“You can tell when it’s cooking, when the vibe’s right. Other people look at it like a rubbish truck having convulsions coming up the street. If it makes people smile, I’m rapt!”
Popular urban street drummer Paul Guseli who performs as ‘Lousy with mines’ is a Melbourne institution.
Paul’s energised street performances are created with over 50 pieces of recycled waste – everything from pots, pans, bells, whistles, biscuit tins and plastic bottles provide the tools for his admirable percussion skills, attracting the attention of passers-by with his techno-inspired show.
It all began around five years ago when Guseli was working as a kitchen-hand in his brother’s Carlton restaurant. The sounds of a busy kitchen and the clattering of pots and pans were the inspiration behind what would become a musical institution on the streets of Melbourne’s CBD.
Guseli now operates as a full-time street performer and though he survives well on his takings, he’s certainly had some interesting deposits in his time – “people just scrape everything out of their pockets. I’ve had sim cards, a lot of lint, lacker bands, one earring, lighters, even a fingernail,” he told Corinna Hente of MOJO in 2018.
We filmed ‘Lousy with mines’ on a sunny Sunday afternoon in November on Melbourne’s Swanston Street. This high energy, focused performer did not stop for long enough for us to chat with him, but there was no denying the crazy talent of Paul Guseli.
“Dame Kelly Holmes (British Double Gold Medallist, middle distance athlete) told me to never give up on my dreams. I was 7 years old at the time and performing at an event she attended.
Busking has helped me to maintain eye contact. I am naturally very shy. It’s taken me years to put on an act really. If I act like I am confident, it helps me to actually become confident.”
Kiah Spurle is a 12 year old British national with a big voice. Drawn to singing at a very young age, Kiah would sing along with Andrea Boccelli on the TV and when she got a little older Adele became her favourite performer.
Kiah took up busking to build her confidence when performing and as a way to practice maintaining eye contact with her audience, something she felt she needed to develop as she is a shy young lady by nature.
We invited Kiah along to Busker What’s Your Story? to find out a little more.
How often and where abouts do you busk?
I go busking every two weeks in the Winter, and more in the Spring and Summer months. I mostly busk around London and the South of England.
What are your best moments from busking? Do you feel intimidated on the streets?
My most memorable moments busking are the amazing people that support me. People are genuinely really kind and want the best for me. Some stop and chat to me and my mum and it really means a lot to both of us. My Mum comes with me every time I busk, so I feel safe. I always have the support of adults and friends around me.
Is there anything you don’t like about busking?
The most difficult thing about busking is getting set up! Haha! Everything is heavy and lots of leads etc.
What do you do with the money you earn from busking?
I save my money from busking to use when I start recording my own music. Studio time is very expensive and I like to pay my own way for everything that I achieve.
If you could choose a lyric from any song that means something special to you, what would that lyric be?
I like the lyric: “We Are All One” it’s also the song title of my latest song. It means that we are all equal. We all have something that we are talented in. We just have to find it within ourselves.
Who are your musical inspirations?
My all time favourite singer is Adele. I just love her voice obviously but, she is just so down to earth and honest. I’m loving Billie Eilish at the moment too!
What’s some great advice you’ve received in your young lifetime so far?
Dame Kelly Holmes (British Double Gold Medalist in middle distance running) told me to never give up on my dreams. I was 7 years old at the time and singing at an event that she attended.
What’s next for you Kiah?
I write my own songs and will be recording a new EP soon.
“I mainly busk in my hometown of Munich. Busking in Germany is quite different compared to busking in Australia. There are strict rules in Germany for buskers. For example, you’re not allowed to busk amplified, it’s quite a big process you have to go through to get a permit and there are only a few spots to busk in the city centre. But still I really enjoy it.”
Sunny’s Facebook profile says she’s just a small town girl, singing in a lonely world. We wanted to find out more about this 22 year old singer/songwriter and street performer from Germany.
Sunny was born in the Bavarian Capital of Munich but her busking adventures began right here in Australia in Melboune in 2015.
What brought you to Australia?
When I finished school, and after that an apprenticeship as a bilingual assistant, it didn‘t feel right to start working straight away. So my boyfriend and I decided to take a year off to explore Australia and also to improve our language skills. Which (thinking back now) was the absolute right thing to do.
What are some memorable moments from busking in Australia and Germany?
I guess the most memorable moment in Australia was my first busking day. I was really nervous with just my voice and my guitar. But I started to really enjoy it after the first few songs. So my boyfriend noticed that and went straight off to buy a microphone and an amp to make it a little more professional. That was a very big step at that time and I think that also set the stone for where I am now.
