Australian Musicians: “Get a Real Job!”

Australia, you need to sort out your juvenile attitude towards the arts. Actually no, it’s not juvenile, children have an insightful view of art and expression. Australia, you need to stop with this “get a real job” rhetoric and start recognising the cultural and financial enrichment the arts bring to all of our lives.

Since first venturing across the seas I’ve noticed that my beloved home country is a long way behind when it comes to appreciating what the creatives give us. Just last week the Australian federal education minister, Simon Birmingham, dismissed an entire industry as a “lifestyle choice” after announcing almost 60 diplomas in the arts will no longer be eligible for student loans. Since the Abbott Government in 2014 we have already had $204.8 million dollars cut from the arts budget. Just today I read a deplorable article in the Advocate by Elanor Watt –  Is Exposure Payment Enough for Musicians in which she argues that if you are passionate enough you should take any opportunity offered to you “because we have all seen the movies, anything can happen.”… urgh. There is an attitude in Australia that working in the arts is a cop out. A job for pot smoking couch potatoes, or worse, not even a “real job” at all.

real-job

Unfortunately this comes as no surprise to me. I first met with this attitude in my youth. Fresh out of home and learning to earn a living for my self I met with hard times. Unemployment benefits were the closest thing I have ever received to assistance in developing my trade, and thank god they were there. Newstart gave me time to find my feet. Time and time again I was asked by Centerlink “what is your profession?” and time and time again I was told “that’s not a real job”. Simple recognition would have made the progression of my career a lot less stressful and possibly a lot quicker. Back then, though it was not enough, I was making more from playing music than anything else. Now, music is not only how I travel the world but it is also how I pay my taxes.

Thanks to national research at the University of Tasmania we now know that the live music sector contributed a whopping $15.7 billion dollars to the Australian economy in 2014 with $3 worth of benefit to the community for every $1 invested. Even more than the footy. These figures are no secret, yet still it doesn’t take much effort to find the typical attitude on public forums of “Why should my tax dollars pay for your hobby?” At face value it may seem like a legitimate question, however dig a little deeper and it’s easy to see that the arts are paying more than their fair share in tax revenue and economic stimulation. Unlike the fossil fuel industry, for example, this is achieved in most part with little or no government assistance.

“Our research shows that for every dollar spent on live music, three dollars of benefit is returned to the wider community. This is a significant, and unrecognised, contribution that includes the dollars that flow to the national economy as well as the ways experiencing live music enriches people’s lives.” – Dr. Dave Carter, Lecturer in Music Technology at University of Tasmania.

One of the first things you notice when travelling through Europe is their pride of culture. I’m not talking about nationalism or patriotism, though they do come into it. I’m talking about their love of food, music, language and heritage. It’s a beautiful thing. Dedicating ones life to the arts is a virtue celebrated by all. I see the same across Asia. I’m yet to visit the Americas or Africa but from my research into future destinations, I keep seeing the same thing. The arts define heritage and heritage defines us.

Maybe it is Australia’s distance from the rest of humanity. We sit alone at the bottom of the world. A nation barely 200 years old, with a tendency to ignore the rich depth of art history laid out by our indigenous peoples. Possibly for the fear of admitting the cultural genocide committed by our forefathers, or maybe because white Australia doesn’t feel as if this is their heritage to be proud of. Maybe it’s a symptom of Australia’s tall poppy syndrome, where we hack at the things we admire most. Maybe we just haven’t properly discussed the situation yet.

In any case, music is my love, music is my life and music is my profession!

*UPDATE
It’s recently come to my attention that Elanor Watt, the author of the article “Is Exposure Payment Enough for Musicians” mentioned in the above blog post works for Fairfax media group. The same group that asked Sydney based reggae band black bird hum to play for free at Fairfax Media owned Noodle Market. Strong arm corporate bullying! Shame on you Elanor. I wonder if this young journalist is aware that she is a pawn of this evil media manipulation. I also wonder if she avoided mentioning Black Bird Hum by name in her article as that would be free promotion, in which case she is promoting herself off the back of the musicians she criticized for not taking an “exposure” gig.

