Darwin Muso Series – Bella Maree
Having almost finished the initial batch of interviews following the Passport To Airlie heat in September, Bella Maree answered my callout for other musos to step up and have a chat, emailling to say, ‘What About Me?’
(She didn’t literally use those words, but since she was recently on a lineup with Shannon Noll, it seemed like a bit of wordplay too good to resist.)
Bella Maree has been in Darwin for less than a year, but she’s already a regular on the scene, bringing her mix of originals and covers to the eyes and ears of Darwin’s welcoming audiences.
On a hot but breezy Friday morning, we sat outside at the Nightcliff Foreshore Restaurant and Cafe by the Arafura Sea and chatted over coffee, as Bella Maree unfolded quite the amazing tale of a pretty full life for someone so young.
Bill Quinn: So, Bella Maree, you’re not originally from Darwin?
Bella Maree: No. Before coming to Darwin, I was in Coffs Harbour for a couple of months. And before that, I was between Byron Bay and the Gold Coast for a couple of years.
But before that I was in Thailand for three years, so there’s not really one place that I’m from. I’ve moved around my whole life.
BQ: You’re a global citizen!
BQ: So when did the interest in music start?
BM: My brother Keanu is two years older than me. When I was about eight or nine, and he was ten or eleven, he started learning guitar and singing at school, and he’d come home and show me what he’d learnt.
And basically, that’s how it went: everything he’d learn two years ahead of me, he’d come home and teach me. So, that’s what got me in to music to start with. We started singing together and we had a duo: Strange Angels.
BQ: And bands at school? Did you get together with others there?
BM: When I was younger, yeah. In primary school, I was in a school rock band, and in high school – Grade 8 – me and my brother did a bunch of performances together for the school.
But then in Grade 9, I went into home schooling, and then just towards the end of Year 9, my brother, my parents and I moved to Thailand when I was 14.
BQ: Wow, so how did that go, getting into music and then moving to another culture?
BM: It was… life-changing!
Because I was still doing this home-schooling thing, and I was doing music theory, learning all that kind of stuff, and BOOM! We’re in Thailand, a totally different culture and language, etiquette and everything.
So it was a big learning experience, a life-changing thing.
We continued to do singing when we got there, when we first got to Chaing Mai. We were there for six months and my brother and I sang in restaurants there, and had a bunch of Thai and Burmese friends. We learnt languages from our friends.
Then we moved down south, moved to the islands, and that’s where I got into some bands. My brother moved away to Bangkok, and we were still on the island. Koh Samui was where I was mostly, singing in bands.
So the band members consisted of guys from Europe, America, all different places. Older dudes, and they taught me so much. They showed me all those older songs, older eras, older music. It just really taught me the old school way, and how to lead a band.
I had a lot of experience with them, and a lot of cool shows with them too.
[Tape pauses for the arrival of Bella Maree’s chai latte. And we continue..]