In the Studio with Robbie Phillips

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Heartstrings Melbourne is all about discovering and showcasing the plethora of local live music available to us, focussing on the individual. But after having met and featured so many talented musicians, we wanted to do more than that. We wanted to actively help develop these grassroots talents to realise their musical aspirations – whatever they may be!

To this end, we’ve teamed up with Last Match Recordings to provide free demo/EP studio time (usually valued at over $200!) to one talented and deserving musician per month from the blog.

_CI23933That’s where Robbie Phillips comes in! We met Robbie at the Balaclava Hotel Open Mic Night one Thursday evening. He had mentioned his aspiration to take the next step into recording a demo. This, coupled with his impressive musicianship and the high standard of his originals, meant Robbie was clearly an ideal candidate for the first recording session.

“My music can be quite expressive and I was a little nervous about how it would translate on a recording. I have an idea of what my music sounds like in my head, but hearing it back through a pair of high tech monitors and suddenly it’s naked and exposed. After the session, I’m now starting to see how I can take my sound further. I’m full of ideas that I can’t wait to explore.
Chris was a pleasure to work with. He knows exactly how to get the best out of a sound. He’s a magician behind that mixing desk of his.
I’m very grateful to both Heartstrings Melbourne and Last Match Recordings for the opportunity!”

Jump on his facebook page to keep updated on his music and be sure to keep an eye out for Robbie, a truly humble and extremely talented musician!

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WE’VE CREATED A MONSTER!

_CI23806Open Mic Night Wednesdays @ Mr Boogie Man BAR

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The recent closure of the nearby Acoustic Café left a musical void in its wake. The future for local musicians looked uncertain. Thankfully, the newly refurbished Mr Boogie Man Bar has stepped up to fill the hole in our hearts. This cosy little bar will now play host to ongoing Open Mic nights every Wednesday evening!

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The first ever Open Mic Night at Mr Boogie Man Bar last week was a roaring success. In contrast to the crisp chill of the autumnal evening, the welcoming atmosphere of this place could not have been warmer. The groovy décor and rock memorabilia inside creates a sense of happy nostalgia which complements that amazing electric vibe which comes only from live music. Enthusiastic musicians and punters turned up in droves and the resulting community spirit was a joy to behold. The place was buzzing with infectious energy and positive vibes and we were all treated to a dazzling showcase of non-stop musical brilliance from some of Melbourne’s best underground talent.

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If you dabble in the Performing Arts, you’re unlikely to find a more encouraging audience than the patrons of Mr Boogie Man’s Open Mic. So don’t be shy: secure your 15 minutes of fame with Mr Boogie Man’s super-friendly owner (and get a free drink too)!
Call David on 0406 797 644 to book a slot, or just come down and enjoy the show with us!

We can’t wait to see you there!

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Elsie Lange

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Open Mic Night @ The Snug Public House
 

“I couldn’t write an essay without listening to Dark Side of the Moon.”

Growing up to the tunes of Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan, Elsie is truly the Girl from the North Country. Hailing from Alice Springs, she’s only recently moved to Melbourne and I was lucky enough to catch her at her first ever music performance here.

She’s outrageous, fun-loving yet down-to-Earth and articulate. Her dynamic voice is perfectly suited to her indie rock/pop tunes. Drawing inspiration from the music she grew up with, songwriting is a solace and an outlet for her.

“I listened to ‘Girl from the North Country’ for six weeks straight. It means such an awful lot to me. I felt I needed to write a song that makes me feel the same way.”

Music has played an important role in her life, even from an academic perspective!

“I couldn’t write an essay without listening to Dark Side of the Moon. I’d be sitting in class and all people could hear through my headphones was BREATHE, BREATHE IN THE AIR!”

Studying a Bachelor of Arts full time as well as working part time – she ultimately wants to use her qualifications and passion to work in remote community development. Music is a serious hobby, but she is open to the prospect of taking it further if the opportunity presents itself.

Active on the local live music scene back in Alice Springs, Elsie encourages people to be open minded and to have a go.

“Just get up – don’t think yourself too good for Open Mics. Listen to the people who you know are trying really hard. I’ll rock up an hour or so before a gig just to see what’s going on.”

As she’s new to Melbourne,  she’ll be making the rounds performing at various Open Mics around the place to see which ones feel best for her, but you can keep up with her music here:

facebook.com/elsielangemusic

triplejunearthed.com/elsielange1

Her original called ‘Grey Skies’ is being released in the next few weeks on Triple J Unearthed.

Judging from the title only, this could well become an anthem for Melbourne’s weather..

The Great Britain Hotel

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“It’s got the vibe where you don’t need to impress anybody; it takes such a long time to get to that point.”

The Great Britain Hotel (or The GB) is very special to me as it was where I played my first Open Mic Night. This was my first introduction to the local music scene, and I’ve been back time and time again. The best way I can explain the GB is it’s like your living room – if you had a full bar and beer on tap in your living room! Unfortunately, this venue’s lease expires in the end of June this year and no one quite knows what the future holds for this decades-old rock n’ roll venue.

