Musicians from small towns and suburban Australia have been responsible for some incredible hype of late.
Whether it’s recent gold-status bands like Violent Soho from Mansfield, Queensland, or Frankstown, Victoria born rapper Illy whose single Tightrope went platinum this year, or the internationally adored Sia from northern Adelaide in South Australia – its clear to see that regional areas are the stomping ground of some serious talent.
But at what point does a budding musician have to leave behind their cosy home towns lush with inspiration, in order to chase the opportunities only available in the big city?
And where does that leave the music scene of these towns standing?
Patrick James is a singer songwriter who once called the coastal holiday town of Port Macquarie home, but after relocating to Sydney his musical career has truly kicked off.
From busking in the inner city to opening for known acts like Pete Murray and Boy & Bear, Patrick has gained a foothold in the indie music scene where his popularity is only growing.
Having just finished touring the nooks and crannies of regional Australia with his new album Broken Lines, Patrick explained that performing in regional venues was a significant decision for his tour,
“I think that playing regional areas are as important as capital cities, especially if you are trying to have a long career in music.”
Patrick explained that moving to Sydney from his picturesque home town had encouraged his career.
“Well it was more a move to just experience something new, to get out of my comfort zone. As I really started to write and play small gigs around Sydney I definitely got the itch to really pursue my music and happened to meet some great people and artists who put me into the right direction,” he said.
Although relocating to the city was the key to Patrick finding his calling, other musicians have done the opposite and taken a sea change hoping to further their career.
Vincent Pring is a musician also from Port Macquarie, who despite heading to the city of Brisbane to study music has since returned to the small town life with a focus on live performing. And he hasn’t looked back.
“After moving back from Brisbane [I] was asked to cover a spot drumming for a band called A Bear in a Man Suit… since then we’ve been performing as much as possible, roughly one or two gigs a month, and have just recently recorded our first EP titled Bacon Is Good.”
As well as drumming in the four-piece rock band, Vincent has pursued regular paid pub and club gigs in a two-piece band.
He explained this duo was easier to find gigs for as the versatility of their more acoustic sound suited local venues better.
“With A Bear in a Man Suit, it is a bit more difficult, because of our style of music… we like to be loud, put on a wild show…”
With regular gigs and upcoming records, the future might look promising for musicians like Vincent, but the ghost of a troubled live performance scene lingers over the picturesque town.
Levi Sampson ran a volunteer based organisation that booked bands to perform in Port Macquarie, with a focus on making live music affordable and accessible. But he hit a few snags along the way,
“The biggest challenge in running metal/hardcore shows is the bad reputation the genre has due to violence and damage at shows… the worst gig was when [a band] and their crew started a fight in the middle of the show. There was a rumour that one of them had a gun and half the people left pretty soon after that,” he said.
Levi reflected that successful shows with large turnouts included performances by hardcore bands Thy Art Is Murder and Wish For Wings, but with high costs and a lack of patrons turning up, the volunteer booking organisation had to finish up.
While this may leave a gloomy outlook for the opportunities available in towns like Port Macquarie, booking manager for the popular Friday nights at The World Bar in Sydney, Scott Owen, explained that some artists may not have a choice but to stay in the area they are from.
“A lot of people don’t realise that your music can have national airplay and you can be touring constantly and still need a separate job as your main source of income,” he said.
Scott also pointed out that opportunity exists for these artists who may need to stay based in regional or suburban areas for work, so long as they are willing to gig regularly.
“It’s easier to find people who like the music you play in cities as they are more densely populated… on the question of location, it doesn’t matter where you live but if you want to play live shows regularly you’ll have to play in cities as that’s where you have the opportunity to play to large numbers of people.” – Rebekah Day
Broken Lines by Patrick James is out now and available here.
Further announcements and music releases from A Bear in a Man Suit can be found here.
Information for bands and partygoers looking to head to The World Bar on Fridays can be found here.
Top photo courtesy of Secret Service PR.