Smokey's Blog

we gonna do the damn thing or what

Tag: bertie blackman

The Afterglow (of a great tour)

A short video recap of the Second Heartbeat Tour and some context underneath.

I’m writing in the afterglow of one of the best tours I’ve ever had the fortune of participating in. The tour poster had my name on it but there were a lot of people who made it a success, and you were one of them, so thank you. I can staple words together but I don’t find it easy summing up exactly how profound it was to me. This time last year I genuinely doubted whether I would/could do another proper tour! Even with mid-level success the financial rewards in music make a low but steady income seem like big pimpin’. This new album was difficult, it took a lot of soul-searching, the indicators weren’t good – the kinda shit that spooks you. I couldn’t mentally envisage what shape my live show would take even if things went well – all I knew was that Jane wouldn’t be part of it.

IMG_9665(Pic by Yaya Stempler)

A couple of years earlier I had a heart to heart with Jane Tyrrell where she let me know that she could no longer perform in my show; she needed to focus on her solo music career and other professional work. It was a bittersweet conversation, made slightly better by the fact we both felt it was the right thing to do. Years before that, I’d had a similar conversation with Elgusto, and we parted ways on great terms after an awesome decade playing live together. Each of their departures brought its fair share of anxiety and uncertainty: I can easily perform my songs but how fun could it be without such important ‘family’ by my side? Touring is not just about being on stage: it’s the ins and outs of building relationships, often from scratch, in a transient lifestyle characterised by endless “dead time”. It works when there’s a sense of camaraderie and love and respect but that takes a while to establish.

IMG_9962
Pic by Yaya Stempler

That uncertainty and the decisions that had to be made are the context for my current elation. Over the course of the last 6 weeks alongside Jayteehazard on turntables, Ev Jones, Meklit Kibret and Claire Nakazawa on vocals, and Todd Dixon doing the tour managing and sound, I felt like we were flying. The crowd response was, at worst, appreciative and loudly respectful; at best, the wildest crowds I’ve ever played to. I spent a lot of time at the merch desk taking a gazillion photos but ended each night wide-eyed about how much we were selling. The music I’d agonised over during the last few years was making people cough up at the merch desk in numbers I hadn’t seen for a while (we had great designs thanks Dale Harrison, Sarah McCloskey and Allara Uota). Physically and mentally it was a healthy tour and I took a lot of heart from the connections and relationships that developed between the tour party over the duration. It’s early days but I’ve loved playing live with this team.

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(Pic by Cole Bennetts)

It was at the second Sydney show that I looked around on stage and saw myself and 4 guys, outnumbered by 8 uniquely talented women. I think this is the first time in my career where the ratio of women to men on stage was like that. It wasn’t a statement, it was merely the album’s guests doing cameos, but it underlined that there was something really special taking place. We had Kira Puru, Bertie Blackman, Jane Tyrrell, Montaigne and B Wise all stealing the show sharing the spotlight. With L-FRESH The LION, Mirrah, DJ MK-1 and OKENYO, we also had a tour that reflected the changing face of local hip hop in as good a way as I’ve seen. Night after night, the atmosphere was electric and people sung and yelled and danced and went home joyous. We (mostly) woke up without hangovers.

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(Pic by Cole Bennetts)

I remember so clearly how low I felt wondering about the future in 2015, but as tickets started selling in 2016, I made a commitment to myself not to take any success for granted. We sold out the entire tour, bar a handful of tickets in Canberra, and that’s an amazing feeling. It’s one of the reasons I decided to donate every cent I earned from merch sales to charity. The total after paying manufacturing back was $4923.14 (this will be split between Grandmothers Against Removals, Tranby Aboriginal College and the Healing Foundation). I don’t want to front like I’m all G financially, but I’m very lucky, and don’t want to forget that.

After all that soul-searching, the album is going brilliantly, and this tour was all time – that’s no exaggeration. On to the next one.

Thanks.

