Nat J

“I love living in Melbourne, there’s live music everywhere!”


It is an amazing feeling to be overwhelmed by the live musical performance of an
individual. For me personally, to come across an artist with the ability to overwhelm is a
rare thing. Recently at the Purple Emerald, however, music took over my mind when Nat J
stepped up to the stage with her keyboard and started playing her feisty first tune ‘Mirror
Balls’. She almost immediately owned the room; and as I looked around the audience,
every person seemed to be totally immersed in the raw power of her vocals and the
passion that so naturally shone through in her performance.

“I don’t like the term ‘making it’ in music. I feel like anyone who uses that term isn’t in it for the music, because they’re too focused on ‘making it’. If people resonate with my songs, that’s enough.”

And the people were hooked. I closed my eyes and for the first time in a long time became
lost in music. The lyrics “I have heard your bullshit, won’t do what I’m told” and “I don’t
need you to like me” really stood out in Mirror Balls, and throughout her set I discovered
that her songs represented expressionism at its most emotional. I found it so refreshing to
hear someone singing their mind so beautifully.

“I wrote that song out of frustration, about being done with everyone else’s opinions. If you try to take on everyone else’s opinions on your art, nothing you write comes out good, because you are trying to please everyone else. You end up doing nothing for yourself.”

Nat played the piano when she was a kid but became bored with it and after some time,
took up singing instead. She has been focused on that for six years now, and only recently
took up the piano again. In early 2014 she was singing with a guitarist, but after two gigs
he moved to New York so she was left in limbo:

“Nothing was happening so I thought ‘Fuck it, I’ll just reteach myself the keyboard.'”

You would never know she had been away from it at all. Her melodies weave seamlessly
in and around her lyrics like a seasoned expert, and her tunes stick inside your head. She
gets inspiration from singer/songwriters like Sara Bareilles, Missy Higgins, and Passenger.
But Nat has been writing songs in some form or another since she was much younger.

“As an eleven year old, I used to take Britney Spears songs, and rewrite the words. That
was the first songwriting I ever did.”

Her songwriting has evolved immensely since then, and Nat now regularly gigs around
Melbourne. She has also released a wonderful debut 8 track EP Rinse, which can be
found on her Bandcamp page. My personal favourite tracks are Champagne & Cigarettes,
Mirror Balls and If I stay, but the entire album is a great listen. It showcases her fantastic
ability to write catchy pop/soul tunes. I highly recommend seeing her perform live too. It is
truly something special. See her Facebook page for upcoming performances.

Lucas O’Connell

“I just want to keep on making albums and keep sharing music – that’s all. I just think sharing music is the most important thing.”


I had the pleasure of meeting Lucas O’Connell after he played a remarkable set at The Snug last Tuesday night. Over the course of a lengthy discussion about, well, anything and everything, the words ‘sharing’ and ‘connection’ came up time and time again. Now I must admit that I am generally a little suspicious of such terms. I mean come on… ‘sharing’ and ‘connection’ may have worked at Woodstock but in this day and age those kinds of sentiments are a little suspect. Of course it would have been a lot easier to maintain my staunch cynicism had I not witnessed firsthand the powerful effect Lucas’ songs had on the audience that night.

“I get inspired by the connection with the audience… people appreciating what you do and you appreciating what they do. It’s mutual appreciation between the artist and audience. Open mics are great for that”

Prior to our meeting I sit and watch Lucas’ set from a small side table at The Snug. He begins by laying down a steady, seemingly effortless finger-picking pattern, the song building in momentum with each passing chord. As he starts to sing in a startling and spookily understated voice the song unfurls before me, enveloping the room. Lucas goes on to sing about Medusa and Cleopatra, his voice rising and falling with the ease and grace of a champion figure skater. I exchange glances with a friend of mine, as if to say “what have we here?”

Over the course of his set he masterfully fuses the feel and mood of early trad folk with the creative clout of the best 60’s and 70’s singer-songwriters. It is one of those rare musical experiences – rather than simply being impressed I am left with the sense that I have witnessed something truly special.

“It’s a very private thing to share… your own songs. A lot of people struggle. I think it’s just relaxing for the soul to share your music.”

Originally hailing from Wellington in New Zealand Lucas has lived all over the world, spending time in Australia, Japan, Korea, Peru, Argentina, England, Scotland and parts of South-east Asia. He took up playing guitar at the age of 21 while travelling and from there began writing his own songs. It was in an Edinburgh post office in 2006 that he found a creative sanctuary of sorts, dreaming up folk tunes while sorting mail (On a side note I personally love this aspect of his artistic development – he is literally working his way up from the mailroom). Pretty soon fellow travelers were urging him to ‘share’ his songs on stage in front of a real audience.

“Because I was always travelling it was kind of a gradual step – playing in front of backpackers to playing on stage.”

Lucas’ inspirations are many. During our discussion he spoke of his love for Ancient Greek Mythology, Kerouac and 60’s bands, along with more discernibly obvious influences such as Nick Drake, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen et al. He also spoke of his fondness for open tunings.

“I use about fourteen different tunings in my songs. And I’m always looking for new ones – it’s like you’re creating your own chords.”

Two years ago Lucas released his debut album ‘Songs to Sleep on’ (great title!), receiving airplay in his native New Zealand as well as on BBC radio. He also shot an eye-popping video for the lead single ‘Liquid Night’ which was shown at the Byron Bay Film Festival. Lucas has decided to stay put in Melbourne for the next little while, so with any luck you will be fortunate enough to catch him playing at an open mic somewhere soon. Otherwise you can check out his tunes on Soundcloud, or find him on either Facebook or his website.

Nadav Tabak

12Open Mic Night @ The Snug Public House
 

“When the sun’s shining I’ll usually be out on the street.”

Have you ever just been so captivated by a performance? From Nadav’s first 100 notes (which happened in the space of about 2 seconds!) he had all eyes and ears on him right up until the end of his set. All around the room were phones videotaping this impressive display, along with a collection of jaws scraping against the floor as Nadav moved all over the guitar like hot knife through butter.

Nuevo Rhumba Flamenco music is his jam; or as we came to call it affectionately, ‘Rambo Flamingo’. I’ll let you ponder that image for a moment.

Surely someone of this calibre must’ve had years of lessons. Nope. With no formal music training, Nadav has been playing for about 10 years, improvising in the moment.

“The other day I was trying to find what chords I was playing on one of my tracks and the chord finders online just got confused.”

But this style of music wasn’t always his cup of tea – Nadav used to be a metal head, ripping solos on the streets of the night, busking for passersby. Having busked for 3 years (and counting) back in New Zealand, he changed his style of music as the council laws for busking changed; ‘Thou shalt not play music past 9pm’.

“I knew I couldn’t do that [rock/metal] during the day.”

And so Rambo Flamingo was born!

Nadav plays as often as he can – be it on the street, at open mics, restaurants and various gigs around the place.

“It’s not really about the money – the money’s just to support me playing.”

Studying a Diploma in Audio Engineering, Nadav recorded his last album himself.
You can keep up to date with his music here

In terms of catching this awesome (in the traditional sense of the word) performer live,

“Winter’s coming, but when the sun’s shining, I’ll usually be out on the street.”