Way back in 1998, at the youthful age of 14, I heard a song on CMT, the chorus of which embedded deeply into my memory. The words, as I remember, still ring clear to me today:

Love is like a cane fire
Your love is like a cane fire at night
Love it like a cane fire
Sugar burning, sugar burning

Unfortunately I didn’t catch any details of the band, but I figured it wouldn’t be so difficult to track down. Boy… how wrong could I have been? I never imagined it would lead me on a 25 year-long quest.

Finally, after two and a half decades of repeated googling, asking radio stations, flicking through countless CD’s at record stores, searching all over the web in online forms and social media, I managed to track it down!

This is the story of how I was reunited with Cane Fire by Strum. Written by Timo Tolvanen (a.k.a. Tim Withano), and produced by Glenn Heaton, it was released in 1997 on Strum’s EP, Distant Rain.

I hope you enjoy Cane Fire as much as I do.

You can find more info about Tim Withano here:

Tim’s Website

And thanks also to Daimon Martin for the footage of the cane fire! Find him around the web here:


Earlier today I trawled YouTube for cover versions of Australia’s other national anthem, You’re The Voice by John Farnham.

Known & loved by (almost) all Australians as one of the quintessential Aussie songs of all time, it featured as the lead single from Farnham’s hit record from 1986, Whispering Jack, which to this day remains the highest-selling album in Australian music history.

My discovery of one cover version on Youtube led to another, which led to another three; each of them leading to at least another six… basically, the song is so epically awesome that I spent a great couple of hours coming up with a huge list of my favourite (and not-so-favourite) studio recordings, remixes, reality TV performances, a cappella versions and amateur videos, which I shall share with y’all right here.

So here it is – the highlights of You’re The Voice on Youtube!


We begin with…

The original & the best: John Farnham

Now’s your chance to refamiliarise yourself with this classic Aussie film clip, a masterpiece from the mid-80’s. What a splendid profile Farnsey had back in the day. What a mullet. And don’t you love those bagpipes?


The best solo multitrack version: Matt Mulholland

Matt’s talent for the multitrack video shines through in his stirring Youtube portrayal.


The best mashup: Ben NCM (Lorde vs John Farnham)

I never would have picked Royals to fit so well with You’re The Voice.


The best rock opera version: Kate Miller-Heidke

Kate Miller-Heidke nails it with her classically-trained operatic voice. Farnsey himself would most likely need surgery to reach some of the notes she does.


The best foreign language version: Lavrenths Maxairitsas

In 1993, Greek artist Lavrenths Maxairitsas recorded a cover of You’re The Voice translated entirely into his mother tongue, called Rixe Kokkino Sth Nixta.


The best metal version: Redrum

Keeping with the Greek theme, this melodic hard rock band from Greece teamed up with a German vocalist to record a killer version of You’re The Voice. Check out the deathly guitar solo in lieu of the bagpipes.

A side-note: Redrum is Murder spelt backwards. How fucking metal is that shit?


The second best metal version: Forever Never

With a slightly more Farnham-esque vocal style than that of Redrum, Forever Never still manage to double-kick some heavy metal Farnesy arse.


The best acoustic cover: Ryan Inglis

Youtube is home to a hell of a lot of You’re The Voice acoustic covers. This is of one of the few that stopped me in my tracks as soon as I heard the opening chord. Simply beautiful.


The best swing version: John Farnham himself

Farnham included a studio recording of the Swing Version on his Anthology 3 album, but I was stoked to stumble across this live version of it, recorded at a 1997 Crown Casino concert.


The best reality TV performance: Dami Im (Australian X-Factor, 2013)

Despite Ronan Keating not being a fan, I thought Dami Im brought a true sense of style and sophistication to You’re The Voice. A fantastic effort in front of the live X-Factor audience.


The worst reality TV performance: the cast from Dutch X-Factor, 2010

Just no.


The best a capella version: Club For Five

Possibly the most phenomenal act to ever come out of Finland. If this doesn’t give you chills down your spine, I don’t know what will.


The second best a capella version: Montezuma’s Revenge

Holland claim back some brownie points in the form of this gorgeous performance by Montezuma’s Revenge.


Yet another a capella version: Perfect Tripod

Eddie Perfect & Tripod team up to form the aptly-named Perfect Tripod. I can’t get the “Johnny Farnham, oh Johnny Farnham” hook out of my head.


The best home-recorded cover: Awsa

Awsa is so adorable! She performs with such vigour and humour… dammit, she makes me want to reach through the screen and give her a massive high-five! I love the unique form of percussion – and there’s even a bagpiper 😀


The second best home-recorded cover: The Royce Twins

Aussie X Factor heartthrobs The Royce Twins don’t disappoint with some mighty powerful harmonies in this home-recorded cover of YTV.


The best remix: Houseplayerz vs Pulsebass

All that’s missing are the strobe lights & pills.


The best classical crossover version: John Miles (from the Night Of The Proms, 2004)

Held yearly through many European countries, Night Of The Proms is a series of concerts that bring together contemporary and classical elements with performances by popular artists. John Miles lives up to the promise in this rousing rendition of You’re The Voice.

And I couldn’t go past this other fantastic classical crossover version by the London Symphony Orchestra


The best parody: Julian Assange

In true Wikileaks style, “we’ve got to make things leak so we can get much bolder.”


The best live performance by a well-known band: Coldplay

Featuring Johnny Farnham himself, this collaboration from 2009’s Sound Relief concert at the Sydney Cricket Ground brought the house down.


