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Rita B – “Melodies Make Me Strong”

“I have got a problem with saying how I really feel;
apart from in song, those melodies make me strong;
harmonies make me strong.
They make me strong, they make me strong!”

I was recently lucky enough to come across indie folk rock/ alt country artist Bianca Meier who goes by the name Rita B. I was immediately struck by her honesty and I know that word is bandied around quite a bit but have a listen, Bianca really rips to the heart of some topics few dare to tread especially when it comes to exposing their own experiences and emotions. Coupled with her assured musicianship I’m taking a punt that this girl will capture more than my heart….and already has with her most recent release, ‘With Pockets Empty and Glass Almost Full” being warmly received and added to Sydney’s FBi 94.5fm play list.

She’s busy too with more than one project on the go…you might want to also check out her other band DANDE AND THE LION. Their new single “Audley’s Talking” will be released February 7th 2018.

After her upcoming Melbourne tour (for Melbournians that’s; March 1st at Old Bar with Full band, March 2nd Open Studio Solo, March 3rd in workshop with Jen Cloher), Bianca will be back in Sydney working on more good things to come as well as a performance at Red Dog Studio Session XVII on June 2nd.

I was able to have a chat with her about her thoughts on songwriting…I hope you enjoy and take as much inspiration from this exciting up and coming songwriter as I do.

“Make mistakes, expose yourself and learn and converse with

others who are doing what you want to do.”

Do you have any strong writing influences?
Absolutely. In terms of humans that influence my writing, I grew up with my parents’ musical tastes. Luckily, my parents, not being musicians themselves, but being avid listeners of a lot of different styles of music, is essentially the root of what shapes my musical output today. That in itself is the strongest influence on my writing because it is constant. Osibisa, Beethoven, The Fugees, Gypsey Kings, The Beetles, Yothu Hindi to name but a few of the sounds getting spun on the home record player (where I remember my sisters and I were constantly being reminded to dance softly in an attempt to not interfere with the record player’s functioning capacity.)
To be honest, there was never a practicing musician that I aspired to be whilst growing into music, however, there is one artist that I always find myself reverting back to in musical moments of thought and that is Janis Joplin. I think simply because she was a female making music in such a masculine heavy, drug-infused and politically and socially unstable environment.

Where do you find your lyrics?
I always struggle answering this! They just come to me! If I am to take my album for example, I didn’t go all in with an idea. I let the words come to me as I created each song as an individual idea. I don’t usually sit down and think “right! I’m gonna write a song about pirates”. My method is not forced. Essentially because it doesn’t have to be. I think that is what influences my lyrical content in the sense that I am trying to be truthful; with myself initially, by not putting any pressure on the way in which I write. The result, I suppose, is the honest unfolding of contexts and stories in which I personally experience or perceive. I try to let the words find me.

What does song writing mean to you? How far would you like to take it?
Songwriting means the reason why I drink 4 cups of coffee in a day – I want to take it far but reduce if not eliminate the amount of coffees currently drunk in order to get me there. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I’d like to make financial profit from songwriting without the elements of business hindering my creativity and mission. Although, I really enjoy my cuppas, and either way, I just really enjoy writing music.

Do you have any special tools you use to write?
I usually use writing as a meditational tool and then I use that I guess as a tool to write. I record my feelings either melodically by speaking or singing how I currently feel (I’d generally record this process on my phone) or I’d write down words or phrases in one of my millions of disordered notebooks and come back at a later time to decipher a song from my various scrawlings.

What instrument/s do you use to write?
Acoustic guitar most of the time, occasionally the piano.

Tell us about your most memorable childhood connection to music
Aside from my little dancing sessions at home to the music mum and dad played with my sisters which I mentioned briefly before, I was about 13 or 14 years old and it was the summer break. My family, mum, dad and my 2 sisters would usually go on an extended camping trip somewhere. We were in Brooms Head one year. One evening I stumbled across one of our camping neighbours singing and strumming some lovely sounds. I was in awe because everybody on the campsite seemed to gravitate towards the music and he had a crowd of people just listen as he sang.
I consider this memorable because I think it was what I needed to give me that extra push to want songwriting on a performance level. I wanted to share my voice and my lyrics to not just the Backstreet Boys and Five posters in my bedroom.

