Interviewed by Veronica Farmer, Author and Creator of www.madebeautifulbyscars.com global healing storytelling series. Interview photography by Michele Pocknee from www.michelepocknee.com
My parents owned a music store when I was born. My Dad was a professional pub musician so I had music in my veins and was always singing as a child. My parents split up when I was 3 years old.
Rugby, soccer, cricket, skate-park – all sports were my thing as a kid. I was a total adrenaline junkie and went skydiving for my 14th birthday. I had a lot of energy and it needed to go somewhere.
I started out screaming heavy metal music as a 13 year old. Something about it helped me get out a lot of rage and the classic teenage angst.
Image by Michele Pocknee for www.michelepocknee.com
I lived with my Mum and didn’t have a lot of time with my Dad, but it had always been this way since I could remember, so I don’t think that affected me as much as my older siblings. We would see Dad on the weekend here and there, but my Mum was also the best Dad ever so I don’t think I missed out on too much.
I stopped screaming and began singing when I was about 14 or 15- years old. I hated high school. A lot of that was to do with being moved out of a school of 200 kids and landing into this great big high school of 2000 kids. I felt like I was being factory farmed. It was the first time I had to field abuse for the colour of my hair. There were these kids from school that followed me around in a pack every day and gave me grief, over and over.
I joined rugby league so I could at least get the jocks on my side and not have to worry about being attacked by those guys constantly. One day I was sitting at the bus stop and one of them came up and punched me. I sucked it up, I had been hit far harder on the rugby field. I knew it was his issue not mine.
I picked up an instrument and hid out in the music room. The bullies couldn’t get access to that part of the school and then people started to hear me play and found out I could sing so that changed everything. A lot more people wanted to be friends with me. I tried to hide my hair by straightening it and getting rid of the curls, I went through the classic emo phase.
I left school at 15 and went to TAFE and learned how to run stages, lighting and technical productions. I have been working in that field for the last 7 years. It’s good to have that behind me as I play and create music.
I have always written lyrics and poems. I knew I needed space and quiet to write so would lock myself away and honour that process when words were rising. Before I knew it I had close to 30 songs. I didn’t like all of them, but some of them were good.
When I was 18 years old, I had a pretty cool experience happen when I was busking outside the front of a Matt Corby concert, trying to get myself enough money for a ticket. I was singing one of his songs, and suddenly I heard some girls screaming his name and pointing, I looked over to see him standing behind a fence watching me with his whole band. They invited me back stage and I ended up recording a few tracks with his guitarist down in Melbourne.
I was 21 years old and living in a pretty toxic relationship. I’m generally an easy going guy so it was unusal for me to be in something like that. It was so full on, screaming and fighting, it was also passionate and dramatic, as you didn’t know what each day would bring. That lover taught me how to scream again. The big notes I can reach I thank her for, she helped me access my voice in a whole new way!
When I finally realised that I couldn’t help that girl, wasn’t helping either of us by trying to ‘fix’ her, I was free. There comes a point when you see that it doesn’t serve to try and drag someone into being more than they are. After that ended I felt a decision land that I would only have a connection with someone if we were able to help eachother grow.
I entered a singing competition. It was a $1000 prize and a management contract. I met the guys from the management company and they pushed me towards entering X-Factor. I was 21 years old and had some amazing experiences on that show. Chris Isaak was my mentor and I learned a lot from that guy. Hanging out with him, I absorbed so much from him. I left the show after making it to the top 9.
My experience with the management company turned sour and it took 10 months of my life to have the contract released. I feel like I have experienced the worst of the music industry before I even began to get my career moving, but it has taught me a great deal.
Since then I have played at a bunch of festivals and have been on tour doing what I love. I recently played four gigs at the Woodfood Folk Festival and I will keep creating music and enjoying this life I have created.
I see that I have had some life scars of kicking back against bullies and I have grown a lot from that. I wear my red hair with pride now and play music that makes me happy. I have struggled at times with feeling bitter about some of the experiences I have had, but also understand that where I put my attention grows so I keep exploring my music, hanging out with the best kinds of people and that keeps me focused on what is possible.
The biggest battle is in the head. For those who are struggling with bullies or being pushed around my advice would be “Keep having fun and remember who you are, stay true to yourself and fight for everything that you believe in.
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