When I heard the news on the morning of Robert’s passing (August 21st) I didn’t believe it at first. I got a text message asking me to check it out so I went onto Facebook and the news was all over the platform.
My heart sank. I was gutted.
It was only the afternoon before I noticed that Rob posted a plethora of images on his Facebook account promoting the gigs of the day. He was selflessly promoting the industry that he loved, that sustained him for over three decades right up until the end.
That was the type of bloke Rob was.
I had the pleasure of working with him on BSide Magazine from its inception and even though there wasn’t much in the way of money that was made from it, the fact that I worked so closely with Rob was for me, payment enough.
He promoted the Adelaide music scene with the energy of the Energizer bunny, he was its patron saint, the glue that held it together and the champion that it sorely needed.
He always had a smile on his face and for most of the time had a ciggie in one hand and a beer in the other. He was the embodiment of the notion that “you only have one life to live so make the most of it.”
Rob sure gave life a damn good shove.
When it came to his writing Rob was without equal. No matter who he interviewed he was able to get the best out of them and no matter who you were in his presence, you felt like you were the most important person in the world.
He could walk into a room, not say a word and be everyone’s mate by the end of night.
His “Bob’s Bits” column was legendary. He had a way of taking the everyday and the mundane and create something so interesting AND THEN relate it back to music in some way thanks to his Glenn A. Baker-esque musical brain.
On a personal note, in his Rip It Up days he was FunkStar and Orangutang’s greatest ally in the early 2000’s, he would always put up something on Facebook if he wasn’t able to come to any of my my gigs and (as a testament to our friendship) he was one of the first people to reach out to me when Mara died.
I’m sure everyone who has worked in the Adelaide music scene in any capacity would have at least one Bertie story to tell but I think that with Rob’s passing a huge part of the overall aesthetic and vibe of the Adelaide music scene (and the industry that surrounds it) has died with him.
I’d also like to think though that each and every one of us can take a leaf from Rob’s book and make a commitment to continue carry on building a better, more vibrant music scene in this town through lifting everyone up instead of tearing each other down.
That will be Rob’s legacy and it’s something that I will personally commit to.
Let me start this post by stating that what I’m about to say is only my personal opinion based on my years of experience as a performing songwriter/musician.
I’ve noticed a real increase in conversations on social media regarding the whole Originals vs Covers vs Tribute acts and I felt that I needed to share a view that I’ve held for a while now which forms part of the whole narrative.
It’s not designed as a means to solve a problem or issue but merely as a conversation starter. Anyway, the rant starts below…
I want to share with you one of my pet peeves but by doing so I might just be opening up a can of worms but here goes…
There’s one thing that bothers me about how songwriters describe their music.
It’s when they describe their music as “original” music or themselves as an “original” artist either in a live performance context or, (to a lesser degree) in general conversation.
Now, I understand where these songwriters are coming from, but let me explain why I think saying that your songs (or you as a songwriter/musician) are original may not be the best way to represent your work.
First of all, “original” isn’t a genre or type and when you describe you and/or your songs as such, you’re not really telling your audience anything about the style, sound, texture or vibe of what you do.
It’s a bit of a missed opportunity to really showcase what you and your music is all about.
Now, this is what I’ve seen happen many times. A performer on stage introduces their next song as an “original” song and immediately the audience lose interest, turn off and tune out removing any vibe that was created.
It’s almost as if the audience upon hearing the word “original” just assumes that what they’re about to hear is going to be amateurish at best or a pile of shit at worst and you can feel the collective eyes rolling in the crowd when the word “original” is mentioned.
It seems that nowadays people generally don’t want to take risks with their leisure time. We want guarantees, we want instant gratification in the shortest space of time and when it comes to live music, we want to hear, see and experience something that is familiar to us.
Cover bands and tribute acts serve this need for familiarity very nicely indeed.
Unless they are at a music venue that specifically exists for “original” music, the expectation from the audience is that they’ll be recognising the music they’re listening to and because of this, the term “original” then becomes a divisive and alienating word to that audience.
People generally don’t appreciate being told that they are about to experience something that’s going to challenge them in an environment that doesn’t require the audience to be challenged.
So, the next question is… What can we as songwriters do about this?
Well, in my time as a performing songwriter/musician who has played hundreds of gigs that are either 100% covers, 100% my songs or a hybrid mixture of covers and my songs, I’ve learned to never introduce myself as an original artist or my songs as original songs.
