Darius Pranckunas

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Open Mic Night @ The Great Britain Hotel
 

“I do it [music] as a serious hobby… but if anyone wants to pay me, they’re very welcome to do so!”

Full of energy, charisma and puns (and an impressively large repertoire of songs to suit all occasions), Darius is your piano man & he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke.

With an upbringing of primarily classical music – generously seasoned with the golden pop/rock tunes – Darius has been playing piano for 19 years and has attained his Certificate of Performance.

He has a Bachelor of Commerce degree under his belt and is currently working towards getting his CPA whilst job hunting.

“I do it [music] as a serious hobby; I feel I have got other talents I can make my money out of… but if anyone wants to pay me, they’re very welcome to do so!”

Having played Open Mics on and off for a couple of years now, Darius feels that they’re a great opportunity to express himself in a very understanding and inviting atmosphere where everyone’s in the same boat.

“Get on down to the Open Mics and the venues will be encouraged to keep them going! You get to have a good night out with friends, beer and free live music. “

He recalls one particular embarrassing experience when he performed at an interstate talent show and he had a complete mental blank on a jazz piece he had only just begun to play. He stopped, turned to the audience and said “I’ll start that again”. Thankfully the second time through he aced it!

“Don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t be afraid to have a go. People are understanding when it comes to our musical abilities.”

You can catch Darius performing red-handed at the Great Britain Hotel or (for the Lithuanians in the audience) at the Melbourne Lithuanian Club. In the meantime, jump on his Facebook group – Daz’s Random Fact/Joke of the Day – guaranteed to have you raising your eyebrows or rolling your eyes.. or both!

Mario Demiraj

untitled-0071Open Mic Night @ The Great Britain Hotel
 

“Being a frontman is an art on its own. It’s not as simple as just being a musician.”

Mario is far more than just a great musician. He can captivate an audience and bring them in on his set rather than having the usual divide between musician (playing) and audience (listening).

Originally from Auckland, New Zealand Mario’s music falls under the category of indie-pop.

Drawing inspiration for his lyrics primarily from life experiences, he usually writes the guitar (chords/riff) part first, followed by melody, followed by (honest) lyrics.

“A lot of the time I’ll just be jamming away, or another song will create an emotion/vibe in me and it inspires me to make a song that affects people in a similar way.”

He’s aiming to take music full time and believes the key to success in the music business is to play as much as you can and network compulsively.

Before a gig he would do some vocal and body warm-ups and boost his confidence using positive self-affirmations

“A lot of it comes down to your confidence in that moment and if you can raise your confidence, you’re going to play better.”

Mario also proposed several more bits of insightful advice:

“Think of every bad gig as a tick off the list. You have to do a certain amount of bad gigs to get good!”

But he also clarifies that a bad gig to you at the moment probably qualified as a good gig for you a year, or even a month ago.

“The overall standard of performance changes and improves drastically over time. Right now a good performance for you might be an 8/10. If you were to play 100 gigs, your current 8/10 would become a 3/10.”

Catch Mario playing at either Bar Oussou or The Snug Public House (both on Tuesdays) and stay up-to-date on his music here.

Christopher Sprake

_DSC3869Open Mic Night @ The Acoustic Cafe
 

“The more time you spend trying to be someone else is just time wasted.”

Chris has had a fruitful career in music with a highlight being a solo tour in Canada earlier in the millennium. It only takes the first few seconds of his set to realise why. His extremely smooth but powerful voice conveys the soul of a sincere and authentic musician.

He runs a recording studio on Hoddle street called Last Match Recordings and he plays atmospheric indie rock in a band (as well as pursuing a folk side-project).

He draws inspiration from his day-to-day interactions with people and in particular from the community work he is involved in – helping people overcome struggles in their own lives who come from underprivileged backgrounds.

Passionate about supporting the community, Chris’s studio is based in a Government housing complex where his facilities are open for use by the residents free of charge.

Being a producer and seeing so many musicians come into his studio for over 7 years, he stresses the fact the you have to find your own authentic story and sound:

“The more time you spend trying to be someone else is just time wasted. People respond to something that’s genuine.”

Check out www.christophersprake.com for more details on his fantastic career and be sure to drop into his studio whenever you need some recording work done!

