Gavin Murray

“Everybody has a role to play in making a scene, a scene.”


When I met Gav it reminded me of the diversity of Melbourne’s local live music scene. When Gav took over the stage at Bar Oussou he took the audience along with him as 20 years of music experience came through with every belted note and whispered lyric, brimming with emotion. Whilst he calls Melbourne home, he hails originally from the Central Coast and his music career has seen him play both interstate and internationally.

“Melbourne’s live music scene is an absolute minefield of talent […] any night of the week I can go watch somebody amazing play and that feeds my creative side.”

Influenced by a range of styles, Gav’s music is full of dynamics with distinct undertones of jazz and blues Tom Waits style turning more soulful all the way through to straight rock n roll, paying homage to grunge bands of the 90s, the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

“Putting myself out there hasn’t really been a priority for the past couple of years.”

Inspired by great songwriters such as Cat Stevens, Gav has a method to his songwriting madness which I found intriguing.

“I keep a scrapbook for lyrics and come up with a bunch of titles or just a single line and I’ll put it on a blank page; then I turn the page and do another one. I never really dwell too long on an idea at the start.”

Gav has a theory that the subconscious mind thinks about these ideas while you’re living your life and your experiences are drawing in on them.

“Then I’ll play guitar, come up with a riff and go through the book […] find lines for which the syllables and the vibe fits, then I find the page just fills itself at that point – the music triggers all the stuff you’ve been working out subconsciously.”

Gav works as a sound engineer and video tech by day, with the likes of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Opera and he’s pulling together an in-home studio, passionate to work with local talented artists.

“You find inspiration in these people that you find at bars […] that are in some ways lonely, they’re listening to the music and escaping from something and from having beers and chats with them you can find plenty to write songs about.”

Gav is currently working on a top secret new band project drawing together styles of stoner rock and pop melodies of the 60s with powerful female backing vocals to complement his own. We probably shouldn’t even be talking about it as Gav has kept it off the radar so far, but I for one am excited – watch this space!

Bailey Sampson & Jackson McIntosh

“We’re happy to go broke for a while just to eventually get there.”


The duo’s unique setup had their audience intrigued from get-go, consisting of an electric guitar running through a Marshall amp with a slightly frayed logo along with a synth pad on a make-shift keyboard stand. ‘Looping’ live goes one of two ways, however even from sound check it was clear the duo knew what they were doing. Glassy jazz chords rang out from Jackson’s Fender in-between rock/blues inspired pentatonic licks which were complimented by Bailey’s soulful voice; the duo’s sound is slightly reminiscent of 21 pilots with an edgy electronic pop/soul/funk feel and distinct undertones of rock’n’roll.

Jackson: “I started playing guitar because my brother played drums.”
Bailey: “I started singing in year 10 for some musical.”

Having met in a Music Performance TAFE course, Bailey and Jackson have been performing under the name “Stripping on Sunset” since mid-2016.

“This is our career – this is where we both want to end up.”

To sustain the music dream they each have side jobs by day – Jackson is a landscaper and Bailey is a primary school teacher – but the majority of their week is devoted to music composition and spending time in the studio jamming.

“’Stare’ started as a jazz acoustic and then he took it, chucked it on a synth and it became this dark sort of thing.”

Their dream is to travel around the world performing to large audiences and even spending time abroad specifically in L.A. for as long as possible without ‘going broke’.

“Because we’re in our 20s this is the time to try all this stuff.”

In the meantime, the duo are eager proponents of the Open Mic scene receiving more social media likes and interest after those gigs ‘performing to strangers on any given night’ vs. ticketed events.

You can check out their music and keep up with their gigs on Facebook, Soundcloud and on their own website www.strippingonsunset.com.

Richelle Boer & Matt Bourne

“I love the way that music connects people. It doesn’t really matter how big or small it is, as long as I can keep doing that. That’s what I want to do.” (Richelle)


We’re setting up to interview another artist when The Balaclava Hotel is filled with a gentle, refined, lulling harmony. Richelle Boer and Matt Bourne are testing mics over quick plucks of the guitar. The soft timbre of Richelle’s voice pulls our attention away, and the chilling harmony hooks us in.

Richelle and Matt, both members of five-piece band ‘Iris’, played an acoustic cover of “Beat It” that was slow and smooth, and two originals including the incandescent “Vertigo”. The full band sways on pop indie echoes that drop in and out of folk and rock.

“[My songs] are more often about running away than about love. They’re hopeful because it’s usually me working through something and trying to come out the other end okay.” (Richelle)

Richelle grew up with a singer for a father and felt called to the stage from the very beginning. Matt picked up a guitar one day and just kept playing. Both come from different backgrounds, but the story is the same: their music is their life.