“She’s always ahead of me, I’m not too far behind. We’re like peas in a pod, we’re two of a kind. Music this lucid partner of mine.”

P.S to all you creatives out there, click here to check out some inspirational words on the topic from my man Tony “Jack The Bear” Mantz.

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Top 10 #looptheworld Shows So Far

This was a difficult list to compile. Almost every show I have played since the #looptheworld adventure began has been memorable for one reason or another. Special mention has to go to Choppers Bar, Koh Tao. Those hot, sweaty nights with the Koh Tao Pub Crawl made up a huge amount of the memories that the tour has brought me so far. Every night at Choppers was another crazy party. So too were all of my performances at Harmony, Ios. However, this here list is about those single shows that stood out. The shows that warmed my heart and kept me on a high for days after getting off stage. Those shows that reward me more than financial gain. The shows I’ll remember long after my career is over. The shows I’ll look back on and smile.

No. 10

Surfers Paradise Live Festival May 2015

A festival stage definitely helps to make the top 10 list. A big crowd, a great PA, a professional sound man, the whole kit and caboodle. This was also the last show before we took #looptheworld international. On a more personal note; Surfers Paradise Live Festival was special because my family was there. My mum, my little sister Megan and my adorable little nephew Malakai. It was also the first time my newborn nephew had left the house since his birth. I’m very proud of this fact. It will be a story I tell him when he’s older. I hope one day he takes up the musical adventure that has brought me so much satisfaction.

Show No.9 >

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NEW VIDEO: Let’s Stay Together/You Don’t Know – Live Loop Mash Up

I love Koh Tao. I have since the first day I set foot on that rock in the middle of the Thai Gulf. There is magic there. Until you experience it you will never know it. I’ve traveled there many times now over the past 4 years. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to share with my close friends from back home. It was only February this year that I finally got to share it with Hannah, and like me, she fell in love with the place as soon as we landed at Mae Haad Pier. This June though, when Hannah and I were half way through our Koh Tao leg of #looptheworld we were visited by a bunch of our good friends from back home. Shout out’s to Jonno, Edan, Danielle, Mikey, Anton, Mick, Anthea, Dave, Casey and Hayley. So good to share Turtle Island with you all.

Not only did I get to share the magic of holidaying on Koh Tao with my friends but also a little of the creative side. Casey and I  did a couple of shows together. One at Banyan and one at Choppers. They  both went down in Koh Tao history. Mikey and I did a couple of shows together at Fishbowl. One was shut down early by the most epic of tropical storms which Edan Chapman Photgraphy was patient enough to get the million dollar shot of. But one of my favourite collaborations on the island is this one right here.

On the 11 June 2015, Jonno, Edan and Andy Stock (a guitarist friend that lives on Koh Tao) came together at Fishbowl Beach Bar with as many cameras as we could muster up including 5 x GoPro’s and 2 x Cannon DSLRs and shot this clip. Jonno later edited together the 40+ Gigabytes of footage for Straight Jacket Productions and now we have a Koh Tao memory that will last forever and that we can share with all of you.

The song is a mash up between Al Green’s classic “Let’s Stay Together” and the hip hop verses from my own track “You Don’t Know” from my 2009 EP SW&theE. I love Al Green, I was lucky enough back in 2011 to see him live in Melbourne at the Palace Theater in St Kilda with my good mate and fellow loop warrior Andy V. The show was everything I expected and more from the living legend. Andy and I used to play this song years ago jamming in Melbourne town and last year we recorded a version on our EP Live on Koh Tao which you can download free here. That version happened to be recorded live at Fishbowl almost exactly one year before this one.

I hope you enjoy and please help me out by commenting, liking and sharing. The success of my #looptheworld adventure depends on the support of you guys. Thanks so much for watching.
Si x

The Wonders of Childbirth and Childhood memories.

The first month of our #looptheworld adventure has been huge, so much so that I have spent hours, days. sitting at this computer typing and deleting, typing and deleting as my thoughts and memories all collide in on one another. I have decided to keep it simple and share just a couple of those moments with you.