In Germany it was very special for me to busk in front of my family and friends for the first time. They couldn’t see me busking in Australia, so I really enjoyed showing them my passion for street music first hand.
Where do you busk in Germany? How does the busking experience differ in Germany to what it is like in Australia?
I mainly busk in Munich. Busking in Germany is quite different compared to busking in Australia. There are strict rules in Germany for buskers. For example you’re not allowed to busk amplified, it’s quite a big process you have to go through to get a permit and there are only a few spots to busk in the city centre. But still I really enjoy it.
The best thing about busking in Australia is that you’re allowed to use an amplifier. That makes it so much easier to be heard amongst heaps of people walking the streets and it really gives you the feeling of being on a stage.
What do you like most about busking?
The street is my stage. That’s what I really like about busking.
I can play my music for a lot of people and the ones who enjoy it will stay and listen. That way I can reach a lot of people and also practice my performance.
Also, you meet a lot of inspiring people and other street artists.
Do you always feel safe busking on the streets? Have you had any worrying moments?
I feel safe, as my boyfriend is with me most of the time to watch out. If that wasn’t the case, it would be different. There are situations that you don’t want to face alone.
If you could choose a lyric from any song that sums up life for you, what would that lyric be?
That’s a hard question! There are a lot of songs with great lyrics. But if I had to choose one right now, it would be: ‘We‘re just one big family and it‘s our godforsaken right to be loved” (it’s from “I‘m yours” by Jason Mraz). I always feel connected to that line when I play that song myself.
What is your real name? What’s something interesting about you?
Sunny is actually the short form of my real name Susanna. And Acc’s is just a short form of ‘acoustics’ as I usually play acoustic music.
Something interesting about me? Let me think. Is working full time as a musician interesting? I think so.
Tell us a little about your original music.
I would describe my own music style as a futuristic singer songwriter.
I’m currently working on my first studio album and I’m really excited to show the world in the next few weeks.
I write about inspiring moments or people. I get most of my inspiration when I’m in nature. There’s something calm and peaceful about it.
What’s a great piece of advice you’ve been given and who gave you that advice?
The best advice my parents gave me was to trust my gut and follow my instincts. It’s better to try and fail than not to try at all.
What’s next for Sunny Acc’s?
Well, first I’m working on finishing my studio album and then of course, I will release it.
After that, I’ll see what life has to offer. I definitely want to go back to Australia one day. Until then, I’ll keep on practicing and working on my music.
“I’m part of the Busk in London scheme, meaning I have a license to busk in the train stations around London, but more regularly I go to Kingston Upon Thames to busk in the marketplace. It’s a wonderful space with street food stalls, shops and lots of people willing to stop and listen on a weekend.
There’s always the opportunities I get from busking. London is such a vibrant and creative city, and you never know when the right person is going to walk past and give you an incredible opportunity!”
At just 16 years of age, Josephine Shaw’s classically trained vocals are not what you would expect to encounter as you rush to London’s Waterloo Station or stroll the pavements of Kingston Upon Thames. But hear them you will, if you are lucky enough.
This young singer has a vocal maturity way beyond her years. Born in Chicago, USA, Josephine’s American parents moved to the UK when she was only three. She says her accent is Mid-Atlantic – “a strange mix of American and British that I’ve picked up from my parents.”
We invited Josephine to Busker What’s Your Story? so you could hear her beautiful voice and we could find out a little more about her musical theatre aspirations and her busking experiences.
You have an incredible voice. What drew you to musical theatre and singing?
I feel like I’ve always had a love for singing. I was that weird kid making constant strange noises or humming to myself, much to the annoyance of my family! When I was around eight or nine I started taking lessons, which made me realise how much I loved to express myself through performance.
I saw my first musical, Wicked, for my eighth birthday, and was obsessed! I listened to the soundtrack on repeat, and I loved how musicals expertly combine acting, singing and dance, and that such uplifting, moving and fantastical stories can be told through this wonderful art form.
Do you play an instrument?
I play piano, but when I busk I tend to use backing tracks to get that orchestral sound that fits really well with classical music. When I recorded my EP, titled ‘Nightingale’, Ben Robbins, the producer of the album, provided me with some really high quality backing tracks for some of my songs, that I now use when busking. They’re beautiful, and it really enhances the experience.
Do you write your own material?
I currently don’t, but I would love to.
Being a classical singer, most repertoire performed is already written unless you are a composer, and with musicals, most songs that I sing are from, well, musicals!
When I was in LA for the first time over the summer, I met up with musician and songwriter Justin James, he helped me write my first song, called ‘Pause’. It’s about taking time for yourself in such a busy, pressured and stressful world. It hasn’t been produced, but if you scroll back a little on my Instagram page to July, (or go to my IGTV), you can find it. It was such a great experience, and I feel like songwriting is a deeper way to express myself through music that I want to explore in the future.
