So the powers that be officially nominated November as Aus Music month. Gimmick or genuine, whatever you think of it, I don’t think it’s bad that we allow ourselves to focus on things that give us joy, pleasure, social commentary and so on. You may have heard that there was a little thing called a pandemic that has hijacked much of the last 2 years. You may have also heard that the entertainment industry has suffered terribly through these times as artists, performers, production personnel, venues, and a whole array of flow on industries went from full schedules to virtually nothing; NOTHING. No income, no prospect of income (except for some government help for a short time). Employers with untold millions of dollars worth of plant & equipment sitting idle. This happened literally overnight in most cases. Add to this, in the back of my mind, and lots of peoples minds for that matter, was that the voice of the artists and performers had gone missing from our midst. Eventually it found a way to break through; even if that break through was in small pockets of resistance, people found ways to breathe some artistic hope into our world.
I remember one night, being invited to tune in via the interweb to witness a concert by a Scottish friend that he presented live from his kitchen. When tuning in I wasn’t sure what to expect; suddenly though, we were listening to Bruce Davies ply his craft; there were people in the chat rooms that we knew and we were soon passing comments & cheering Bruce along. It wasn’t anywhere near as good as being in the same room but when you are dying of thirst, water is water and you are grateful just to be able to drink some. That may seem a tad melodramatic but I have to say that I came away from that online gig, a little emotional & I remember my wife & I saying how great it was just to hear some live music again. Even better was to share that experience with some friends.
In the last few weeks I have shared just a tiny sample of some Aussie artists that I like enough to want to say “hey you, you should have a listen to this! You should buy some of this if you like it!!” When you put your money down you support and encourage the artist to keep going. As an artist myself, this level of support is both wonderful and humbling to behold when it happens to you.
My final thought on this matter may seem a little self indulgent; this isn’t my intention. As I look at many of the musicians & artists in my own circle, one thing that most if not all have in common, is that we each have a team of people who either formally or informally get behind us, cheer us on, encourage us to keep going, turn up to gigs, e-mail us when they are listening to our music just to tell us that they love it, offer us their home to come do a gig, buy us drinks at gigs, and so on, and so on. When thinking about promoting Aus music this year I couldn’t let go of that thought i.e. that this circle of people needs to be formally encouraged, celebrated and acknowledged as the vital cog in the wheel that it is.
To demonstrate this, indulge me as I reflect on my “Reality” album. It highlights how so many people went in to bat for me as we got this album out into the big wide world. Some were involved in the band, some were just good enough to be supportive of what we were trying to do. The process for this album was a little different to our previous efforts. Inspired by something my brother Pat once told me, we decided to copy Irish folk singer Luka Bloom and record the tracks in a room full of people. From there we went back into the studio and set about re-adding much of the instrumentation around the “live” feel that we had captured. To get that to happen we had to encourage people to sign up for 2 gigs, an album purchase and everything in between that goes with that.
Now, I am a little fish in a very big pond when it comes to this sort of thing; but even for this little fish, when I think about everything and everyone that was involved in making it happen, I get a very real sense of how important that wider community around me is, and I am grateful for everyone of them.
Let me give example by sharing a sort of honour roll of people who I think of when I think of the journey to the release of that album. These are not in any merit order, just the order that my 62 year old brain can recall.
The album is called “Reality”. Many of the songs were written over 13 years of giving retreats for teenagers, young adults & families, so the first mention on the honour roll has to be the members of that community who shared those years with us.
Next we have the band. Most of them are people that I have been making music with for 20+ years now. Brilliant vocalist, Sarah Jonno; drummer Rod Wilson; Percussionist Dave King; Bass by Clive White and Dale Powers; Keys by, well lets just call him Oscar; whistles harmonica & mandolin by Mark Rombout; violin by Rachel Hook, extra vocals by Mark Brown, Chezelle Conroy, Sarah Rose, Extra drums by Luke Mc; Maria Varlet who keeps offering to play triangle.
Technical support by Phil Lawson, Bob Bennett and Rod King.
Cover Photos by Jacq Wilson; cover by Claire Emmett
Live Photography by Ray Gruchy
The generous offer of the amazing venue “Armagh” for the recording, hosted by Rob & Cheryl Wood; the some 400+ people who turned up across both gigs. Including people who didn’t just turn up (Like the crazy journey of Gary Hobley who came down from QLD for the gig. What a guy!!), but also a whole array of others who have always actively encouraged me, like my ridiculously supportive brothers and sisters, as well as the in laws; my nephew Cam & his band who made themselves available as a support act; my other nephew Ethan who set the mood in the foyer by playing some live music
Then there is my church community who always spoke encouragement over me. I listen to that album and I can hear & identify various voices that open up something beautiful inside me as they remind me that grace is real, and that I need to pay it forward.
Of course, my beautiful wife of some 40+ years now and my 4 incredible children are a big part of this circle. It is without a hint of exaggeration that I say that this could not be possible without their love, support & encouragement. (Not to mention their musical contribution)
So, have a look at what I’ve done here; I’ve mentioned just a few names that are part of my circle. Each of them valued and important. If you take time to read this far they will probably not mean a lot to many of you. And yet I could keep going, keep naming people, keep telling stories. You could brush past a name say, Phil Lawson, technical support, and never grasp that Phil is much more than this to me; he is counsellor mentor, teacher & friend. But for each of the names above I could do something similar.
Aussie music month has passed for another year. Soon enough I will be back on tour working with the crews who put these big shows on. Hopefully the industry will kick start again and we will have the voice of our artists back in our midst. For the little fish like me though, the best thing you can do for us is to get into that circle; look up our music; don’t hesitate, buy a copy; share it with your friends; send us a message, follow us on social media; invite us to come play a gig in your lounge room, courtyard.
It’s the little things that make a difference
Thanks to all in my circle.
PS: I will be releasing another single off the reality album. It is called “Debutantes Lament”. It features the powerhouse vocal stylings of Sarah Jonno.
Click here to have a free listen to “debutantes”
Click here to check out the Album