The second best live performance by a well-known band: Heart

Heart recorded both a studio and live version of You’re The Voice – this live version featured on their 1991 album, Rock The House Live and reached #20 on the US rock charts.


The best performance by one of the actual songwriters: Chris Thompson

You’re The Voice was written by Andy Qunta (the keyboardist from Icehouse), Keith Reid (the songwriter for Procol Harum), Maggie Ryder (a backing singer for bands such as the Eurythmics & Queen) and Chris Thompson (a singer & guitarist with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band).

Thompson lent his vocal talents to a studio recording of the tune on an album called Rediscovery, created in collaboration with Norwegian guitarist Mads Eriksen – but here is a live version from 2007:


The weirdest version: Sam Westphalen

Sam Westphalen experiments with inward singing in this awkwardly intriguing cover of You’re The Voice. He’s a great guitarist, but to be honest I think any further forages into inward singing should be left solely with Tenacious D.


And finally…..

The best John Farnham performance: Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Like I said at the beginning: the original and the best.


Do you know of any other ripper versions of You’re The Voice that deserve a mention? Let me know in the comments if so!


I remember the day clearly. It was the 9th of Februrary, 2012 and I’d recently begun using Last.fm, a music recommendation service that takes note of the songs & artists you listen to and attempts to find other bands you might enjoy based on your listening patterns.

One of the first recommendations offered to me was a band I’d never heard of called Great Big Sea. The blurb on their Last.fm profile declared them to be a “Canadian folk-rock band from Newfoundland and Labrador, best known for performing energetic rock interpretations of traditional Newfoundland folk songs.” Straight away I was intrigued, given that I love the folk-rock genre and that they hailed from such a remote & faraway location you rarely hear about in the music world.

I quickly navigated to Youtube where I clicked through to one of their more recent releases, Nothing But A Song, an original tune from their 2010 album Safe Upon The Shore. It’s rare that a newly-discovered song resonates so well with me: I had a beaming smile on my face by the second bar and from the moment Alan Doyle’s captivating baritone made its passionate entrance, I can honestly say I was hooked.



I found the album on iTunes before the song had even finished. Over the next 49 minutes I embarked on one of the greatest journeys of musicianship and songwriting I’d been on – from the uplifting reflective opener of Long Life (Where Did You Go) to the hauntingly grievous title-track shanty that is Safe Upon The Shore; from the faith-restoring Good People to the comical cover of The Kinks’ Have A Cuppa Tea – and then there’s my personal favourite ballad, Yankee Sailor, the heartbreaking tale of a Canadian courtship torn apart by a wealthy & charismatic American seafarer, delivered with such an intensity and conviction that it brought shivers to my spine. These guys epitomised the type of music I loved.

And such began my musical love affair with Alan Doyle, Séan McCann and Bob Hallett, the mighty talented bunch of folk-rockers from the city of St John’s, Newfoundland who make up the core of Great Big Sea (that’s not to mention Darrell Power who retired in 2003, as well as Kris MacFarlane and Murray Foster who have been supporting members of the band since Darrell’s departure). Formed in 1993, the group today boast a discography of 9 studio albums (7 of which have made the top 10 in their home country), 3 live concert recordings, a plethora of singles and a lifetime’s worth of tour dates across Canada, the US and indeed the world.

Over the next six months or so I relished in getting my hands on the whole GBS back catalogue. I’d buy a new record of theirs on iTunes every couple of weeks and it never ceased to amaze me how each one held my attention and captured my imagination from start to finish. I was particularly impressed with how they were able to sustain such a positive, upbeat attitude while developing their musical style quite substantially over the years. They delivered a raw, traditional folk sound on their first few albums such as their self-titled Great Big Sea in 1993, Up in 1995, and 1997’s breakthrough record Play, before branching out to the more pop-inspired melodies of Sea Of No Cares and Something Beautiful in the early 2000’s.

They returned to their heritage in 2005, releasing an album entirely of traditional Newfoundland folk tunes called The Hard And The Easy. It’s been the greatest Great Big Sea discovery for me to date and it may just make the cut as my favourite album of all time. Each time I listen to it I feel richly immersed in Canadian maritime history made up of intertwining Irish, Scottish and French lineage; I’m transported to the ports, harbours and seaside communities along the Newfie coastline such as Tickle Cove, Harbour LeCou, Angle Pond & St John’s itself, and I’m carried away by stories of murderous captains, Arctic whalers, legendary horses and able young seamen both hard working & voyeuristic. Their two most recent albums Fortune’s Favour and the aforementioned Safe Upon The Shore yield a slightly more rock-influenced and heavily-produced characteristic which in my opinion, perfectly caps off nearly 20 years worth of recording.



Merely 2 months after first setting my ears upon Great Big Sea, I chanced to see in a local gig guide that they were about to embark on their first tour of Australia. I immediately booked a ticket and was lucky enough in April 2012 to catch their show at The Basement, an intimate venue in the heart of Sydney’s Circular Quay, where I was offered my first glimpse into exactly how energetic these guys really were in real life. Up until this point they were a barely-accessible folk band from the other side of the world, of whom I’d only ever heard a handful of recordings, but now here they were metres in front of me performing a killer set of in front of a devoted ex-pat Canadian audience. It was at that point I can say I officially became a devoted fan of Great Big Sea!