Where do you busk and how many times a week would you busk?
I’m part of the Busk in London scheme, meaning I have a license to busk in the train stations around London, but more regularly I go to Kingston Upon Thames to busk in the marketplace. It’s a wonderful space with street food stalls, shops and lots of people willing to stop and listen on a weekend.
As I’m 16 and am still in school full-time, I busk once a week, generally on Saturdays and Sundays when the market is busiest at lunch. However if it’s during school holidays, you’ll find me busking a lot more often!
You’re not a ‘typical’ busker. Was it intimidating at first to sing on the streets?
I actually wasn’t that intimidated at first to go busking!
While I have a tendency to get nervous about small things in day to day life, performing is when I feel most at home and true to myself.
I feel like I was very encouraged by seeing other buskers performing, especially in Kingston, which is very close to my home. Not too long before I started busking, it felt like the streets were filling up with more and more buskers, and I was becoming more aware of them.
Christmas was on its way, and I felt inspired to try it out myself (singing Christmas carols and other songs to spread some Christmas joy). I did really well, and it was a very positive experience for me, so I’ve been doing it ever since.
What are some special moments so far from busking?
Something that’s very rewarding for me as a singer is to see the reaction I get from my audience when I busk. Music can be an incredibly powerful thing, and when someone tells me that my music moved them emotionally, it means a lot!
I also love when people tell me that they’ve started to enjoy classical music after listening to me sing. Classical-crossover is a genre I love, which combines classical music and other styles, and I really believe it has the capacity to reach a wider audience.
And there’s always the opportunities I get from busking. London is such a vibrant and creative city, and you never know when the right person is going to walk past and give you an incredible opportunity! Just from busking, I’ve been asked to sing for weddings, a yoga class featuring live music, and for the prestigious Coutts Bank on the Strand, London.
What is a favourite lyric from any song that means something to you?
One of my most popular songs is Nella Fantasia. It’s in Italian, and I absolutely love the meaning of the lyrics. One of the verses translates;
‘In my fantasy, I dream of a just world, where people live in peace and honesty. I dream of souls who are always free, that soar like clouds, full of humanity, in the depths of the soul.’
In this time we are constantly hearing news of wars, grief, unjustness and suffering. Yet this song encourages listeners to hope and act for a better world, to dream about how the world could be. I hope that people take some steps themselves, however small, to move forward despite the worldly struggles we encounter and get a bit closer to that dream.
What’s a great piece of advice you’ve received in your young life so far?
Something that has been very significant for me as of late is working on my self confidence, especially when interacting with other people in the music industry.
I feel my most confident when I perform, but when I’m talking to others I find myself diminishing my own achievements, in fear of sounding cocky or unrealistic.
My parents have been so wonderful in supporting my dream to have a music career, and they’ve really encouraged me to be confident in myself and clear in my communication with others.
Something that is also vital to remember is to be kind. Kindness goes a long way, and being confident in yourself doesn’t mean you’re putting others down! The music industry can be very competitive and sometimes even toxic, and it’s important to remember to support other musicians to help create the positive community we know the music industry should be. And when you’re confident in yourself and have a network of other lovely musicians who support you, it’s easier to face the risk of rejection from auditions, and maintain a healthy attitude to keep following your dreams even when it gets difficult.
You have such a mature voice for 16. Have you auditioned for stage shows yet?
Thank you! Yes, I’m currently 16 so it’s sometimes a struggle to balance all my school work as well as my music career at the same time, but I’ve managed to stay on top of it so far!
When I was younger I auditioned for the child roles in musicals, like Matilda, Young Cosette or Young Fiona from Shrek the Musical, but now I’m 16, I’m at that phase where I’m too old for child parts, but too young to be hired for adult roles.
I’m currently looking for an agent, so by the time I’m 18 I can audition for musicals. I am also passionate about being a solo artist, which means that while I can’t audition yet, I can work on producing another classical-crossover album, and getting more performance opportunities as a solo artist. I would love to open for another classical-crossover musician on a tour.
What’s next for Josephine Shaw? Will you busk for us here in Australia one day?
In the next few years I’m planning to get another album out, and by then hopefully I’ll have a bigger following of people who are invested in listening to the music I have to share.
It’s a dream of mine to be signed with a record label to help produce that album, and by the time I’m 18, I want to be signed with an agent for Film, TV and Theatre, and auditioning for musicals too.
I’m considering taking a gap year after I finish my A-Levels (More British exams taken across the country to get into university), so that I can dedicate time to developing my career and making connections – I’m even hoping to live in LA for a few months.
