Hi, thanks for taking the time to chat with Hear 2 Zen, what have you been up to today?
Today I’ve been sending my old car to the wreckers. It died on the weekend. It was unaffectionately known by the household as the “Ratmobile” because for months it has had rats enter the vehicle at night and pilfer whatever food source my daughter or dog (or I) had left behind. I would get in the car in the morning to find coffee cups completely destroyed, seatbelts torn to pieces and gaping holes in the car interior. I’m not joking, it has been a nightmare. I sighed a sigh of relief when the engine died. When the wrecker handed me a check for $200 I couldn’t believe it. I would have paid him $200 to never see that car. So it’s been a pretty standard day for me.
Tell us about yourself, how long have you been performing/creating music for?
I’ve been making music since I was about fifteen and performing since the age of seventeen. It’s been a big part of my life and both a rewarding and challenging lifestyle. There’s a lot of pressure to earn money in a capitalist society and unfortunately I’ve never had a man in a nice suit offer me a seven-figure contract after an empty gig. I’ll tell you, my seventeen year-old self definitely wanted to believe that’s how it worked. But when I look back on the years of performances, busking, festivals, travel, the abundance or lack of money isn’t really the thing I remember, it’s the people, the music, and the laughter. And I find that at every passing year, those people who might have doubted the way I chose to live and the career path I took tend to take more of an interest than not. It’s a long game.
Who are your greatest inspirations? Why?
Probably my greatest inspirations are people like James Taylor and Bruce Springsteen. Not just because of the great songs they wrote and recorded, but because they are still out there doing it. They haven’t faded out of relevancy but instead have continued to evolve and connect with their fans and community in order to keep playing great music. Both of those performers in particular have a real sense of humility about them, which I really value.
How do you create music? Are you lyrics/story driven, or does the music/melody come first? Explain your process.
It changes song to song, but usually I will find that there is one driving force to write a song and I will lead with that. Sometimes I might think of a name of a song and think “huh, that is a song that needs to be written!” and go from there. Other times I might wake from a dream with a little melody in my head that I then fit to lyrics and a chord progression. If I was to guess though, I think most of my songs are built from chord progressions. I love to just sit with the guitar or piano and experiment with chords. Sometimes I might sit for a half hour until a particular series of chords really drops in with me, and then the melody comes. Once the melody is there, the lyrics reveal themselves. I enjoy that process the most, and it is also a process which I can rely on, rather than needing to wait for some lightbulb inspiration moment.
What has been your greatest challenge so far in performing/creating music?
Fatherhood, or the pandemic. Perhaps fatherhood during the pandemic. Perhaps my wife and I separating during a pandemic while still learning to be a parent and also having a twelve-month-old puppy that suddenly became my sole responsibility. Probably that. When I look back at how things were just two years ago, to think that I could pick up a guitar at any time of the day if I wanted a start playing… geez I feel stupid for not appreciating that more. These days I have either my daughter pulling at my leg or my dog whining at my feet, and I am just doing my best to keep them both happy and healthy. If I get twenty minutes to enjoy music in a day, that’s a big deal.
Tell us about your new release, how did it come about?
It’s been a long time coming for me to get a group together and release some music. This particular song is one of my favourites, I wrote it a few years back after returning from America. That’s where a lot of the imagery in the lyrics comes from; particularly parts of Oregon. But I’d wanted to record and release music for years, it’s just that I spent a lot of time playing in other groups, getting distracted with women, or just sort of bumbling about in the process. When I decided to record this group of songs I had a new found sense of direction, knowing that I wanted to pull together all the knowledge, skills, and contacts I had gained through years of working in the Melbourne music scene, and bring to life the vision I had for my own songs. This initial release is a first glimpse at that, and I’m really proud of the result.
What advice do you have to artists who are just starting out?
My advise would be to learn to set goals, and set them. It’s really scary to set a goal, even if it is something simple like learning three chords on the guitar. It’s scary because we might fail. But that’s a beautiful thing; to fail, and to continue setting more goals. I wish I had set clearer goals when I was younger, and I am still learning to set powerful goals for myself. But whether we succeed or fail in the goals we set, that ability to take a risk on oneself is something rare, but it’s extremely rewarding and powerful.
Tell us your favourite Zen practice.
It’s not really zen as such but before I was a dad I used to do a 10-day silent mediation retreat at least once a year, also known as Vipassana. There was a period of my life when I was seriously addicted to sitting these courses. When I come back to my Melbourne life I find it incredibly difficult to sit silently for even five minutes, so I miss that environment in which I feel comfortable to sit for hours at a time. I look forward to one day returning to that kind of space…