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.

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

Michael Waugh

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“You can’t practice connecting with an audience sitting in your bedroom; you’ve got to actually get out there and do it.”

Whilst Michael is more of an ‘established artist’, having played multiple festivals around Australia (eg: Selby Festival, Cygnet Folk Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival, etc.), he maintains the heart and soul of a grassroots musician. A truly down-to-Earth and sincere singer/songwriter, Michael’s music is folk and country inspired; the storytelling songs.

Spending most of his 20s chasing a rock n roll dream, emulating pop songs with little success, Michael is now happily married and a full-time media studies and drama teacher.

“I don’t aspire to be a rockstar. I’m not trying to get somewhere or be something, I’m already there. Even if I’m playing in a place with two people in the room and one of them is listening and connects with the story, I’m already there.”

It wasn’t until he found his voice and began writing songs true to himself that he really began to connect with audiences. Check out his moving performance at the Port Fairy Folk Festival:

 

“You could see people wiping tears from their eyes. It was so powerful that I felt all of that coming back to us on stage. We all had that experience together.”

Is it any wonder why he has won multiple songwriter awards? I wanted to know about his creative process!

Michael writes a lot of his songs in-transit, but only writes down the ones that have stuck with him:

“If they’ve connected with me they’re likely to connect with somebody else […] I’ll write down the songs that make me tear up. The more specific the description of your experience, the more broadly it will apply to people.”

He certainly has not forgotten his Open Mic roots. They were a platform for him to hone his musical skills as well as practicing the craft of communicating with an audience.

“You can’t practice connecting with an audience sitting in your bedroom; you’ve got to actually get out there and do it.”

Open Mics are also about meeting people and developing a community; in fact Michael met both Kate Crowley (featured in the above clip), and his manager, Aaron Thomas, on the Open Mic scene.

“All it takes is someone to say, ‘I really enjoyed that, thank you’, and that means the world to that person who just walked off stage. Other people also see that and it creates a supportive culture.”

Check out his Heyfield Girl EP on iTunes – I remember “Heyfield Girl” from when I would see him play on the local scene back in 2012. A very touching song both then and now!

Grab a copy of his second EP by sending him an email at info@michaelwaugh.com.au.

Keep posted on his performances on his Facebook Page: facebook.com/michaelwaughfm

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The Cornish Arms

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“You get the opportunity to see some great acts and chat to people who love live music.”

Situated in the musical heart of Brunswick on Sydney road, The Cornish Arms have always supported local live music. Speaking on behalf of the venue, veteran barman Lachlan Lane explains that over the years, the venue has hosted music ranging from 70s soul/funk, local Melbourne grunge, DJs, blues, etc. but these days you’ll find more acoustic acts with afew rock bands thrown in the mix as well.

“The Cornish Arms was the place to go and get your music fix.”

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The venue complements its music reputation with a focus on good food. People come down for a good feed and stick around for the music acts. You can expect free live music on Fridays and Saturdays, including their Open Mic on Monday nights – a stage I’ve had the pleasure of playing on myself.

“Every Monday night [since 2009] there’s always been an Open Mic – I can’t remember a single Monday we haven’t hosted one.”

The Cornish Arms stage sees comedians, first-time music performers, travellers new to the area, etc. From a performer’s perspective it is a delight to play there – perfect amount of fold-back and a well-balanced sound for the audience.

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Many performers have gone on to bigger things such as ‘Busy Kingdom’ playing the Sydney Road & St Kilda festival in 2014, and even a 70s soul/funk band ‘Electric Empire’ playing the prestigious Glastonbury festival in 2011!

At the same time, the venue has played host to some… interesting acts. A notable one that Lachlan recalls was a musician who would plug his iPod in his ears and play along to songs that only he could hear in his headphones. All the crowd could hear was monotonous singing and 2 notes on the guitar over and over. Some comic relief though surely for the audience, but as Lachlan rightly states:

“Good on him for having a crack”

Musicians need to be sensitive about adapting their style for the venue or choosing venues with a crowd who appreciates their style.

“Here [Brunswick] you wouldn’t really put a cover band on.”

In closing, Lachlan expressed concern about Melbourne’s dwindling live music scene:

“It’s all about getting to the gigs. I know budget-wise it’s easy to get blind at home and then go to the gig, but it doesn’t support the pub. They’re spending money to put the band on.”

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Robbie Phillips

0_6Open Mic Night @ The Balaclava Hotel


“I never thought I would ever get to play Spice Girls in a setting like that.”

In the comforts of the Balaclava Hotel, the dim lighting sets the scene amongst the warming audience and an old man dancing in the corner, the room is filled with eager listeners as Robbie Phillips hops up on stage and delivers a gracious performance.

“The whole set up here is just awesome. I reckon it’s one of the best Open Mic dynamics that I’ve played at. This one is so supportive and so natural.”

Originally from Western Australia, Robbie has been a bank relationship manager by day for the past 6 years. He loves his job because he brings colour and life to traditionally tense setting. After two years of playing live in the cosy spots of Melbourne, Robbie admits he’s still figuring things out when it comes to music and identifying the sort of musician he intends to be in the future.

“I like to travel to places that are scenic, just chasing that horizon. I think that’s evident in my songs.”

Robbie is inspired by Leonard Cohen and lyrical artists that represent the truth and storytelling in music. Growing up playing classical music, he became more intrigued by the lyrical aspect of music and how it can be a pursuit of self-discovery.

“My life can be very exhilarating – the stuff I do.”

Playing regularly at gigs just for the experience and for his passion for music, the commercial music scene isn’t high on the aspirations list – although he wouldn’t mind performing on the big stage if the time was right and the opportunities presented themselves.

“Music never fails; sort of spiritual I guess. It’s very therapeutic.”

Entertaining people with his music and capturing the attention of an audience is what encourages Robbie to keep doing what he loves when he’s not at his day job.

“Motivation for me is figuring out my voice and what this is about.”

One of his more memorable experiences playing live was at one of his first gigs at a gallery where he had no idea what to play for an hour and decided to light up the mood and get everyone moving to his version of ‘Stop Right Now’ by the Spice Girls.

“I never thought I would ever get to play Spice Girls in a setting like that.”

His advice to local musicians is to make sure you have stage presence and if music is your virtue then play to entertain.

Robbie performs at Open Mic nights once a month at The Balaclava Hotel and also at the Eugenius Café in Windsor (he’s playing there this Sunday, *hint hint*).

Check out Robbie’s latest music and adventures by heading to his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/robbiephillipsmusic

Henry Ridgway Brooks

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Open Mic Night @ The Great Britain Hotel
 

“Commit to what you want and verbalise it with you actions.”

Passion & Intensity. These words spring to mind when I think of Henry’s performance. Playing mainly folk/pop/blues/rock originals Henry says:

“[Open Mics] are great practice to help work out the kinks in my originals.”

Working as a bartender whilst finishing his Arts degree at Monash University, he ultimately wants to take his music further, but for the moment he is just a casual performer.

Speaking to other local musicians:

“I think it was the Black Lips who said in an interview recently: ‘commit to what you want and verbalise it with your actions’. Basically, tell people about it and do it.”

Henry agrees that Open Mic nights generally don’t attract the huge crowds, but that this is not necessarily a bad thing as it keeps the atmosphere intimate.

Regardless, he encourages you to:

“Come on down and listen to some good tunes”

You can catch Henry playing at Club Voltaire on Thursdays.

Keep up-to-date on his music at https://soundcloud.com/henryridgwaybrooks