I'm getting old and I like it," is Tim Rogers' opening line. The gallery guffaws. A drunk at the front table makes her first nonsensical interjection. It's the gala premiere, to use theatrical vernacular, of An Actor Repairs, and the plot is thickening by the moment. The You Am I frontman's new solo record is a loose, nylon-stringed narrative "concerning the retirement from the stage of an elderly actor". Its live debut at Brisbane's Old Museum is all bare-boards and footlights, just the violin and voice of Xani Kolac colouring Rogers' intimate reflections on "Youth", "Age" and "One More Late Night Phone Conversation".
The latter song proves prophetic. Quaffing mineral water at his hotel café the next morning, Rogers confides that he's been up most of the night talking – but not for reasons that might be expected.
"I got a call from a friend after the show: 'Tim, I've got a bag, we're hanging out at the Rydges Hotel…' I said, 'Nah, I know a bar across the road. I'm going with Xani and Steve, my tour manager. It's just gonna be the three of us.'"
The choice of relative sobriety was fortunate. "Turns out I had calls from New York all night from my 16-year-old daughter," he says with a righteous twinkle in his clear blue eyes.
"I've learned I can't be completely nonsensical at any time of the day. I was needed between the hours of two and six and sure, I'd had a lot to drink, but I didn't get my nose into a bag and I didn't knock myself out on pills to sleep.
"The main thing is just making sure you're accessible for people," the new man says. "Making sure the PA guys have all got a drink, that the front of house guy's girlfriend has got a good seat... my brother and his wife were in last night. It's all important.
"I don't know when it came to be understood that to be a successful musician you had to be a dickhead."
He's berating himself, more than anyone else, in the manner of any 47-year-old with a past. In that vein, there's another song on the new album, "Forgiveness", that surely cleaves more closely to the character at hand than the imaginary "Actor" of the album title.
"Tonight I'll be the guy in You Am I/And I'll work it until my soul is rinsed dry/I failed you, I will pay my dues/Please forgive me."
But nope. "That song was written for a project about the seven deadly sins and the idea of atonement," he says. Saligia was staged in 2010, as the rock & roll songwriter was just beginning his sojourn into the thespian arts. But come on. Surely there's more than a dash of himself in this performance?
"Yeah, maybe I'm trying to distance myself from it a bit. Not as any kinda smoke screen, because there's no need for that, but just to make it interesting for myself. The idea of another 12 songs about me is just..." he crosses his eyes and sinks into his blue-and-white pinstriped suit with the sound of air escaping from a punctured tyre.
Detours, Rogers' forthcoming memoir through HarperCollins, is likely to play less loose with the truth, although there are caveats galore there, too. "It's unusual in that... there's no narrative to the thing," he says. "It's not about the band or about me, necessarily. It's just pieces." He looks apologetic.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Maddening. The discipline of it. But not being a prose writer previously, I was encouraged to let my freak flag fly. How collaborative it was surprised me. Because it's all so solitary to a point and then you open it up to [editors]. That's been the most enjoyable part."
With that he's up to hit the road, in search of a room to write in before the ageing "Actor" must be summoned for the next show.
"I do think about ageing a lot, because I'm deteriorating rapidly, just as you do," he says. "I've hit that point and really, I'm glad for it. I care more for other people. And I care less about myself. And I am so not wanting to go comfortably. It's just not possible."
From issue #787 (June 2017), available now.
Topics: Tim Rogers