I just don’t say it… I continue playing as if nothing has happened. I play my music alongside the covers in my repertoire and just observe the audience’s reaction.
And guess what?
When someone asks me during a break or at the end of the gig if any song I performed was one of my own, and I confirm that it was, their appreciation for me and my music actually increases and we start engaging in a meaningful conversation which is pretty awesome and what I reckon live music is all about.
Touching, moving and inspiring your audience, one person at a time.
So, my fellow songwriters, here are a couple of tips that have worked for me and it’s my hope that they work for you too:
Firstly, when playing live, don’t introduce your song as an “original.” Instead, just share a little of what the song is about or alternatively, don’t say anything at all. Just get into it.
Secondly, when talking to people about your music and the gigs that you do, don’t say “I do originals” just mention the genres you write and perform in.
If you want to be a bit more general, say you perform a mix of your own songs and some covers and if you really must emphasise that you’re a songwriter, simply say that you’re a songwriter that’ll do the trick.
What are your thoughts on this? Have I opened up the can of worms? Do you agree or have a different perspective? I’d love to hear your insights and experiences, so feel free to let me know what they are.
And let’s not forget, almost all music is inspired by something or someone else, so can we truly claim our work is “original” in the strictest sense?
A while ago I participated in one of those Facebook activities where you get asked to do a task and after it’s done you then nominate someone else to do the same task to keep the chain going.
The task I was nominated to do was to post…
“…10 all time favourite or influential albums. What really made an impact and is still on your rotation list, even if only now and then. Post the cover, no need to explain particularly and nominate a person each day to do the same.”
The challenge was accepted and I diligently completed it but the problem is that with Facebook, once something goes onto your feed it gets lost for all time and to find it again on Facebook takes a bit of time.
Anyways, I found the pictures and thought that I should share them with you all plus a bit of an explanation as to why I chose these albums.
So, in the order that they appeared on Facebook, here are my 10 all time favourite or influential albums (so far)…
01 War Of The Worlds – Jeff Wayne
My Aunty Pat (Mum’s sister) got the double LP for me for my 9th birthday because every time I went over to her place I would take out her copy of War Of The Worlds and put on some headphones and spend all night listening to it over and over and over again while looking through the extensive album notes and pictures.
I still have the album even now, it’s still a treasured part of my music collection.
The album captured my imagination plus it turned me on to the concept of modern orchestral music even though I didn’t start studying music until I got into high school.
Here’s a video of my favourite songs from the album Forever Autumn performed by Justin Hayward (Moody Blues) and narrated by the great Richard Burton.
I’ve got to say… Richard Burton still has the best speaking voice EVER.
In fact the 1980’s King Crimson trilogy of Discipline, Beat and Three Of A Perfect Pair would be my desert island discs for sure.
Check out Sleepless and you’ll know why I make such a fuss about this album
03 Remain In Light – Talking Heads
To me, this album displays for all the world to see the absolute pinnacle of what Talking Heads was doing.
The matching of Brian Eno as the producer/songwriter was genius, the inclusion of Adrian Belew (King Crimson, Zappa) on guitar was sublime. Everything about this album is perfect, even the imperfections are perfect
What do I mean by “even the imperfections are perfect?” Check out Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) and pay close attention to around 5:18.
You’ll know what I mean 😉
04 Scary Monsters – David Bowie
Thanks to my music teacher in high school, this was one of the albums that I discovered in that time of my life.
I found David Bowie through this album first then there was Low, and Lodger. That set me up beautifully for my lifelong love for David Bowie.
I fell in love with songs like Up The Hill Backwards, Teenage Wildlife and (of course) Ashes To Ashes (which I do a pretty good acoustic cover of if I say so myself) but it’s the song Fashion that really got me.
Fripp’s guitar work is blistering.
05 Gone To Earth – David Sylvian
This is one of the albums that I would listen to before I go to sleep. The whole album has an enigmatic quality to it and David Sylvian’s voice… One word DIVINE!
My favourite song from the album is Wave which again showcases Robert Fripp’s guitar mastery but it also demonstrates that David Sylvian can write a simply beautiful romantic lyric.
It’s a long song but it’s definitely worth a listen
06 Sheik Yerbouti – Frank Zappa
Another one of my “discovered in high school” albums, I was introduced to Frank Zappa through this record and the stand out song for me is Bobby Brown Goes Down.
