Gothum

 “I just want to play music for the rest of my life.”


Playing some wicked-cool originals, this New York rocker ruled the stage at the Cornish Arms Open Mic. But with a name like Gothum, how could he not?

“I was born a grunger, man.”

Now, before you picture some high-school dropout who just happens to write great songs and have a bunch of musical talent, this particular singer-songwriter is currently studying for his PhD in Chemistry while still maintaining a strong presence on the Melbourne Open Mic scene!

“I’ve always been writing songs. The first time I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit it changed my life.”

Grabbing musical influences from almost every possible genre, Gothum blends the stylings of completely separate musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye and Nirvana and blends them into his own passionate, self-expressive style; a soulful but grungy voice with slick guitar licks blended into his rhythmic chord progressions.

It’s no mean feat to balance the amount of music Gothum plays with the extraordinary workload that comes with post-graduate studies, but Gothum is steadily following his aspirations of playing music full-time.

“I have a day job, so I can’t really do it full time right now, but I would love to. I just want to play music for the rest of my life.”

When asked for advice to other aspiring musicians, Gothum professed his love for musical passion, valuing it much higher than musicianship.

“The [musicians] I love are the ones who bare their souls, who put every piece of themselves into their music. You don’t have to be a great musician to write great music.”

A well-known face on the Open Mic circuit, you can often catch Gothum playing at the Brunswick Hotel, the Cornish Arms and Club Voltaire. Keep up with his Facebook page and check out his fantastic demos on Bandcamp!

Sarah Edelstein

“I now know that wherever I go, wherever I move, [open mics] will be the way I’ll try to meet people.”


Continuing along the fantastic standard of the Cornish Arms’ Open Mic, singer-songwriter Sarah Edelstein played a catchy set consisting of three personalised and very heartfelt covers. With a voice like a soft-spoken Missy Higgins, Sarah wooed the crowd with her renditions of George Michael’s “Faith”, Missy Higgins’ own “Sugarcane” and Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”.

“[Music] will always be a part of my life, no matter what.”

Originally from San Diego, she now works at a synagogue in Melbourne, and writes many of her original songs in Hebrew. The multi-talented Sarah also writes original folk tunes in English, although she’s yet to grace us with them. Stylistically, Sarah’s music is influenced by singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Ani DiFranco, and she draws inspiration from the warm reception she received playing to teenagers at a summer camp.

“Whatever engages young people will tend to engage anyone.”

Although Sarah used to play occasional open mics on campus at her university in California, it wasn’t until she started regularly playing in Melbourne’s circuit that she realised her love for the open mic community, and its open-armed attitude.

 “I now know that wherever I go, wherever I move, [open mics] will be the way I’ll try to meet people.”

Although she confessed that “I should be the one receiving advice”, Sarah spoke to us about the deep personal benefit that comes with playing live music to an audience:

“It’s a great way to check in with yourself – to sit in front of a microphone and to see what comes out.”

You can often catch Sarah playing at the open mic nights at Mr Boogie Man Bar on Wednesday nights and the Cornish Arms Hotel on Mondays, so be sure to check her out there!

Scott Candlish

“I want to do as much as I can, so I don’t have any regrets in 6 years’ time.”


Scott Candlish graced the Cornish Arms Open Mic stage showing passion and emotive quality throughout his brilliant performance. His expressive vocal tone and airy guitar gave off a nostalgic vibe, drawing the audience’s attention to this promising musician.

Playing some original acoustic songs for us, he showed his great talent for songwriting. His performance displays a passion for classic melody and harmony, influenced by the likes of Simon and Garfunkel, Crowded House and Daniel Johns.

“Harmonies create such a balance and enhance the overall sound, like a magnet coming together.”

As a 22 year-old music student, Scott is coming into his own as a performing artist. In his determination to learn and grow as a musician, he keeps his attention focused on his music:

“I put pressure on myself to play and get better… I have a passion for music, it just feels right.”

With a newly-formed band and an EP in the works, he hopes to spend the next few years developing his skills and building his audience. Scott is determined to explore all musical possibilities while he can.

“I want to share and play my music and pick up as many people as possible on the way. I want to do as much as I can, so I don’t have any regrets in 6 years time.”

Scott is pretty excited for the year ahead. He hopes to continue on his musical journey and get his band out there to develop a following:

“I have a solid ground of confidence and now it’s just about developing ways to connect with people.”

You can check him out on Facebook and keep posted on his upcoming activity with his band.

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.

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

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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Noirin Lynch

“I’d hate to lose the heart for it.”


Settling into the very intimate Snug Bar waiting for the array of voices and instruments to fill the air waves, Noirin Lynch pops up to the microphone. Her international flight booked for later that evening did not stop this passionate performer from showcasing her talent; and what a unique talent it was – A Capella Irish Folk songs – taking the idea of ‘doing covers’ to a whole ‘nother level!

“I try and sing the songs that are worth passing on.”

Originally from Ireland, and only in Australia for a visit, Noirin tells us that back home they have ‘singer circles’ where people perform old folk songs unaccompanied that bear significance to them. More important than how well they sang it was whether they had the heart of it.

“It might be a song they got from their father, who got it from a traveller he met on the road.”

On a trip to France with one such singers group, Noirin recalls the special moment of teaching Irish lullabies to French mothers holding their babies.

“It was all these different cultures mixing and it was so beautiful.”

Working by day in community development with Catholic Parishes, she loves music however when asked about her musical aspirations she simply responded with

“I’d hate to lose the hunger or the heart for it.”

She also keeps her musical spirit alive playing in a band called Crag Road and last we spoke they’re putting the finishing touches on an album – so keep an ear out for that!

Overall, Noirin was impressed with our fantastic music scene here in Melbourne and encourages us all to soak it up

“Melbourne has really struck me in terms of its diversity and creativity – there are lots of opportunities here. Embrace them.”

You heard the lady – get out there!