‘One of the most challenging times in my life was when my mum died when I was 23 – it was a really devastating thing – particularly at that age.
‘I write most of my work from personal experience. My new album (“Eternal Return”) was written at a time when I was falling in love so I was trying to capture the joy and the openness of that.
‘Both the difficulties I’ve gone through as well as the highs in my life have inspired what I’ve done.
‘The most important thing I think for a musician is to listen to their own instincts because there are a lot of people who have opinions about what you should do and how you should do things. I’ve always found when I’ve followed my own gut; it’s always worked out well for me. That’s all you can really do.
‘There have been only a few times where I’ve gone against my gut instinct but luckily only with minor things. It’s always kept confirming to me that no one knows what’s best for you, more than you do.’
‘We were just bankrupt in the end – there was so much debt. There were just no more windows of opportunity anywhere. We exhausted everything. We were always trying to find a way. It got to the point where we just couldn’t pay the bills.
‘We took over the Annandale Hotel in 2000 and quickly realised it was foolish not to have live music on. That was the heart and soul of the place and so live music became part of our lives. But it was never not a drama there – from the minute we bought it we were in court for various reasons. If it wasn’t for the absolute passion that we had for the place and the people there’s no way in the world we could have lasted that long.
‘One day in 2013 we realised that there’s just no way out of this anymore. We told a bunch of friends to come down and we got one of our favourite local bands in the back bar one Sunday night. We drank the bar dry and walked in the bank the next day and handed in the keys.
‘You see people bad mouthing pubs or live music festivals that go under – people don’t go in to these ventures to try and rip people off. They go in to it because they’re passionate or they think it’s worthwhile. You look at things differently once you’ve been through it.
‘When we went bankrupt, it was relieving. There was a big fear of losing the pub but the stress that was on our shoulders was just so intense. It comes with its challenges too. I’ve got another couple of years of bankruptcy.
‘But the freedom of having no money is quite liberating because you can have a go at anything and what have you got to lose? It’s a really different way of looking at things – it’s a very freeing type of mentality.
‘I love Newtown – I’ve been in the area now for 15 years. We’re organising the King Street Crawl which is a celebration of this area. The goal of it is to shine a light on the space and celebrate its diversity as well.’
‘I’ve been a homeless alcoholic on the streets. I’ve been an addict walking the streets when I was 16 years old up at the Cross and there were no real outlets to get help then. I think one of the strong contributing factors of depression is… when you isolate yourself. You can’t isolate when you feel bad. Just pick up the phone; it’s not a backbreaking thing to do. We have the technology now – mobile phones; the internet. There are support programs anywhere and everywhere. There are phone numbers advertised on TV. You know, Beyond Blue and all that.
‘When I was younger, there was nothing you know. I just got barely through by the skin of my teeth; I really did. It was really hard dealing with depression then. There are better support avenues out there now. You need to talk to someone. Even if you’ve got one friend, one is better than none – there is always someone around.
‘Busking is like my best anti-depressant. It fills that void. It’s a guarantee that every single time I go busking, I go home feeling on top of the world. It’s always 100% guaranteed.’
‘Doing my first degree when I was 38 which I loved and sailed through and I got a first. I studied Drama.’
What advice would you give to your 20 year old self?
‘Aim for RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London) – do the degree early! That is where I wanted to go but my parents wouldn’t let me. I became a registered nurse when I was 18 instead.
‘I’ve only stopped performing on stage in the last five years because I’ve had a lot of problems with my teeth and I won’t go on stage with no teeth. I can’t annunciate properly but I’ll have new teeth in soon.’
Will you go back to stage then?
‘Only to do cabaret – I love cabaret. I didn’t find cabaret until I was actually doing my finals project. I love singing and dancing. I shall return!’
‘The first practice we did without Jay was really difficult. We weren’t expecting that – just his non-presence there was tough.
‘Pat my brother was in town from Tasmania for the funeral. Pat will be filling in for Jay at this Saturday’s Smallworld Festival. We wanted to introduce Pat to the songs and that gave him two weeks to rehearse them and try to get them as close to the way that Jay used to play them.
‘It was the day after the funeral. We were all a bit exhausted. We’d all had the night out the night before at the pub that Jay used to drink at. We thought we’d jumped over this big hurdle in getting through the funeral and then all of a sudden, we had to go through a band practice without him being there.
‘This will be our first gig since his passing. If the gigs hadn’t been booked we probably wouldn’t have played for an extended period. It was Jay’s funeral we wanted to pay for.
‘We’ve also got a couple of gigs booked in Melbourne and my other brother will fill in on one of those plus another bass player who Jay taught how to play bass and he’s very close to us.
‘We’re not getting a replacement bass player. He’s not being replaced. People who are close to him are filling his shoes in remembrance. Once all these shows are done we’re going to take a long time off and who knows? For the time being I don’t even want to think about it.
‘On Saturday we are chucking in Acid Rain in the set because that was a song that Jay wrote. Just us being there and doing the gig is a tribute to Jay in itself. Same with the audience – he’s still fresh in everyone’s mind.
‘Every now and then you realise he’s not there. It comes in waves. Sometimes when you least expect it.’
Tumbleweed’s Lenny Curley about his brother Jay who passed away suddenly last month.