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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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!

Anna Cordell

“It’s safe to say ‘it’s just a hobby’, but it’s what I want to do.”


Anna Cordell’s smooth voice and captivating lyrics ensnared the crowd at Bar Oussou’s open mic from her first pluck of the guitar to the thunderous applause at the end of her set. Performing all originals, the folk singer-songwriter exemplified the talent that is on offer around Melbourne’s open mic music scene. After putting music on hold for a few years while raising children and working in the fashion industry, Anna is back to music and songwriting, drawing inspiration from a new outlook on life gained through her experiences as a young mother.

“It gave me a fresh perspective.”

Anna’s songs take inspiration from hard-earned life experience and this translates into powerful songwriting. She is singing from the heart and this is the source of her music’s raw power.

“[to write good songs] you need to do something that’s a bit painful.”

Armed with this new life experience, Anna is ready to take her music to the next level while at the same time balancing it with her home life.

“I think I’ve kind of gone beyond that [music being a hobby], which is sort of scary to admit. It’s very safe to say ‘it’s just a hobby’, but it’s what I want to do.”

The dream for Anna now is to work her way up in the folk music scene, and eventually travel around Australia playing at folk festivals and the like. She is also playing in a four-piece band and regularly gigging around Melbourne.

Check out Anna’s facebook page and watch this space, as we’ve received word she’s going to be holding a campaign to fund a new EP!

In the meantime, catch an earful of her tunes at her gig this Saturday, June 14.

Bar Oussou

Indya ConnleySee Full Gallery

“Anyone that comes to Bar Oussou by themselves always feels welcomed and can go up to any group of people and join the conversation. It’s a super-friendly place for all!”

Bar Oussou is a hidden gem. A welcoming little oasis neatly tucked away in the heart of Brunswick’s music district, this homely bar is like a home away from home.

Bar Oussou is not only a great place to unwind after a long day, it’s also a vibrant hub of artistic culture, great music and food. Walking through its doors into a lively bar and bandroom with live music and comfy booths, you will advance to discover a sensuous Eastern-themed chill-out room. Beyond this, you’ll emerge into a gorgeous candle-lit open beer garden overlooking a humble kitchen where one of their talented chefs prepares delicious, yet generously underpriced food. Fresh pizzas, tacos, burgers, steaks and crisp salads are available 7 days a week, and most menu items fall between $5 and $15. And if this wasn’t already enticing enough, the bar offers four back-to-back happy hours every evening from 5-9pm with imported beers on tap, a pint of which will set you back a mere $5, or just $7 for a quality house wine.

Indya Connley

Hang on, have you unwittingly followed a link to a real estate site? Maybe a food blog? No, this is (Sparta) Heartstrings Melbourne and all this ambience, lovely cuisine and inexpensive alcohol is merely a pleasant bonus. Bar Oussou is among the biggest supporters of local talent to be found anywhere in Melbourne. This place boasts an incredible entertainment program which showcases a diverse array of fantastic performers. Bar Oussou constantly features some of the best and brightest musicians in Melbourne.  Wednesday usually features local bands and evolves into a wonderful open jam session. You can check out some live jazz, blues, funk and soul every Thursday night, before an epic weekend of world music. To spice it all up, get ready for Latin music every Saturday in July!

Indya Connley

We discovered some of our favourite performers at the venue’s Tuesday night Open Mic sessions – if you’re an aspiring musician, there’s no better place to strut your stuff and mix with fellow artists.

As Oussou’s entertainment manager Danni says:

“What are you waiting for? Email me!”

Contact Danni now to book your place at Oussou’s famous Open Mic night. Email: danni.dragonfire@gmail.com  Ph: 0431 688 841

Bar Oussou is also available for private functions. Contact Mary for more information. Email: mary@baroussou.com.au  Ph: 9384 3040

baroussou.com.au
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