“There’s two kinds of blues: happy blues and then sad blues… blues is sort of a mixed-up thing. You just have to feel it. Everything I do sing is part of my life.” – Billie Holiday (1957)
Anybody who knows me or who has followed me as a singer knows that I love to sing ballads: love songs and sad songs. I am drawn to these songs because I love to sing what I feel. For me the most important part of a song is the lyric. I cannot sing well a song with lyrics that have no resonance for me. The blues have a resonance for me and when I perform blues, I hope people who have felt down or depressed, downtrodden or angry, betrayed or hurt, remember those times that have passed or which still linger and feel a bit better. After all, there’s no fun being blue alone and, as my friend entertainer Ross Vegas once reminded me, “When you have the blues, there’s nothing better than the blues!”
It took nearly two years, but my dream of performing at the Perth Blues Club became a reality on Tuesday October 7th 2014. The desire to perform there came to me late one night as I sat admiring the club’s glowing neon blue logo through their website. Most of my career as a singer I had never delved into blues music per se but I had sung many emotionally heavy bluesy songs. Diving into the blues genre is thrilling.
Two singers who really speak to me through their work in blues are Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, and Nina Simone. Since hearing the haunting, fragile, life-worn and fry-heavy vocals of Lady Day on Lady In Satin (1958) as a teenager, I have been mesmerised by her work. As a racially-aware political adult, the hard-edged, spunky, anger-fuelled blues of Nina Simone began to appeal to me. Through hearing Norah Jones perform “Drown In My Own Tears” and “You Don’t Know Me,” I became a fan of Ray Charles. However, putting together a blues band for a show turned out harder than I expected.
In the end, my cabaret Like Blown Smoke turned out to be the catalyst for adding blues songs to Mint Jazz Band’s repertoire. In it, I finally had the opportunity to sing a lot of blues. Artists, musicians, creative of the world, if you want to succeed in your craft and in your work, create work that you can be proud of, work that excites you. Our lives end in a second so use your life to create and be a part of moments that make you happy. If you are a struggling expressionist try turning face-painting jobs into works of expressionist art. If you are a fantasy fiction writer working in data entry, find a way to only enter data part-time. If you are a rock god guitarist stuck playing military marches, find a way to leave! You will be happier performing and creating work you truly feel.
Don’t get me wrong, I still perform and feel jazz and pop music. But for a few great nights DownStairs at the Maj, and one night I’ll never forget at what is recognised by many national and international acts as “the best Blues Club in Australia,” I was my own brand of the jazzy blues man. I am proud to write that on my inaugural night at the Perth Blues Club, my band and I received three encores!
Like Blown Smoke
Seven lucky months since my last blog post and I am determined to make 2014 a year of poetic and singing success. On New Year’s Eve 2013 I printed the first draft copy of my 50 poem manuscript “The Fledgeling Poems or Like Thought Before Movement.” This places me just one step closer towards getting my first poetry collection published; a project I have been working towards for eight years now. In seven days, one of Perth’s most prestigious entertainment venues will announce I will be part of their 2014 season. Join me on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date with my upcoming announcements.
Highlights of the last seven months:
“Like Blown Smoke,” my first original song (I wrote the melody and lyrics) was launched on Twin Cities Radio FM. Produced by James Abbot and inspired by the chord progressions of AfroKingz rapper Derrick Chella, “Like Blown Smoke” is available through iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and my Triple J Unearthed profile. It is the first song I have proudly registered with the Australian Performing Rights Association. I am currently working with Abbot on a new original song, inspired by Mary J. Blige and Lauryn Hill, called “Burn Bright Tygers.”
Mint Jazz Band has been very successful over the last half year. Our double bassist Malcolm Mah married in spring and our drummer Chris Marquand married this autumn! I was honoured to be chosen by Mah to perform “In Your Eyes,” an original song he penned for his bride, at his wedding reception, and to sing the first dance song – a swing version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – for Marquand’s! In addition, we have been over-the-moon every time we are chosen to entertain at clients’ weddings (thank you brides and grooms and Perth Professional Entertainment Services), charity events (SolarisCare’s Red Sky Ride Appreciation Night, Mondo Community Warriors’ Lifeline Fundraising Brunch, Playlovers Theatre Hills Bushfire Fundraiser), council events (Town of Cambridge, City of Perth, Town of Victoria Park), and stylish restaurants (the Naked and Wild Fig Cafes).
