A Colour Undone

Tasman Keith

A Colour Undone

First Nations artist Tasman Keith should have been on top of the world. Spending the early weeks of 2021 touring Australia with Midnight Oil, whose Makarrata Project mini-album he’d been a special guest on, this was an opportunity to represent his music and culture on a big stage. After each explosive performance, however, came harrowing hours alone in his hotel room. “A lot of shit came up that I hadn’t dealt with, whether it be numerous deaths in the family, whether it be my older cousin passing away from a heart condition at the age of 27, whether it be my uncle passing away the day after I released my debut EP,” the Gumbaynggirr artist tells Apple Music. It soon dawned on Keith that these thoughts were precisely what he needed to sing about on his debut LP, in which he charts his search for acceptance and peace within. “I woke up at 1 am like, that’s the idea for the album. Walking through the middle ground of the highest of highs and lowest lows and the journey.” Largely written and recorded in six days, and executive-produced by Keith and Australian rapper Kwame, A Colour Undone is a free-wheeling trip through myriad genres such as G-funk (“5FT FREESTYLE”), R&B (“LOVE TOO SOON”), and rap (“CHEQUE”), Keith guided musically by whatever he was feeling on the day. Here he talks Apple Music through A Colour Undone, track by track. “WATCH UR STEP” “It’s a warning sign for myself and others. There’s a lot of false validation in the world, and getting caught up in that is quite dangerous. I could be rich and famous but if I’m not well inside myself it will all go downhill. So I really need to be careful and watch my step. But people can warn you as much as they want, but sometimes you need to walk the path yourself to realize. It’s the only way I could open the album.” “SHARKS” “‘SHARKS’ is about people in general in my community, whether that be in my hometown or around me in any sense, who don’t have love for me in the truest sense and really aren’t caring of me. They would want to see me slip in any way possible. But they show their hate through love and they show their jealousy through love. It’s also thematically the point in the record where mentally I’m gone. If ‘WATCH UR STEP’ was the warning sign, ‘SHARKS’ is me not listening to it and eventually being taken into it all.” “CHEQUE” (feat. Genesis Owusu) “If ‘SHARKS’ is a place where mentally I’m gone, the first thing that comes when that’s not fully intact is ego, right? So ‘CHEQUE’ is the ego that comes after. I rang Genesis and was like, ‘I have a record for you to talk your shit on,’ ’cause I knew he just came off the back of an incredible run. And he was like, ‘Yep, I’ve got some things to say.’ And he rolled through to the crib and recorded the verse. What he’s saying in that song is just the braggadocious rap that I wanted it to be.” “POLITICS AS USUAL” “Post-‘SHARKS’ I’m down and out, and ‘POLITICS’ is me looking for what I think I need, looking for something to patch up my insecurities, whether that be in a relationship or external, and not figuring out the internal. The first verse is a very true story. So I found the middle ground of love and politics. Because we don’t want to live with government or politics, but unfortunately with the way the world is today, we can’t live without it. It’s structure, right? It’s the same with this female that I had this interaction with. It’s finding the middle ground of the two.” “FIND U” “It’s like, the simplicity of feeling like you need someone, but it hurts, ’cause as soon as that is no longer there, all these insecurities surface again. Having somebody else to rely on [helped] you ignore that you haven’t worked on yourself. So it’s about feeling the heartbreak of that, and the realization of thinking you really need this because that’s the only way that you can patch things up within yourself.” “LOVE TOO SOON” “Still following the theme of being down and out, but it’s the realization of, okay, in those times I was quite young and I guess ignorant to what love is, and it starts within self. So once you have that realization and you work on self, you try to come back to something that you feel could work now because of the realizations you’ve had. But the question’s still there: Did I leave it too late?” “HOW 2 LEAVE” (feat. Thandi Phoenix) “I think I’m okay now. I think I’m good to go and figure out my shit, or go and be exactly who I want to be. That song is exactly what the title says, and the chorus says, ‘I think I’ve learned how to leave.’ With ‘HOW 2 LEAVE’ I didn’t have my second verse, I only had the choruses, and I wasn’t touching the second verse until I had somebody on the first ’cause I wanted to be inspired by somebody else to help write that second verse. Thandi is a massive part of why the second verse goes the way it goes.” “IDK” (feat. Phil Fresh) “If the whole thing before was ‘I think I know how to leave,’ there’s still that lingering doubt in your head like, am I in a position to leave, and do I need to leave? Do I want to leave it? All these doubts that come, whether it be for or against a relationship or doubts I’ve had in community of survivor’s guilt, I have to leave somebody behind—not for negative reasons, but just for the betterment. That’s how I can make sure I’m fully fulfilled and can be equipped to lead by example.” “PROUD” “The first line, ‘Find peace before you rest in it,’ is a line I had written on my wall a month before we went to the album sessions. I like what that can mean, so I just lived by that for a month. And for me it’s my view on things in community like lateral violence, all of these issues, and then also questioning myself like, okay, what am I doing? What have I done that isn’t just for the look of doing it? Which is a very harsh question to ask myself, because I’ve always been a man of my community. But also it’s like, what more can I do? And it’s the simple thing of leading by example, because that’s really how you do it.” “NOT 4 SAFETY” (feat. Kwame) “It’s just a joint. I feel like it’s the accumulation of all the thoughts in the songs prior, and this is the moment in the album where it’s like, okay, starting to feel better, starting to feel good. ‘NOT 4 SAFETY’ is almost like a therapy session between me and Kwame, just talking about things that are going on in our minds.” “5FT FREESTYLE” “If ‘CHEQUE’ was the unhealthy ego in the concept of the album, saying things that are over the top, ‘5FT FREESTYLE’ is like, I’ve rid myself of these things. But sometimes I need to reach back into those bags, especially for rap, and pull them back out, but in a healthy manner. It’s me poking fun at other people and at myself. I’ve always loved the sport of rap, and to reaffirm that I have respect for the people in the song that I reference, I had to also show them I could poke fun at myself as well. It’s fun.” “WELCOME HOME” “This is the championship moment. It’s the victory lap. I’m starting to become good. It’s the moment where it’s like, ‘Let me take these thoughts back home.’ And home can be to my community, or home can be to myself. I can live with them for good.” “HEAVEN WITH U” (feat. Jessica Mauboy) “It’s a love song. It’s one you can dedicate to others, of course, but I wrote that as a love song to myself. It’s the reflection of the journey and it’s the realization that this whole time it was within. And it’s about finding that and Heaven within yourself before you try and find it externally.” TREAD LIGHT “‘TREAD LIGHT’ is me being like, okay, there’s still this thing that is very predominant in your community, which is death. The first verse is me having a conversation with death as someone who can see it coming, but you don’t know if it’s me speaking. The second verse is me channeling the people I have lost to tell me it’s okay, and to not be fearful of the journey, and walk correctly and be exactly who you want to be. And the third verse is me being frustrated at everything, the things I’ve seen in community, the things I’ve been through in my life, and rounding it up with, even though I’m eventually not going to be here, at the end of the day of course I’m gonna tread light, which is a metaphor for being a spirit. But until then I’m gonna step correctly and just really try to make right everything I can in my life or my community and for my family, just through being myself and being the best version of myself.”

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