“Work hard and keep working hard. And keep showing up; show up to practice, show up to write, show up to sit there and feel like you can’t go on… and then do it again.” (Matt)

Richelle’s advice is to record your music. The pressure of putting it out there makes you question whether the music is as good as you want it to be.

“Make a good recording. Spend the time doing that so you’ve actually got something to show and to give out.” (Richelle)

The band just returned from a house concert tour in Europe, and have released a music video and the first half of their EP. Iris is currently developing the full EP, and will be performing at the Wesley Anne, Fri Aug 22, alongside Wire Bird and Velvet Archers.

Like them on Facebook and check out their website.

 

Tom Millington

“If you can get yourself right, trust that your unravelling will be just so and exact.”


We’re up near the back of the room, three artists into the night and drinks in hand. It’s my first night on the job, and the host announces: ‘We have a special guest tonight, my good friend Millington!’. The whole room breathes in at the same time.

A barefooted man steps up on this cold July night, giving the host a quick warm slap on the back in passing. He is a spoken word poet as well as a muso; a foot-stomping blend of Gypsy-Funk Roots-Rock Smokey-Folk Blues-Pop.

The next thirty minutes are a pounding, thrumming feast. I can’t stop listening, and the steady pulse sticks in my ears for a good half hour after.

“[Music] is the language of the heart. I think my musicality’s always been there, because I was taught to do music before I knew an instrument. So I felt what I wanted to do, and then I just needed to have the tool in order to do it.”

His music is driven by stompbox under acoustic guitar, electric guitar and a beautiful resonator ukelele. Each song is broken up by spoken scatterings of life, of love, of slam poem musings. Millington holds your heart in each strum and doesn’t even hint at letting go ’til his set is done.

“Do what you feel. Do what you feel, at every one given moment in time. Because then you’re acting on impulse, on inspiration, on this intuitive level.”

Despite playing three to four nights a week, Millington has a relaxed attitude towards his career. He’s played festivals overseas and hopes to play to bigger audiences in Australia, but the music, his connection to his inner self and being with his family are what matter the most.

“I could train in a million other things that I’m interested in, but they’d all have a shelf life career-wise. Whereas [music] I can get up and do almost every night, so I love that.”

Millington is currently planning to record an EP. He plays regularly in Mornington and will be performing in a few joints closer to Melbourne, including his next appearance at the Wesley Anne in Northcote in September.

Keep up to date with his goings-on at www.facebook.com/millingtonmusic.

Anton Thomas

“You don’t become a musician to be rich. You should study Law to do that.”


Capturing his audience immediately, Anton’s performance was an experience for both the auditory and visual senses. His hands literally danced across the fretboard whilst his soulful voice wove stories that transported us to a cantina by the Mississippi.

A well-travelled Kiwi, Anton has spent a lot of time in the great music cities of the southern United States, which has had a galvanising effect on him.

“You meet someone at a bus stop in New Orleans and it’s not like meeting someone at a bus stop anywhere else… I soaked up the inspiration… and it really brought my game up.”

His original, ‘Paint Me a Picture’ is a fine example of Anton’s remarkable guitar ability complemented by his voice to create a tranquil, yet catchy melody. His style is firmly rooted in the blues, but he also incorporates more contemporary flavours with an unmistakable hip-hop flair.

“I’ve always loved performing – as kid I was into drama – and when I get the chance to open a dialogue with audiences it really motivates me.”

Gifted with a humble kind of showmanship and a comfortable, laid-back demeanor, Anton naturally engages an audience; an ability so often overlooked by emerging musicians.

“Confidence is the key – it’s not always going to be there, you just need to get up and play. There’ll be times when no one digs it, but the more you do it, the better!”

Thankfully, Anton has now replaced the stress of working as a full-time chef with a less demanding role. Although sacrificing much of his income, it leaves him in a better position to follow his love of music and songwriting.

“I want to make a living out of my creative pursuits and if that leads to lots of money, then great! I don’t have that in mind though… you don’t become a musician to be rich. You should study Law to do that.”

You can catch Anton Thomas playing at Club Voltaire on 17th July, Lentil as Anything on 18th July and more generally around Melbourne’s open-mic circuit.

Check him out on Facebook, Soundcloud and YouTube.

