Well pandemic lockdowns sure make jamming with other musicians hard…
And lockdown life has at times felt like one big loop on repeat…
I had long resisted I’ve resisted playing music with #looppedals, fearing tackiness + endless solo noodling, but a mate lent me a mini basic looper during a lockdown, and I couldn’t resist. Both fears have been affirmed. But i hadn’t counted on them providing so much ‘fun’, and scope for random improv soundscapes.
So here’s a little snapshot of some of the silliness that popped in the subsequent weeks, during lockdown.
The first time plugging my weissenborn into the looper, I found this groove…
Then it was AFL grand final time, and I was nervous, so I tried using it as an ad-hoc, very daggy, improv mutli-track device… #footysongs
In the depths of 2020 pandemic lockdown, recording this tune with good friend (+ brilliant musician & producer) Alex Borwick was a consuming distraction, a joy, and a reaffirming way to keeping making music in collaboration – all the way between Ireland to Australia. I hope you find some slow space & solace in it too.
Alex recorded his mesmerising horns in Dublin, I recorded some slide (and a few impro overdubs) in Morwell (Oz), & Alex smooshed them together.
Massive thanks to Al at Aldoc Productions for putting this beautiful little video together (& to Parvathi & Ananth for first requesting this tune!)
….COVID-19…”unprecedented”…horrible…[it’s all been said]…etc.
I acknowledge (gratefully) that I’m far luckier than most. But one gaping hole I’m really feeling in Victoria’s lockdown 2.0, is our inability gather in person to make and enjoy music together.
The tragedy and open-ended upheaval of the pandemic is worsened by an absence of the social and musical connection that is so often able to nourish us through tough times.
One obvious consolation is being able to collaborate, share, and still even perform remotely. It’s no substitute for the electric ephoria of sharing music in person, but I’ve had the chance to play a bunch of livestream gigs over the past few months.
Alongside the awkwardness of singing to a screen and receiving very little energy back, there are some charms – a strange sort of intimacy, the convenience of gigging without travelling (though I still managed to be late for one…), the ability to share with folks far away….
It’s been certainly been a fascinating learning experience. And definitely an affirming way to connect with folks in the doom of the first lockdown.
The lockdown co-incided with a big bunch of gigs and touring planned with Van Walker for the launch of his new album – meaning many of the livestreams I’ve played have been replacement sets with Van.
So here’s a smattering of some of the ‘online’ music activities of the past few months, in no particular order – from my first solo livestream on my dingy laptop, to a bunch of higher-production marathons with Van (including some cute ‘fly-in’ tributes to some favourite live music venues).
There’s a few missing (I hate, and love, that Instagram live videos disappear after they’re done… just like a real life gig), and perhaps a few more to come…
My first solo livestream – broadcast my clapped out laptop via the Earthworker Energy factory wi-fi for my footy club – was genuinely bizarre experience, and rather low-fi (as was the second).
There’ll be a few more that I might post here as they come up.
In the meantime, check out Van Walker’s brand new album (which I’m proud to be playing on), coming out August 28th.
In the lockdown-ed absence of gigs, I’ve also had the chance for some other remote collaborations – including recording some mood-music for the great new ‘SeaCreatures’ Podcast from Matt Testoni (check it out!), and a long-distance slow-jig with the awesome Alex Borwick (out soon).
But here’s to being together (musically and otherwise) soon…
Stay strong comrades.
Sharing a world in pandemic….
It’s been quiet on the music front of late. All gigs have been cancelled & in-person jams pretty much banned (love to all the music/hospo/(all) workers out there doing it tough), and my brain ever-drawn to the terrors of the unfolding news and the thesis I’m supposed to be finishing. So I don’t have any new original tunes to share yet…
But the (privileged) time at home and the need to keep playing has given me a chance to muck around with a song from one of my all-time favourite songwriters & guitarists, John Martyn.
And this song in particular speaks to me in this moment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it unavoidably clear the truth we’ve always known – that we have one world to inhabit and share together, that our wellbeing is ultimately inseparable from the wellbeing of all others here. It’s also highlighted just how unequal and unequally prepared folks everywhere are, to be well. At the same time, the crisis made it hard to know how to act on that fact – how to enact solidarity in (and as) physical isolation… (your suggestions very welcome!).
While I kinda resent it (and beware the risks of endless screen time) I know my mental/emotional wellbeing has definitely been helped by interacting & sharing with people ‘virtually’ of late, AND by playing some music.
So with all that in mind, here’s a little Morwell living room offering from someone grappling with “what it means to find our way in one world”… #justpostsomehing
Link to video of my version of John Martyn’s ‘One World’ here.
