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Thirsty Merc

With over 200,000 album sales under their belt and three ARIA nominations – after almost 15 years in the biz, Independent Aussie pop rock act Thirsty Merc are still doing things their own way. Off The Leash's Liz Trevaskis caught up with lead singer Rai Thistlethwayte while he was enjoying a bite to eat at Sydney airport before kicking off their latest national tour, which brings them back to the Top End this month. 

You’re on the road a lot – what do Thirsty Merc listen to when you’re touring, and who is in charge of the playlist?

I think it’s probably Phil Stack our bass player. He’s pretty involved in a lot of the driving and a lot of the music selection as well. He’s a jazz double bass player so he usually opts for a lot of jazz, and we all love it. We all play a bit of jazz as well.

I’m surprised that you’re all jazz fans – what type of jazz artists do you enjoy?

Anything from straight ahead modern jazz to classic stuff, from Brad Mehldau to Keith Jarrett, even groove stuff like Herbie Hancock. Sometimes we listen to new rock, contemporary stuff, Australian stuff, and sometimes the sound of silence is the most golden!

And at the top of your playlist recently?     

A guy called Anderson Paak – he’s sort of like a crossover between soul and hip hop. He’s got great production, great grooves and is just cool to drive to. 

Your latest album is Shifting Gears, and the first few singles The Good Life and The Grind are excellent driving songs – is it a driving album? 

Not really, but I know what you’re saying. There really is a kind of tempo and beat and groove that I always enjoyed as a kid listening to the radio, so maybe that’s rubbed off on me and infused itself into the songs. 

It’s just six months since the car accident that claimed the life of your stage manager Shane Cooper, and put drummer Mick Skelton in a coma. What have the last six months been like for the band – and how is Mick?

There have been lots of ups and downs emotionally. We’ve had to rejig a lot of things logistically, but I think we’re doing really well considering everything, and we’ve got a tour that’s looking really robust . 

Mick is actually going to be on a lot of key dates, including Darwin and he’s going amazingly. He’s sounding great, and he’s got a great headspace. He’s had to change elements of the way he does things, but he’s in a great place.

Sat 14 May | Gates 4pm | Darwin Ski Club | $39.80 | 

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