What is your favourite song that you’ve written and could you tell us about it?
I don’t have a favourite if I am completely honest, I’m super proud of what I have produced so far. However, I do connect with certain songs more than others depending on the context and my mindset at the time.

Have you written “that” break-though song yet ?…if not tell us a bit about what that song would be like?
I’m not sure. I don’t think so. However, the first single I released off my Rita B record ‘To Be Loved By A Bottle of Scotch Whisky’, was the first song I wrote that confronted myself and my way of being; how I deal with social and emotional reality, reflecting on both personal and observational characteristics and my place within the world. It kind of naturally inspired the lyrical content for the album as a result and encouraged me to continue to write in this way because it was received so well by myself, in the sense that it opened up something inside me that wasn’t afraid of being truthful and honest. I’ve just finished writing a new song. This lyric sums up what I’m trying to say here right now:

 I have got a problem with saying how I really feel;
apart from in song, those melodies make me strong;
harmonies make me strong.
They make me strong, they make me strong.

   So that ‘breakthrough’ is purely an emotional one within myself.

Do you have any tips for other song writers? Any secrets of the trade?
The secret is that there are no secrets. Be comfortable with yourself, don’t be afraid of feeling vulnerable and expressing yourself, that is how you learn and find your creative path – have faith in your musical and lyrical ability, don’t compare yourselves to others, express yourself to your fullest capacity all of the time (everyone is different and it won’t always be the same, you’ll have your days). The rest will follow naturally. And then from there it’s persistence and patience. There is a level of mental strength you need to fulfill these things, but let yourself find that strength. Make mistakes, expose yourself and learn and converse with others who are doing what you want to do. The amount of knowledge I gained by asking questions and asking for help is invaluable.
This is the only area of my life that I fully apply what I am preaching – you’ve got to want to do it.

How long have you been penning tunes and at what point did you feel ready to record?
I have been writing songs since around about the 13-14 mark. I wrote my first EP when I was 20 in 2010. Afterwards, I had writers block and lost all compositional motivation – that lasted for 4 years. I started writing again and recorded my first album last year.
If I compare the two, they were 2 completely different stages of my life. In 2010 I was excited, sheltered and a little naive. In 2017 I experienced more of real life and thus my songwriting became more complex.
Both times I consider separate projects and ultimately, I think your first time you are never ready. I just did my best and gave myself deadlines.

My next recording should hopefully see that answer in a clearer light. It’s all a learning process in the end, other wise how do you know?

 

Tell us about your biggest highlight of 2107 and what’s on the horizon for 2018?
The biggest highlight for 2017 was, not only the recording of my debut album titled ‘With Pockets Nearly Empty and A Glass Almost Full’, but also the many talented people I got to work with and who encouraged and inspired me in both critical and supportive ways to give what I had to give and say what I had to say through my music. I feel very privileged to have such an honest and genuine bunch of people now forever a part of my life.
The fact that some of my songs got played on FBi radio 94.5FM was a super overwhelming moment – I drive a lot and I listen to FBi and it is such a strange but satisfying moment to unexpectedly hear your music on the airwaves. ‘Miss Brown’ was the most well received song. I loved observing the crowd every time I played a gig and seeing the new faces. I enjoyed having conversations with people and connecting with them as a product of my songwriting. It’s really satisfying seeing the progress unfold and I look forward to more.
2018 will see me play the album and gig on a more national level – I have Melbourne and Brisbane on the cards. I want to work on my performance; there are a few things I need to overcome on that front. I have a lot of material and I am constantly writing, so I’d like to get organised and prepare content for my next recording. If there’s one thing I learned from 2017, it’s to not rush processes.

Click HERE for more on Rita B and to check out her shows

 

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Red Dog Studio Wrap Up – 2017

RED DOG STUDIO SESSIONS 2017

How to succinctly wrap up an entire year of wonderful intimate evenings, original music, eclectic and moving performances, belly laughs, new friends and yes, hard work? Perhaps starting at the end…

December 2nd was a drizzly evening for the final Red Dog Session of 2017 but this didn’t seem to be deterring people as we nervously watched the RSVPs creep up a little higher than the intimate Red Dog Studio really had room for. Red Dogger’s new and seasoned, young and old were enthusiastically packing their umbrellas for the Christmas special despite the rain and cozied in close to see our scheduled acts in the unique and intimate environment that is Red Dog Studio. (Red Dogger’s is a term coined by the fabulous Cass Eager at one of the very early sessions – it affectionately refers to people who frequent Red Dog but not only that, people who support the type of guerrilla event Red Dog stands for).

