Tell us about your tour vehicle.
I’ve been in America since about 2010… but haven’t yet bought a touring vehicle here. I rent vans for the most part for touring dates. I do have to buy a vehicle though. If it helps to know, I literally drove my last 2 Australian cars to death. My first car in Australia I drove it ‘til it had 250,000 kms (yes kilometers) on the odometer and the front axle broke. Then my second vehicle I drove it from Melbourne to Sydney too many times the engine seized up. The current tour I’m on as a musician with the Smashing Pumpkins we have luxury tour buses. So there is a driver, we have a nice lounge, and bunks to sleep in. Our driver also bakes us fresh cakes in his bread-maker. Bonus.
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
Most days on this tour, I try to roll into the venue early and eat at catering that is supplied for workers and bands. I also try to take fruit, yogurt or granola bars that are in our band rooms or catering… and eat those for breakfast before the next show.
How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
I am lucky enough to have a wonderful guitar string sponsor. I am sponsored by Martin Strings and my contacts sends me strings a few times a year. Depending on how many shows I do …that varies how many strings I change. I don’t often break strings anymore. I used to play 5-6 nights a week in Australia and would break more strings. Now in the United States, I’m playing less often, but more important shows. I try too change strings once a month and I use a medium gauge, so they are a bit heavy. I personally like heavier strings as they sound fuller and break less often.
Where do you rehearse?
I just moved from Los Angeles to Nashville. Rehearsal spaces now vary wildly. I do a lot more scaled back 2 or 3 piece shows. So anybody’s space with or without a small PA system is usually fine. Lounge rooms, control rooms…. It all works.
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
I have written hundreds and hundreds of songs. But when I first started writing, I think I had a defining moment where I finally decided “this” particular song is good. There is a definite shift in consciousness and focus. My first “good” song I remember was called “Drowning”. Like all 17 year olds that listened to a combination of Stevie Wonder, The Cult and Sheryl Crow, it was in 6/8 timing. Hahaha. It was a bit dark and what not. I was very far from having honed my craft or my style. I suppose my first 100 songs were more alternative that I wrote. Then they became more pop influenced melodically… now they are story songs of honesty, love, hardship and more.
Describe your first gig.
I was one of few people that started playing gigs as a working professional. My first paying gig I was 15 turning 16. It was a cafe with no PA system. I sat in the corner with my guitarist and we played our 3 hour set of covers. I got paid 50.00.
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
I’ve been a working musician since I was 16. My only “real” day job I’ve ever done was working in a store for a week when I was 18. I then quit. It’s always been music and variations of that and I’ve been able to get by. I still do session vocals for producers and artists when I am asked to.
How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?
In Australia I knew exactly what I was earning from the acoustic cover gigs I did. But it was not a career. That was in essence my day job – I see that now. My income fluctuates pretty wildly from year to year. Over the next 5 years, I’d like to see it double. 10 years… double again. Ideally, like most creative types, I want to just make music, play shows and not worry about money. Ideally to be playing bigger shows to more fans and creating a larger dialogue. The income should be relative to the career building up.
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
I wouldn’t change anything. As everything including my struggles have brought me to this point. I do think being honest is a must-have trait. Being un-afraid to change, challenge and progress forward is another thing. And regarding the people in our industry: they say a lot of words. And many people make many promises. To me, all you can ask of people is that they do the things they say they will do. If they don’t… cut ties (nicely) and move on. Nobody will every care more about your career than you do. So don’t waste time on the wrong people.