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The GB has played host to the likes of Magic Dirt, Checkerboard Lounge, as well as the Cat Empire (who held a 2-year residency at this pub playing every weekend; the lead singer was even living in accommodations above the pub!).

Whilst having dabbled in Open Mic Nights earlier in the 90s, it wasn’t until the early 2000s when James Fitzpatrick (now veteran staff member & sound engineer at the GB) approached the venue and offered to host an ongoing Open Mic that it became what we know and love today – particularly borne out of the fact that there were plenty of students/musicians living in the area who simply wanted to play.

“My favourite thing about the live music at the GB would be the community – the people.”

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Of course the audience plays a significant role in the building of a community, but the musical talent talent is what’s most humbling for James.

“The ‘diamonds in the rough’ – it’s abit unrefined but you know there’s something in there that you find totally inspiring. It’s that moment when you realise you’ve been performing for years but you’re nowhere near as talented as they are.”

Being the sound engineer for many years at this fantastic venue, James recalls many occasions of coming across extremely talented musicians.

“A lot of the locals would come up to me afterwards and say – ‘who was that?’ ‘they were amazing!’ ‘can you get them back in?’”

At the same time, he has a wealth of advice for local live musicians:

“Remember who your audience is – try and cater to who is in front of you and engage with them. If you can get people to turn around from their conversation from your first song, you’ve got them.”

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And it doesn’t take much – eye contact, abit of banter, background to your songs/yourself, etc. Read our 7 habits of highly effective open mics for some tips.

It is unfortunate to see this venue go however for the short term after June 30, it is likely to remain open as a pub, though for how long and whether the new owners will continue the live music tradition remains to be seen.

“It’s not just the building – it’s the staff and the locals. It’s got the vibe where you don’t need to impress anybody; it takes such a long time to get to that point.”

Mr Boogie Man’s Open Mic – The Backstory

About a month ago I was seeing a friend’s band (Mass Rejection) play a show at the Mr Boogie Man Bar on Hoddle street. It was a Saturday evening and I had never been to this joint before. I instantly fell in love with the bar’s décor and its set up, as well as the lovely and down-to-Earth owner, David.

I was speaking with a fellow Heartstrings Melbourne-ite at the bar about how well this venue would suit an Open Mic Night – already having a killer sound system installed along with a funky and inviting stage. Draped with Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and other rock memorabilia, this venue was perfect. Especially with the unfortunate closure of the Acoustic Café, the area needed a platform for local talents.

We managed to speak to the owner about this prospect and, while he was very keen, he wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it as he had never held an Open Mic Night before.

Being a seasoned Open Mic performer both in Melbourne and overseas, I’ve been meeting with the venue owner over the past couple weeks to help him establish his very own and very first Open Mic Night.

We are all excited to announce that the first one will be held on this Wednesday 7th May. Musicians can book anytime from now ’til the night itself by calling David on 0406 797 644.

Hosted by yours truly, both David and myself hope to see you all there!

Darius Pranckunas

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Open Mic Night @ The Great Britain Hotel
 

“I do it [music] as a serious hobby… but if anyone wants to pay me, they’re very welcome to do so!”

Full of energy, charisma and puns (and an impressively large repertoire of songs to suit all occasions), Darius is your piano man & he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke.

With an upbringing of primarily classical music – generously seasoned with the golden pop/rock tunes – Darius has been playing piano for 19 years and has attained his Certificate of Performance.

He has a Bachelor of Commerce degree under his belt and is currently working towards getting his CPA whilst job hunting.

“I do it [music] as a serious hobby; I feel I have got other talents I can make my money out of… but if anyone wants to pay me, they’re very welcome to do so!”

Having played Open Mics on and off for a couple of years now, Darius feels that they’re a great opportunity to express himself in a very understanding and inviting atmosphere where everyone’s in the same boat.

“Get on down to the Open Mics and the venues will be encouraged to keep them going! You get to have a good night out with friends, beer and free live music. “

He recalls one particular embarrassing experience when he performed at an interstate talent show and he had a complete mental blank on a jazz piece he had only just begun to play. He stopped, turned to the audience and said “I’ll start that again”. Thankfully the second time through he aced it!

“Don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t be afraid to have a go. People are understanding when it comes to our musical abilities.”

You can catch Darius performing red-handed at the Great Britain Hotel or (for the Lithuanians in the audience) at the Melbourne Lithuanian Club. In the meantime, jump on his Facebook group – Daz’s Random Fact/Joke of the Day – guaranteed to have you raising your eyebrows or rolling your eyes.. or both!

Mario Demiraj

untitled-0071Open Mic Night @ The Great Britain Hotel
 

“Being a frontman is an art on its own. It’s not as simple as just being a musician.”

Mario is far more than just a great musician. He can captivate an audience and bring them in on his set rather than having the usual divide between musician (playing) and audience (listening).