To give you an idea of exactly how much I’m into these guys, this is my graph of top 10 artists I’ve listened to since I began using Last.fm in early 2012, and the number of times I’ve played tracks by each of them:


LastFM Artists
I’ve only listened to them 2,146 times!


Crazy huh?! As you can tell, their music has taken up a large portion of my life over the past few years. I even recorded my own little cover version of Safe Upon The Shore, and I namechecked them in a song I wrote a few months ago called I Wish I Lived In Canada.

Earlier this year I did actually go through with the decision to leave behind my job, home and life in Sydney, and embark upon a new adventure in Canada, where I have since settled in Toronto. There were a number of reasons why I chose Canada above other destinations, but one of them was for the opportunity to see Great Big Sea perform to a local crowd within their home country. And on the 28th of November 2013 I succeeded in ticking off the #1 entry to my Canadian bucket list, after catching Alan, Séan, Bob, Murray and Kris play a sold-out show as part of their XX tour at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, around an hour east of Toronto.

It was an absolutely incredible performance that fulfilled my every wish, to the point where I couldn’t even sing along with the opening tunes Ordinary Day and The Chemical Worker’s Song because I was too overwhelmed 🙂

The one thing that strikes you about a Great Big Sea audience is that as soon as the band sets foot on stage, EVERYONE gets their arses up off their seat and claps/moves/dances/sings/screams their lungs out along with EVERY song. The vibe is indescribable, unlike any other show I’ve been to – and this is coming from a huge live music fan with very high expectations, having seen over 350 artists perform in my time.

I booked well in advance and as such, scored perfect seats in the centre of the auditorium, only 4 rows from the front of the stage. Highlights for me were Bob’s rousing a-capella rendition of Come And I Will Sing You, Alan’s kick-arse guitar solo in When I Am King, the chilling singalong harmonies of Séan’s classic, General Taylor, and the montage of fans projected onto the screen during the beautiful Good People. The two & a half hour show left not only me but the thousands-strong Oshawa crowd with a soul so uplifted that I doubt I’ll reach that level of musical contentment again for many years to come.


Great Big Sea - Oshawa 1
The boys during the first set of their Oshawa gig


Great Big Sea - Oshawa 2
The beautiful montage of fans projected onto the screen during Good People – Alan is up the back watching the show 🙂


Great Big Sea - Oshawa 3
Rock On


Great Big Sea - Oshawa 4
Waiting for the encore…


Great Big Sea - Oshawa 5
Murray, Kris and Alan during the encore


Only a couple of weeks ago, Séan announced that the XX tour will be his final with Great Big Sea. I’m extremely grateful I got to witness the GBS boys live in concert in Canada before Séan’s departure, and I wish him all the best with his upcoming endeavours.

I wanted to write this post not only to express my adoration for the band, but to hopefully inspire newcomers to check them out, and also as a way of saying a heartfelt thanks to each and every member of GBS over the years for giving us all the wonderful gift of music that truly changes lives for the better.

Whatever the future brings for Alan, Séan, Bob, Murray and Kris, one thing will remain for certain:

Great Big Sea fucking rock!



GBS Hoodie
Me after the show in my awesome new Great Big Sea hoodie 😀



Have you got a Great Big Sea story to tell? Where did you first hear of them and what do they mean to you? I’d love to hear from any likeminded fans – feel free to leave a comment below!


Like most people who have had the pleasure of watching Searching For Sugar Man, the Oscar-winning documentary about American folk/protest musician Sixto Rodriguez, I was left in awe of his astonishing life story. Although he found some brief success in Australia in the mid-70’s, he ultimately left behind a career in music after failing to sell records in his home country; humbly resorting instead to a life of construction work in downtown Detroit to provide for his young family.

Decades later he made the fateful discovery that a few of his records had been smuggled into South Africa during the course of the apartheid government, eventually leading him to not only become a household name throughout the country, but a superstar. His defiant, poetic lyrics on the trials and tribulations of life resonated so well with South Africans that he is often described as the soundtrack to the lives of an entire generation. In terms of popularity, he’s regularly compared with the all-time great musical acts such as Bob Dylan, Elvis and the Rolling Stones.

Trouble was, all through the 70’s and 80’s his South African fans had presumed he was dead, and Rodriguez himself had no knowledge whatsoever of his superstardom taking place on the other side of the world. The true magic of the Sugar Man story shines through once the connections finally come together in the post-apartheid 1990’s and the man who had all but given up hope in the music industry comes to the realisation that his music helped shape a nation.

I felt truly inspired and uplifted witnessing the narrative of this humble artist unfold throughout the documentary. I’ve since become a huge fan of his music and I hope for the chance to one day see him perform live. Thankfully the film generated so much media interest that mainstream success finally embraced him in his home country and throughout the rest of the world – I can’t think of many other musicians deserving of such recognition at long last.


Woke up this morning with an ache in my head,
I splashed on my clothes as I spilled out of bed,
I opened the window to listen to the news,
But all I heard was the Establishment’s Blues.

– “This Is Not a Song, It’s an Outburst: Or, the Establishment Blues”, from the album Cold Fact (1970)


My account of the Rodriguez story leads me to yesterday, where I spent 16 hours working at a North Sydney polling booth for the 2013 Australian Federal Election. I must state that I’m not very politically active and I’d been left fed up with the backstabbing negativity that saturated our TV screens and newspapers during the election campaign, however I was still very interested to be part of the election process and learn about how it all came together. It turned out to be a genuinely fascinating day getting to meet and hand out ballot papers to people from all over the district, followed by the excitement of sorting, tallying and phoning in the votes.

