It was during a gig I played recently.. In fact during a break. I was chatting with a new face in the audience about who I was and how I came to be playing piano and singing for dollars.. She said Wow that's unusual and inspiring.. I think she was just flirting with me :) ..
But it got me thinking, the pathway I took into this music biz is a bit unusual.. And perhaps inspiring for folks who think it's too late to learn new tricks or it's too late to try.. :) Ya just gotta give it a crack regardless of what it is. :)
I'm new to this game or this industry and by new I mean it was June2015 that I decided to put the tools down and trade climbing through hot roofs and under floors and dodging wildlife ;) as an outback electrician, for something different like playing piano and singing in front of people.
I did have a few piano lessons as a kid and got to grade 1 which meant I could read dots but thats about all.. Through the rollercoaster of Teen life I was an unskilled labourer working farms and mines and at 22 years of age I suffered a sever back injury which changed things quite a bit.. Like walking and general movement.
24 hours of pain 7 days a week for months on end.. Doctors were saying they can't operate for the extent of damage and that things were only going to get worse over time. My Sanity was being tested.
I loved working with my hands but this little donkey was broken and amidst all the pain and sleepless nights the brain had to try and think up ways of surviving..
Sedentary was my new life and depression followed with it. I saw my future as rather ordinary. Anyway I needed a distraction from myself so I bought a digital piano and rigged up an interesting sitting arrangement and started escaping into the challenge of relearning how to play.. It was one of the most successful escapisms that helped keep my mind from wondering and wandering into darker places.
As the years passed, life was a roller coaster of good days and bad .. The injury would subside for a little while then with a sneeze or a cough in the wrong direction it would have me back in a sleepless bed for weeks and months at a time.. These were the times that the Piano would get dusted off to sooth my endurance.
20 years on , good years and bad years. Having studied things, travelled the world with a pile of pain killers and finding jobs that I could do during my less painful periods..
As much as I enjoyed playing the piano, working in a Job and contributing to something gave me a whole lot more meaning in life.. Job satisfaction is a powerful soul cleanser.
Indeed 20 years on, the piano was more of a closet secret than anything and singing?, well that was more left for the bathroom or on long drives.. That was until Kununurra..
I had started an Electrical contracting company in Kununurra and was enjoying the fruits of my successes. It was hard work in a hot place and mind numbing at times negotiating between regulations ad client desires but with gaining a number of government contracts and seeing the company operate on all cylinders it became clear that the Electrical trade could be considered a financial safety net.. It was the first financial safety net that I built with my own two hands.. And the first safety net that I could fall back on if any new ventures went awry.
Here's a link to an ABC story of a little electrical adventure I had that involves emus in Kununurra 2014
Kununurra is quite a geographically isolated town and amazingly I found quite a lot people who's interest in playing Music was quite high and what surprised me even more was the levels of musicianship of these people.
Many a nights I jammed with and learned heaps from new friends of all age groups and various musical backgrounds from backyard enthusiasts to retired professionals.. All still possessing a love in playing music and a desire to pass on knowledge and tips.
Before Kununurra my piano playing was more or less shutting my eyes and letting my fingers discover some nice sounds.. I didn't even really know which chords were what or how to read a key in the staff.
I made friends in town quite easily there are a lot of friendly people in Kununurra and how the singing came to be was an invite to sing at the local christmas choir. It was my introduction to the jittery exposure nerves of singing in front of folks ..
I swallowed a lot of gumption with the help of a few cold beverages and by the time of performing with the choir I'd gained some comfort in my voice and performing in front of others. It was safe to know I was singing with other folks too so if I did make a mistake it was sort of jumbled into the mix..
From the secret jam sessions to the choir and a few other nerve racking performances I was asked by the manager of the country club if I could play piano for Sunday sessions . Fully paid of course..
She only wanted me to play piano in my twiddly style to add some ambience, which I felt was cool but I used this opportunity as a motivator for me to learn a few songs end to end. I didn't know a single song from end to end neither to play and especially to sing.
Indeed I asked a girl from the choir to join me at the country club so I could concentrate on the piano as she sang. We practiced a little and came up with a few nice songs.. Her voice was awesome so her being there helped give me confidence to say yes and go ahead with a few gigs..