Pottsville, NSW
Pottsville, NSW

Life.
Megan, Simon’s younger sister, and myself went for a casual stroll down to the beach at Pottsville. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon. She was very pregnant. We were chatting away catching up on each others news when Megan asked me if I would be a support person at her birth. I was speechless. My mouth moved up and down a few times but no words came out. What an honour to be trusted with such a momentous life event. Ever since I first met Megan she has been quite an inspiration for me. I have always admired her strength, sense of self, sense of adventure and her ability to always find and share the magic. She is a beautiful, magnetic human. This experience was no exception. As humans, we have all experienced childbirth yet of course none of us remember our own. As a female, I have always known and imagined that someday I will give birth to my own child and so I have tried to conceptualise what childbirth might be like. I imagine many girls and women have done the same. When the day came I was nervous and excited. I hoped that I would be able to offer the support that Megan might need but I must admit that I felt a little out of my depth. The only thing I was certain of was the love in my heart and that I would be there for whatever she needed.

Childbirth is an intensely personal experience and so I do not feel that it is my place to share all the details here on this public platform, all I will say is that I will forever remember the birth of Malakai Storm Wright. I witnessed the strength, power and primal understanding of the woman’s body and it is extraordinary. Megan, thank you for trusting me.

x x x Megan and Malakai x x x

A magical day.
When I was still a little Hannah I lived for a time on a community called Sphinx Rock; named as such because it is nestled at the bottom of a mountain that looks like a Sphinx, it is about 20kms north west of Nimbin in New South Wales. I have such beautiful memories of that time.

In the magic garden
In the magic garden

There were several families living on the community and so we created quite the hoard of children. We had such fun. We played statues at the bus stop, for those of you who don’t know this excellent game the rules are simple, if a car comes – freeze! I think I legitimately believed for a time that the passengers in the cars passing by actually thought we were statues. We’d ride on the bonnet of mums big old yellow station wagon, make cubby’s in the wild lantana, explore crystal clear creeks, play lego and tremble at terrifying stories about The Hairymen who lived up in the mountains (if you do ever have the bad luck of running into a Hairy Man then just bend over and look at it from between your legs, that way it will know that you are not scared of it and it will leave you alone – fact!). So as an adult it is nice to go back and revisit those memories, it’s like giving them a shot of coffee.

My granddad (aka Abba), Simon and I made a day trip of it, leaving at about 10am on a Tuesday. We had lunch in town with the infamous and wonderful

Abba, Michael and Hannah
Abba, Michael and Hannah

Michael Balderstone who is an old family friend of Abba’s and a central figure in Nimbin’s anti-prohibition movement, he was very busy in the wake of the annual Mardi Grass festival but we were lucky enough to steal a moment with him. After lunch, we took the reminiscent road out to Sphinx Rock. It is much the same as I remember it although due to the sub tropical environment everything grows so quickly. Where there was once a view of Wollumbin, which was known as Mt Warning when I was a child but has been returned to it’s traditional name in respect to the First Nation people, there is now a rainforest. We bumped into Burry who is still living on the community, he took us to a magical garden where there was a huge old satellite dish bursting with cherry tomatoes, an abundance of banana and mango trees, tamarillos and the sweetest passionfruit hanging from the sky and the ever present gentle chorus of the frogs chanting their life song.

“the sweetest passionfruit hanging from the sky “

IMG_0215

Simon enjoying a Tamarillo
Simon enjoying a Tamarillo

 
To finish off our magical adventurous day Abba drove us back to Byron Bay via the most exquisite route. My granddad is an adventurous grey nomad and always knows the best spots. We stopped for a quick photo opportunity off a dirt track on the crest of a hill and coasted over lush green hills soaking in the glory of magic hour. Driving back to Byron Bay I felt calm and happy, It’s good for the soul to take the time to remember these precious times in our lives. 

  Thank you so much for taking the time to read some of my words and also to those who have been in touch, it’s really lovely for me to hear your  feedback. If you do have any questions, comments or suggestions I’d love to hear from you and of course you can follow our every move via facebook and instagram.