The most memorable moment of the day came after the polls had closed, about half an hour into sorting through the 1,600 or so House of Representative ballot papers. For those who may not know, these are small green sheets that contain the names of each candidate hoping to win a seat in parliament and represent their electorate; the voting public elect their member by numbering the candidates in order of preference. Six people ran for the North Sydney seat, including Raheam Khan, Joe Hockey, Alison Haines, Angus McCaffrey, Peter Hayes and Maureen Guthrie.

As the team sorted through the papers we made light of some of the informal votes where people had satirically nominated an entirely different candidate of choice. Somebody suggested “Judge Judy” as their #1 preference for North Sydney; another thought “Tom Petty” might be up for the job. Someone else wittily proposed “The Pub”.

Amid my pile of green papers I spotted one with a handwritten note at the bottom of the pre-printed list of candidates that looked a little bit like this:


Rodriguez for PM


To whoever filled this House of Representatives ballot form: you made me smile and I salute you for offering your (albeit informal) vote to this worthy candidate.

Rodriguez for Prime Minister! 


Here’s an acoustic recording of a little tune I’ve been working on over the past couple of weeks, dedicated to the gorgeous country that is Canada.

I’ve never even set foot onto it, but from what I’ve heard and from the people I’ve met who hail from its shores, it sounds like an incredible place.

In any case: travel + romance = perfect song inspiration for me 🙂

Maybe… just maybe… I’ll make it there someday?

(C) 2013 Dan Schaumann

I wish I lived in Canada
Cause everyone I know
From British Columbia
To Ontario

Has got this charm
Within their personality
I wish I lived in Canada
Yeah it’s the place for me

I wish I lived in Canada
The stories that they tell
Through their song and poetry
Imagination dwells

From guys like Hawksley Workman
To bands like Great Big Sea
I wish I lived in Canada
Their music is for me

I wish I lived in Canada
I’ll become a connoisseur
Of Nova Scotian Donairs
And of gravy chips with curd

And bottles of that syrup
Syphoned from the maple tree
I wish I lived in Canada
It tastes so very sweet

I wish I lived in Canada
That’s where I’ll find my girl
After all these travelling years
She’ll light up my world

In her cutest little accent
As we watch the northern lights
She’ll say to me “je t’aime”
And we’ll hold each other tight

I wish I lived in Canada
Where it snows at winter time
We’ll light the fire together
And we’ll dream by it at night

We’ll wake in each others arms
On our white Christmas day
When I find her in Canada
That’s where I’ll want to stay

I wish I lived in Canada
Cause when I find my girl
I’ve got this little plan
To surely lighten up our world

I’ll take her to the far east coast
A trip to St John’s town
I’ll hold her while the sun sets
And put one knee on the ground

I wish I lived in Canada
Cause everyone I know
From British Columbia
To Ontario

Has got this charm
Within their personality
I wish I lived in Canada
Yeah it’s the place for me

I wish I lived in Canada
Even though I’ve never been

Earlier this year I recorded a few lines for a song called Phase Of Mind by my mate silvabeats, a producer from my hometown of Townsville. Here’s the final product!

silvabeats is a recording artist from tropical Townsville, North Queensland, Australia. silvabeats produces music that is a unique mix of Hip Hop, Rock, Electronic, and Dance.

If you dig the tune, you should totally pay a visit to the silvabeats website where you can sample some of his other tracks: http://www.silvabeats.com. There are some free MP3 downloads, and you can also get your hands on a copy of his debut album, Aussie Kiss.

Check it out!

Merry In Merrylands: Winner of the Peoples Choice Award at the 2012 SydneyVision Song Contest!

Following Lady Gowrie Lookout, his SydneyVision entry from 2011 involving the north shore suburb of Kirribilli, Dan decided to venture west this year to discover exactly what puts the ‘Merry’ in Merrylands. It involved a run-in between angry neighbours and local hooligans, a trip to the skate park, a stormwater drain and a kebab before he found out!

You can download an MP3 of Merry In Merrylands here

Written by Dan Schaumann & Sam Kumlu

Well I wake up every morning to a grumble and a cough
And the sound of traffic’s driving me insane
I gladly leave it all behind and trundle to my job
But I’m merry in old Merrylands today

The neighbours mow their lawn and scream at kids at 8am
As they venture to the ramp to smoke and skate
The ibis make a meal from all the garbage in the bins
But I’m merry in old Merrylands today
Yes I’m merry in old Merrylands today

She’s so sweet
Stole my heart
She lives near
Granville Park

Cross the street
I’m in love
That’s why I’m merry in old Merrylands today
That’s why I’m merry in old Merrylands today

The local gourmet food is a kebab or fish & chips
The local river leads towards the stains of grey
There’s bogans on the corner of Victoria & Pitt
But I’m merry in old Merrylands today
Yes I’m merry in old Merrylands today


Some may leave and some stay here forever
I know I’ll remain while I’m with her

I’ve been living in this goddamn town for 27 years
But I’m merry in old Merrylands today
Yes I’m merry in old Merrylands today


Be sure to check out Dan’s other website Australia By Song for a massive list of locations around Australia and songs they have been mentioned in!

