I like “songs.”
That sounds like a silly thing to say but there’s a huge difference between a “vibe” and a well-crafted, fully formed song with structure. A great “song” will travel the world and last forever. There’s obviously many paths and many styles that people love but this is the one I’ve been thinking about most recently.
My job is to help artists succeed in their careers and I’m always looking for pathways to do it. Especially when it comes to exporting Australian artists to America.
There’s always genre trends, “hip hop” being the most obvious one right now, but beneath that the classics will always exist and reach the world in one way or another. Songwriting or “singer/song-writers” is one of those classic genres.
Of particular interest to me are Australian Singer-Songwriters. There’s the eternal greats like Paul Kelly, Bee Gees, INXS, or Olivia Newton-John, but I’m very interested in who’s carrying the torch right now?
A key piece of the puzzle fell into place for me two Decembers ago when Apple Beats 1 Show host Zane Lowe went on Richard Kingsmill’s new music show “2017” on triple j. They discussed everything he sees happening in music around the globe, but also mentioned Australian artists in America.
He said something that really stuck with me, “the kinds of Australian artists that tend to do well in The States are ones that have a ‘suburban romance” about them.” For me, and in this context, this rings true and really aligns with some of the key elements of great Australian Music: strong songwriting, heartfelt lyrics, and an “I’m just a normal person” vibe.
When I first heard Courtney Barnett it was clear that she was fantastic in those three elements but what struck me was her occa accent. Naively I thought “that won’t travel, Americans will hate the tone.” How wrong I was!
The way she’s been embraced by audiences, industry, and media outside of Australia, particularly in America, is incredibly heartening. It turns out that great “songs” backed up by a blistering live performance and strong work-ethic does wonders. Who knew!?
Courtney Barnett – ‘Avant Gardener’:
Gang of Youths
Within the context of the conversation Lowe described Gang of Youths as “a spirited & emotional rock band” which certainly makes sense too. They’re a huge success in Australia of course but breaking America is a whole other story.
They certainly have those three key elements to transcend our shores and the recent global deal with Warner is proof that others can see it too. A particularly impressive feat in a climate where heads of major labels can regularly be quoted saying that “rock is dead.”
The band having extreme charisma on stage certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Gang of Youths – ‘Magnolia’:
It’s no secret that I’m 1000% convinced by and behind Amy Shark in taking over the world while still retaining her “Australianness”. By my assessment her song writing is as close to perfect as it gets.
She has those three key elements, a willingness to “go big” and also an unstoppable work-ethic. Her lyrics really speak to the “I’m just a normal person” element too which is clear to see from the wall-to-wall sing-a-longs at her shows and line-ups to meet her afterwards. Radio will play her songs for hundreds of years.
Amy Shark – ‘Adore’
So what’s next? Well I saw the same key elements right away when a producer friend sent me the unreleased Good Pash EP “GEN 1” back in March.
You haven’t heard this band yet but with any luck you will soon. Ostensibly they’re sonically in the indie-punk / riot girl space but a key factor with Good Pash is that they have “songs.”
There’s heartfelt lyrics and a strong sense of “I’m just a normal person”, which really captures the “Suburban Romance” element too. All members are songwriters and in the live show none of them are playing their primary instruments. Talk about an embarrassment of riches when it comes to raw talent.
To me, the stand-out song from the EP is ‘A Yacht In Sydney Harbour’, it certainly struck a chord with me and I can see this travelling the world.