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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Here's to lovely musical afternoons.

Whoops, it's Monday morning, and this post is a few days overdue!  Not to worry, time is an illusion, at least that's my excuse today.

In fact I had a tremendous weekend, including teaching my usual Saturday morning singing and piano lessons, that never fail to get me off to a good start, an awesome wild party on Saturday night for friend's 50th birthday and finishing with the fabulous Darebin Songwriters Guild.

8 years ago I came across the inaugural guild meeting hosted by Wendy Ealey and Moira Tyers, two wonderful community spirited musicians who wanted to foster the songwriting talent of our little corner of Melbourne called Darebin.  Many, many inspiring and friendly Sunday afternoons later, Wendy and Moira have gone from strength to strength and are now playing all over the place as The Dixie Chooks and other musical incarnations.
(Find out more here

Moira and Wendy created a warm, encouraging space that has embraced hundreds of performers in the last 8 years and given them a chance to play, develop their craft and collaborate with others.  I, myself was able to meet Dean Lombard and Bernard De La Couer, with whom I have formed a great creative relationship and who supported me in my show "What If?"

At the end of 2013, Wendy and Moira found that it was time to move on and Dean and I were honoured to be asked to be the new co-ordinators.  At first I wondered how we would fill their shoes - but the Guild has formed a life of its own and it rolls on, fed by the talent, enthusiasm and friendship of the songwriting community it has helped to grow - it's a wonderful circle!

And so it was that Dean and I got to stand behind the mixing desk at Bar 303 in Northcote yesterday afternoon and hear 10 amazingly diverse and talented songwriter's share their stuff.  We smiled and sighed and I said, "Aren't we lucky?"

10 years ago, I didn't know I would be hosting such an event, but the persistent steps that I have taken have got me here and I wonder where the steps I take today will get me?

If you are songwriter looking for a place to play, that really gets what it takes to stick your neck out and play your own songs on stage, look us up and come along.  See our Facebook page or email us here:

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Just show up

I am reading a book by the wonderful Eric Maisel, psychotherapist, writer and creativity coach - if you are interested in how creativity can be harnessed and how to surf the waves of that often elusive energy, then his work is a must read.

One of the clear messages in his work about coaching yourself to be an artist, is that it's important to be disciplined and just "Show Up".

We love to imagine the romantic vision of ourselves as an artist - making masterpieces, the muse tamed and seated at our side, birds singing at the window, or a candle flickering in our beautiful Parisian bedsit or being paid to live on a desert island and just "be" - whatever the fantasy is for you.   Perhaps in this vision we are also romanticised.  We are the better version of ourselves, contented, wise, productive, well rested and feeling in the flow.

The truth is, that although artists can have moments of bliss and flow - a lot of the time it's about just getting down to it, sorting out the good work from the bad, taking risks, living in the grey area and the mess. For all the break through moments and praise, there is much more showing up in your trackies ( that's what we track pants in Australia ) and having a go.

So don't wait for the right moment, for inspiration, to "feel" like it or to be the better version of your self - start that creative project now.  Sit through the moments of blah or ho-hum and when you least expect it bliss will show up - but you have got to show up first!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A Song - A Glimpse into a Secret World

One of the amazing things about human beings is that although we are all incredibly similar we are also unique.  In fact, I believe that we all live in our own personal universes, each one with slightly different colours, shapes, paradigms, rules and even laws of nature.  Each one is built by a fascinating combination of experience, environment, genetics and a bit of randomness.

One of the amazing things about art is that it enables us to share our universes, allowing us to be connected with others, recognised by them and hopefully allowing them to feel connected and recognised too.

A song is a glimpse in to another's universe.

I was excited to read that Nick Cave is quite open about how he has developed a set of symbols, stories and language that he uses in his songs.  These symbols are part of his own creative process and contribute to the richness of meaning in his individual songs and also his body of work.  I found myself wondering if the symbols are sometimes a starting place for a work, if he adds then unconsciously or deliberately and how long it took him to develop this language.  Is it something he discovered over time?