Ibrahim Shiham

DSC01784Open Mic Night @ Bar Oussou
 

“I had a dream to perform with the saxophone.”

And it was a dream come true for Ibrahim, having only played the Saxophone since June last year!

Originally from the Maldives, Ibrahim has been playing music for around 25 years drawing influences from Latin, Jazz, Reggae, and Rock, with guitar being his weapon of choice.

It’s always refreshing to come across performances that aren’t simply guitar & vocals, and the crowd at Bar Oussou was certainly intrigued by the uniqueness.

Whilst he was apprehensive about the performance, Ibrahim performed like a pro; we had no idea this was his first saxophone performance until he told us.

He plays Open Mic Nights to iron out the kinks and smooth out any musical mistakes.

“I feel very happy when I see people dancing – that’s when I know they like the stuff I’m playing.”

His advice for musicians starting out is to have balance:

“Most young musicians are very talented, but they have no concept of having a balanced sound when playing in a group.”

Playing live for so many years, Ibrahim says with a hint of resignation,

“Live music is dying.”

So make sure you help sustain the culture by swinging through Bar Oussou’s Open Mic night – you might just find Ibrahim’s catchy jazz-influenced tunes on the saxophone.

Tony Creedon

  untitled-0118Open Mic Night @ The Great Britain Hotel
 

“Whether they come or not, I’d still play.”

Tony is by far one of the most unique performers you’ll ever see. You could spend an entire evening at a pub with about 12 acts of live music and not remember anyone but Tony. His impressive and rugged appearance is surpassed only by his incredible voice; the most powerful I’ve heard. He is gentle by nature (though his appearance may suggest otherwise) but when he’s performing, his stage presence and songs completely dominate the room and beyond; especially when he gets to one of his infamous songs called “Shit in your eye”. There is nothing superficial about this man. He just puts himself completely out there and is always up for a friendly chin-wag afterwards.

“I got nowhere else to play and I get to meet people to put on my radio show.”

Tony is not only at Open Mics to perform, he’s also on the hunt for local talent to feature on his radio show, “Come on Come in” on 3CR (Thursdays at 3pm). He’s always on the lookout for new performers so if he reckons you’re good enough, he’ll come up to you and organise for you to play on-air! Having seen so many performers on the local scene and playing host to many more on his radio show, I asked him what makes a good musician. True to his own approach, there can’t be any superficiality about the performance,

“[The songs] have got to be heartfelt.”

Tony appreciates the importance of supporting and fostering grassroots live music. He’d love to see more people musicians and non-musicians coming down to support the local scene but regardless of whether or not there’s a crowd, he’ll still be strumming away up on stage.

“Whether they come or not, I’d still play.”

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Ann Poore

_MG_6418Open Mic Night @ The Acoustic Cafe
 

 I’ve been playing music all my life – I couldn’t live without it.”

A harp player… and now you’ve seen it all – only the wings and the halo are missing!

Playing contemporary folk music based around themes of war, Ann Poore is a psych nurse dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder patients (mainly war veterans but her patients also include staff from the emergency services).

Music is an escape for her. Working in the treatment of mental health sure can get under your skin at times.

“Music is a great healer and solace. It can change or express your mood. I’ve been playing music all my life – I couldn’t live without it.”

Not only does she enjoy playing music, she plays Open Mics specifically to get over her performance anxiety.

“It all started with me asking myself ‘Why am I so scared of doing something I enjoy?'”

She finds herself drawing much inspiration for her music from her work, whilst simultaneously using music as an outlet.

I can have my work and my music and I can use them both to enhance the other.”

Her work and therefore music revolves mainly around war themes and interestingly, she has put World War 1 poetry to music – think Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney, etc.

She also has a concept album in the pipeline due for release this year – “Bullets Like Rain” – Songs of war for harp and voice. She unveiled some of those tracks on the night I spoke to her and they really tug at the ‘heartstrings’… if you’ll pardon the pun! The release of the album is scheduled to coincide with the Centenary of Remembrance Day (1914-2014); make sure you pick it up and keep up-to-date with her musical escapades on her facebook page.

“The most famous, richest, most played pop stars and divas on the radio didn’t start out earning millions of dollars; they started in venues like this. They’ve paid their dues and they’re reaping the rewards of the hard work they did when they were younger.”