I’ve never been to Australia before, but I would absolutely love to go. Being a fan of Opera, Sydney Opera House is a must-see for me, and I have some friends who have moved over there that I need to visit. I would love to busk over there if I ever get the chance, and a gap year would be the perfect opportunity to try!
“Busking for me was a full time job. I had to do it even on days that I didn’t want to and wasn’t feeling inspired. This made me hone my craft immensely in two years; it made me improve exponentially and I noticed more and more that people were paying attention.
I realised that the smallest details can mean the difference between an okay performance and an amazing performance. It’s a challenge I set myself on stage too; in a noisy bar I would try and create silence… That’s when you know you’ve done well.”
Patrick Lionel is a Melbourne based singer/songwriter who combines mesmerising vocals with delicate guitar lines, leaving his audience spellbound, focused intently on the performer.
We invited Patrick to the blog because he has a load of busking experience in Melbourne and is an articulate and reflective artist, whose insights we really appreciate – we hope you will too!
You’re just 21, tell us more about Patrick Lionel and his music
I was raised in a town called Heathcote, about half an hour drive from Bendigo. I did many of my first gigs in Bendigo, as well as doing my schooling there.
Yes, I recently turned 21 and I’m currently living in Melbourne; I’d much prefer to live in the country, but for work (as well as for music) the city provides many more opportunities.
I’ve only officially released two songs at this stage, but if I earn enough money I’ll get back into the studio this year to record more. Recording them was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. I was able to receive the help and guidance from Jordie Lane throughout the entire process, which was a dream come true and a huge story within itself!
My first release ‘Forgive Yourself‘ ‘ was a song I completed writing only a couple of weeks before going into the studio. It was a song that wrote itself basically, stemming from a deeply distressing experience that unfolded in my life at the time; but the song came at the perfect time and I was able to take it into the studio.
‘Caroline,’ my most recent release, was a song that I’ve had for quite a while now. Unlike ‘Forgive Yourself’ ‘ it has no personal story; it would be what you call fiction for most part! Although they’re both different in that aspect, I love them both. I feel that although ‘Caroline’ is not related to any particular experience in my life, someone out there will still relate to it, and hopefully experience some sort of emotive response to it in one way or another.
Tell us more about your busking experiences
When I first moved to Melbourne 3 years ago, I would busk most days of the week. I didn’t have a job, so busking was my main source of income for the most part of two years!
Nowadays I have a job, and although it’s rewarding being able to save money; it has become a detriment to my music. From playing all the time (to barely picking up the guitar) was a struggle which I became unaware of.
But time without playing has allowed me to reflect on what I want in the future, and 2020 will be more of a balancing act between work and music. I’m looking forward to it.
Busking for me was (back then) a full time job. I had to do it even on days that I didn’t want to and wasn’t feeling inspired. This made me hone my craft immensely in two years; it made me improve exponentially and I noticed more and more that people were paying attention.
I realised that the smallest details can mean the difference between an okay performance and an amazing performance. This allowed me to become better on stage also, and I was beginning to form a reputation in my area which was a very rewarding feeling.
Performing is very much a selfish thing. I do it because I love it. But it’s just as (if not more) rewarding to see other people enjoy it. That’s what I love most about busking; seeing people who I’ve never met before, or held a conversation with, respond to my music on an emotional level that only a song can evoke.
But it’s a double edged sword. I had many days where I’d be disheartened after busking, not because I didn’t earn much, but because sometimes it makes you see the worst side of humanity. What hurt me most was when I would be putting all my vulnerabilities on show for people (which is what performing is) and watching people walk on by without any acknowledgment at all.
It still astounds me today how and why this is. It is incredibly sad that people can be caught up in their own world so much, that they shut off all senses. This also made me challenge myself to try and get those same people to at least acknowledge my presence, and maybe even enjoy what I was doing!
It’s a challenge I set myself on stage too; in a noisy bar I would try and create silence…. That’s when you know you’ve done well.
If you could choose a lyric or a song that’s really special to you, what would it be?
Lyrics have become more and more important to me as I’ve grown as a musician. Listening to lyrical masters like Jason Isbell, Joe Pug and Gregory Alan Isakov has made me want to focus on crafting better lyrics in my own songs.
There’s not one particular lyric or line which stands out for me, because there are so many good ones. But I feel like a great song is one that is perfect in it’s entirety. And in terms of lyric, one song that does that in my opinion is ‘The Trapeze Swinger’ by Iron and Wine. That song gives me goosebumps the whole way through every time without failure.
Who are your musical inspirations and what do you love most about them?
I have so many musical inspirations which span from famous artists to friends. I feel like there can be inspiration wherever you look, you just have to listen.
What’s something really interesting about you?
