In 2018, I went to a fabulous Missy Higgins concert at the Enmore Theatre. I loved her energy, her connection to the audience, and the way that she introduced her songs and talked about how she came to write them. The whole experience was inspirational and left me burning to write a new song. The first seeds of Jelly Man were born in the car ride home.
However, they didn’t have much time to germinate – the next day I was packing up my backpack and heading off on a work trip to Lord Howe Island. Almost as soon as we arrived, we set off on the long climb to the Mt Gower summit. This is a pretty arduous climb – 875 m, and you start absolutely at sea level (with the water lapping at your feet, in fact). And the first part of the climb is a killer! Very early on there is a really steep section where you feel like you might die, and you wonder desperately whether you can possibly survive 3 or 4 hours of this! Luckily it levels out and you get a bit of a breather before the first break at Erskine Creek, then a slow and relentless climb to the second break point, not long before the aptly named ‘Get-up Place’ where the climbing becomes vertical.
But I digress! We made it to the top (just!), pitched our tents and got surveying. However, the weather was cold and blustery, and despite prior experience camping on the summit, we still hadn’t managed to pack warm enough clothing. By 6 pm it was dark, and by 7 pm, we were so cold that we had to go to bed. And 11 hours is a very long time to spend in a tiny tent, especially when you are too cold to easily fall asleep!
I had nothing else to do, so in those long evenings lying in my sleeping bag, I amused myself working on my new song. I didn’t write anything down – I just ran the words and melody through my head again and again until they stuck. At the time I was having guitar lessons, and Jelly Man struck me as a very guitar-forward song, so I also played around with different picking patterns in my mind. By the time I got home, I was very close to the final version.
When arranging a song, it’s easy to keep on adding layers – but for me, it was important to keep this one simple. I love the simplicity of the guitar and vocals, letting Bonnie’s beautiful acoustic guitar playing shine. We had fun with the video, too. I enjoyed the flickering warmth of the fire as a contrast to that chilly night on the mountain when the song was born. I hope you enjoy it!
Listen on Spotify here.