I’ve always wanted to do a version of this song in a band but I never had the courage to do it. Maybe one day.
07 Hounds Of Love – Kate Bush
I couldn’t tell you how many hours I have spent listening to this album either with friends or alone, in the dark through headphones. This album is an absolute masterpiece and has affected me in more ways than any other album.
Listening to Hounds Of Love in its entirety will put you through the wringer of emotions but after the final note has sounded you’ll be a better person for experiencing it.
It was Mother Stands For Comfort that really cemented my love for fretless bass. Eberhard Weber’s playing on this track is simply exquisite.
08 Before And After Science – Brian Eno
I was aware of Brian Eno before hearing this album but it was Before And After Science that I started to become obsessed with Eno especially with the song By This River.
The whole album has mostly a dreamy quality to it but By This River (a collaboration between Eno and Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius of German experimental outfit Cluster) is the epitome of the dream. It also makes me cry every time I hear it
09 Synchronicity – The Police
No top 10 album list of mine would not be complete without a Police album and Synchronicity was my doorway to the band and I didn’t just walk through that door… I ran as fast as I could.
Every song on the album holds a special place in my heart.
It was on high rotation when me and a few friends were waiting in line at Memorial Drive for Sting’s Dream Of The Blue Turtles concert way back in 1985. We were there from 8:30am that morning.
Hard to pick a favourite song but I do have a soft spot for Tea In The Sahara. Enjoy…
10 The Beatles – The Beatles
Well, what can I say about this album that has not already been said by countless other critics, bloggers and the like?
I could quite easily put in any Beatles album from Rubber Soul onwards onto this list but somehow this self titled wonder got the gong
My favourite song on the album is Blackbird mainly for its simplicity. It’s this simplicity that sets it apart from the rest of the songs.
Ahhh, going through this list inspired me to listen to them again and what a journey down memory lane that was.
It just reminds me that there is so much wonderful music out there to be listened to, consumed and experienced and that it will take several lifetimes just to get through all of it.
Musically, 2022 is going to be a busy year for me and it all starts off with a swag of gigs at the Adelaide Fringe Festival so with that in mind, allow me to introduce you all to… Soul Trader.
Soul Trader is a duo consisting of myself and good friend and songwriting partner Simon James Betts and we have four gigs at the Adelaide Fringe starting from Sunday, February 27th at 7:00pm.
Even though it may seem that this is a new venture for me… It actually isn’t.
Soul Trader was initially created way back in around 2003 when Simon and I met each other at an Open Mic held at the Hyde Park Tavern which was run by my musical partner in crime Darren Zaza.
Simon had already released a CD and had his own material but we joined forces and started writing songs together which in turn translated into performing many shows which then culminated in the release of our 2006 CD titled Pre-Cursor.
After the release of the CD, I left Soul Trader (the reasons in which I’ll go into more detail at a later time) and Simon continued on performing under that name as a solo artist. We did however, continue to write songs together during my time away.
Now, fast forward to 2021 and Simon and I started the Soul Trader Podcast and from there the concept of getting Soul Trader back together as a duo again seemed like the natural thing to do and let me tell you, it sounds like we’ve never been apart.
The songs, the harmonies, the camaraderie, it’s all there and I’m enjoying every bit of it even though it’s the second time around and as for the Fringe shows…
What a way to (re)launch a project such as Soul Trader.
Just to give you an idea of what to expect, here is the blurb taken from the 2022 Adelaide Fringe program
It’s official, Adelaide’s best kept secret is out.
Soul Trader is back as a duo, and ready to serve you an acoustic pop rock feast of fresh original music.
This is the most dynamic duo in the history of dynamic duos, this is not Batman & Robin, this is Batman & Batman. Two powerful singer songwriters coming together to deliver something special.
In an industry flooded with looping pedals and Autotune, Soul Trader is like a delicious home cooked meal in a world of fast food.
With pristine harmonies and guitars pounding out the rhythm, Simon James Betts and Corey Stewart deliver wonderfully crafted songs with energy, cheek, polish and passion.
This will be a night your ears will thank you for a long time to come, so sit down, hang on and experience the aural ride of your life.
Sounds pretty good to me if I say so myself.