Wollumbin. “off a dirt track on the crest of a hill”

Simon Wright – TV on the Radio

Live and Local BayFM and Byron Bay TV present:

On Sunday April 26th 2015 I had my first ever loop performance on live to air radio and Will Hayman from Byron Bay TV was there to catch it all. The performance took place during the Sunday midday show Live and Local with Al Stark on Bay FM 99.9 three weeks into my #looptheworld tour.

The playlist above has three videos:
She Told Me (BayFM Reloop)/Gather The Matter

This is actually two songs but ever since I started performing them and always grouped them together. Eventually I plan to have most of my set like that. The first track “She Told Me” I wrote while on stage once at the Birmingham Hotel on Smith st in Collingwood. I’d looped the start of the track and a woman approached me from the dance floor. I don’t think she quite understood the loop concept. She came up and started yelling “You need to sing!” The next words to come out of my mouth were the chorus “She told me that I need to sing, down here at the Birmingham”. I often appropriate this song to whatever venue I am playing at the time. This performance you’ll notice I sing  “She told me that I need to sing, on live and local BayFM”. It lends it’s self easily to those kinds of improvisations.
The second song is the bastard child of three songs I’ve written in the past. The guitar riff was originally the pre-chorus to a jazz/hip hop track I wrote last year named “Dream”. The chorus lyrics are from a song I played with the Eclective named “It’s On” and one of the verses is from a song I did with Direct Influence way back in the early days named “So Right”. I like the way they blend together. It changes key from Dm to Am but the “She Told Me” chorus lyrics still work and even though the beat is exactly the same, with all the syncopation in “Gather the Matter” it feels like there is a groove change.

Rockin’ Blues

I first wrote this song as a 1-4-5 upbeat swung rock n roll track but I was never really happy with where it sat so had never started performing it live. Then last year while I was on Koh Tao, Thailand with Andy V we began jamming a Ray Charles inspired groove at a bar called Fishbowl and the Lyrics found their home. You can hear the first time I ever played it here. It’s changed a little since then as I had to work on a way to play it with out the help of Andy V, but the general arrangement is still the same.

Music

This song has been with me a long time however I think this is the first loop performance recording of the track. I first wrote it in 2006 while playing with the Groove Collective in Byron Bay. It never made it to the studio until 2012 when I went in with The Simon Wright Band for “Live at 52”. That performance which you can see here, earned me a nomination for the Australian Independent Music Awards 2013, a position in the Victorian finals for the Telstra Road To Discovery and made the finals of the national Catapult Song Contest with names like Ash Grunwald and Dallas Frasca.
The basic idea of the song is a love song dedicated to the life long partner I’ve chosen in music. People often ask who is the girl I was writing about, but it’s no girl, it is music. Recently “Music” passed 10,000 views on youtube and is the first of my original songs to accomplish this milestone. You can purchase a copy along with the rest of “Live at 52” from http://www.simonwright.com.au

New Video – Rockin’ Blues Live at the Beach Hotel, Byron Bay. #looptheworld 2015

I first wrote the lyrics to this track to a 1 4 5 swing rock and roll style track but then appropriated them to a Ray Charles inspired rock n roll groove whilst jamming with my good mate Andy V during a gig in Thailand. The jam ended up making it to the “Live on Koh Tao” EP as the only entirely original tune. It’s very traditional stylistically. A simple groove, one chord the whole way through the track but I dig it. I think it’s my favourite loop track of mine so far.

I filmed this version at a gig in Byron Bay near the beginning of our #looptheworld tour on the 16th April 2015. It was a strange gig. After the week I’d just had leading up to the show I was expecting an impressive turn out. I’d just played the Bluesfest after winning a place in the Bluesfest Busking Comp. I then played a gig at the Rails, my first ever 3 hour solo loop show in Byron, to a large enthusiastic audience.  Unfortunately however, this gig was empty. Not empty but in a venue that holds over two thousand, forty or so feels empty. I guess with all the excitement of the Bluesfest the week before, another night of music was not a priority. That didn’t stop me from getting the most out of it. The PA is lovely to play through and Glen “Goobs” Ward the sound man does a great job at making me sound the best that I can. It was quite the contrast from back in the days of the Eclective where we had 8 people on stage and 2000 in the crowd but enjoyable none the less.

