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.
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.
* If you laid out all the competitors from 13 regional heats from Darwin to Adelaide end to end… they’d likely be very annoyed and would probably resent the dry-cleaning bill.
Crystal Robins is a very popular multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, and a regular fixture at events and venues around Darwin. Crystal’s strong passion for music and the performing arts saw her play in a variety of jazz, rock and folk-punk bands in Sydney, but she now makes Darwin her home.
I had a brief chat with Crystal after she performed the penultimate set in the Passport To Airlie heat.
Bill Quinn: So, tell me the Crystal story!
Crystal Robins: Wow! I have to turn my brain on again!
I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Sydney, I played in quite a few bands there. I studied music at uni…
BQ: Where was uni?
CR: The Australian Institute of Music. I studied jazz and contemporary music there, playing flute.
But I’ve always loved playing guitar, and writing songs and singing.
BQ: Our paths may have crossed because I heard you may have performed at the Illawarra Folk Festival.
CR: Yes! I played with the band Scarlet’s Revenge, and we played there one year in 2016.
BQ: Ah. I was in Brisbane.
But you did some further music-related study?
CR: I studied at the University of Melbourne (from Sydney) and did a Masters of Music Therapy. I finished studying music therapy and then got a job up here. That’s what brought me here.
BQ: And how long have you been in Darwin for?
CR: About two and a half years.
BQ: I first came across you doing covers [at the Darwin Show]. How do you find getting gigs doing covers or originals or both in Darwin?
CR: Well, I’ve just started playing my originals live. We’ve been doing the covers for about a year, a bit over a year.
I find there’s actually lots of gigs in Darwin. It’s a lot easier than Sydney. It’s a smaller music community, but it’s easier.
BQ: I’m hearing that more and more, and it’s great to hear that you can get those gigs.
CR: Yeah, definitely. Sydney’s quite tough, a tough scene to get into.
BQ: Where do you want to go with your original stuff? You’re doing recordings?
CR: I would like to do some recording; we’re talking about doing that now. I’ve been writing songs for a long time now, but I’ve only started playing them live recently.
BQ: And how’s that gone down?
CR: It’s been a really great experience. Easier than I thought it would be!
BQ: How did you come to Passport To Airlie?
CR: Mel and I (Crystal Melodies) played last year, but we weren’t technically allowed to be in the competition because we were playing covers!
So I really wanted to try playing some of my songs with the band tonight, and this seemed a good place to try it.
BQ: You were on second last; how was that for the nerves?
CR: Yeah, it was quite nerve-wracking! Because there’s just so many great musicians, performers, and songwriters here. But it was great to watch them all.
BQ: You were playing tonight in a trio which I’ve never seen you do before. Have you done that before?
CR: No, I asked Roxanne and Shilo to play with me for this gig. I just kind of sprung it on them last week. And they were kind enough to learn the songs, and fit in a couple of jams in their busy schedules.
BQ: So if you do or you don’t get the Passport To Airlie, is it something you want to do? Take your music on the road.
CR: Yeah, definitely. I really enjoyed playing with the band tonight, so definitely I think I’ll be working on that a bit more, playing around Darwin and who knows where!
You can keep tabs on where and when Crystal Robins is playing (with or without the band) at her website: https://crystalrobins.bandcamp.com
Crystal is also on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/crystalrobinsmusic/