UK. He’s a word-of-mouth kind of performer who has played with the likes of Bob Dylan, Sting, Coldplay and Van Morrison… If you haven’t heard of him, you have now.

Born in Gunnedah, Hart and his family relocated to the Coast when he was young. Killarney Vale was his stomping ground as a teenager, but like many Central Coast youth, Hart relocated to Sydney “when I was old enough to get away”. Hart returned to the Coast for a gig at Lizotte’s on the 2nd of October. A home-coming is just what Hart needed. “As you’d know it’s a beautiful area on the Coast, I’ve got family and friends that it’s always a pleasure to come back to. I’ve spent 4 of the last 5 years living in Europe so it’s good to get home. Being away you miss the basic things in life – family and friends”.

A modern-day troubadour, Hart has toured solidly for the last 10 years. A festival stalwart, Hart has spent a lot of time on the festival circuit in Europe, where he has carved out a strong and supportive fan base. Though Hart loves travelling, he admits the reality of touring is far from easy. “It is a journey-esque kind of lifestyle. I’ve been to places I’d never even known about. I am blessed and lucky to be able to do that but it does get really tiring sometimes”.

Hart has played with plenty of big name artists, with the biggest of them undoubtedly being Bob Dylan. Playing 2 shows with Dylan in 2001, Hart spoke of the intense security surrounding the gig. “It was an amazing couple of shows. He has kind of changed since then, the last few years he has chilled out a bit, but it was over the top security which was really full on. We were told ‘Don’t walk there backstage, don’t look him in the eye’ so we respected that. But then when it came to playing, he came up to us and said hello and was really friendly”. Hart expressed the wish to do it all again someday as he counts Dylan as his hero and a performer who has had a significant influence on his music.

Van Morrison is another big name Hart has encountered during his career. Opening for Morrison at the Olympia in Paris in March of last year, Hart spoke of the experience as very similar to that of Dylan. Morrison is a legendarily cranky performer, and the security surrounding the man was tight. They arrived at the music hall and there was no sign of Morrison. “We knew it, like you said, he’s famous for it. We played and came off stage, packing up our gear and still no sign of him whatsoever. He arrived about 5 minutes before he went on stage, played a wicked set and was gone like that. It was pretty strange; he’s just a legend as well. I would hate to get to that stage, it is sort of a sadness really, it must just be like work to him. I completely respect the whole thing, but it’s fun to meet people”.

Our conversation began to centre on Morrison as an experienced and almost lifelong performer, whose career has crossed five decades. I asked Hart if he could see himself becoming an elder statesman, still on the road in 30 years time. “The guy is like 70 [Morrison is 63] and still singing unbelievably. I don’t want to think about myself at that age – I could easily keep doing it, I love to play and love the travel aspect. My level is a lot more indie which keeps you humble and grounded, that side doesn’t get tiring. I definitely see myself going for ages, still got a passion for it and love creating”.

Hart has an obvious love of performing, but he also feels passion for the other side of his art form. “[The] biggest passion for me is definitely the writing. I’m a bit of a mad recluse when writing. I’ve got 20 new songs done already [for the next album]; there is heaps of song writing going on.” Hart and I agreed that songs are like your children, it’s hard to pick and choose between something you’ve created, nurtured, helped into being. “I wouldn’t try to record a song I didn’t believe in, for me I write and write and create, and work it and play it live a bit. When it comes to bringing it to the studio it is like one of your babies, it’s hard to just cull it off the list which happens. When I did the last album [Finding Home] I signed on to a French label and they did a major cull of tracks. Biggest thing I’ve learned now is if you’ve cut it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t any good. You’ve got to choose the best batch. Good maturing process as a writer to accept that. I’ve made 5 albums, I better be able to accept it by now!”

You have to wonder with all the touring over the last decade, where is home for Mick Hart? He has lived in London, Paris, and Lille in the north of France, but Hart has recently returned to Australia to record his next album. “Part of moving back was I want to feel a bit more grounded, I’ve had this amazing travel lifestyle, like a free-wheeling gypsy. The playing isn’t the tough bit, it’s the time spent moving in between”.

A Christmas spent with his family in 2007 and Hart felt the urge to return home. “Sydney is home again at least for a year. Last summer was my first Christmas with the family for a long time. When you’re away it goes so fast. I did some recording and felt the pull to come back to Australia”. With 20 new songs written and a large back catalogue to draw on, Hart plans to “take time to road test some stuff” and the new album is looking like a February 2009 release.