Photography by Lindsay Moller
There are family movies of me before I was around five and I did not have a stutter, but at some point, it suddenly arrived. It did knock my confidence in my early school years, not being able to confidently communicate. I worried about what people would think of me.
About 8 years old I picked up the guitar. I grew up and still live in a small town in NSW called Wauchope and a retired country singer, who lived around the corner, saw my interest in the guitar and started to give me lessons. I was 9 years old when I first played in front of the whole school. I felt that first feeling of being on stage, the rise of energy within, that transports you outside yourself.
I didn’t have much sporting ability and that was tough going through high school that was very sports focused. I was always clueless in PE classes and I didn’t feel I had great coordination, but give me instruments and I could play the guitar, sing and work the stomp box all at the same time, easy. My confidence has come out of embracing who I am in music. I am a bit of a comedian, a showman and an entertainer and I like bringing those elements together – that works for me, built me a stage persona that felt right – felt good and got me out of my shell.
Primary school was great, I played music at assembly every week and was given free run to turn an old building on the school property into a theatre of sorts. We would run lunchtime talent shows and magic shows, we made an old shack into somewhere imagination could run riot.
The first big thing that happened to me in music was when I was eleven years old. My grandmother worked as a secretary at the local radio station and she suggested I forget school for the day and come down to the station and watch Adam Harvey be interviewed. Adam was a big inspiration to me, ever since I discovered his album in my grandparent’s CD collection, and although my heart was hammering in my chest I forced myself to go up and introduce myself to him. He was really nice to me and I then was able to sit and watch him being interviewed on air.
Next thing, Adam asked the announcer if she wanted to come up and sing with him at the concert that night and she said “No!” Adam then turned to me and asked me if I wanted to sing with him. I didn’t hesitate to say yes, but wasn’t sure if he was serious. He was and there was something special about that first moment practicing the song with him. I knew I had found my craft.
I received a music scholarship to go to a private high school and that lifted the pressure to perform. It was strange to leave an environment where I had been a leader and then go back into trying to fit in, be just another kid. I started to struggle with the idea of conforming, of being good enough, but someone gave me a piece of advice that has rung true with me ever since. She said that I should know that in this world there is a place for everyone, there is room for all people to be who they are and if you just focus on being You, that’s enough.
So, I got more comfortable with being a unique person. Not a lot of people get the country thing. They think it’s uncool, or old school music. When I began doing my first gigs, a lot of friends who would rather listen to Justin Bieber, had this idea in their head that what I played was the old 1930s type country music, which is not what I do. The definition of country music is so broad these days, with artists like Keith Urban taking country to new heights. It was another good lesson not to let other people’s ideas or views stop me from following what I knew to be my own walk.
My first band was called Angus Gill and the Wild Turkeys. There was me on guitar and singing, a drummer and a guy who played the lagerphone, which was a homemade percussion instrument made out of beer lids, nails and a big broom stick. I loved it.
As people started to get to know me as an entertainer, I was no longer just the kid with a confidence issue. I played everywhere, earning money at the local theme park, a 1880s tourist attraction called Timber Town. I’d set myself up outside the Maul and Wedge restaurant, while tourists threw money at me as I sang classic Australian heritage songs.
In 2011, I won the Australian Children’s Music Foundation National Songwriting Competition for my song Names Upon The Wall and that paid for musical equipment for the school. That definitely helped me fit into the place. I didn’t feel as unsure of myself as much anymore. So, that made me more insistent on trying new things and getting myself out there.
You’d think that being in front of a huge audience of people looking at you can be very confronting, but it never seemed that way to me. What I’ve worked out is that you owe it to the audience to give them the best you have. Most of the time they are not going to know if you play a bum note or forget a lyric or two if you just own what you are doing and give it your all.
In 2014, I co-wrote a song Music Count Us In with Harry Angus and John Foreman and it was sung by more than half a million students in October of that year. I have been presenting a country music radio show since I was 13 and am comfortable being in that space, any space behind a mike! 2016 was my last year of school and that was tougher as there was an expectation to knuckle down and study, leaving me less room for music but I got through and now run my own production company.
Hot Plate Studios specialises in producing professional quality studio recordings for independents. I really enjoy working with local artists. It’s so rewarding seeing people rise and I’m excited about self-producing my second album. It’s been three years in the making and I expect it to be out around September.
Confidence has been the key to healing my stutter and taking me out of the anxiety that lived behind that. Music has given me the key to that confidence and I do feel like a different person than the quiet kid who had trouble with his words.
I have been very lucky to have some incredible people just turn up and selflessly help me out over the years, wanting nothing in return. I want to pay that forward and give some of that back to others. I hope that in the work I now do in music production, I can get the opportunity to help build that confidence in other artists.
To check out more about Angus see the links below