Rockin’ Blues
An original loop track by Simon Wright.
Recorded live at the Beach Hotel on the 16th April 2015.

My Baby likes it old school
Cos these days it ain’t the same
She needs that old school soul
and some rock n roll
Just to make it on through the day

She says she wants them Blues
That get me on my feet.
Some rockin blues,
that get me on my feet.

I said my pockets are all empty,
and my lunch box is much the same,
but you can bet when I get
a little rock in my roll
I save it up for a rainy day

I said I want them blues,
that get me on my feet,
Some rockin Blues,
that get me on my feet

Said there’s holes in my pockets
and there’s hole in my shoes
I ain’t got nothing but
singin’ them blues

An Introduction of Sorts – By Hannah Blake.

hannah

Where to start? At the beginning I suppose. Although, I am not entirely sure where that is, it feels as though the idea for this adventure crept into the consciousness slowly not wanting to alarm anyone and now here we are, in Byron Bay Australia on the first part of this musical adventure around the world that has only a few set destinations and no set end date. Our adventure, aptly named #looptheworld will take Simon and myself around the world on, what Simon likes to say, “a guitar string budget”. To prepare for this musical adventure into the world, first, I quit my job. I imagine we all dream of not working, I know I certainly had, but it was an interesting decision to make when it actually became a reality. Working provides security, a network of people, something to do with our time, it helps us to feel connected, useful and productive. In quitting my job I was surrendering to a way of life that I have not yet experienced. It is a little scary and also very exciting.Then, I gave away my possessions. Stuff! I love stuff! I have so many precious things, all with their own memory attached or perhaps it’s a precious thing purely because it’s pretty, either way, the precious things accumulate and become ‘stuff’. I have always enjoyed having beautiful, if sometimes a little odd, things in my home, I like that it fills me with memories and in a way it represents me. So I have taken this #looptheworld adventure as an opportunity do a bit of clearing out and it felt great! I have a few boxes which I claim as mine (thanks so much for all your help mum) but everything else I have let go of. If you’re thinking that I’ve had some kind of life changing epiphany you’d be wrong, I just figure I can get more stuff later. And lastly, we moved out of our beautiful Smith Street home.

Leaving the Smith St home. From left: Ellah Blake, Edan Chapman and Hannah Blake.
Leaving Smith St. From left: Ellah Blake, Edan Chapman and Hannah Blake.

Mostly I just glided through, once the decision to follow our wanderlust had been made, the excitement and promise of it all carried me. I must admit that I did cry twice, and by ‘cry’ I mean ‘bawled my eyes out’. The first time I cried I had just taken the last load of ‘stuff’ to the opp shop and I was sitting in my now very empty bedroom with my backpack in front of me on the floor. That one small backpack now represented everything that I owned. I think it was only at that point that I realised  “oh, this is actually happening”. The second time was when I left my mum. As I stepped out on to the tarmac my lip started quivering and then the flood gates opened. I had to laugh at myself, a 27 year old woman, sitting on the airplane bawling my eyes out, receiving sideways glances from nearby passengers, all because I’m going to miss my mum. Beautiful really.

Don’t let all this talk of crying lead you to believe that I am not ecstatic, I am. I feel light and happy and certainly very lucky! I am at the beginning of an adventure where the only plan is to follow the music. We will live off the money made through Simon’s music: gigs, busking and CD sales. I’ll be that chick selling CD’s next to the stage. The destinations will be chosen through gig offers and the people we meet. I’m excited for this next bit, this next adventure. I am excited for what I will learn, about myself, about the world. I am excited to meet new people and catch up with old friends.

I will be documenting the trip via our Instagram account #looptheworld (follow us here). I also hope to use this blog as a platform, if I may be so bold, to share some of my experiences, thoughts and stories with you. I’m not yet sure which direction this story will take but that is all part of the adventure and fun.

So here we are, the #looptheworld adventure has started and it is wonderful.

x Hannah

I’d love to hear your thoughts  so please email me any questions or suggestions or even just a hello! 🙂

Ps. I highly recommend you listen to this, I think it’s a pretty good soundtrack for this part of this story. Enjoy!