I just had to share this little treat – an experience that really cheered me up after a summer of bushfire destruction & despair. #climatecrisis
Here I was, for a little (too rare) walk & search for trout in the lovely Morwell National Park, not too far off the Grand Strzelecki Track, when I met this stunning little tiger snake, who I think was also on the hunt, probably for frogs(?). Thanks to some welcome above-average January rain, the creek was flowing really well, and this beautiful banded friend was just so mesmerising in its swims up and down the creek and around my feet, I had to capture some on my phone (though, excited Dan did this in portrait mode…saaarry).
And so taken I was by this encounter, at a friend’s suggestion I slapped together a quick take of a slide guitar track inspired by these snake times. I hope you enjoy this snapshot as much as I did, and that it gives you hope like it does me.
This little part of the Morwell National Park was pretty barren ex-farmland only a couple of decades ago, but thanks to some legendary volunteers (Friends of Morwell National Park) who replanted it (and with Parks Victoria, continue to maintain it), it is now a precious bit of habitat for slippery friends like this, as well as heaps of koalas, lyrebirds,, platypus, wombats, wallabies, echidnas, eels, congoli (and yes, the odd trout), and lots of other mates I often see on my wanders there, and the park connects some priceless patches of remnant rainforest and older bush.
Life has a wonderous capacity to keep keeping on, aided (or not) at times by our efforts no doubt. Here’s to making sure we find ways to exist, that better allow all of us to keep keeping on together.
#Morwell #Tigersnake #CarnTheMightyMorwellTigers #Hope #SnakesRCool #ImprovisedCinematicSlideGuitar
I love music festivals…. and I know I’m bloody lucky to have attended and enjoyed a few – this year was no exception.
I have huge gratitude for the enormous effort that (mostly volunteer legend) folk festival organisers do, particularly in the face of the growing challenges facing festival organisers from ham-fisted government knee-jerks (eg NSW. Also, how’s that for an image!? Ham-fisted-government-knee-jerks…. sounds like my next dance move). With that gratitude in mind, here’s to more festivals being more financially and otherwise accessible to a wider range of folks. Would love your thoughts on how to do this (other than variations of my default: tax the rich)…
I very lucky to play a few beautiful, uplifting and nourishing festivals this season – including some favourites close to home and some new favourites further afield (all while continuing to squeeze words into my rather-overdue thesis…)
First up was my first time atDorrigo Folk & Bluegrass Festival, in the stunning hills of Northern NSW, on the edge of sub-tropical rainforest. Such a lovely fest, with some ripper artists this year (faves included Jaron-Freeman Fox & Simon Nyberg, STAV), and the mighty Dangar Falls nearby to dip in. After a few shows in Canberra, Sydney, Armidale on the way up, I enjoyed a solo festival set, and a couple of fun ones as part of Anna Smyrk’s trio (see video snippet below), and I had a ball co-running a dobro workshop with James Church of Montgomery Church, someone whose playing I really like.
Then was Majors Creek Festival. And gee it was magic.
I stumbled in late on a friday after a stressful week, and was immediately embalmed in gentle, joyful, community festival vibes – kids running everywhere, folk of all ages and a variety of backgrounds (musical and otherwise) getting amongst it, a beautiful quiet country setting, and a stellar lineup more diverse than the familiar folk festival. Fantastic programming – with highlights including On the Stoop, good mates Whoa Mule, Hoot & Holler, and Eric Bogle’s surprise set was a real treat. Majors Creek – you got me good!
And I had a real so much fun playing a couple of solo sets (including in the gorgeous old church), and was delighted to get good old mate Lucy Wise up for a few songs on the Appalachian Dulcimer for some ‘double-lap’ jamming, of some old tunes we hadn’t played together in years. Real fun (and stay tuned for some more reunited double-lap action later this year!). Here are some snippets:
Then I was super glad to be (and play!) at two of my favourite festivals – both so close to home!
I still can’t quite believe that Rainforest Rhythms is a thing – a little community music festival at the stunning ‘Gondwana-esque’ Tarra Bulga National Park on GunaiKurnai Country. With scones (jam and CREAM) available all day, live music, rainforest… holey moley! Great to be there again, and to nap on the grass to the smooth jazz of the ‘Coda Trail’. Make sure to come out to Gippy and check this gem out next time (or visit Tarra Bulga some time!).
I’ll always remember Boolarra Folk Festival this year, for reasons bad and (as usual) good.
