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.

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.

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.”

Monique Shelford

IMG_1226Open Mic Night @ Bar Oussou
 

“Writing is a cathartic process for me. I’m always inspired by some sort of feeling or emotion that I need to express.”

Amidst the clinking of drink bottles and the waves of muffled conversation, a small acoustic guitar quietly begins to play. Mellow, familiar chords wash comfortingly over the room, complementing the warm atmosphere of Brunswick’s Bar Oussou.

Then, Monique Shelford begins to sing.

The background noises gradually fall silent and fifty smartphones plop forgotten into the laps and handbags of their stunned owners. Monique’s voice seems to emanate from some higher plane, as if imbued with some magnetic power to raise the hairs on the napes of necks.

She is most in her element when performing to smaller audiences in intimate settings such as this. Monique has that rare ability to effortlessly draw an audience into her world and hold their attention.

“It’s all about the exchange of energy, I think. I get a bigger buzz out of playing to an intimate room full of people … receiving and listening.”

As her performance progresses, she paints a montage of musical imagery expressing a broad range of emotions from anguish to hope. A quietly confident, yet humble performer without a hint of pretention, Monique Shelford is refreshing in her authenticity.

“I’m up there bearing my soul and I’m not ashamed of that.”

Although gifted with a unique, resonant vocal timbre, it is clear that Monique has been honing her talent from a very young age. Growing up in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, she commenced classical vocal training at the tender age of seven, but truly found her voice at a Catholic Maori girls’ high school. It was here she discovered the soul power of gospel music. These two huge musical influences have gelled beautifully with modern contemporary styles to form a very special and unique talent not to be missed.

An artist after our own hearts(trings), Monique actively promotes her fellow musicians, running regular acoustic sessions at the Woodlands Hotel in Coburg. She is an absolute gem! We urge you to look up one of Monique Shelford’s appearances and lose yourselves in her soulful tapestry.

Until Facebook creates an ‘Adore’ button, check out the links below and smash that ‘Like’ button.

facebook.com/MoniqueShelfordMusic  |  soundcloud.com/beady-little-i

Laura Taylor

Laura
Open Mic Night @ The Cornish Arms
 

“One day I’ll be brave and sing from my own pocket of life.”

With soothingly gentle tones and simple sounds radiating from Laura’s guitar, her acoustic pop originals commanded the undivided attention of the crowd.

“When I write my songs it’s rarely about myself, I always find myself taking on experiences of those I love around me and a way of processing this is through songwriting. I write for and from them.”

She truly loves singing and performing in general and whilst this was her 2nd open mic night ever, she has played regularly for café crowds.

Laura is set on a career in the music industry, not only as a musician but also in terms of working for music magazines. She completed her Bachelor of Pop Music, and is now studying a Bachelor of Communications, whilst working part-time in retail.

Speaking to other musicians on the local scene:

“Don’t be put off by people talking.”

To encourage people to listen to live music at the grass roots level:

“Come down and experience something you wouldn’t normally.”

Unfortunately she’s only visiting in Melbourne and is returning to NZ for studies, however you can keep up with her awesome tracks on her soundcloud account: https://soundcloud.com/laura_taylor-1