I was very happy recently to hear from my Twitter friend, Danuta Muszynska, who had written a translation of my song The Fighter into her native Polish tongue, called Walczac 😀

Please check out her blog, where you can see the lyrics as well as some notes on what inspired her to write the translation. She plans on posting more Polish translations of popular English songs in the future – I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how she translates the songs by her hero Bryan Adams 😉

Her translation as well as the original lyrics are below, and you can listen to the song (the English version, that is!) at the bottom.

Thanks Danuta!


(© 2011 Danuta Muszynska)

Walka trwa – nieba w sercu z pieklem, ktore widza oczy twe
ogien zgasl – blizne zostawil, leku pragniesz dla duszy jej
i zaprzeczasz – choc sam dzwigasz ciezar ten – odwrocic chcesz los
czysta milosc odzyskac chcesz, ktora dawno ukradlo cos

i przez lzy
ciagle uczysz sie

Czy kolejna godzine spedzisz walac wciaz glowa w ten gruby mur
Czy wolania ktos wyslucha czy uslyszysz gluchy, zimny szum
walczysz – czy zostaniesz, czy porzucisz niebo w sercu-pieklo tu
– jej chlodna cisze i Twoje lzy – dodajac koszmar do jej snow?

I tak walczysz
-z soba wciaz

I tak walczysz
-z soba wciaz

I tak walczysz
-z soba wciaz

I tak walczysz
-z soba wciaz

Czy porzucisz walke – zanim wygrasz ja
Czy poddasz sie pieklu – na niej zalezy ci

Czy porzucisz walke – zanim wygrasz ja
Czy poddasz sie pieklu – na niej zale?y ci
Czy porzucisz walke – zanim wygrasz ja
Czy poddasz sie pieklu – na niej zalezy ci
Czy porzucisz walke – zanim wygrasz ja
Czy poddasz sie pieklu – na niej zalezy ci


The Fighter
(© 2010 Dan Schaumann)

Oh the fighter with his heaven in his heart and his hell to behold
His desire is to remedy the scar of the flame to her soul
Oh denier with the heaviness imparted he dreams he could change
Cruel reminders of the innocence of love vs the means to remain

Through your tears
Learn your lesson well

Oh the hour, will it speed or will it burn with a laboured old fuse
Not an answer to the plead, a deafly ear and a reason to lose
Oh the fighter will he stay or will he stray far away from his means
All the while through her silence and his tears he will conquer with the thrill of her nightmares

Oh the fighter
Oh the fighter
Oh the fighter
Oh the fighter

Oh the fighter
Oh the fighter
Oh the fighter
Oh the fighter

Oh the fighter will end it before it’s repaired
The fighter surrenders and shows that he cares
The fighter will end it before it’s repaired
The fighter surrenders and shows that he cares

Oh the fighter will end it before it’s repaired
The fighter surrenders and shows that he cares
The fighter will end it before it’s repaired
The fighter surrenders and shows that he cares


The Fighter:


* The Fighter can be found on Dan’s album, A Thousand Days Beneath The Sun, available now on CD and iTunes.

This is a song I wrote two weeks ago to help spread some love around the planet Earth! <3

The idea behind the song was inspired by my friend Lee-Anne, who runs a spiritual healing community called Temple of Balance. She said something in one of her recent newsletters which really resounded with me, regarding the concept of fear vs love:

“PLEASE do not live in fear of prophecies and bible stories… PLEASE send love, send peace, send energy… don’t worry, fear or doubt… these feed the poison… (which is fear)… Stand tall in your truth and help me DO something about it, by sending love… LOVE heals everything… FEAR heals nothing…”

Today I set up my home studio and recorded a demo of the song that I came up with, based upon these words. You can listen to it by clicking on the link below.

Dan Schaumann – Paradise (The Earth Is On Our Side)

You can also view an acoustic video recording that I made not long ago at Youtube.

I hope you like it, and if you do, please feel free to share it around with your friends. The Earth really is on our side 🙂

Paradise (The Earth Is On Our Side)

It’s just another day inside this paradise
A side of everything you’d hoped for
The invitation is an open card
Extend it to your friends and come inside

Oh the light inside it fills those fragile minds
It shimmers on the vital edge of all that dies
And if it edges up to you
No need to think about it

Cause every other day I long for her advice
I look the other way, I seek, I find that light
Of this paradise
And I know the earth is on my side

She is the past, she is the keeper of our fate
She is the legacy of those who left too late
To put their hands upon their hearts and say
They love her

So step inside this present time right now
And on behalf of generations past we’ll vow to love
This paradise
Then we’ll know the earth is on our side

The earth is on our side
The earth is on our side, yeah yeah yeah
The earth is on our side
The earth is on our…

So step inside this present time right now
And on behalf of generations past we’ll vow to love
This paradise
Then we’ll know the earth is on our…
The earth is on our…

The earth is on our side, yeah yeah yeah
The earth is on our side, yeah yeah yeah
And we’re all on her side, yeah yeah yeah
The earth is on our side, yeah yeah yeah
The earth is on our…

Why don’t you come and spend some time inside of here
Why don’t you come and spend some time inside of here
Why don’t you come and spend some time inside of here
Why don’t you come and spend some time inside of here

It’s just another day inside this paradise
The invitation is an open card
Extend it to your friends and come inside

In May 2010 I got myself a busking licence and decided to hit the streets of Sydney to get back into the swing of all things musical – and also to try an earn a little bit of tax-free cash on the side, of course 😉  After only a few sessions I’ve come to realise it’s an enjoyable, mind-opening pasttime, perfect for getting my performance chops back up to scratch, which is what I need if I want to start gigging again after I release my upcoming album.  Yet on the other hand it’s also highly challenging and disconcerting, especially considering I used to play music professionally, where for much less effort, I earned about a hundred times more than what I’ve banked out on the streets!