Rebecca & Bianca Langley


Open Mic Night @ Bar Oussou
 

From the turmoil of Manus Island Detention Centre, Rebecca & Bianca don’t need to dig too deep for creative motivation. The pair’s blend of folk-pop with a touch of soul, provides a catalogue of heartfelt and vibrant sounding songs that sing of the tenuous human condition on the island. Other songs tell of the journey of love whilst traversing the pitfalls of sorrow. Sources of inspiration behind their music also include Lauryn Hill, Melbourne’s own Kate Miller-Heidke and perhaps more poignantly – Rebecca’s Grandmother, whose love of music and talent at the piano has been challenged by severe arthritis; this influence on her grand-daughter is evidently profound, spurring on her own passion for making music.

Rebecca & Bianca just want to share their music as often as they can and reckon the path to success is to just have fun and not do it for the money. When not setting up and playing gigs the girls are teaching music, working with disengaged youth or volunteering to assist asylum seekers.

At the moment despite gaining momentum, gigs and publicity has been difficult, says Rebecca, because she lives most of the time in Paris France, therefore posing a logistical challenge.

We all wish this very intriguing duo the best of luck and hope you can catch them playing when they’re back down under.

Bookers can contact biancmaes@hotmail.com

Who dat? N’awlins dat!

Howdy Heartstringers! So I thought I’d contribute a piece to our musician community of my recent experience in one of the live music capitals – New Orleans. In this chilled southern city by the Mississippi you don’t ask yourself “if I should go out”… But rather “where will I end up?!”

The eclectic scene here has something for everyone. You’ve got Bourbon Street, where ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ is chanted throughout the bars whilst scantily-clad women offer you an  unforgettable 5 minutes for $5. This is more of a commercialised Vegas strip and whilst definitely worth the walk-through for the amusement factor, isn’t the place to go to see what this city has to offer.

“Ya’ll gotta head down to Frenchmen St…” exclaims the man behind the bar. And we follow his instructions – do as the locals do in New Orleans as I’ve found they know what they’re on about. Perhaps one of more well known joints is ‘The Spotted Cat’. The bar itself is the size of a lounge room and you definitely have the feeling you are surrounded by old friends in this place. It’s a bar of jazz and swing. This particular night had the ‘Smoking Time Jazz Club’ pumping out fast paced swing  tunes. Perhaps the highlight of this bar however is the audience participation. It’s not unusual to have some fully-fledged pro swing dancing kicking around in front of the stage whilst the onlookers gasp at the flexibility and endurance of these Louisiana folk.

Cafe Negril, New Orleans

Cafe Negril

After your swing fix, you can walk down to ‘Cafe Negril’. There’s generally always a party on in here and with no surprise, some college girl who just turned 21 is being sung ‘happy birthday’ by a reggae-hip hop group. The giant Bob Marley wall painting behind the stage sets the mood for this place. People are just having a good ‘ole time.

Perhaps one of my favourite venues – ‘Balcony Music  Club’ (BMC) – is one that prides itself on some killer acts. ‘Blues4Sale’ are definitely the band that make the crowd go wild as they effortlessly venture into a musical journey that resembles a Hendrix lovechild. The frontman Ed Wills is an absolute inspiration with his unstoppable guitar solos whilst creating a real connection with the audience through the bluesy tales of life in New Orleans. By the end of the night, half the venue are up and bouncing around at the front – definitely a night to remember.

Chickie Wah Wah, New Orleans

Chickie Wah Wah

Just north of the touristy district is ‘Chickie Wah Wah’ – a venue that seems to draw more locals to witness some truly unique acts. ‘Helen Gillet’ – a cellist, singer and loop-pedal extraordinaire happened to be on this night along with her 5-piece band. She took us on a musical journey that ventured from French musettes to orchestral fusion and it was an absolute wonder to watch and listen to. Aside from music, the food at this place is definitely worth the try for authentic southern cooking.

Whilst these are definitely the highlights I experienced, there are many other places to check out such as ‘Preservation Hall’  where you literally go back in time to the 1930s and ‘Apple Barrel’ where the audience are spilling onto the street, dancing the night away. Just walking through the streets of the French Quarter and you will come across some very talented busking. Violinist and Guitarist duo ‘Tanya and Dorise’ literally have people with deck chairs set up to watch their creative take on well-known covers. There are also countless free music festivals throughout the year that pack the city parks.

Tanya and Dorice, New Orleans

Tanya and Dorice

New Orleans is all about accessible live music. The compact city and 24-hour tram allow punters to get anywhere to watch almost anything. Most venues offer free entry with performers leaving tip jars at the front of stages for audiences to show their appreciation. Coupled with affordable drinks, it’s definitely cheaper than going to the cinema and way more exhilarating. It’s really heartening to see an entire city come together to support what they do best – everyone knows everyone and they all help each other out to maintain what makes New Orleans one of the great live music capitals.

