Q & A with NORTH EASTON

Stepping away from the Melbourne scene, the Real Songwriters of Melbourne team have been fortunate enough to work with and assist seasoned Canadian singer-songwriter North Easton on his journey into the Australian music scene.

Having played his first ever show in Australia at The Workers’ Club last week, North is our featuring guest at the inaugural RSOM song writers workshop. With years of experience as a song writer, and an impressive list of accomplishments, we have no doubt his expertise and knowledge will enlighten and inspire up-and-coming Melbourne artists.

We managed to catch up with him for a quick chat, to discuss his first impressions of Melbourne, and what it takes to become an established songwriter.

 

J: Hey North, welcome to RSOM! If you don’t mind, I’ll just get you to start the interview off by giving me a bit about your background?
N: “I’m a son of a welder and stay at home mom in a small little town on Vancouver Island in British Columbia Canada. I turned to music as an escape from the mounting challenges in my world. Song writing started immediately, even as young as 6 years old I was making up my own songs. They (the songs) seemed great at the time, but of course looking back, they were pinnacle in the channelling of emotional release through lyric and melody.”

J: How did your music journey begin?
N: “My new music journey, the one that truly started me on the path happened after my son was born. As I had a couple times in my life before, by the time I turned 17, I needed to find a vent for the build up of things in my life that I seemingly could not control. I started taking the guitar much more seriously around 19 and put together my first project, which was called Garrity, when I turned 22. By then I had already written over 100 songs..”

J: Do you have a particular method or process you use when songwriting?
N: “Being a teacher of songwriting as well as a student, I am constantly seeking out different directions to come at the process. Lyrics first, Music first, Melody first, Idea all thought out…I circle around all of these approaches. And then sometimes, like lightning, it just hits and I have to grab my guitar and let out whatever has been cooking in my head and heart that needs a life of its own.”

J: Are there any themes you often find yourself writing about?
N: “Although I believe I tap into many, many themes when I write, it is fair to say that for the most part, my music has an inspirational component. Many of my songs have been written as almost pep talks to myself to take the world on ahead of you. I have literally more than 50 songs about getting back up and fighting through the challenges that lay ahead of me.”

J: Who are the musicians that you look up to?
N: “I can’t say that I have ever been a die-hard fan to any musician or writer; however, I am always pulled into a great song- something that covers the gamut when it comes to emotion. Don McLean is one of my favourite songwriters. Adam Duritz, from the Counting Crows, sings with a passion and a feel that I am drawn to over and over again. The soul of Tracy Chapman, and the honesty she releases in her lyrics is truly inspiring. Dave Matthews and his phrasing, as well as his acoustic chops. But, this is a constant evolution for me as I am now writing for and with many artists for their songs and albums and that puts a whole new spin on what and who I look up to.”

J: What is the Canadian singer-songwriter scene like in comparison to Melbourne? How are you finding Melbourne?
N: “So far, I find that Canada and Australia have a very similar vibe when it comes to the scenes. Songwriters are a breed and we are all over the world. Nashville for example is the largest gathering of songwriters I have ever seen, but they all have the same inner heart and hope that brings them back to the page to turn out a great tune. I love Melbourne. Great energy, good vibes, awesome people. Driving on the other side of the road is always a little bit of mind mess, but other than that, I’m truly digging it.”

 

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J: What drew you to wanting to come to Melbourne?
N: “A friend of mine from Australia, who tours in Canada, told me Australia was the place to be. So when planning this international tour, I reached out and found that there were many people in the area and beyond who wanted to help me put together this tour. That made it much easier. It’s a long way to come for a month, but I’m only a week or so in and have a ton of amazing experiences so far that will no doubt find their way into future songs.”

J: What was the writing and recording process like for your album One of the Lucky Ones?
N: “When I was choosing the songs for One of the Lucky Ones, I started with over 100. I narrowed that down to 60 songs, and then to 40, and then finally to 25. At that point, I reached out to some close friends and trusted mentors in the music industry to get valuable feedback on the 25 and which ones should make the album. Working with my producer, Jay Lefebvre, on the album was an incredible experience. He was easy going, and very talented.”

J: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
N: “I have been fortunate to play on some pretty cool stages with some huge Canadian stars. I have played in front of 30,000 people, and won over $100,000 in competitions. The highlight for me was when I found out that a bunch of camp counsellors who came to my show once, were singing along to one of my tunes- word for word. They told me afterwards that they sing one of my songs at the campfire to all of the summer camp kids every night before heading to bed. There is nothing bigger than knowing people have been impacted by something you have created.”

