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.
“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!
“The live interviews helped me feel a stronger connection to the artists and their music.”
Heartstrings Melbourne proudly hosted its first showcase event on Sunday 15th June, and what a magical afternoon it was! We wanted to bring to life several of the musicians on our blog and showcase the amazing local music talent we Melbournians have at our fingertips. Nick Evangelou, Sabrina Salvatore, Sarlin, & Mario Demiraj definitely impressed and connected with our intimate audience at the Wesley Anne.
With standing room only, the Heartstrings crew piled into the Wesley Anne along with other local music appreciators to claim whatever limited floorspace they could find. For those unable to attend, we were even able to stream the event live online, providing some of Melbourne’s best local talent with a rare opportunity to reach an appreciative international audience.
Instead of listening to a parade of performers and a constant stream of music, we followed each performance with a live interview about their music and inspirations. Whilst each were fantastically talented musicians, we believe that it’s only once you get to know a bit about the person behind the guitar/piano that you truly understand what their songs are about and where they’re coming from. It’s only then that you gain true context for them as a musician.
Acoustic Café owners, Ian & Glenda continued to show their unwavering support for local talent by lending their years of expertise at the sound desk. Their support for local live music has been unconditional and we can’t thank them enough for their assistance and sharing our passion.
Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was the climactic collaborative closing jam, featuring all performers plus yours truly! For several weeks we had been preparing our unique rendition of ‘The Weight’ by The Band. Sharing verses, solos, harmonising choruses, and inspiring a bit of a sing-a-long from the crowd, it was truly a very special ending to the show, creating a wonderful sense of community.
Regardless of whether or not you made it on the day, we eagerly hope to see you at our next event which we are already excitedly planning for you!
Settling into the very intimate Snug Bar waiting for the array of voices and instruments to fill the air waves, Noirin Lynch pops up to the microphone. Her international flight booked for later that evening did not stop this passionate performer from showcasing her talent; and what a unique talent it was – A Capella Irish Folk songs – taking the idea of ‘doing covers’ to a whole ‘nother level!
“I try and sing the songs that are worth passing on.”
Originally from Ireland, and only in Australia for a visit, Noirin tells us that back home they have ‘singer circles’ where people perform old folk songs unaccompanied that bear significance to them. More important than how well they sang it was whether they had the heart of it.
“It might be a song they got from their father, who got it from a traveller he met on the road.”
On a trip to France with one such singers group, Noirin recalls the special moment of teaching Irish lullabies to French mothers holding their babies.
“It was all these different cultures mixing and it was so beautiful.”
Working by day in community development with Catholic Parishes, she loves music however when asked about her musical aspirations she simply responded with
“I’d hate to lose the hunger or the heart for it.”
She also keeps her musical spirit alive playing in a band called Crag Road and last we spoke they’re putting the finishing touches on an album – so keep an ear out for that!
Overall, Noirin was impressed with our fantastic music scene here in Melbourne and encourages us all to soak it up
“Melbourne has really struck me in terms of its diversity and creativity – there are lots of opportunities here. Embrace them.”
“Anyone that comes to Bar Oussou by themselves always feels welcomed and can go up to any group of people and join the conversation. It’s a super-friendly place for all!”
Bar Oussou is a hidden gem. A welcoming little oasis neatly tucked away in the heart of Brunswick’s music district, this homely bar is like a home away from home.
Bar Oussou is not only a great place to unwind after a long day, it’s also a vibrant hub of artistic culture, great music and food. Walking through its doors into a lively bar and bandroom with live music and comfy booths, you will advance to discover a sensuous Eastern-themed chill-out room. Beyond this, you’ll emerge into a gorgeous candle-lit open beer garden overlooking a humble kitchen where one of their talented chefs prepares delicious, yet generously underpriced food. Fresh pizzas, tacos, burgers, steaks and crisp salads are available 7 days a week, and most menu items fall between $5 and $15. And if this wasn’t already enticing enough, the bar offers four back-to-back happy hours every evening from 5-9pm with imported beers on tap, a pint of which will set you back a mere $5, or just $7 for a quality house wine.
Hang on, have you unwittingly followed a link to a real estate site? Maybe a food blog? No, this is (Sparta) Heartstrings Melbourne and all this ambience, lovely cuisine and inexpensive alcohol is merely a pleasant bonus. Bar Oussou is among the biggest supporters of local talent to be found anywhere in Melbourne. This place boasts an incredible entertainment program which showcases a diverse array of fantastic performers. Bar Oussou constantly features some of the best and brightest musicians in Melbourne. Wednesday usually features local bands and evolves into a wonderful open jam session. You can check out some live jazz, blues, funk and soul every Thursday night, before an epic weekend of world music. To spice it all up, get ready for Latin music every Saturday in July!
We discovered some of our favourite performers at the venue’s Tuesday night Open Mic sessions – if you’re an aspiring musician, there’s no better place to strut your stuff and mix with fellow artists.
As Oussou’s entertainment manager Danni says:
“What are you waiting for? Email me!”
Contact Danni now to book your place at Oussou’s famous Open Mic night. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Ph: 0431 688 841
Bar Oussou is also available for private functions. Contact Mary for more information. Email: email@example.com Ph: 9384 3040
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.
That’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!
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!
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.
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!
“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:
“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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.