WHEN musician and producer Glen Hannah committed suicide in May 2019 it absolutely rattled Shane Nicholson and the rest of their close-knit circle of friends.
Hannah's death took them completely by surprise. Naturally, it also left them questioning the true nature of their friendship.
"We thought we were a tightly-knit group and then when a member of your tight-knit group commits suicide, you think holy shit, the group is nowhere near as tight as we thought," Nicholson says from lockdown on the Central Coast.
"Since that's happened it's been a real catalyst for checking in more and drawing tighter. The record really reflects the growing important I place on friendship.
"As a guy growing up in suburban Brisbane it wasn't really the done thing to call up your mates and ask how they were. I'm glad that it is now and it's become a thing for my mates."
The album Nicholson refers to is Living In Colour, the ARIA and Golden Guitar-winning alt-country artist's forthcoming 11th record. It was held back last year due to the pandemic, and despite COVID-19's resurgence, the album will be released on August 20.
Nicholson recorded Living In Colour last year during lockdown, using free time in the morning or late at night when he'd finished producing music for other artists.
With his band unable to be physically in the studio, Nicholson pieced the album together himself and relied on his Blue Mountains-based drummer Josh Schuberth to email in the percussion tracks.
"There's an intimacy just in the process it was made," Nicholson says. "It was quite insular and isolated.
"The songs themselves, I've always tried to write honest records, but as I've gone on they've become less guarded. Less shrouded in metaphor, more honest and more direct."
While Living In Colour is an album about friendship and love, it's also full of the reflections of a middle-aged man, who's become increasingly cynical about the world.
Home Burns Down and the stomper This Is War sees Nicholson calling out shock jocks and politicians for their dog whistling tactics, while the folksy How To Write A Song takes aim at the growing trend in the music industry for artists to travel to Nashville to collaborate with professional songwriters at workshops in search of radio-friendly hits.
"There's two completely separate narratives running simultaneously in my life," Nicholson says. "One is yes, I'm getting older and there's a softening there, like valuing friendships and relationships more, being a parent - being willing to be more open to emotions.
"Then there's this other one which is really incongruous to that, which is I'm getting more and more cynical and despairing at the world at the same time.
"It completely feeds into my inclination to be a hermit and just record in the studio like the world doesn't exist."
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Shane Nicholson releases Living In Colour on August 20.
The Living In Colour album tour visits Lizotte's, Newcastle (August 27); Bundy Hall, Sale (September 11); Railway Hotel, Mt Macedon (September 12); Harmonie German Club, Canberra (September 17); Bowral Bowling Club (September 18); Deni Ute Muster, Deniliquin (October 2) and Hardys Bay Club (October 8).