J: What advice do you have for up and coming singer-songwriters, such as the ones that will be attending the event this coming Thursday?
N: “My advice is quite simple- continually evolve. Human beings have 6 basic needs in life, with the two most important being contribution and growth. Always give back and help others, and strive to continue growing at what you love to do. Find a mentor, someone who has been down the roads you want to travel on. Chase them, and learn from what they have done to get where they are. Oh, and make sure you love it because of your heart, and not some cloudy dream of financial success. The music industry is a difficult beast to navigate, but song writing is the best job on the planet- in this writers opinion.”

 

North will be contributing to The Real Songwriters of Melbourne’s first ever songwriters workshop, held this coming Thursday at Wick Studios. The workshop, which has since sold out, will give budding songwriters the chance to work with a knowledgable, experienced songwriter, such as North. For more information about the event, go here.

Follow North Easton on:
Facebook | YouTube | Website

 

Written by Jordyn Hoekstra

TORI DUNBAR

Melbourne born-and-raised musician Tori Dunbar has always had a love for singing and songwriting. It is her love for audio production; however, that sets her apart from the rest. After studying audio production at Collarts, Tori went on to record, produce and mix the majority of the songs she has recorded for her solo project so far.

“I didn’t expect to like it http://production as much as I do. In saying that, my first official debut single ‘My Head’ wasn’t done by me at all. That one was much more experimental than anything. I’m not more excited about this one than the other songs or anything, but it was interesting to do. It was a total journey for me, having Anna Laverty produce it, just because it was something I’ve never done before.”

Despite experiencing a new way of producing music, creating music itself is definitely not something new to Tori. Hailing from the Eastern Suburbs, Tori began music at the ripe age of six and has stuck to her guns ever since.  Once she finished high school, she decided she wanted to turn professional as it was something she always wanted to do. So she started studying a Certificate IV in Music Performance at Box Hill.

“I played keyboard and guitar through primary school and high school. It’s pretty funny actually. My dad always played guitar too and when I was younger my brother and I shared a guitar. So dad used to set a timer and make up practice every night for half an hour. I always used to do the full half-hour, but my brother admitted to me not all that long ago that he used to cheat and skip some of the practice time!”

Tori also began song writing at a young age. From the age of 14 she first began to learn how to play the songs she knew from the radio. She then understood the idea of being able to sing and play at the same time, and then create her own chords, melody and eventually lyrics.

“[Song writing] came from a ‘I want to try that’ part of me. Once I learnt that I could do it, I wanted to do it. Nowadays, I will definitely start with chords or a rhythm- it’s got to have a colour to it. The lyrics I’ll write as I progress with the chords. With ‘My Head’, I wrote the first verse, then the rest of the song just predicted itself into the next section. My songs are often written together. It’s rate that I’ll write just the lyrics, or just the music, by themselves. That’s why I have so many unfinished songs because I get to a point where I feel that I can’t continue with them.”

And unlike many other artists, she finds herself writing songs for others rather than herself. Once again, ‘My Head’ happens to be the exception.

“I come from a place of unintentionally comforting others. It’s about me reflecting back to others about how they should feel about or sense themselves and trying to help them; give them hope. I try to write from a hopeful perspective rather than a dark place because I don’t like to send my audience there, not do I want to sit their either. The inspiration for ‘My Head,’ came to me after disagreement I had with somebody. You know when you’re in the heat of the moment having a big argument with somebody and they tell you that you’re making up things? It’s called ‘gas lighting,’ and it makes you question your own sanity. I’d never written anything with this sort of sound or feel before, but I enjoyed the percussiveness of the vocal and writing it in that way.”

With such an intense passion for the words she writes, and also how she conveys them, there is no surprise that Tori’s biggest musical inspirations range from Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, to John Mayer and Jason Mraz.

“My music is very rhythmically and lyrically driven. To put it into a specific genre is hard- maybe it’d be singer-songwriter? But some of my songs borderline onto folk and some have a soul vibe to them. I really like it that way though.”

Tori’s debut single ‘My Head,’ was released on July 7. Despite it being the first single she’s released, she doesn’t expect herself to dwell on it before she brings out more music. The Real Songwriters Live #5, an event she’s very much looking forward to, will act as a ‘semi-launch’ of sorts for it.

“I released the video for it last Friday, but I’m looking at getting another single out in a couple of months. I want to push out back to back singles until the end of the year and then release my debut EP early next year. I want to get as much of my music out there as soon as I can. I’m really excited to perform it at The Real Songwriters Live Show #5 too. Working with Jena has been amazing, and everything she’s done has been so crazy helpful. My brain can’t imagine what Wick Studios is going to look like on the night because I’ve only been there before for rehearsals, but I’m guessing it’s going to be awesome. It feels almost inclusive to be working with the RSOM team!”