On this day as usual, the core Red Dog crew (Pete Fenwick and Justine Wahlin- CloudBird) had been up since …well, at least mid morning…cooking, cleaning, clearing external hard drives, charging camera batteries, making sure all the little details were ready to go…down to erecting the little Christmas tree on the piano with a good covering of tinsel and baubles. The wet weather marquee was set up outside the studio, homely pots of slow cooked chicken curry and vegetable soups bubbled merrily on the stove, beers were cold and reds were ready to pour as we kicked off with the sound checks at 5pm.

Photo courtesy of Andrijana Miler

We were quite frankly a little nervous among other emotions, as our final session for 2017 was also the first session we were attempting to record drums. While we usually did most of the audio set up and sound checking ourselves we were happy to hand over to Matt Thomson (Red Dog crew member) who was able to finally work out how to get multiple outputs so we could record to multi-tracks…this might sound obvious but you have to remember that we have come from iphones taped to support beams and one room mic, (we are musicians not an audio engineers)…that said, the learning curve has been steep and the shopping list of necessary equipment even steeper. As we’ve progressed the visual and audio set ups have become more sophisticated and more hands have come on board to help.

It truly has been a case of, it takes a community to raise an underground music venue. In the end I think we pulled it off and in doing so set an even higher standard for ourselves in 2018. At this point I’d like to name and thank profusely the extended Red Dog Crew for donating their time and skills pretty much free of charge; Matt Thomson (sound), Natasha David (2nd camera) , John Cheshire (sound) , Andrijana Miler (Camera operator), Ming Yu Ha (Camera operator), Michael Patterson (set up) and Sharon Lees (set up). All these wonderful people have at some point come to the rescue in support of Red Dog and its mission to create a valuable listening space that supports musicians and lovers of music alike.

The line up from our final session included; Up and coming youngster Spencer (above) , Dr Taos and Sam Newton.

It’s just not possible to post all the videos of the amazing performances from the sessions this year but a few highlights are below;

For all the sessions check out Red Dog Studio Sessions and please subscribe 🙂

We’d like to thank each and every act who performed on our little stage in 2017;

FEB 4th Session VIII
Jasmine Beth, Gavin Waring (Lost in the Woods, Rahtze), Zane Thompson

MARCH 4th Session IX
Loretta Durso, Lyn Taylor, Chris Carrapetta

MAY 6 Session X
Cody Dillon, Balaclava Weather, Jason Kearney, Kay Camero

June 3rd Session XI
Brendan Nawrocki, Krish Neto, Mark Lucas

Sept 2nd XII
Madame Wu, Born In October,Tom Hespe, James & Naomi

OCT 14th XIII
Paul Greene,  Nik Cassey & Friends, Dream Good

DEC 2nd  XIV
Sam Newton, Spencer( Sophie Lewis), Dr Taos

Lastly a huge thanks to those who have been the most dedicated Red Dogger’s in 2017;

Andrijana Miler
Ivana Zara Dostojevski
Michael Patterson
Lindi McMullin
Anthony Wilson
Lisa and Frazer Irving

A MOVEMENT

In 2017 we also discovered the beginnings of a guerrilla army putting on intimate gigs just like Red Dog Studio Sessions up and down the East Cost including the fabulous Efforts of Simon Pope “Live From the Shack” in MacKay QLD. Simon excitedly contacted us to let us know that he’s pretty much doing the same thing as us, and what a fabulous output, Red Dog Definitely has a few things to learn from Live at the Shack.

Simon has also started a new page where all these independent events can be listed. “The intention is for this “to be a one stop shop to find original music”. “The benefits of this are we all pool our contacts and followers this in turn creates more exposure for the artists”. We couldn’t agree more. As musicians and supports of independent artists we think this is marvellous! If you’re planning an east coast tour we recommend checking it out.

Orginal Music

Live From the Shack

“As we will eventually be all over Australia it also has the potential to create a new touring circuit”

This friends, is how you start a movement and we’re delighted to be “In”, so please check in regularly with these other sites to see what’s happening.

