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.

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.

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!

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: