Darwin Muso Series – Bella Maree

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Image courtesy of Bella Maree

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!

BM: Yeah!

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..]

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Image courtesy of Bella Maree

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Darwin Muso Series: Crystal Robins

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.

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Image courtesy of Crystal Robins

Crystal Robins

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.

* 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.

CrystalRobins

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Darwin Muso Series: Ben Evolent

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.

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Image courtesy of Ben Evolent Music

Ben Evolent

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.

* If you can find a bigger one, I want it stuffed and mounted on display at ARIA or APRA headquarters, please.

Opening the batting for muso chats on the night (and for this series of interviews) was Josh Tarca of Ben Evolent.

(Just a quick Overheard At Passport To Airlie from my notes here. My mate leaned over as the third act came on and said, “I think the announcer said this band is from the Netherlands”.

Me: “No, the band’s name is ‘Ben Evolent’!)

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Ben Evolent performing in Passport To Airlie – Darwin at Darwin Railway Club

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A Punter’s Perspective March 2014: No Such Things As Mistakes

Oops! There are no such things as mistakes.
Oops! There are no such things as mistakes.

A Punter’s Perspective: Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

No Such Things As Mistakes Part I

First published in Trad and Now magazine, March 2014

As has been the case from time to time in the seven years plus of A Punter’s Perspective, ’tis the night before deadline and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a half-decent idea for a folk music magazine article.

Realising my dilemma on the train to work today, I turned to the world’s font of most knowledge (and funny cat videos): Twitter. And I asked publicly to all, and pointedly to three or four music bloggers, what might a good topic be.

Image courtesy of The Dutch Guy
Image courtesy of The Dutch Guy

The answer came from a former radio presenter now blogger/vlogger (a kindred spirit, then) from the Netherlands who goes by the title of ‘The Dutch Guy’ (@DutchGuyOnAir), and he suggested:

“How about talking about some mistakes indie artists might make?”

By curious coincidence, this is a topic I’d considered before and only pulled back from it at the risk of causing offence.

Causing offence is a service I do occassionally provide — usually unintentionally.

I’ve put enough noses out of joint in the music world in the past nine years by commission, omission, or at the very least, blind stupidity, and have no need to add to that tally by more inadvertent misadventure.

I often say that I can have my intelligence insulted without willfully watching certain TV programs or listening to certain radio stations. (And that I didn’t mention them by name is at least a sign that I’m learning — slowly.)

Therefore, some disclaimers.

I am totally in awe of musicians, artists and singer-songwriters.

The concept of playing a three to 20-stringed instrument (or one you blow, slap, or pump) while singing and possibly dancing (or at least a little light duck-walking), and then doing that from 20 minutes at a time, for up to three or four hours, leaves me absolutely breathless.

disclaimer

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National Folk Festival – Grimick – Interview with Griff

Image courtesy of Grimick
Image courtesy of Grimick

Chris “Griff” Griffiths is one third of the membership of Sydney band Grimick and one half of its name.

Confused? Never fear. (Small band member joke there; we move on.) Yes, never fear because Griff has a black belt in algebra, and is not afraid to use it.

Grimick are Griff, Mick (join the nomenclature dots there) and Dr Fear.

I first encountered them at Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival several years ago and was quite mesmerised by the songs and music. Later listening to their wonderful album ‘Dazzle’, I was even more enchanted. Firstly for the stunning production values and warm, rich sound, and secondly for the fact that Grimick have this tendency to give their music away.

Griff explains more about this ethos in the interview, and the fact that you can download the whole shooting match at their website.

I interviewed Griff at Punchbowl Boys’ High School in Sydney’s south-west earlier this week and we spent a bit of time talking about the benefits to be had from inter-meshing music and education.

And by and by we did discuss music, and Grimick’s first foray to the National Folk Festival this weekend.

Highly recommended. See them if you can.

Grimick’s performances at the National Folk Festival:

Friday 29 March – Scrumpy, 9pm
Saturday 30 March – Flute and Fiddle, 7pm
Sunday 31 March – Scrumpy, 6pm