The first Red Dog Studio Session in 2018 is February 3rd when we’ll be featuring Thompson Springs, Steph Miller, Chasing the Dreams as well as your very own CloudBird to kick off the Open Sessions (read; a free for all after 11pm)

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Bird Song

While deciding how to record and release my next studio album “A Pair of Dreamers”, I decided that Bird Song should stand alone.

Bird Song is inspired by the death of a friend and mentor and also by the lover he left behind. While I only knew Karl Broadie in music circles and only for a couple of years, his warm and generous spirit touched me deeply and like so many others he inspired a belief in myself that I had sometimes struggled to find.

The song started taking form on the back of a napkin as we gathered at Rooty Hill RSL for what was to be a fundraiser to support Karl’s treatment through chemotherapy.

We soon found out that this night was to be a rite of passage and that those of us gathered had the dubious honour of singing him out as he lay “talking with angels” and preparing to leave.

His partner Rachel Webster was there and it was her words that struck me so deeply “Talking with Angels”. I was spell bound by the courage of this woman and indeed Karl for engaging in this last conversation with what I imagined was single minded clarity and devotion. Goodbyes said, songs all sung he was about to go somewhere none of us could go.

I considered how that would feel to know the love of your life still clinging to life by one tenuous thread had committed to letting go even though he knew that meant leaving you behind, had in-fact already said goodbye.

And it’s so hard to fathom at the time but after the pain, life must go on and we must let new love in. We cling to the grief for fear of losing the connection and feel a sense of betrayal when we finally slip out of grief’s grip. But there’s a time to look at what life is giving you not just what it has taken away.

So I imaged what Karl in his clarity and devotion would say to Rachel and what his wishes for her were…and this is Bird Song, a goodbye, a ballad of undying love and a blessing to be happy and free.

Although it’s inspired by a single story it’s relevant to many and my hope is that Bird Song will offer hope and comfort and be an uplifting rather than sad song.

The song was recorded and produced by the amazing Michael Carpenter. He played all the instruments except the acoustic guitar (played by me) and also lent me his voice for a couple of very subtle vocal overlays created to evoke the spirit of Karl. With a voice of similar tone and timbre, these parts sound eerily like Karl Broadie.

When it came to doing the film clip I wanted something stunning, a mini film to accompany the story. I had a very clear image in my head of a story line that involved a woman enveloped by grief who would eventually awaken to the offer of love being made. Michael was able to bring that vision into being even more clearly than I had hoped. I was also very lucky to have a very talented cast Thomas Hespe, Andrijana Miler and Andres Bottino.

Bird Song film clip still

Bird Song film clip still

It was important to me that the viewer fall in love with the characters, to know them and feel their emotions. I definitely think we achieved this thanks to the brilliant performances of the cast, especially the smoldering brooding of Andrijana who is so believably vulnerable in her grief and her love.

Bird Song film clip still

Bird Song film clip still

We were also fortunate to have the help of Marie Kyle a fantastic make-up artist and visual artist from “We Dream in Pictures” who offered her services for free.

Bird Song will be released in February 2018 with performances and screenings scheduled in Sydney and Melbourne.

Dates and venues HERE

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Find a Songwriter Family

Over the last year my seeking has brought me home to a songwriter family who’s spiritual home is, at least the members who reside in Sydney, The Coogee Digger’s; Bunker Bar.

Overseeing and inspiring it all, a magnificent human who went by the name of Karl Broadie. What incredible gifts of wisdom, kindness and generosity he bestowed on us all. I say “was” because he recently left us.

But such a man does not leave quietly.
Songwriters and friends from all around made the pilgrimage to honour him and raise their voices to sing his wonderful songs.
On the eve of his death we were gathered at Rooty Hill RSL with the likes of Kasey Chambers, Adam Harvey, Catherine Britt, Brooke McClymont, Adam Eckersley, Luke O’Shea, Jasmine Rae, Harry Hookey, Katie Brianna, Caitlin Harnett, Adam Young and Den Hanrahan for a concert that was to be a benefit for him in his fight against Cancer. But instead we learned of his acceptance that any day now he expected to pass. He was preparing to leave and we were singing him out.

So many people fall to cancer but few people receive such a sent off, few are so very worthy.