I think everyone has a belief that they are uninteresting, as I do too sometimes. But that’s only because what others consider interesting about us, we consider as the norm; it’s the familiarity and repetition of what interests us that makes it normal. So I’m sure there’d be many things which other people would consider interesting about myself, but for me, it’s just me.
What’s a great piece of advice you’ve been given?
The most valuable piece of information (given to me when I was younger, and still trying to get my head around music) was from a friend who was in his last moments of life.
He was a well respected man in the community, who’d been playing music for a very long time, and the final time I saw him he told me to: “always keep it simple”. That was the last thing he said to me, and something which I have kept in the front of my mind since that time.
Your Falsetto is amazing, is that something you’re shy about when you first start to sing, or does it come natural from the get-go?
Falsetto was something that I always loved. Growing up listening to Matt corby and Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) made me transfixed on the beauty of it, when it’s done well. But it was always a struggle for me, even though my voice was particularly high for a male.
As I’ve matured, it’s become easier (I’m not sure why?) but I’m sure there is a scientific reason!
I guess I have always wanted to be better at it, and practice was another factor in improvement. I’m still developing it, and there’s still much more room for improvement.
Singing as a whole for me has never been about technique; because perfection is unattainable, and sometimes the imperfections in a voice are the most impactive.
I’ve only ever had a few singing lessons in my life just to try it, but experimentation, practice and individuality are (in my opinion) the key aspects of being able to create an impactful performance.
What’s next for Patrick Lionel?
I’m really looking forward to performing more in 2020.
For the last six months or so I have been very quiet, but I’m hoping to change that soon. I’d like to record more songs and step out of my comfort zone, in order to develop myself further. I also look forward to getting back onto the street and doing some more busking! Because honestly, that is what I love doing the most.
“I love the line ‘I am one step heavy and two steps high’ in the song ‘Without You’, by Oh Wonder. I see it as such a positive line. To me it means that even when things go wrong, there’s more good in the world than bad.”
Eliza May is a young singer/songwriter from Birmingham UK and a Popular Music graduate from Falmouth University.
Eliza’s passion for performing saw her begin her busking adventure around 5 years ago in Birmingham. Eliza then moved to Cornwall to study music where she says busking was an enjoyable way to help fund her studies and hone her craft.
“Around my studies, I managed to find time to visit other musician friends who lived in Liverpool and took the opportunity to busk there as well. It was a great experience, busking all around the UK; it allowed me to meet lots of new people and get my music out to different parts of the country,” she says.
There is a chilled indie pop vibe to Eliza’s original music which she says takes inspiration from artists such as Corinne Bailey Rae, Tori Kelly, Skinny Living and Frank Turner. She has released four singles on Spotify and an EP titled Inner Damage on Soundcloud.
Eliza continues to busk and is also gigging regularly around Birmingham and other areas of the UK as a solo artist with her full band.
We’ve invited Eliza to Busker What’s Your Story? to find out a little more about her experiences as a busker.
You grew up in Birmingham, what can you tell us about your childhood there?
I spent a lot of my time focused on music. From the age of 3, I started singing along to Avril Lavigne and picked up the guitar at the age of 6.
Growing up, I realised that I loved everything about music and spent my childhood immersed in it. I’ve always had a passion for singing and learning instruments, any instrument I could get my hands on and learn to play.
How much time would you spend busking?
When I was in Birmingham, I’d often busk at least two or three times a week and when I was studying in Cornwall, I’d busk once or twice a week.
Can you share some memorable moments?
I think the best moments when busking are when other people can get involved with the experience.
In 2017, I used to busk with an amazing musician called Amelia Wallace. One of my favourite most memorable moments was when we were singing together in front of a large circle of people and a woman stepped forward, into the middle, and started dancing which made the crowd cheer and clap. It was one of the most wholesome moments I’ve experienced busking.
Another great memory is of a Spanish man who came over and asked to play a song. I said yes and he sang the original version of Despacito flawlessly. It was such a great performance of the song; everyone was so impressed that they started clapping and cheering.
If you could choose a lyric from any song that’s special to you, what would that lyric be, and why is it special?
I love the line “I am one step heavy and two steps high” in the song Without You by Oh Wonder. I see it as such a positive line. To me it means that even when things go wrong, there’s more good in the world than bad.
What’s something really interesting about you?
Well, along with being an artist, I also do a lot of community music work around the West Midlands.
This involves working with people of all ages and abilities, including people with mental health and physical disabilities, to help get them involved with music.
I have a strong passion for helping people get into music, no matter what experience they have. I love working in these settings because I see how much of a positive impact each project has on the people involved.
We love your collaboration with Nath Brooks called ‘Reach’ what can you tell us about that?