So here, I have decided to notate my experiences as I foray into the world of amateur, cover-and-original-singing, acoustic-guitar-playing street performance.  Come with me and find out about the songs I sing, the people I meet, the enjoyment, the disappointment, and the coinage – or should I say, the lack thereof!

Busking Take 1 – 16th May 2010

LOCATION 1: corner of George St & Bathurst St in the CBD
Hooray, my first attempt at busking in Sydney!  I got off the train at Town Hall and walked around for ages trying to find a suitable location.  I was pretty nervous but eventually I settled and opened up with a killer rendition of October Grey by the Screaming Jets.
It took about 15 minutes for the first person to dig into their pockets.  She was a professional in her early 30’s and she gave me a very generous 5 cents.  And a half-hearted smile.
The next offer was from a middle-aged guy who was in a rush, but kind enough to forage through his backpack and give me a single Vicks VapoDrop.
Not long after that, a Latino-looking bloke came up to me with half a cup of mixed nuts and offered them to me by putting them right up to my face as I was singing October Grey (again). He must have thought I was homeless and hungry!  I stopped my song and thanked him, but told him not to worry. He left them in my guitar case anyway.
After 45 minutes of playing to a tough crowd, I left with $2.45.

LOCATION 2: corner of George St & Goulburn St, by the rear entrance of World Square
I initially walked down to Central Station with hopes to play in the underground tunnel, but there were already 4 buskers there so I left them to it and walked back up towards World Square.
There was a general positive atmosphere here, many more people turned to watch me compared to last time.
An Asian guy asked me for directions to World Square, to which I happily obliged. No coinage was offered.
I was grateful for the generosity of an old man with a long grey beard, wearing ragged clothes, and generally looking as though he was homeless, who reached into his pockets and gave me a few silver coins as he walked on by.
A cute Asian couple stood and watched me sing October Grey (yes, again!) – the girl gave $1 once I’d finished.
I played for about 45 minutes and left with an extra $4.15 in the kitty.

LOCATION 3: corner of George St & Druitt St, by the statue outside the entrance to the Queen Victoria building
I thought this would be an ace location because large crowds of 40-50 people were gathering at a time, waiting to cross the road.  But hardly anybody cared to notice I was there!
I seemed to be an annoyance to the 15 or so people who were gathered around the statue. Within a minute of me being there, my statue-loitering friends moved on and I became a singing loner beside a stone resemblance of Queen Vic. 
It was starting to get dark.
I played three songs, nobody even offered me a glimpse let alone any money, so I packed up & left for the day.

GRAND TOTAL: $6.60, one Vicks VapoDrop, one cup of mixed nuts (which I left on the ground), plus a newfound desire to never busk again.

Busking Take 2 – 1st August, 2010

LOCATION: Central Station tunnel (Chalmers St side)
I got over the disappointment of my first attempt and decided to try busking the streets of Sydney for a second time.  I figured that if anything, I really do need the practice!
I added a few extra songs to the repertoire this time, and there were some good reactions to Tip Of My Tongue by Diesel (a young guy singing along as he walked past), The Nips Are Getting Bigger by Mental As Anything (a round of applause from an old couple), and surprisingly, one of my own songs, Misty Water (a smile from a whole family!)
Scar by Missy Higgins didn’t go down too well.  A girl laughed and some guys gave me funny looks when they realised I was singing a chick song.
There was one other busker in the tunnel, about 40 metres up from me. He had an amplified electric guitar & played an instrumental version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps over and over and over and over and over and over again. And then he played it again. But I must admit he was really good at it.
I got a visit from my lovely housemate Laura!  She plays violin, and we’ve been jamming recently so we’re gonna go busking together one day soon.
A friendly Maori guy walked past with his girlfriend. He said quite loudly, so I could hear, that he wanted to stop and listen to some music, but the girlfriend didn’t seem interested and wanted to keep walking. He gave me a generous $2 anyway 🙂
A young couple were walking towards me at the end of my session, and the guy was holding his girlfriend’s shiny silver handbag. As they passed me, he threw the handbag back at her, but she wasn’t looking and it hit her on the head. It was hilarious and totally made my afternoon worthwhile.
I played for an hour and 40 minutes all up, before darkness fell and I decided to go home.
Although I didn’t make much money, there were a number of times where I actually enjoyed myself.
I’m starting to like busking now. I might even come back tomorrow.


