With a Golden Guitar win for his love letter to Melbourne, Dirty River, (Heritage Song of the Year), Michael Waugh turns his considerable song writing and storytelling prowess to Four Square and the games of dominance played in the schoolyard, when the future seems like a distant place and the frustration of youth is taken out on a tennis ball. It captures the thrill of winning a lunchtime contest, and the temporary sense of power and control it grants. Jeering faces are always ready to dethrone the king.
Michael, a teacher, keenly observes the ferocity of students, relieving the pressure of societal expectation through handball, on yard duty. These are the rituals, ways of coping, when you aren’t sure who you are going to be, and your life follows a schedule set by grown-ups. The production mirrors the propulsive nature of the conflict, driving rock guitars, pulsing drums, and powerful backing vocals.
“I balance music with teaching. I love both jobs. I am so fortunate to work for a great school that supports my art. Four Square is written for those wonderful, loud, energetic, funny, furious, fantastic kids that I teach, and it’s about their incredible capacity to keep bouncing. More than ever, through lockdown, they’ve taught me about resilience,” says Michael.
“As a teacher, I spend a lot of time trying to see the world through a kid’s eyes—I think that as educators we need to be empathetic with what young people are going through if we have any hope of helping or guiding them,” he says. “So, this is a song for the boys I teach, for the pressures that they go through, and for their amazing capacity to bounce.”