Nath Brooks is an upcoming singer songwriter that I met on a songwriting project at The Song Lab in Birmingham a couple of years ago. We wrote the song “Reach” whilst on the songwriting project and near the end of 2019 managed to find the time to record it.
We made a live video of it for his YouTube series “Brumtown and Around” which aims to showcase collaborations of people in and around Birmingham, UK.
What’s next for Eliza May?
At the moment, I’m working on my second upcoming EP. Last year I finished writing all the songs for it; now I’m in the process of jamming out the songs with my band and then we’ll be in the recording studio laying down each track.
I also plan on playing more full band gigs. Last year I managed to play two massive shows with my band but this year I want to play a few more. I can’t wait for the spring/summertime as well, so I can get back to busking on the streets. One of my goals this year is to be busking more in London, so hopefully that’s where I’ll be next.
“I love when I’m playing and passers-by are rushing, all busy and occupied and then they stop and give me a look, almost as if to say ‘thanks for making me stop and smile’. That’s my favourite part, when people walk past with a skip in their step and it feels like I’ve positively impacted their day.”
Steph is a 19 year old Melbourne born multi-instrumentalist. She released her first E.P. titled ‘Allegoric Oceans‘ in 2017 and is a regular busker at the Marketplace in Camberwell.
With influences from the John Butler Trio, Tash Sultana and Ziggy Alberts, Steph’s genre contains bursts of percussion alongside fingerstyle and indie rock.
At Busker What’s Your Story? we wanted to find out more about this young and talented independent acoustic artist.
What drew you to music as a child?
I grew up in Melbourne, surrounded by lots of family, friends and sport. Some of my earliest memories of music include driving in the car with my Dad, listening to Elvis Presley on repeat, watching my cousins jam together and going to see Ed Sheeran at my first concert when I was 14 years old.
What drew me to music was the support from my Dad and two of my cousins. They taught me a large handful of songs and showed me how much fun it was to jam and explore different sounds.
As a young person I listened to Coldplay, Ed Sheeran and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
What do you enjoy most about busking?
One of the best things about busking is meeting the locals and feeling a sense of community. I love when I’m playing and passers-by are rushing, all busy and occupied and then they stop and give me a look, almost as if to say ‘thanks for making me stop and smile’. That’s my favourite part; when people walk past with a skip in their step and it feels like I’ve positively impacted their day. It’s a pretty special feeling.
What do you like least about it?
There’s not too much not to like about busking, however when I finish a full day of performing and my fingers are red and raw, I guess that’s pretty annoying (yet oddly satisfying).
What are some standout moments you’ve had busking?
I’ve had plenty of funny situations. One man missed his doctor’s appointment because he listened to me for so long. Another time, a woman gave me $10 and thanked me for not playing any Christmas Carols!
If you could choose a lyric from any song that’s really special to you, what would it be, and why?
The song ‘Time Is Dancing’ by Ben Howard is personally one of the best lyrical songs of all time, but ‘Red Moon’ by Michael Dunstan has my favourite lyric: ‘Comforting memories of summer rain on wheat. Soothing rustle of the pines in the easterlies. Open spaces, that let me breath.’
Do you think buskers will survive an increasingly cashless society?
It’s something that I’ve been concerned about recently, but I think with our ever-growing technology, there’ll be ways for people to gift performers for their art. London’s recently introduced card readers for buskers so that people can tap their card and give money; I think that idea will go global soon enough.
What’s a great piece of advice you’ve been given?
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard in relation to music is: ‘Don’t let music become a chore, it should always be a release.’ I’ve followed that, ever since I heard it.
Where can people see you busk or gig?
I busk at the Market Place in Camberwell in Melbourne and I do gigs around Fitzroy at local pubs and bars.
“Everything that happens is totally sincere and true, whether it’s from me or from the people. Playing on the street creates a unique atmosphere, especially when little kids start dancing or jumping all over the place. They’re so funny and I’m really thankful to them for making this experience so rich in terms of emotions.”
Thirty-two year old Stefano Rosa is an Italian musician who grew up in a small village in the north of Italy called Coccaglio in the province of Brescia. With a music teacher and choir director for a mother and a brother who played piano and composed music, it was no surprise when (at the age of 7) he followed in their path, learning classical, electric and acoustic guitar.
Stefano enjoyed success as a guitarist in the band Sunset Baby Dolls for 7 years, opening for a number of Italian and International artists. Since 2015 he has also performed as a soloist and street artist.
Busker What’s Your Story? reached out to Stefano to find out more about his busking experiences.
You grew up in Coccaglio – what are some childhood memories there?