You are looking at my first self-produced Photoshop gig poster. I hope you can make it to our third Ellington gig! It will be the second cabaret style show I perform this year. The first was “Spring Valentine” – a romance themed mini-cabaret I performed for the City of Perth’s Holly Wood Tuesday Morning Show at the Perth Town Hall. These will not be my last! 😉
RUDE Agency has taken us on as one of its clients and Events & Beyond made my personal dream of performing on the Forest Place stage at the Twilight Hawkers Markets a reality. E&B also booked us to perform at the City of Perth’s Home Growers Market. I am also happy to declare that we will perform at Jazz Fremantle this Mother’s Day! This will be Mint Jazz Band’s first Fremantle show. Thanks to the celebrated X-Wray Café, who have booked pianist Mark Cunniffe and I to play there every Monday in June, Fremantle may soon become our second musical home.
After many years of searching, I have finally found a supportive and knowledgeable singing teacher who helps develop my vocal technique, extend my range, and (most importantly) makes me feel comfortable and confident. Her name is Antonietta D’Elia. She is a classically trained Italian soprano and I am proud to work with her. In addition, I am still working closely with actress and singer Rhoda Lopez whose directorial and stage movement advice are brilliant. Stay tuned!
Check out these journals that contain my poetry! These represent the culmination of hard work and persistence. As explained in my previous post, Poetry New Zealand (NZ) and Lost Coast Review (USA) are international journals. I set myself a goal of sending poetry to international journals and my aspiration of being published more internationally has been successfully met. I cracked the UK market with publication in Strutco and entered the South-East Asian market with publication in Eastlit. Locally, Little Raven Press accepted one of my few erotic poems for publication, UWA’s Poet’s Corner featured one of my works, and Little Mozzie published one of my few love poems in the same issue as two of my favourite Australian poets: Bruce Dawe and Thomas Shapcott! I was also selected as Poet of the Month by Jackson for her journal Uneven Floor and was thrilled to read poems on Twin Cities Radio as well as for WA Poets Inc at the Beaufort St Festival late last year.
Melbourne continues to treat me with love: in Brief and GORE Magazine accepted poems for publication and to my immense delight, I was awarded first prize in the Right Now: Human Rights Poetry Competition for my poem “No Asians. Your Desire!” Finally, my poems about race have been getting published. Social Alternatives is set to publish “On Pauline Hanson’s Doorstep” and foam:e recently published “Guiding the Sheep.” I have also just signed off on proofs for two anthologies that will include a poem of mine: the 2014 Short and Twisted Anthology and The Stars Like Sand. Furthermore, the Peter Cowan Writers Centre Advanced Poetry Workshops have been exhilarating. I was also blessed to have my poetry mentor Dr Mary Ellen MacDonald and my poet friend Bron Bateman read my manuscript with their astute critical eyes to help me prune it further before I send it to publishers. A lot to be thankful for and a lot of hard work ahead so wish me luck!
Acting for the stage and screen has always appealed to me. Besides attending an FTI Screen Actors Boot Camp a few years ago, I also completed two Performing Arts units at Curtin University. This year, I attended a one day Acting Classes in Perth workshop and also had my first official on-screen acting role. Produced by the Health and Disability Services Complaints Office, I play an unhappy client of WA’s mental health service. My part starts at 05:10. 😉
Working at UWA has continued to provide opportunities for professional development. Creating e-modules, running LMS Moodle training classes, and co-ordinating the transformation of the School’s medical specimen museum into a Pathology Education and Learning Centre keep me busy Mon-Fri 9-5pm.
On the freelance journalism front, I made my UWA News author debut and penned another article for MeDeFacts. In addition, I was again selected as a Fringe Festival reviewer. What I most look forward to, however, is being featured in the local newspapers again. Two recent examples below. Fingers crossed that there will be more to come!