And a strange thing has happened. The pain has turned to love and friendships, new collaborations a torrent of new songs inspired by his loss and by the tremendously sad love story of a sweetheart left behind.

Bird song is one of those songs. As I started writing I realised it was a song for Rachel, a song for her pain and the long road to healing. But there is one line in there that is for me;

“Hear my voice when you doubt yourself”

This line is inspired by a simple thing Karl said to me in his Scottish lilt one night after performing; “You’re a class act

A throw-away line but a gift I keep in a box with my precious belongings. It’s a weapon I regularly use now to fight off insecurity, a sense of unworthiness and negative voices in my head.

One of Karl’s most loved Albums was called “Black Crow Calling” and strangely after his death crows all over seemed to be acting out to draw attention to themselves. On the day of his death we gathered at the Bunker and many a bird story was told.

I will never look at a crow again without thinking of Karl Broadie.
I wonder if he knew my first EP was called Conversations With Crows?

Bird Song – Justine Wahlin © May 2016

Although I’m leaving I’m preparing for the road I’m talking with angels, I’m letting go
You can catch the trail of the comet I’m on gather up your voices we’ll sing the last song

Then you’ve got to be strong
You’ve got to live on anyway
You’ve got to be strong
You’ve got to live on anyway
Hear my voice when you doubt yourself

Where I’m going ,you can’t follow yet but I’ll leave a light on and I’ll drink to your health
I’ll hang my heart up here by the door and you can wear it in winter like you did before

Rain falls rivers run that’s the sound my love makes
Rain falls rivers run that’s the sound

So shine your bright eyes out to sea from your mountain home
Hear me call your name with my bird song

If you shut out all the noise you’ll hear the sound of my heart straight into yours
A lullaby to sooth you when you need it the most and if the twilight makes you sad let him hold you

Rain falls rivers run that’s the sound my love makes
Rain falls, rivers run that’s the sound

So shine your bright eyes out to sea from your mountain home
Hear me call your name with my bird song

And then you’ve got to be strong
you’ve got to live on anyway
you’ve got to be strong
you’ve got to live on anyway
Hear my voice when you doubt yourself
Hear my voice when you doubt yourself
Hear my voice when you doubt yourself

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Where the River Flows

This Blog is as much about finding you as it is about helping you find me. I’m a singer songwriter and for me writing songs has always been about expressing emotions. At times there’s been a torrent that I could barely find enough vessels to contain, filling up song after song, at other times it has slowed to a trickle, small cups filling up over time and sometimes not at all.

I’m a writer who has emerged from a cup overflowing. It’s made me lazy, I sit back and receive. But now as a person who has evolved into a song writer through the pure imperative to hurry and write everything down, I find myself seeking real craft and skills, ways to tune into other channels. Now that my own river has slowed,and in many ways I’m grateful for that, I’m looking for ways to tap into the vast river of emotion that is humanity. This river is endless, a renewable energy.

In a recent chat with Dominic Miller he likened song writing to turning on the WiFi. Sitting with an active signal. Once even the faintest signal is received, it must be caught in the net, mounted on a board with a pin through the middle and examined thoroughly. To use another analogy, it’s like finding a specimen. If you decide it’s worth keeping, congratulations, this is a fragment, like a piece from an archaeological dig that now needs to be reconstructed. It’s rare that these fragments come with all the pieces so this is where the real work starts.

Work, there’s a terrifying word. To build on a fragment you need skills, patience and persistence. You need to be always on the hunt for more clues and be able to make educated guesses at what links the parts. If you don’t hone these skills you end up with a pile of fragments. Sometimes you need to find ways to put a bunch of pieces together in a way that makes a whole even if you start with what seems like a gathering mount of unrelated parts.

I’m someone who likes to finish things and I seem to have an ever higher pile of fragments, so I now need to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Along the way I’d like to post some of the fragments here and explore the ways they fit together.

If you’re a song writer or a writer, maybe you can relate? I encourage your feedback and ideas. I’d like to know how you find ways to keep creative channels open and the skills you use to build signals, fragments, ideas into well crafted works that are complete.

Where the river flows into the sea
You’ll find me riding on a raft to catch the sun
You’ll find me lying in a pearl
and in all the wondrous beauty in your eyes