The day started with an 8km footy pre-season run uphill, up a winding 4WD track from Middle Creek, only then for our football-netball club training camp to be hurriedly evacuated with the eruption of a nearby bushfire in tinder-dry conditions. I’ll always remember rushing back to the car to see the massive towering plume of smoke, punctured by water-bomber helicopters already on the scene and navigating the narrow valley. The CFA was already onsite in numbers, but ground firefighting was largely restricted by the difficult terrain. This was one going to be a ‘fight from the air, and wait & see…)
The usually delightful Folk Festival, no more than 30kms away from the Yinnar South fire, was shrouded in smoke the whole day, but persisted bravely nonetheless. And it was still a lovely festival, despite the tension in the air.
Beau Aktinson and I had a ripper time tearing up a few new tunes in our duo set, and loved hearing the Tim Scanlon Trio reggae-fy the Celts later on.
And I’ll always remember, later that night at the Boolarra Cooperative Hotel, watching the distant black horizon glow red with the simmering not-so-distant bushfire, as the band continued playing in the foreground. It felt like an all-too-apt embodied metaphor of society’s Titanic approach to the (clearly connected) climate crisis, continuing drunken partying despite (or because of) the looming apocalypse…
It was gutting to discover a friend’s family home was one of two destroyed by the fire the following morning.
Hats off to the firefighting champions (CFA volunteer legends, and paid folk) who burn countless hours and energy so that bush and houses don’t. And hats off to the massive volunteer ‘Blaze Aid’ effort going on now to help fire-affected folk recover.
And hats off to everyone doing their bit to collectively stave off the climate crisis, which will see worse than this become the new normal…
To wrap up this festival campaign was my first time to the heaps-cute St Albans Folk Festival. What a spot, in the captivating upper Hawkesbury River Valley on Darkinjung country.
Through a frustrating, then hilarious, 2-hour ‘lost car key’ situation (ask me some other time), we missed most of the Welcome to Country ceremony that opened the festival. But the atmosphere of that place will certainly stay with me. The stunningly steep rock-faced river valley (great for a swim), the musical sessions bubbling away incessantly throughout the weekend, and surely one of the quaintest, oldest stone pubs on the continent, gave a real sense of being back in time somewhere – a feeling delightfully abetted by a total lack of phone reception.
I enjoyed another mini tour on the way up there with Anna Smyrk & Jhana Allen, including some gigs and live radio, and a ripper spontaneous collaboration with wonderful Canberra artist Grim Till. Grim and I jumped up for some un-rehearsed jams during each other’s solo sets, at the ever delightful Smiths Alternative – magic! (stay tuned for some video from that collaboration).
Finally, to the brave legend (Emily) who picked up scary #hitchhiker Dan & guitar when I arrived late into Canberra at the start of the tour – THANK YOU again! You picked up my tired spirits (and heavy legs), after my computer lost a bunch of thesis writing I’d just done. Here’s to a world where folk everywhere feel safe hitchhiking and picking up hitchers.
And with that, festival season 2018-2019 was done — (much loved) winter and footy season is now well underway, and something more akin to a musical hibernation commences (though still with some real treat-gigs I’m looking forward to over the next couple of months). And of course finishing a long-overdue thesis…
It was great to be invited in for a chat & a few tunes live in the ABC studio a couple of months ago.
And in case you missed it, I’ve finally got around to uploading the audio! There’s also a live-streamed video of a couple of the tunes.
Hear the full audio here (minus the weather report & and a bit of etc that I’ve edited out).
Had a fair old time talking about music, ‘welcomes’, activism & broken noses, and singing a coupla songs while desperately trying to hold off a persistent cough…
‘All Aboard’, a mashed set of the trad Celtic ‘Jim Wards Jig’ and Merle Travis’s ‘Dark as a Dungeon’ both got a run.
It was also rare outing of the recently named ‘Before Tomorrow Calls’, I song wrote about my time living in Indonesia and the wonderful welcoming friends there – dedicated to rock-star-buddy Jali.
You can hear the individual songs below.
Thanks to the ABC Gippsland crew for having me in, and for the great work they do!
And thanks to Rainforest Rhythms (festival in a rainforest!!) & Boolarra Folk Festival for helping me round up what has been a bloody lovely Summer Festival Season with some fun festival sets close to home!
I was luck enough to be a feature artist on the great local music show Live at Spectrum last week, playing a few original tunes and having a chat. It was a lot of fun! Catch up & watch the whole episode here:
Live at Spectrum, now in its second season, is a seriously brilliant community-driven project that gives voice to local musicians, artists & music lovers. I take my hat off to the crew who make it possible every month!
Subscribe to their youtube channel to catch each new episode, and catch up on past ones too.
Thanks also to good mate Beau Atkinson for joining me for a few tunes, and taking a punt on one we’d barely rehearsed!