Over the course of a few months we worked together on songs, slowly adding to the set list and intermittently I would also sing.. As my confidence grew my singing content grew. As the wet season approached the tourist numbers dwindled and they were the main audience so the gig at the country club came to a seasonal close..
I was still doing electrical work at this time and as the wet season approached that work also dropped off .. So, I decided to do a little research on the music industry and see if it might be viable to make music a full time occupation. I packed my Sparkies van and headed south along the West Coast of W.A .
Knocking on doors and speaking with outlet managers and musicians alike , I made notes and started sketching an idea about how it all works..
It would be six or seven months before returning to Kununurra and boy did i learn some new tricks and make some cool contacts over that time..
I slowly wound back the Electrical business to close friends only and continued researching the music industry. Bingo, Darwin was hosting a music business seminar that provided info about the Music Industry at a professional level.. So in the van I went.
Wow it was a great eye opener but even after the seminar I still hadn't decided to put my tools down and pursue music as a career.
I spent about 3 weeks in Darwin. It gave me 1 week before the seminar and 1 week after to do my usual rounds of door knocking and asking questions. Getting involved in a few local music gigs like open mics and jams etc..
I got back to Kununurra and was juggling with all this new information and then within a week I get a call from an outlet I had visited they wanted me as their resident musician ..
It took me a month to tie up some loose ends and pack my tools away.. Its June 2015 and the journey of music begins..
Over the past year I have secured a number of residencies, Have played some awesome gigs and have bought an old bus as my new mobile home. Inside have built a recording studio to start down the path of producing Albums of which I have my first "Silhouettes of Song #1". This website is also on that list of achievements and there are many more things that are too numerous to list...
I won't kid you, its not easy, its a lot of work in preparation, practice and learning curves. I probably spend more time in preparation for the music business than I ever did for the electrical business ..
Some folks say " at least you are doing what you love" which is true enough but I've seen many a musician who have lost that passion of music because the business end of putting bread on the table is more involved than what most folks believe or prepare for..
Musicians really need the support of outlets , audiences and people.. Its win, win,win if it all goes to plan.. The audience gets to hear some nice music, the venue makes a profit from increased patronage and the entertainers get paid enough to cover costs not only for the gig but also for preparations and living in general.
Music is a beautiful language and it serves my soul with riches beyond measure. I certainly hope that as you listen to my music you feel every thread of heart and soul that binds it together for you for your pleasure.
I've written this Nov 17 2016. The journey continues.. It will be interesting to see what good things the next year brings.. :)
Take Care , Travel Safe and if you've read all the way to here.. You are awesome. :)
Musician: Murry Rhodes
Musical Rodeo, Hanging on for dear Music :)
MAY 2017 Update.. As simple as life is , we sometimes miss how complex, simplicity really is :D .
December to May Recap
I guess my last significant event marker in this music adventure that you might remember was the release of my 1st Album. “ Silhouettes of Song” #1 . I produced it mainly because I was being asked by members of my audience if I had a CD to sell and since I was a
musical infant at this stage my answer was no. I felt that I had do something to change that “no” into a “yes” and so given my remote living conditions and a lack of
available funds I decided to build a studio in a bus and do my best to record what I could as best I could with what I had and what I knew which all in all wasn’t much.. Hence SOS 1 was born and so now when asked if I have a CD for sale the Answer is “yes”.. Yay !
At a small fee I was able to get the album published online.. The Album got a few good music magazine reviews so this mind of added a new card to the deck so to speak. Added a little colour to my perspective of the music I’ve ben tinkering with.
In January 2017 I had recorded the songs for the second album using the same method as I’d used for the first album and it was only days before releasing it that by chance I had use of a friend’s stereo system to listen to what I was about to release. I heard audible things in it that I felt needed polishing a little and so began an intense 4 months of digging deeper into the technology and methods of making clearer piano sounds.. It was a frustrating cat and mouse game of trying many many things , learning about the recorded body of sounds and how to polish noise.. Eventually I was confronted with a reality that without use of a Gazillion dollar studio and a team of technicians to work it then recording a simple, nice, clear piano sound was going to be matter of compromise.. I’m writing this May 9th 2017, I’m confident that I’ve done all that I can with the resources I have to produce a slightly nicer sound in my recordings so now I need to record a new batch of songs for the second album which I’m hoping to do over the next month or two..