Busking Take 3 – 2nd August, 2010

Central Station tunnel (Chalmers St side)
What a mob of tight arses.
Let me put it this way. I was in the Central Station tunnel for the Monday evening rush hour, and there was about twenty times the traffic walking through the tunnel tonight as there was this time yesterday. Let’s assume that on average, one person walked past me per second. I was there for just over an hour, so of course, 3,600 seconds in an hour = 3,600 people. According to the World Wealth Report, there are around 173,600 millionaires in the country, meaning that out of a population of  22,000,000, one person out of every 127 is a millionaire.  If 3,600 people walked past me then I make that out to be 28 millionares who were within my presence during that hour – more if you take in the fact that this is Sydney and there is likely to be a higher percentage of rich folk here then anywhere else in the country. Yet all I managed to make was a feeble $4.65!
I guess people are just immune to the repetitious drone that is the Sydney busker?
Either that or I’m not singing enough Lady Gaga…

Ok so I’ve come to the conclusion that busking definitely isn’t going to be a moneymaking venture any time soon – but I must say that I did thoroughly enjoy myself.
A woman walked past me while she was searching through her bag and pulled out what looked like a stick of deodorant. But she dropped it, and as if possessed by some kind of evil magnetic force, it somehow managed to slide its way into a drainhole, disappearing right before her eyes. Oh my god that was so random and funny to watch!
Once again, Tip Of My Tongue got the best reaction of the evening; a guy walking on the opposite side of me braved the opposing traffic to chuck some coinage into my guitar case and offer some kind words of encouragement for singing a Diesel song.
Follow You Down by the Gin Blossoms is quickly turning out to be my favourite busking song to sing. I don’t think anybody has given me any money for it yet, but I feel relaxed and happy whenever I throw it in the set.
I forgot the words to one of my own songs and gave up on it half way through. Because I could!
All up, I feel my performance skills are on the increase again, my vocals in particular. You really have to project it to be heard.
I took a quick snap of the coinage before I left:

Note that $2.10 of it was my own, which I threw in before I started so I didn't feel like too much of a loser

GRAND TOTAL: $4.65 (not including the $2.10 of my own money!)

Busking Take 4 – 5th August, 2010

LOCATION: Central Station tunnel (Broadway side)
Today I realised that despite what I said in my previous entry, it IS possible to make a bit of money from busking – and have a bloody good time doing it as well 😀
It was a really good session.
I went with my housemate Laura.
She plays violin, and she’s great at it.
We’d only rehearsed our set once, for about 20 minutes a couple of days beforehand.
We met up after work, and we travelled into Central Station together before settling on a location in the tunnel, near Basement Books.
By the end of the second song we had an offer from a guy asking if we wanted to play an acoustic gig one night at a venue with his band. I took his number & will give him a call next week 🙂 
A few minutes later a group of about 15 Indonesian school students appeared out of nowhere and started taking photos and videos of us. Then they all came in around us and their teacher took a photo of them while we were playing. I asked one of the boys “apa kabar?” and he smiled & actually knew what I meant. And that made me happy, because it meant that three years of Indonesian lessons throughout primary & high school finally paid off, 15 years later.
Not too long after that an Asian father interrupted us mid-song asking if he could get a photo of us with his daughters. They were very cute and we happily obliged.
An old guy stopped and watched us intently for a few minutes, so in between songs I thought I’d say hi and asked if he had any requests. After five minutes of him gibbering on about Peter Frampton, the Godfather movie, an old TV series from the 70’s called F-Troop, something about a tribe called the “Fugawi” – and that’s not to mention groping Laura’s hands in the middle of all that – he finally said goodbye and went on his merry way without even requesting a song.
I reckon the tunes that got the best reactions were Laura’s awesome violin version of The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby, and out cover of the 90’s classic, Breakfast At Tiffany’s by Deep Blue Something.
Actually, the majority of the songs had good reactions, and people were only too happy to spare some change and stop to listen. It honestly wasn’t like any busking experience I’d had before – it was enjoyable, rewarding and so much more fun to be interacting with another musician, rather than merely strumming & singing by myself.
We played for maybe an hour & a half before it started getting cold. The cool evening breeze is a bastard down in that tunnel!
Just as we were packing up we got a visit from our housemate Suze, so we un-packed-up and played one more rendition of Breakfast At Tiffany’s for her! Suze also took this snap of Laura and I in action:

GRAND TOTAL: $65.30 (so that’s $32.65 each) – plus one US cent!

So I guess busking isn’t that bad after all?

Busking Take 5 – 19th August 2010

LOCATION: Central Station tunnel (Broadway side)
Well this turned out to be another profitable and highly interesting session!
As with last time, I met with Laura after work and we returned to the same spot where we had so much success with our previous attempt.
My mate Sam bought me a Rabbitohs shirt for my birthday a few days ago and suggested I wear it while busking to see what kind of reactions I get from the people who walk past. So I wore it.
(I don’t follow rugby league, let alone the Rabbitohs, by the way!)
A woman gave us a few dollars as we were tuning up, before we even started playing.
All was going well until our second song, Eleanor Rigby, where we were lucky enough to gain the company of an absolute lunatic of a woman.
She was completely insane.
She hated us.
Laura in particular.
She appeared out of the blue the moment the first chord of Eleanor Rigby was strummed, and began yelling, screaming, abusing us and carrying on as if we had just committed blue murder.
I’m going to attempt to repeat here the general gist of what she was saying. Kids, block your ears because the language ain’t too pretty:
We tried to ignore her to begin with, but she came right up to Laura and started yelling in her face, so we stopped playing and waited for her to finish. She didn’t leave when we told her to move on, and when I made a “go away” gesture with my hands she accused me of giving her a Nazi salute. Eventually she walked away yelling more obscenities to anyone and everyone who got in her way and we resumed where we left off once she was gone.
She heard us and kept yelling from around the corner, but didn’t come back, thank heavens.
Although it was pretty unnerving, the whole episode was incredibly fascinating and eye-opening to watch unfold. It’s experiences like this that make up the joys of busking!
A young guy who was overlooking all the action was kind enough to leave us $10. He must have felt sorry for us.
We were visited by some of Laura’s friends shortly afterwards which was really nice 🙂
A couple of young Irish lads stopped by to watch us play a few tunes and ended up hanging around for 15 minutes. They were really cool guys, they offered applause to U2, sang along with some Oasis, and even left a decent amount of coin despite the fact that we didn’t know any Bob Dylan (their one and only request).
Laura pointed out during one of our songs that we’d somehow amassed a $20 note. I didn’t see who put it in there but apparently it was a young female student. We were blown away by her generosity.
We played for just over an hour and called it a night before heading to the pub with Laura’s friends for a few drinks.
Nobody said a thing about my Rabbitohs shirt…
…until a guy at the pub asked if I’d shot any!