I have beautiful and vivid memories of my childhood. Playing soccer with my friends all day long and everyday, listening to music for hours in my parents’ car while traveling, playing with my beloved dog in the garden and doing my homework in the kitchen with my brother playing the piano in the background.
What drew you to music?
My family is made up by three quarters of musicians, so it definitely did not happen by accident! My Mother was always listening to Classical or songwriter’s music. At the age of 7 she started teaching me the basics of guitar and it all began from there.
What do you love or loathe about busking? What are some memorable moments?
I love the fact that I’m 100% free. I’m free to play wherever, whenever, however I want to (as long as I observe the cities’ regulations). Everything that happens is totally sincere and true, whether it’s from me or from the people. Playing on the street creates a unique atmosphere, especially when little kids start dancing or jumping all over the place. They’re so funny and I’m really thankful to them for making this experience so rich in terms of emotions.
I honestly don’t hate anything about busking. Maybe I could venture to say I don’t love carrying all the equipment around, especially during hot summers.
The most beautiful thing that happened to me while busking was a lovely old woman who put a 1€ coin on a wonderful embroidered silk handkerchief. How much meaning she put into that gesture! I also remember a sweet lady who came up to hug me while I was playing an Elton John song on the Nice promenade.
If you could choose a lyric from any song that is very special to you – what would that lyric be?
Chi aspetta sempre l’inverno per desiderare una nuova estate. taken from “Lettera” by Francesco Guccini. It means: “Those who always wait for winter to wish for a new summer.”
Have you ever busked in Australia?
No. Never. But I follow a bunch of Australian buskers on Instagram and I have to say that Australian buskers’ quality is extremely high! I also love to watch those beautiful landscapes such as beaches, piers on the ocean where they perform. I love it!
Do you think busking can survive an increasingly cashless society?
Buskers were born thousands of years ago. They started working in the oldest societies and they kept adapting to changes so I think this will happen tomorrow as well. Buskers in London already take contactless card payments. I think this system will soon spread to many other countries as well.
If you could change something you see on the streets – what would it be?
I wouldn’t change some thing on the street. I would change some people’s mindset. Often, little kids stop and stare at me singing, but their parents drag them away as if they have something essential to do on an ordinary Spring Sunday. These parents are teaching their kids not to enjoy music, or art in general, cause it is a waste of time. Mummy prefers to watch the Louis Vuitton bags in the shop windows. I really detest this behaviour. Damn! Your kid is loving listening to music, he’s enjoying staring at me, and it’s free. You don’t even have to give me a coin. Let him enjoy it!
What’s next for Stefano Rosa?
What’s next for me? Well, I’m trying to change something in my lifestyle, in my job and my leisure time. I would like to spend more time street performing and traveling.
I’ve bought a campervan which will let me live the life of a busker in a more complete and free way. I’d like to tour around Italy and Europe.
This year I will begin touring Po River from the source to the mouth. I’m ready for anything that’s waiting for me in the future.
“My biggest musical inspirations are my teachers in West Africa. I have been very fortunate to be able to travel to Ghana on two occasions to study intensively and learn from Master drummers. There’s something very special about West African music. It’s music with a social purpose; it’s music that connects people to the moment and to each other.”
Bri Slattery – Founder of In The Groove Community Drumming
While wandering the local festivals on the lookout for buskers, Busker What’s Your Story ? came upon this cool community drumming jam at the Albury Wodonga Sustainable Living Festival in November. We asked Bri Slattery, founder of In The Groove, what community drumming is all about.
What’s ‘In The Groove’ all about?
In The Groove was inspired by both my own experience of the transformative power of rhythm, and my observations as a school teacher of how rhythm engaged and empowered my students. We share rhythm-based experiences that address four core social outcomes: education, engagement, community and well-being.
What do you all love most about what you do?
The thing I love most about what I do, is the way in which rhythm has acted as a vehicle for me to make genuine connections with a diverse range of people from all walks of life.
What’s something memorable that’s happened when you’ve been performing?
I believe the most memorable moments don’t occur when you’re performing – rather, they occur when you are sharing the music with others – when you are actively engaged in the music together. That’s when the music truly comes alive.
There’s this amazing synchronicity – a shared, electric energy that can occur when you’re connected to others through rhythm.
Some of my most memorable and rewarding drumming moments have been working with young people, teaching social/emotional skills through our Student Engagement Strategy. It’s amazing to witness how rhythm can teach and empower people through transforming their energy, boosting their motivation and confidence, and enabling them to connect with others.
Who are your musical inspirations?
My biggest musical inspirations are my teachers in West Africa. I have been very fortunate to be able to travel to Ghana on two occasions to study intensively and learn from Master drummers. There’s something very special about West African music.