Tori is one of the featuring artists at The Real Songwriters of Melbourne Live Show #5 on July 22nd at Wick Studios. Tickets are $15 at the door. You can view more information about the event here.

Tori Dunbar

You can check out more of Tori on
Facebook | Soundcloud | Website

Written by Jordyn Hoekstra 

Natalie Nish

“I’ve always been a little bit weird, a little bit different. It can really set you apart. It’s so important to embrace being different rather than let it hinder you.”

Growing up in a Christian family and raised on Star Trek with her two brothers, and her two ducks, Natalie Nish comes from a musical family. A singer for a mother, and a local radio presenter for a father, singing, music and performing was always a part of her childhood and has since transcended into her adulthood. And despite looking at the pop genre as one that is heavily influential on her own career, she admits she was sheltered from most pop music as a child. From the likes of the Backstreet Boys, to the Spice Girls, to Stacie Orrico and Ed Sheeran- she appreciates pop’s structured way of writing when it comes to writing her own music.

“I love Ed Sheeran. I love his writing style and how he puts so much into a small amount of space without making it seem rushed. I love Stacie Orrico too, her voice and her style of singing is amazing. Her writing I haven’t looked into too much, but I noticed some of the songs she has recorded, she wrote back when she was 14 or 15.

 “I’ve always been told that it’s really important to describe your music, in case you want to change labels or something. But I’m really not sure- I guess honest and quirky. And probably heavily pop-influenced, especially in structure.”

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Similarly to Stacie, Natalie’s song writing career took off from a young age. From singing in the Church, to writing songs to sing to her younger brother, Natalie’s music and song writing abilities are still evolving, and always growing.

“I shared a room with my little brother as a kid and I remember always singing songs about fairies or something, just to help him sleep. A couple of years ago my dad found a cassette tape of songs I had written and sung when I was about ten. It’s always been there and I’ve always wanted to be a creator. Having a passion for music and wanting to create things kind of just came together into what it is now.

“For a very long time, I really wasn’t great. Even before I started studying it, I’d have ten songs I’d written at a time but I never wanted to show them to anyone, because I didn’t understand that it was okay to have bad songs. I then learnt that the most important thing is to just write, and write, and write. If you have crappy ones that come out, that’s fine- it’s just a part of the learning process and you can drop them. Once I found that mindset, it really opened up a lot more for writing. I’m still getting there though, I still try to challenge myself. I find I don’t write overly complicated chord structures or anything, so I’m trying to branch out more there.”

With years of experience and a progressive attitude, Natalie finds that her writing methods are not always typical. She admits that she won’t write a song until she has all the pieces ready to go, and will put them all together before fixing it up, rather than building up the song bit-by-bit. A lot of her lyrics come to her unexpectedly, or very much in the moment.

“I might be out somewhere and think of a word or lyric and write it down on a notepad, or I’ll be sitting at home and go back to those points later. I try to write things metaphorically a lot because otherwise I feel like I’m not doing justice to what I’m trying to say. Sometimes I’ll have my phone on record and just play around and sing whatever I feel like singing at the time, and then touch base with it later. If there’s anything I liked I’ll do it again, and then it’ll progress from there. It’s always the start of the song that’s the hardest part, afterwards you can just work on tidying everything up and making the structure more suitable. If I decide to write a song, it’s because I’ve already got all the pieces there to put it all together.”

As with her writing process, Natalie’s inspiration often comes in the moment. If she finds a particular event or emotion affecting her, she will write about it. And yet whilst most of her work is about herself and her relationships, she often finds herself wanting to write about the bigger picture- even if it is more of a challenge to do so.

“Every now and then, there’ll be topics or issues that are heavy on my heart and I’ll want to write about them, but sometimes they’ll be such a big deal that I don’t know how to write about them. I tried to write a song about homelessness a little while ago, and I’m currently debating whether or not I revisit it and write it a little bit better. Maybe to get some more knowledge about it before I go back into it.”

An evolving songwriter, Natalie is always looking for new opportunities to progress herself and show the world what she’s made of. Having only ever recorded in Melbourne, she’s been given the opportunity to record her next single in Sydney- which she says has been the highlight of her career so far.

“I contacted this songwriter in Sydney called Jeremy Fowler, whose sound I really liked. His manager said he’d be happy to work with me on my next song, so I’ll get to work with him in Sydney and get the song done. That was really exciting.”

Natalie launched her debut single ‘I’ll Leave You With This’ on June 9th. The single was premiered by The Real Songwriters of Melbourne thanks to The Backline Project. You can check out her live interview here and acoustic live performance.

You can listen to it here.