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of Josh Pyke and I read an article where he said a similar thing - that he had certain words, images and symbols that recurred in his songs and that they had become part of his creative world and process.  Knowing his work as I do, it was wonderful to hear him talk about the fox, the wolves and the sea.

I am interested to look back over my work for recurring themes, symbols and ideas.  I know there are certain feelings, moods and images that inspire me and I wonder if they have found their way in to lots of my songs.  It's an interesting idea and a great way to take a different approach to creative work.

Are there symbols and images that you are drawn to?

Do you deliberately or unconsciously include particular ideas?

What glimpses in
to your secret world do your songs reveal?

Friday, 8 August 2014

Dream music

Often I have dreams that feature new music.  Sometimes I am playing long splendiferous original pieces on the piano other times I am simply composing a tune in my mind whilst sleeping.  The music arrives fully formed and free flowing.  During the dream I am filled with a certainty that this is the one - this is the music I have been waiting for, the tune to end all tunes, the song to complete all songs.  They are happy dreams, rich with creative energy and a feeling of authenticity.

It would be great to wake up and sit at the piano and compose the pieces from the dream of the night before.  I imagine it would be like painting a colour by numbers, just filling in the notes and recording the melody as it flows straight out of my brain.  If only.  Although sometimes in the dream I seem to make an effort to pin the tune down in order to remember it later, in the morning it has vanished like mist in the sun.

But I know the essence is still there.....the music exists in my inner world and hearing it at night proves it.  Perhaps the dream music is like a storehouse of all the inspiring musical ideas my brain has picked up over time, interwoven, mixed up, re-invented.

Perhaps the essence of this dream music filters in to the next song that I will write.  My real task then is to make time to sit down, with pen and paper, instrument and recording device, turn off the distractions, set the process in motion and let it flow.......

Do you dream of music?  How do you re-capture musical inspiration?

Friday, 1 August 2014

In the music.....

This week I was sent a link from a friend to an article that discussed the long-term positive benefits for your brain when you play an instrument.  It reminded me of the drive that finally pushed me through the barriers of fear of failure, performance anxiety and a busy family life to rekindle my musical life and begin playing my own songs in public.

Although I loved listening to my favourite musicians, and dancing around the house with the kids to our eclectic collection turned up loud was the best way to wind down at the end of the day,  I was often aware that something was missing.....  It felt like I didn't want to just listen to the music, I wanted to be IN the music.

There is a something special about participating in music making, whether it's playing an instrument, singing with others or performing.  A synergy occurs between your mind, body and senses - it's immediate, it's powerful and it's life-affirming.  You might think it takes years of practice and expertise to get to the point where the music you make will be good enough for you to enjoy hearing it, but I know from experience that even simple sounds, like drumming or humming can be exhilarating, fun and a joy for yourself and others to listen to.  You are making the sound - you are celebrating life.

Clare Bowditch, a Melbourne songwriting treasure, once said that jealousy can be a sign that you have an unmet need.  Have you ever watched a musician perform and felt that inner fire, wishing somehow that could be you?

My advice to you is don't wait any longer.  Take the chance to engage in music making, pick up that neglected instrument, start those lessons you've often wondered about, sing out loud that melody that has been floating around in your IN the music.

How playing an instrument creates fireworks in your brain

Clare Bowditch - one of my faves

Wednesday, 23 July 2014


One never ending task of the living artist is to juggle the uncontainable nature of art within the container that is our reality.  It is a messy process, often with bits spilling on to the floor, requiring to be mopped up later.  
©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I deliberately chose the word "juggle" over the popular "balance" because I think being balanced can sometimes be too high an expectation.  While one part of me adores the white cube scenario complete with a zen hum accompanying my ordered activities, another part of me continues to throw food and paint around with abandon like a happy child.  While juggling these parts, I am getting washing dried on the line, answering emails, thinking big messy thoughts, singing to myself and making appointments.....  

Containing the ever-expanding world of art and ideas within my safe suburban domestic world enables me to have warm soup on a cold day as well as a new arrangement of my latest whimsical folk song.  On the flat white page of my website it seems ordered and sensible but always it is a tension between the contained and the