Originally from Auckland, New Zealand Mario’s music falls under the category of indie-pop.

Drawing inspiration for his lyrics primarily from life experiences, he usually writes the guitar (chords/riff) part first, followed by melody, followed by (honest) lyrics.

“A lot of the time I’ll just be jamming away, or another song will create an emotion/vibe in me and it inspires me to make a song that affects people in a similar way.”

He’s aiming to take music full time and believes the key to success in the music business is to play as much as you can and network compulsively.

Before a gig he would do some vocal and body warm-ups and boost his confidence using positive self-affirmations

“A lot of it comes down to your confidence in that moment and if you can raise your confidence, you’re going to play better.”

Mario also proposed several more bits of insightful advice:

“Think of every bad gig as a tick off the list. You have to do a certain amount of bad gigs to get good!”

But he also clarifies that a bad gig to you at the moment probably qualified as a good gig for you a year, or even a month ago.

“The overall standard of performance changes and improves drastically over time. Right now a good performance for you might be an 8/10. If you were to play 100 gigs, your current 8/10 would become a 3/10.”

Catch Mario playing at either Bar Oussou or The Snug Public House (both on Tuesdays) and stay up-to-date on his music here.

Christopher Sprake

_DSC3869Open Mic Night @ The Acoustic Cafe
 

“The more time you spend trying to be someone else is just time wasted.”

Chris has had a fruitful career in music with a highlight being a solo tour in Canada earlier in the millennium. It only takes the first few seconds of his set to realise why. His extremely smooth but powerful voice conveys the soul of a sincere and authentic musician.

He runs a recording studio on Hoddle street called Last Match Recordings and he plays atmospheric indie rock in a band (as well as pursuing a folk side-project).

He draws inspiration from his day-to-day interactions with people and in particular from the community work he is involved in – helping people overcome struggles in their own lives who come from underprivileged backgrounds.

Passionate about supporting the community, Chris’s studio is based in a Government housing complex where his facilities are open for use by the residents free of charge.

Being a producer and seeing so many musicians come into his studio for over 7 years, he stresses the fact the you have to find your own authentic story and sound:

“The more time you spend trying to be someone else is just time wasted. People respond to something that’s genuine.”

Check out www.christophersprake.com for more details on his fantastic career and be sure to drop into his studio whenever you need some recording work done!

Ibrahim Shiham

DSC01784Open Mic Night @ Bar Oussou
 

“I had a dream to perform with the saxophone.”

And it was a dream come true for Ibrahim, having only played the Saxophone since June last year!

Originally from the Maldives, Ibrahim has been playing music for around 25 years drawing influences from Latin, Jazz, Reggae, and Rock, with guitar being his weapon of choice.

It’s always refreshing to come across performances that aren’t simply guitar & vocals, and the crowd at Bar Oussou was certainly intrigued by the uniqueness.

Whilst he was apprehensive about the performance, Ibrahim performed like a pro; we had no idea this was his first saxophone performance until he told us.

He plays Open Mic Nights to iron out the kinks and smooth out any musical mistakes.

“I feel very happy when I see people dancing – that’s when I know they like the stuff I’m playing.”

His advice for musicians starting out is to have balance:

“Most young musicians are very talented, but they have no concept of having a balanced sound when playing in a group.”

Playing live for so many years, Ibrahim says with a hint of resignation,

“Live music is dying.”

So make sure you help sustain the culture by swinging through Bar Oussou’s Open Mic night – you might just find Ibrahim’s catchy jazz-influenced tunes on the saxophone.

Tony Creedon

  untitled-0118Open Mic Night @ The Great Britain Hotel
 

“Whether they come or not, I’d still play.”

Tony is by far one of the most unique performers you’ll ever see. You could spend an entire evening at a pub with about 12 acts of live music and not remember anyone but Tony. His impressive and rugged appearance is surpassed only by his incredible voice; the most powerful I’ve heard. He is gentle by nature (though his appearance may suggest otherwise) but when he’s performing, his stage presence and songs completely dominate the room and beyond; especially when he gets to one of his infamous songs called “Shit in your eye”. There is nothing superficial about this man. He just puts himself completely out there and is always up for a friendly chin-wag afterwards.

“I got nowhere else to play and I get to meet people to put on my radio show.”

Tony is not only at Open Mics to perform, he’s also on the hunt for local talent to feature on his radio show, “Come on Come in” on 3CR (Thursdays at 3pm). He’s always on the lookout for new performers so if he reckons you’re good enough, he’ll come up to you and organise for you to play on-air! Having seen so many performers on the local scene and playing host to many more on his radio show, I asked him what makes a good musician. True to his own approach, there can’t be any superficiality about the performance,

“[The songs] have got to be heartfelt.”

Tony appreciates the importance of supporting and fostering grassroots live music. He’d love to see more people musicians and non-musicians coming down to support the local scene but regardless of whether or not there’s a crowd, he’ll still be strumming away up on stage.

“Whether they come or not, I’d still play.”

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