Check out Natalie Nish on
Facebook | Website | YouTube

Written by Jordyn Hoekstra

L A C U N A

Singer, songwriter and composer Tamara Violet Partridge opens up about loss, recovery and her transition from classical to electronica under the new project name LACUNA.

‘Recovery’, LACUNA’s debut EP showcases Tamara’s talents as a songwriter and artist in the electronica genre, however, she admits that this wasn’t always her path. Having resided in Melbourne her entire life, the 22-year-old discovered her passion for music at the mere age of seven. After being told she was too small to play the trombone, she took up the flute which has driven a love for both woodwind instruments and classical music ever since.

‘I wasn’t good at anything else, I suppose. I didn’t come from a musical family, but my whole family loved music. They were always playing records or going to live shows, so they’ve always supported me. They never told me I couldn’t do music, which has had a really big impact.’

Not only is Tamara writing, recording and performing as LACUNA, she runs her own business composing music for film and games. The multi-talented musician, who also plays guitar, teaches instrumental piano, woodwind and voice lessons to students.

‘I didn’t get into composition until I was about 16, after being diagnosed with chronic tendonitis in my wrists, which caused me trouble playing music.’ 

This would’ve been enough for most people to throw it all in, however, not Tamara. After the loss of her father, music became her only escape. It wasn’t enough to give up just because she couldn’t follow her original plan of becoming a concert pianist or flautist.

‘I found composing and the use of technology a much better avenue and I was actually able to do it. So I went to university to study composition, film and sound design and began performing again. I could still play a lot of jazz and soul on the piano, just no longer for eight hours a day. This seems like a lot but that’s what is required of you to become a professional.’

 Despite no longer having the same classical-based focus she once had, she believes that her background has been beneficial in all areas of her work. Along with composing, Tamara began writing songs at the age of 10. Coming from a music loving family, her influences growing up ranged from Black Sabbath and Cat Stevens, to Frank Sinatra and the Eagles. There were a few particular songwriters from the electronic genre, however, that caught her eye.

‘My influences in song writing go all the way back to women including Delia Darbyshire, Daphne Oram and Wendy Carlos [prominent in the early/mid 1900s]. These women were pioneers in electronic music at a time where it was such a battle for women to partake in any industry, let alone something creative.”

And while she isn’t afraid to admit that her writing is driven by emotion, she aims for her music to create awareness about taboo subjects.

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‘My music comes down to stories and what I want to talk about. And what I want to talk about a lot of the time is making taboos not taboo. So that people don’t feel so isolated, judged or separated because they’ve experience something others haven’t. This generates a negative emotion around the situation rather than honouring the peripherals that we feel.’

The individuality of her music can only be constructed by the methods, or lack of methods, she uses in her song writing. Tamara acknowledges that song writing is different from multimedia composition, which is often formulaic.

‘I can’t tell sometimes [the way in which she writes]. It depends on the song. Sometimes it’s the melody, sometimes it’s the harmony and sometimes it’s the beat that comes first. The melody and lyrics always play into each other, however. I find that melody is the sonorous aspect of portraying what the words are saying. You might have three words for the entire song but it can be really powerful with the right ‘rise and fall’ of melodic content.’

Debuting her new project LACUNA in May with the launch of the EP ‘Recovery,’ Tamara was able to use her emerging passion for electronic music to push past the grief that is associated with loss. She created ‘Recovery,’ focusing on “five stages of grief” and the desire to make death a less taboo subject. As a result, she felt an entire album was unnecessary to encapsulate her feelings.

‘It [the death of loved ones] kind of happened really early for my family and me. People say “oh my goodness, that must’ve been awful” and it’s like “yeah, but I’m alright now. It’s going to be alright because this happens to everyone.” And the more we just keep going, it won’t be a huge burden where you can’t handle life.’

Each song in the EP explores an element of the grief and heartbreak Tamara went through and the progression of coming to realise the accepting her experience was the only way to move forward.

‘It’s a progression from “Anomalous,” which is about being in a state where you can’t have an attachment to anything but yourself and the experience of being an anomaly to yourself. Then is “Epiphany,” where I have recognised that this is an issue and I need an awakening in which I can realise how I can get out of this. It depicts the idea that the more you look for something, the less you are to find it. The third track “Isthatall” is the realisation that emotions are valid. Validation was really important to me.’ 

In the final two tracks, “Fleshandbone” and “Atomically,” Tamara recollects her experience, the underlying anger that later arose and the ability to think metaphysically. It was “Atomically” that concluded her journey of realising that acceptance is required before moving on.

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Tamara will be launching the single “Shake + Bake,” under LACUNA at the Revolver Bandroom on October 28 with special guests. You can buy tickets on their website.

Check out LACUNA on:
Facebook | InstagramSpotify

Written by Jordyn Hoekstra.