I’ve come to the decision to make the Silhouettes albums exclusively recorded in the bus and these will provide a nice selection of songs that I play in my live gigs.. I’m not sure how many SOS albums will emerge but I have about 300 songs to record so I guess only time will tell..
Moving away from the recording component of life.. I have been gigging on a regular basis and adding songs and fine tuning my vocals.. Creating new methods for faster learning of cover songs and even applying these notation methods for writing a few originals..
My latest song writing project was for ANZAC day just gone 25th April 2017.. I was asked by some of the RSL boys who make up one of my regular audiences if I could learn a few songs to perform on the Friday night prior to ANZAC day. I agreed so I
pulled out my finger and sat in my bus for two weeks solid, finding and researching some songs for the lads.. It was at this time that I decided to write a song about Grandad’s involvement in WW1 and so to add a little extra pressure onto myself I strived to learn the songs for the RSL boys and also write one of my own to perform on the same night.. The morning of the performance I printed off a final version of grandad’s song and played it for the lads.. Such a warm and fuzzy feeling when I got asked if grandad’s story could be used as a sermon for the ANZAC day ceremony..
A new local Darwin Magazine showed up to the gig and took some nice photos and posted an awesome little spread and blog online which was nice to get a little local recognition of being part of the local music community of the Darwin region. It kind of put me in front of a few more faces and quite possibly helped domino an opportunity that occurred shortly after.
I do have a few challenges in front of me at the moment one of which is figuring out ways to memorise songs so I can recall a song from memory and play it without the help of sheets or cues in front of me.. But I think the biggest challenge in front of me now is to really focus on is the old self promotion or promoting my product as a live performer and or recording artist.. I’m quite confident and capable of gaining small solo type gigs in bars, restaurants and resorts but I’d like to step it up to getting a number of festivals under my belt or perhaps even song competitions or one of those televised music shows.
Today is the 9th of May and on the nights of Friday the 5th and Saturday the 6th just gone I was playing keys in a band for Australia’s leading male country singer Adam Harvey.. The main gig was a performance at the Noonamah Roadhouse Rodeo.. It was a huge event with a capacity crowd.. Probably 3000-4000 folks.
I had a few hours of nosing around the rodeo prior to the performance and got to see a few kids on bucking ponies and the bigger kids on bucking bulls.. The bulls were impressive beasts , muscled, toned and their coats shone like trucks on a showcase floor room, all muscle.. The gates would open and the caller cries out the action. Each rider hanging on for the sport of it. 6 seconds the caller cries louder, holding on and riding that bull the crowd goes wild and then its done. In the air , the bull still bucking , the rider waiting to meet ground. Yup a performance of daring to dance with the inevitabull..
2 days after ANZAC day so the 27th April I get a Text that went something like this.. “2 gigs playing keys in a country band not much time to prepare are you interested?..” As you know, I’m a backyard self taught piano-man soloist singer bloke.. Had a dabble at playing keys for a band in a similar situation about a year ago for the Singing priest rev, Rob Galea. Fun, scraped by ok, but definitely out of my comfort zone, so it was time to give it another crack. I’d learned a few more tricks since a year ago so it was time to test my metal again and see what I could do in a band situation with what I’d learned.. It was time to put on the gloves and prepare myself for a musical bull ride of my own.
Due to my fairly isolated living choices I have very limited internet access and for me to read these files I had to go through that modern day domestic duty of upgrading all my software and apps which meant big data files loading at snails pace. It wasn’t until Monday the 1st that I was finally able to access the music files and chord notes so I had 4 days to learn some stuff.. 17 songs, most of which I was very unfamiliar with. They were mainly toe tapping yehah country songs which were fun to listen to and the fairly constant swinging beats made it easy enough to apply some of my boogie licks to the tunes. 4 Days solid trying to translate songs into a language I could use on stage and make some music happen. A rehearsal on the Thursday night prior. Met most of the band and got a bit of the gist of what was going on and in the mean time realised just how big a country singer Adam Harvey was and the level of music that was about to happen. Adam was to be flying in a few hours before the first gig.. This country music gig was becoming a truck on a show room floor, all muscle.. I felt like what I imagine those Bull riders felt as they stood on the railing just before taking a seat on the back of the bull. To be honest I was just hoping my floaties had enough air in them to keep me afloat at these depths.
