Darwin Muso Series is a string of an indeterminate number of mini to medium to mega interviews with Darwin-based musicians and performing artists. Starting in September 2019, and we’ll see how many we can cover over the next weeks/months/years.
The Darwin Railway Club played host to the Darwin regional final of the Passport To Airlie competition in mid-September 2019.
Airlie Beach Festival of Music is held in November, however, in the lead-up, the organisers stage what is arguably* Australia’s biggest battle of the bands competition.
* You’d be doing very well to beat 12-13 major locations across half the continent.
Alice Cotton is an emerging artist who has returned to Darwin to ply her musical trade(s). Alice has a unique twist on folk-country music with original songs steeped in warmth and humour. Her songs draw influence from old-time American music, with a nod to growing up in humid climes amongst a tight-knit community in the Northern Territory. Alice is recording her first EP in late 2019.
Bill Quinn: What’s the Alice Cotton story? With music!
Alice Cotton: I was actually studying classical music; I used to play classical flute, but I just found it a bit of an elitist culture.
And then I really got into music therapy. It was through that I started song-writing and doing my own stuff.
I found it gave me more space to be more creative and do what I wanted to do and do gigs more easily.
BQ: Is that your ‘rent gig’? Do you do music therapy during the day?
BQ: That seems to be a bit of a theme!
AC: Yeah, Crystal [Robins] as well! We actually studied together through University of Melbourne [Alice in Melbourne, Crystal in Sydney].
BQ: So how long have you been up here in the Northern Territory?
AC: I came back at Easter this year. I was in Melbourne for six or seven years, but I missed my family a lot and the warmer weather, so I came back home.
BQ: What’s Darwin like as a place to do original music?
AC: I’ve actually found it really good. I was in Melbourne and that’s, I guess, the music capital of Australia, so I was not sure what to expect when I came home, but so far it’s been awesome.
Crowds are really supportive and they want to be a part of it too. Since I’ve done a few gigs, people have been like, ‘I want to do your stage design, I want to do your merch!’ People are just excited that you’re doing your own thing. So it’s been really nice.
BQ: You must notice being up here it’s like you’re a fish of a certain size in a small pond. Down in Melbourne, I’ve heard different views. What’s it like being down there with so much else going on?
AC: I really liked my time in Melbourne because there was so much great music and so many great musicians, so that was quite special.
I have found that since I’ve been back here, it’s much easier to get gigs, to get media attention. It’s nice to be not competing as much, I suppose.
BQ: And you can find those gigs with original music?
AC: Here? Yeah, absolutely. I haven’t done any covers since I got here. I did a few because I had a three-hour set and I thought, ‘I don’t have enough songs that I’ve written!’ So I did some old time songs and Gillian Welsh. But yeah, there’s a big appetite for original music. Not all the pubs support it, but it’s changing. It’s changed so much even since I left.
BQ: And how did you get into Passport To Airlie?
AC: I follow email newsletters from MusicNT, so I saw it through that. And I thought, ‘At least it’s a good chance to do a gig at the Rails and see the other local acts’.
BQ: Have you got your fingers and toes crossed?
AC: It would be awesome to go. I really don’t know – it’s very varied tonight; there’s someone from every genre. If I could go to Airlie Beach, that would be a treat.
BQ: What does that feel like when we’ve got grunge in the background, and we’ve had soloists, then you – I liked your versatility of doing one song on your own and then the band involved. How do you feel with that much diversity?
AC: I think I just don’t know what to expect. And I think when I started, because my songs are so different to the band before, it was, ‘Oh, does this fit in?’
I guess when I’m performing, I just let that go and focus on the moment, and the people that you’re playing with.
I think that’s why I like song-writing and original music. You make this special, creative thing and it’s your time to share it.
Maybe I’m an attention-seeker! ‘This is your time to listen to me!’
BQ: I always say you’ve got to have a little bit of ego to get out of bed, and you’ve got to have about ten to a thousand times that to get up on stage, and to believe you’ve got something [to offer].
AC: Yeah. I think also through work I’m aware of how important creativity is. It’s worth sharing it with other people.
You can follow Alice Cotton on Bandcamp: https://alicecotton.bandcamp.com/ and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alicecottonmusic/