GRAND TOTAL: $81.10 ($40.55 each – I make that out to be double what I earn at work!)

Busking Take 6 – 26th August 2010

LOCATION: The open area just past the Central Station tunnel
I ventured out busking again today after work.
I was playing solo this time.
The Central Station tunnel was full as always – there were already four musicians, two people handing out flyers, an artist and a beggar.
The spot in the second tunnel where Laura & I play was taken by a guy selling Big Issues, and there was yet another guitarist further up the tunnel.
So I set up in the open area between the two tunnels.
I’d played four tunes to an abundance of completely disinterested passers-by, before a security guard stopped me mid-song and asked me to leave, as I was on private property.
He was cool about it, mind you, and I could tell he didn’t like having to ask buskers to move on.
So I went home.
I don’t think I’ll bother going busking by myself again. I might as well just practice in my room and save the cost of the train ticket.
On a lighter note though, Laura texted me and said I should check out page 27 of MX magazine.  Now, I wasn’t at North Sydney station, but I did walk past it, and I was carrying a guitar!

Who knows if she was actually talking about me, but hey I'll take the credit for it! (Oh, and sorry to have to disappoint you)


Busking Take 7 – 19th September 2010

LOCATION: Central Station tunnel (Broadway side)
Despite my earning of one measly dollar and a “get out of here” for my last session, I bit the bullet and decided to busk solo once again.
After warming up with Breakfast At Tiffany’s, I went on to play an hour and ten minutes of entirely original songs.
Previously I’ve only ever thrown one or two in with the set, but I’ll be doing some open mic nights and looking for gigs soon so I figured I need all the practice I can get.
It turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable! I went through all the tunes I plan on recording next month for the album. With exception of the poem and the one that’s in the crazy open tuning.
Some of them hadn’t even been heard outside the walls of my bedroom before.
Although I was cringing to begin with, by the end I was really getting into it.
About 10 minutes in, a group of young hooligans, all around 15 years old, loudly made an entrance and proceeded to kick/throw/roll/bounce footballs up & down the escalators, causing havoc amid the people passing by. It looked pretty fun actually. After they finished they walked past me and started singing the “sha la la la” bit from Brown Eyed Girl, continuing until well after they’d exited the tunnel.
A guy stood and watched as I played an improvised instrumental introduction to one of the songs, then gave me a few bucks and said it sounded great. I’ll definitely be playing that intro again.
In my vague peripheral vision I saw a strange, middle-aged man in the corner of the bookshop holding a camera, aimed at me. I heard the click of the shutter three times, then he disappeared as quickly as he arrived. He clearly didn’t wish for me to notice he was there. Weird…
I was getting to a line in one of the songs where I say Fuck (:-o naughty!) but some young girls were walking past with their parents, so instead of the really passionate delivery that I intend when I sing that line, it turned out to be more of a fizzling incomprehensible murmur.
In the end I still barely accumulated any coinage, but it felt good to run through the originals, and I had a constant audience of people waiting at the hairdressers who’d moved their chairs outside to watch.
So I can’t have sounded too bad after all!


Busking Take 8 – 25th September 2010

LOCATION: Kirribilli, near the Harbour Bridge steps
Well today proved to be one of the more interesting busking sessions I’ve had so far!
It began with a visit from Pristine, Emilie, Keyu, Katie and Rebecca, who were all media students at uni.  They were in the process of creating a documentary about busking, and had gotten in touch with me after finding this blog, asking if they could interview me and film me perform a few songs out on the streets.
The interview was quite thought-provoking and very professionally carried out, after which we all walked to the nearby Kirribilli Markets and I set up close to the steps of the Harbour Bridge.
My mate Jarred who was staying with me at the time took on the role of the official photographer:

An interesting observation we made was that the public was much too scared to give money for fear of getting into the camera shot – well, either that or my performing was really bad!
However I did receive donations from two polar opposites: a 7 month old baby, and a 70 year old lady.
The baby’s mother had faced the pram towards me so she could see me play, and after the song ended she put a dollar coin into her hand and wheeled the pram towards my open guitar case. It took two goes for the baby to drop the coin into the case. So cute! And she even waved me goodbye, despite her profound look of confusion.
The 70 year old lady stood by watching for a few minutes with a huge grin on her face, and kindly offered me 20 cents.  Later on, while walking home, we noticed that same old lady had made her way to the wedding celebrations outside the church across the road, again happily grinning and soaking in the atmosphere along with the bride, groom and wedding guests who clearly had no idea who she was.
We packed up after the tape ran out, by which time the market was reaching its conclusion as well.
All up, it proved to be a unique and enlightening afternoon, and I wish the best of luck to the girls for their documentary!


Stay tuned for more busking adventures coming soon to a location near you.