It’s music with a social purpose; it’s music that connects people to the moment and to each other.
What’s a great piece of advice you’ve been given – and who gave it to you?
“Free your mind.”
This advice came repeatedly from one of my teachers in Ghana. Whenever I reached a block when trying to learn a new rhythm, my teacher would ask me to pause a moment and “free my mind”. I always played better afterwards.
These days, it’s so easy to become stifled by our own inner critic, or by worrying about what others think, or by overthinking the task at hand, or by being consumed with other thoughts whilst trying to execute that task.
Freeing your mind is about being completely in the moment. What I love about drumming, is that it only properly works when you are completely present and engaged in playing the rhythm. It’s also an activity that requires you to be in your body and physically awake as well as mentally alert. Drumming is just a beautiful way to bring yourself back to the moment and experience complete engagement.
Where else do you jam?
In The Groove performs and hosts community jams at a range of local festivals, community events and private functions/parties. Keep an ear out for us!
How do people get involved?
It’s easy to join our In The Groove community.
Keep an eye out for our free community jams around North East Victoria and spontaneously join in the rhythm fun!
If you would like to learn about West African rhythms and how to play the djembe in a fun, social environment, come along to one of our classes. Our community classes occur on a weekly basis in Albury/Wodonga, Beechworth, Wangaratta and Yarrawonga. We also run on-demand workshops – we love bringing the rhythm to new towns and communities.
“I’ll be bringing in the new year once again by making music. Not with a band. Not at a wedding or pub. But on the main street of Albury, raising money for those in need. Every cent I make tonight will go directly to the RFS NSW. It may not be heaps in the scheme of things, but I believe that if everyone makes small efforts like this we can turn this mess around.”
When Busker What’s Your Story? went in search of a busker on New Years Eve in Albury, we got more than we bargained for.
Matt Cross, who grew up in Lavington and was home from Newcastle on New Years Eve, was not out celebrating with the lads, choosing instead to give up his time to support the NSW Rural Fire Service. This at a time when fire has ravaged regions surrounding Albury and taken the life of a local volunteer fire fighter.
It was heartening to see young revellers tossing notes and coins in his case where they could. Those who didn’t have any change shook his hand, appreciative of his support. Matt made an impressive $926.90 for the Rural Fire Service.
He doesn’t do a lot of busking these days, this was for a special event. Usually Matt is gigging with his band Glovers Lane of which he is a founding member and the keyboard player.
Matt was just doing his thing, a young muso wanting to give something back. At Busker What’s Your Story? it reaffirmed why we write this blog. Life is full of stories, tragic, funny, interesting and heartwarming. Music is often the glue that brings people together. Find out more about Matt Cross and his band Glovers Lane below.
You grew up in Lavington – What drew you to music as a child?
“Music has always had a hold of me. It’s a magic that’s hard to explain. So choosing to study music was an easy decision. Some memories growing up that stand out would be making music with my siblings. Both my sisters and brother learnt as well, and it was always a lot of fun trying to fit us all on the piano. These days making music with others is still just as fun. That’s a big part of the magic I think.”
What’s a standout memory from your busking days?
“I remember busking on a Christmas Eve a few years back. A lovely family from Melbourne passed through to have a listen. Not only did they donate money, but their two daughters both had a sing on the mic – and were really good! We played songs from The Beatles and Elton John. By the end of it, they had a great crowd gathered, and brought in a small fortune! Was a fantastic night.”
What’s a lyric that is special to you – and why?
“Tim Minchin’s tune “White Wine in the Sun” is up there in my top 5 songs – especially this time of year. The lyrics in the chorus talk about the importance of family over the holiday period. It gets to me every time!”
Do you write your own material?
“I have two original projects that I write for. “Glovers Lane,” a five piece band from Newcastle. And “My Friend Rupert,” an acoustic duo consisting of female and male vocals.”
What’s a great advice you’ve been given in your lifetime?
“It’s a cliche one, but so many people have told me to do what you love. I’m fortunate enough to say that I am doing that, and I’ve never been happier.”
Do you think busking can survive in an increasingly cashless society?
“A cashless society makes it difficult, but the busking scene still seems to get by. I’ve seen progressive buskers with eftpos machines haha! It gives the punters no excuse.”
What’s something really interesting about you?
“I can juggle… I also make a good lasagne (recipe passed down from mum of course)”
Where else can people see you gig/perform?
“For Albury locals, I’ll be back home on the 26th of January performing at the SS&A with local band “Mia Grace and the Aviators”. “For Newcastle residents, my next show will be with Glovers Lane on the 11th of January, supporting Ash Grunwald at the Cambridge Hotel. Alternatively, follow my Instagram for all shows @mattcrossmakesmusic”