Roll Up Your Sleeves lyrics

I’ve been hit up a bunch of times to post the lyrics from my version of Meg Mac’s Roll Up Your Sleeves. It’s taken a while because I’m lazy but here they are.. check my earlier post (inc the video) here.

ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES
Kira Puru
Roll up your sleeves
And face the face it’s looking right back at me
It’s easier to leave it oh
It’s easier to fake it, oh oh
So I’ll go and I’ll join the free
There’s people there, they’re just like me oh
Bertie Blackman, Kira Puru, All Our Exes Live in Texas 
[Chorus]
Everything is gonna be alright
Everything is gonna be alright

Urthboy
January tricked you when it looked you in the eye
and said no matter what you've been through/ with me, you'll be renewed
a promise made at midnight/ a fire sale that
knew it couldn't drag you into something/
you don't wanna do/ a heart that's full of nightfall
hanging on dear life for/ first signs of daylight
but what if I refuse? what if it all passes like cycling of news
while I'm searching for an ocean/ I can wade into
what if I don't stick around for/ February's saving grace?
maybe I don't know it now/ I'll be in a different place
what I wouldn't dare to face if I don't find my feet
til March I'll find a way of giving chase, best believe
the arms of april may have open hands that hold you up
the pages we're reopening from what we'd folded up
we're not tryna front with all that 'winter isn't cold enough'
but we can handle anything they throw at us
[Chorus]
Everything is gonna be alright
Everything is gonna be alright
Urthboy
July had left you waiting, and August wasn't answering
but you're in touch with everyone you've ever known/ never so alone
a starry-eyed september/ reminding you of something
that you cannot quite remember/ so you're reaching for your phone
calling in a favour/ but it's ringing out
you're hanging up before it goes to message/ is anybody home?
there's trouble in your palms and they're making for a handrail
but if you fall/ it's something that you'll own
breathing in the time we borrow
won't be gone until november we'll be here until tomorrow
may as well take a risk
people singing carols while I'm singing this
roll up your sleeves this is it, let em sing it
[Chorus]
Everything is gonna be alright
Everything is gonna be alright
ohhhhh
Roll up your sleeves
Roll up your sleeves

How to Like a Version

During soundcheck for the biggest show of Hermitude’s career, I received an email asking if I’d like to do the last Like a Version of the year. The catch was that I’d have about 8 days to put it together.

I stressed about it. I got appropriately drunk after the second of two crazyamazing shows and resumed peak anxiety about the like a version cover as I walked home at 6am.

There’s a long line of great covers that have been created for this popular segment on triple j so the prospect of pulling off something good in a short space of time was intimidating. First call? Manager Mondo. He suggested I work with a guy named Jack Grace Britten, who could assist with a musical arrangement. I was also staring down my first gig that weekend and was underprepared. I could feel my hair thinning and falling from my head like passengers on a sinking boat. I called Jack.

I shot an email to Tom Thum, an international star and an old mate I met through hip hop. He was in Abu Dhabi but was returning home a week before this. I called Luke Dubs, who had just finished a US/Europe/Syd/Melb tour and had every right to say no. I gave Kira Puru a buzz as she prepared for that night’s show with Paul Kelly on his Merri Soul Sessions vineyard concert. I checked in with Bertie Blackman, luckily back in Australia for a few months. Lastly, Mondo called All our Exes Live in Texas.

Despite hectic schedules and inconvenient timing, everyone said yes. It was a big deal. Jack shot me an arrangement and I began writing the first of two verses. I could go on and on but we made a little video that takes you into this process, and below that, is the end product: the live recording we did in triple j’s studios.

And here’s the youtube video. Together with the facebook video, it’s had 500,000 views in a week.

Oh and we did a live version of Long Loud Hours, which turned out beautifully thanks to the additional vocals of All Our Exes Live in Texas.

Thanks as always to triple j, they’ve created such a monster with Like a Version, a segment that’s been running for 10 years now. Also big thanks to Matt and Alex, and Greg Wales who engineered it all.