Michael Waugh

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“You can’t practice connecting with an audience sitting in your bedroom; you’ve got to actually get out there and do it.”

Whilst Michael is more of an ‘established artist’, having played multiple festivals around Australia (eg: Selby Festival, Cygnet Folk Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival, etc.), he maintains the heart and soul of a grassroots musician. A truly down-to-Earth and sincere singer/songwriter, Michael’s music is folk and country inspired; the storytelling songs.

Spending most of his 20s chasing a rock n roll dream, emulating pop songs with little success, Michael is now happily married and a full-time media studies and drama teacher.

“I don’t aspire to be a rockstar. I’m not trying to get somewhere or be something, I’m already there. Even if I’m playing in a place with two people in the room and one of them is listening and connects with the story, I’m already there.”

It wasn’t until he found his voice and began writing songs true to himself that he really began to connect with audiences. Check out his moving performance at the Port Fairy Folk Festival:

 

“You could see people wiping tears from their eyes. It was so powerful that I felt all of that coming back to us on stage. We all had that experience together.”

Is it any wonder why he has won multiple songwriter awards? I wanted to know about his creative process!

Michael writes a lot of his songs in-transit, but only writes down the ones that have stuck with him:

“If they’ve connected with me they’re likely to connect with somebody else […] I’ll write down the songs that make me tear up. The more specific the description of your experience, the more broadly it will apply to people.”

He certainly has not forgotten his Open Mic roots. They were a platform for him to hone his musical skills as well as practicing the craft of communicating with an audience.

“You can’t practice connecting with an audience sitting in your bedroom; you’ve got to actually get out there and do it.”

Open Mics are also about meeting people and developing a community; in fact Michael met both Kate Crowley (featured in the above clip), and his manager, Aaron Thomas, on the Open Mic scene.

“All it takes is someone to say, ‘I really enjoyed that, thank you’, and that means the world to that person who just walked off stage. Other people also see that and it creates a supportive culture.”

Check out his Heyfield Girl EP on iTunes – I remember “Heyfield Girl” from when I would see him play on the local scene back in 2012. A very touching song both then and now!

Grab a copy of his second EP by sending him an email at info@michaelwaugh.com.au.

Keep posted on his performances on his Facebook Page: facebook.com/michaelwaughfm

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Monique Shelford

IMG_1226Open Mic Night @ Bar Oussou
 

“Writing is a cathartic process for me. I’m always inspired by some sort of feeling or emotion that I need to express.”

Amidst the clinking of drink bottles and the waves of muffled conversation, a small acoustic guitar quietly begins to play. Mellow, familiar chords wash comfortingly over the room, complementing the warm atmosphere of Brunswick’s Bar Oussou.

Then, Monique Shelford begins to sing.

The background noises gradually fall silent and fifty smartphones plop forgotten into the laps and handbags of their stunned owners. Monique’s voice seems to emanate from some higher plane, as if imbued with some magnetic power to raise the hairs on the napes of necks.

She is most in her element when performing to smaller audiences in intimate settings such as this. Monique has that rare ability to effortlessly draw an audience into her world and hold their attention.

“It’s all about the exchange of energy, I think. I get a bigger buzz out of playing to an intimate room full of people … receiving and listening.”

As her performance progresses, she paints a montage of musical imagery expressing a broad range of emotions from anguish to hope. A quietly confident, yet humble performer without a hint of pretention, Monique Shelford is refreshing in her authenticity.

“I’m up there bearing my soul and I’m not ashamed of that.”

Although gifted with a unique, resonant vocal timbre, it is clear that Monique has been honing her talent from a very young age. Growing up in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, she commenced classical vocal training at the tender age of seven, but truly found her voice at a Catholic Maori girls’ high school. It was here she discovered the soul power of gospel music. These two huge musical influences have gelled beautifully with modern contemporary styles to form a very special and unique talent not to be missed.

An artist after our own hearts(trings), Monique actively promotes her fellow musicians, running regular acoustic sessions at the Woodlands Hotel in Coburg. She is an absolute gem! We urge you to look up one of Monique Shelford’s appearances and lose yourselves in her soulful tapestry.

Until Facebook creates an ‘Adore’ button, check out the links below and smash that ‘Like’ button.

facebook.com/MoniqueShelfordMusic  |  soundcloud.com/beady-little-i