By James Hallal | twitter // @jameshallal

Kris Smith

“Sometimes it’s really personal and a little bit out there.”


Bringing the music of the night back to the gritty basics, blues, funk & rock inspired Kris Smith is the modern day embodiment of a (white) John Lee Hooker, fearlessly breaking off into lead guitar riffs despite having no rhythm guitar behind him.

“I loved his [John Lee Hooker] old songs, where he played everything in E.”

Whilst on this occasion Kris stuck to covers, he does have a fair amount of originals under his belt, often about his childhood or relationships that haven’t worked out. He writes songs to get things out of his system, all about his life and experiences.

“I just try and speak the truth [in my songwriting]. Sometimes it’s really personal and maybe it’s a little bit out there, but I try to make it more meaningful than venting.”

Whilst he is a diesel mechanic by day, rebuilding big generators, ultimately he’d love to pursue music full time as it is where his true passion lies. He hasn’t got stars in his eyes though, he has the humblest of dreams..

“I would love to just study music and get better at singing and guitar playing, and if someone came up to me and said ‘mate you’re pretty good, would you come and play at my pub?’, that’s what I’m looking for.”

True to his aspirations, he is practicing his craft every opportunity he gets and he advises that

“If you wanna play standing up you gotta practice standing up.”

Whilst he is currently based in Perth, he’ll be moving to Melbourne so keep an eye out for this talent as he may very well be playing at a pub near you!

Matthew Alford

“Play with your audience, you can always play with yourself later at home.”


Alford (aka Matt Alford) is a champion of Americana. Garbed in trucker’s cap, flannelette and blue denim, he belts out heartfelt ballads of love lost and retribution. Alford strums his jumbo sized steel-string acoustic with powerful finesse while projecting a deep Johnny Cash vocal that also reaches up with folky urgency in the higher register.

Influenced by artists such as Brian Setzer; Reverend Horton-Heat as well as Cash, the journey to the guitar Singer-Songwriter began with the violin, which included formal training and later – support gigs with none other than: The Waifs.

Alford is heading abroad in August to the mecca of country; folk and all things ‘Americana’ to the ears – Nashville, where he hopes to crack many a gig or: ‘…just shop…’ (for guitars perhaps?) and Heartstrings is eager to see what comes about from this sonic pilgrimage.

The life of this Performing Artist is fused with other creative pursuits including drawing and the craft of making custom guitar straps (I’ve put myself down for a blue suede one…or I will…).

When asked for advice to give to other local Musicians Alford recommends playing with as many people as you can as much as you can and reckons that rowdy crowds and bars suit his sound (we can attest to that) we hope you can catch him in a rowdy bar near you before Nashville swallows up its best new import.

>> Alford has a gig on the 4th of July at the Owl and Pussycat (34 Swan Street, Richmond)
Doors Open 7:30pm and tickets are $10 – It’s gonna be a big show with Philemon as well!

In the meantime check out his amazing drawings:

Heartstrings Acoustic Showcase

“The live interviews helped me feel a stronger connection to the artists and their music.”


Heartstrings Melbourne proudly hosted its first showcase event on Sunday 15th June, and what a magical afternoon it was! We wanted to bring to life several of the musicians on our blog and showcase the amazing local music talent we Melbournians have at our fingertips. Nick Evangelou, Sabrina Salvatore, Sarlin, & Mario Demiraj definitely impressed and connected with our intimate audience at the Wesley Anne.

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With standing room only, the Heartstrings crew piled into the Wesley Anne along with other local music appreciators to claim whatever limited floorspace they could find. For those unable to attend, we were even able to stream the event live online, providing some of Melbourne’s best local talent with a rare opportunity to reach an appreciative international audience.

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Instead of listening to a parade of performers and a constant stream of music, we followed each performance with a live interview about their music and inspirations. Whilst each were fantastically talented musicians, we believe that it’s only once you get to know a bit about the person behind the guitar/piano that you truly understand what their songs are about and where they’re coming from. It’s only then that you gain true context for them as a musician.

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Acoustic Café owners, Ian & Glenda continued to show their unwavering support for local talent by lending their years of expertise at the sound desk. Their support for local live music has been unconditional and we can’t thank them enough for their assistance and sharing our passion.

Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was the climactic collaborative closing jam, featuring all performers plus yours truly! For several weeks we had been preparing our unique rendition of ‘The Weight’ by The Band. Sharing verses, solos, harmonising choruses, and inspiring a bit of a sing-a-long from the crowd, it was truly a very special ending to the show, creating a wonderful sense of community.

Regardless of whether or not you made it on the day, we eagerly hope to see you at our next event which we are already excitedly planning for you!

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