Premiere ~ Handkerchief Thief ~ Salted Skin

Killer electro-folk beauty Salted Skin, Handerchief Thiefs debut track proudly premiered today on WildnFree, was inspired by two of life’s greatest creative forces – lust and longing. Who hasn’t yearned, fretted and sweated, tormented and driven wild, over some errant lover? Handkerchief Thief captures these feels with the perfect level of pace and jittery angst, expressed through quickened beats coloured with sad lamenting riffs. Salted Skin has the whiff of a hit about it, a track spinning with the right level of energy and vibe to spark fires. To satiate her curiosity, Handkerchief Thief’s Sam McLaren explained himself a little further to WildnFree. 

WF: Tell me a bit about who you are and your journey into music? 

HT: My name is Sam McLaren. I’m a singer/songwriter playing under the name Handkerchief Thief. I grew up and went to school in Canberra, where I started playing music around the age 14, holing myself up in my bedroom learning to play John Butler and Ben Harper covers, as all young would-be folk artists do. I started writing songs around the age 16 and from that point music became an integral part of my makeup.

When I finished school I spent a lot of time doing things unrelated to music. I studied Languages at university, travelled around the world to Africa, Europe and Latin America, and moved to Sydney where I worked in hospitals as an orderly and care facilities as a disability support worker. Music and songwriting accompanied me wherever I went and became a form of catharsis for dealing with many of the profound experiences I was having. I moved to Melbourne last year and decided it was time to turn my priorities to getting some of these songs out into the world.

WF: What’s Salted Skin all about and how did you write, produce and record it?

HT: Salted Skin was written during a 16-month long backpacking trip through South America a couple of years back. At the time I was travelling solo through the Bolivian Andes and my partner of 5 years was on another part of the continent. It was this incredibly beautiful, rugged part of the world and I couldn’t have felt further away. Salted Skin emerged from this intense feeling of longing and isolation inspired by the separation and the landscape. All I had with me was a battered old acoustic guitar. There were a few strings missing so the song was originally written on just two strings. But I had a much bigger vision of how I wanted the recorded version to sound like.

After I returned from my trip, I moved to Melbourne and set out to find a producer to help me flesh out these big ideas. I was lucky to find two great producers- and equally great people- in Fraser Montgomery and Nick Edin at the Aviary Studios in Abbotsford. They hooked me up with Sal Aidone (Closure in Moscow) who is a wizard on the drums, and Nick Lam (DX Heaven) who provided that sweet, deep synth bass. We put down layers upon layers of vocals, and guitars and other little flourishes and the track evolved into this epic, multi-faceted piece- a long way from its origins! It was mixed by Fraser Montgomery and mastered by Adam Dempsey who are both amazing at what they do.

WF: What’s coming up next for you?

HT: Salted Skin is the first single off my debut EP Hunting For Hummingbirds, which is due for release later this year. I’m currently in the market for a band (anyone out there?!) to help me flesh out these tracks live, but also keep an eye out for some stripped back solo gigs.

DM Handkerchief Thief now if you want in, no doubt he’ll be kicking some goals once the world catches wind of this damn fine quality track.


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