Friday came, the first gig at the Pint Club. Met the stage crew, helped set up and then Adam and his Entourage arrived for a sound check. Good blokes all round.. The bull was in its cage getting ready for a rider to climb on board.. As performance time got closer , I saw the other performers glazing in preparation. A look, a feeling, they looked the way I felt.. It was comforting in a way seeing these performers going into the trance like state of concentration that I often find myself in as a soloist.. Half an hour before the gig and then for an hour or so after its like a performance state of mind.. There’s stuff that you have to get done, and you have to get up and just do it and once its done its done..
Friday night was like the first trial run.. If you get past 6 seconds then you’re into the next round.. The gate was open and the first ride began.. 4 days of prep 17 songs , a little support jam and a little comedy on stage before Adam made his entrance.. I had no idea how this bull was gonna exit the gate or swing and swirl around when it finally got its buck on.. And what a wild little ride it was. As scared as I was to play, I remember a few moments when my legs were in the air as my fingers played a full boogie swing up the scales and right on time it was a whole big bundle of fun.
In the instant it seemed like hours passing but by the time it was all over it seemed like seconds and after a few calming beers it was all done..The crowd was well pleased. The first ride past the mark , I was happy with how some of my licks fit the music and now I had the next day to try and polish a few more moves.
In the morning I woke up, coffee on the griddle or some such thing, piano on and music files open. Where, when , what and how. a few little musical scribbles with a pen and then trying to figure out where research and reality met. The gloves on, preparation done it was time to go.
The tropical desert had spoken, a little cloud but no rain and the odd flying ant or two million. Cowboy hats and young guns, balloons and mechanical Bulls this was rodeo and folks were here in droves.. Two semi truck trailers side by side was our stage. A late start for the band but the sound crew were on the job.. Lights camera action the kids on ponies and cowboys on bulls. The bull dust and beer rose on the horizon. The caller cried out 6 seconds and the crowd would roar, 6 seconds every few minutes as we set up on stage and then waited.. It was time to pull the gate. The stage was lit, the mics were buzzing and by this time the crowd, well watered and yehawing to see their country singer super star Adam strut his stuff. Smiles from here to Christmas, Boot scootin’ high falootin’ downright tootin’ country music cranked out and the crowd kicking heels, sweeping stones and jumping up and down this was a full on Beer, Bulls n Bundy country event... Yehaw..
The Bull was out, 6 seconds had passed and the crowed roared , the band played on. A few bucks and swirls and unexpected foot holds but the grip was as loose as it was tight and finally we were in the air waiting for the ground and it was done, The bull ridden, the songs sung, another bundle of fun and a job well done... There was that familiar sensation of what seemed like hours on stage seeming like only seconds once the job was done.. The buzz continued as the crowd slowly dissolved leaving the venue to the pack up and clean up crew.. We packed up.. Buzzed.. it was 3 am by the time I left and the next day was the after after party..
The After Party
A Fishing charter on the waters around Darwin... It was a wind down from the buzz. A realisation that the Bulls we each rode were our own bulls ridden in our own ways.. It was deep water for me and somehow I managed to have had enough air in my floaties to keep afloat and keep riding..
We fished and drank and drank and fished and it was the first day since getting that text oh so long ago that the business of music was put aside and replaced with getting to know the folks who I just went on this ride with.. A great bunch of folks.. :)
Yup , years ago when I used to watch T.V I kept hearing folks talk about their journeys in music..
I get it now.. :) Bull rides, Boat rides and getting chucked in the deep end thats a cool journey. Great stuff..
I can’t wait for the next adventure to happen.. I wonder what it will be ?.. :D
Anyway I hope you enjoyed this diary post as much I enjoyed writing it and especially experiencing it. Take care and have a great day :)
The End. :)