How Michael Burrows got all-time hero Neil Finn on his new single [exclusive]
Charity has its own rewards, it seems.
Melbourne singer-songwriter Michael Burrows made a donation to the charity Medicine Mondiale, which makes healthcare available to all.
Part of the fund-raiser was that its main ambassador Neil Finn offered whoever contributed the most the chance to record two tracks at his Roundhead Studios in Auckland.
When told of his win, Burrows and Finn began emailing and the Australian sent over 15 demos.
Finn chose ‘Please Don’t Cry’, a song that could have been from the Crowded House songbook.
“You have to understand,” Burrows explains, “that Neil Finn is my ultimate hero. His voice has been in my head for so long.”
When he arrived at Roundhead, the photos on the wall and at the history of the mixing desk in Studio A – where The Who, Jeff Buckley, REM and Judas Priest had recorded classic albums under the previous owner – and realised it commanded the best performance.
Burrows assumed Finn would sit around chewing the fat for a few minutes and then disappear leaving the young musician to work with the studio’s team.
Instead, Finn was there virtually every moment as he helped break down ‘Please Don’t Cry’ and they had every meal together.
The Crowded House frontman got NZ band Pluto – whom Burrows had earlier admired – to play on the track.
He produced the rhythm tracks, helped build up the arrangements, played Wurlitzer and at one stage added the Wurlitzer and did vocal harmonies.
Of his recording experiences, Burrows recalls, “Neil said it might be to the detriment of its commercial appeal but that song has to be a slow one.
“He got the band to play it really fast like a punk song and then really slow like a Johnny Cash ballad. Somehow it found its place. I guess he was showing me you have to let the song breathe and do the best for it.
“There was one moment, during the tracking of the song, when I felt I had him in one ear playing along to my song, and it was an out of body experience. I was looking down at all of us working together. I don’t think I’ve landed on earth properly.”
Towards the end of the second night, when Finn unexpectedly jumped into the vocal booth, a dazed Burrows asked engineer Jordan Stone if this was a common occurrence with Finn, and Stone shook his head and mouthed “no”.
The Australian had another career boost when he returned to Australia.
He uploaded onto social media a performance opening on a Martha Wainwright tour, and reached to the ears of Nashville music executive, Larry Grimes.
Impressed with what he heard (“It’s much different to what we’re hearing now”), Grimes called him over to Nashville to cut an EP with some crack session players, including Keith Urban’s former drummer.
The EP attracted some success in the US.
Currently touring Australia, Burrows says, “I want to just hit the road with my band, and eventually want to get back into the studios, I’ve written an album’s worth already.”