As a reminder, the Soul Trader shows at the 2022 Adelaide Fringe are as follows:
This video I’m about to share with you is for me, the single most inspirational piece of media I have ever witnessed.
I would go so far as saying that if I hadn’t stumbled across this video then my musical journey would’ve turned out a lot different to what it is now.
I can remember where and when I saw this just like it was yesterday.
I was still attending Northfield High School at the time when I saw the beginning sequence of the video played on the classic ABC music show Rock Arena (do you remember that program) and I experienced the what could be described as the closest thing to a religious epiphany.
This video literally blew my mind. I had never heard music like this before and I was hungry for more.
I hunted down the video and once I had it in my hot little hands I went over to my music teachers house and we both watched it in awe of the music and the musicians that played it.
To put things into some sort of perspective I want to give you some background as to what was happening for me at the time as I was in a world of confusion and pain regarding where I was going in my music.
I was studying music composition and clarinet (as well as everything else) at High School and I was being groomed by the school to go to the Adelaide Conservatorium Of Music to get my Bachelor of Music degree and become either a music teacher or, an orchestral clarinet player (music teacher was looking the most likely path).
Everyone else had my musical life planned out for me, except for ME.
I was just starting to learn guitar at that stage and I didn’t know what I should do but once I saw this video, I made my choice and for the first time in my life I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
I’ve always considered the King Crimson “Discipline” trilogy of albums, starting with Discipline in 1981, Beat in 1982 and lastly (my all time favourite) Three Of A Perfect Pair in 1984, as my most favourite albums of all time.
It’s influenced my playing style on both guitar and bass as well as shaped my musical approaches and attitudes in more ways than I can imagine and I’m so glad that I can share this video with you all.
According to this video from the popular science YouTube channel Vsauce the answer is “not very likely” which is a good thing I suppose otherwise I would be out of a job.
It seems that if you quantified all of the possible notes and rhythm combinations you get this amazingly huge but finite number however, whether these combinations of sounds are music to our ears is another thing.
This is a very, very cool video indeed. I do like the explanation on why we gravitate towards some types of song arrangements and not others.
It certainly gave me some food for thought. What about you?
In order to master the craft of songwriting you must first fully embrace the fact that there’s always something to learn about it.
The more you know, the more you need to learn.
I know of some songwriters that are either bored or restless with their craft. They complain that everything that they do all sounds the same and therefore they feel they’re not expanding and growing as songwriters.
However, in life, there are people that do things and people that don’t. Which category a certain songwriter falls into is not determined by genetics or how much Mercury is in retrograde.
It’s all determined by their attitude and as a songwriter, how you master your chosen craft is determined by you and you alone.
One of my ongoing goals is getting advanced musical theory and guitar lessons. I’ve mentioned this to a select number of friends in the past and they all ask me “why?”
My reply is “why not!”
I have been playing music and writing songs since I was 13 and besides learning clarinet and studying music theory and composition in high school, I have not had any other tuition in my life.
I am mostly a self taught musician.
It would be arrogant of me to think that I have nothing else to learn so I’m going to find out where my learning gaps are and I’m then going to fill them in with some new knowledge.
I’m really excited to see how these lessons will affect the way I approach music, writing songs and life in general as I believe that how you approach your craft is a metaphor of how you approach your life.
My advice to anyone regarding learning an instrument or expanding their music theory knowledge to help with your songwriting is threefold:
1. If you’ve ever considered learning an instrument then consider no more, start learning. Don’t believe the rubbish that some people will tell you about old dogs and new tricks.
2. If you already play an instrument, consider getting lessons no matter how proficient you are. The more proficient you are at your instrument the more important your choice of tutor will be.
3. If you already get lessons, make more of an effort to practise, learn to love it and find the time to do it. Challenge yourself with the lessons, try to feel your mind expand with the knowledge you gain from it.
Seek out books on songwriting, buy them and read them. Take notes and do what is needed to assimilate the new knowledge into your songwriting process.
Get online and sign up to songwriting resources, forums, and communities. Ask lots and lots of questions.
In your research you’ll come across people you feel comfortable communicating with, keep in contact with them. Network and expand your relationships.
If you want to contact me and ask questions feel free to do so, you can also comment below as well.
In short, get out of your comfort zone.
If you feel you have been spending precious energy complaining and not enough energy doing then stop, re-evaluate and change your attitude towards your songwriting.
It can be done, I know because I have done this for myself.