Photography by Tash McCammon
Tell us about your acoustic set-up. What do you use when performing and why does it work for you?
I have been performing solo for a long time. Just guitar, my ukulele and me. I feel quite comfortable being alone on stage because I can talk to the audience and engage with them. If I say something embarrassing, it’s just me and I’m not embarrassing anyone else. Recently I have had three of my really beautiful and talented girlfriends doing some harmonies for me and playing violin and that’s been really, really special. They’ve made me enjoy playing old songs again.
Where did your desire to get into music come from?
I’ve been into music since my Dad first played Van Morrison, or when I first watched Aladdin or Grease, or when my friends and I would make up hilarious dance routines to Destiny’s Child. It was never a choice; it’s always what I have been most passionate about and the thing that I absolutely cannot live without.
How do you approach song writing?
Usually I find a melody that I like and then I find a feeling within that sound. Gradually the story is created based on the emotion I feel from the melody. My lyrics are fairly simple and I like to finish songs quite quickly. If I can’t finish a song (or at least its structure) within a few hours, I usually forget it!
You’re known to be extremely easygoing and relaxed on stage. What’s your secret?
Ha! If you felt my heartbeat or clammy hands before I went on stage you’d think differently. Performing allows me to connect with people, which is what I love most. I relax by interacting with the audience, having a laugh and being as open as I can be. Creating and sharing music is such a special, incomparable way to connect. I guess the secret is to be open and give as much as you can.
You host a weekly morning radio show, present on Balcony TV and curate various music events. How do you balance your own music with all these other commitments?
I know there’s that old saying of ‘if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life’. I’m not sure I fully agree, it is hard work sometimes but I love what I do! Everyone is busy, you know? I get my energy from the people I collaborate with, the people I interview, friends that make beautiful music. I take time to just hang out with myself when I need to.
How did you build your fan base? Was it through networking, social media, music streaming, playing live? All of the above?
To be honest, I’ve never really thought of it like that. I try to be myself both on and off stage; I just love to meet people. When someone writes to me on Facebook or Twitter, I get excited. If someone wants to chat after a gig, it makes my day. But I have to say, nothing connects an artist to their listeners more than performing live and giving as much as you can in that space.
What do you attribute your success to?
Being successful means something different to every single person and I also think the idea of success changes over time. Right now I feel successful because I am a part of a beautiful community. I laugh a lot, love a lot and I’m excited about next year and the year after that.
What is the best advice you can give to independent Melbourne musicians?
Go and see as much live music as you can. Meet people, make friends and collaborate with them. Nothing has inspired me more to play and pursue music than immersing myself in what Melbourne has to offer. Experience live music and other art forms; we are so spoiled for choice in this city. Go and listen, be inspired, learn and share.
Keep up with all things Al via www.alparkinsonmusic.com