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10 things we learned at The Regional Sessions

Tip Published Monday 27 June 2022
Clockwise: songwriters in Bendigo; Adalita in Geelong; MOZË in Wangaratta; Yeo's workshop in Gippsland; Hayley Mary, Joel Quartermain, Scott Darrow and Kylie Auldist in Dandenong Ranges.

The Regional Sessions Victoria headed to Geelong, Bendigo, Wangaratta, Dandenong Ranges and West Gippsland.

Songwriters and musos of all levels came along to learn from top Australian talent including George Maple, Ed Kuepper, Oscar Dawson and more.

So many topics were covered: collaboration, songwriting style, staying positive, how to get feedback and more.

What a time we had presenting The Regional Sessions at five stellar Victorian locations: Geelong, Bendigo, Wangaratta, Dandenong Ranges and West Gippsland.

The past few years have not been easy for music creators but while gigs were cancelled, international plans changed and everything rescheduled umpteen times, so many of you got creative writing songs, producing music, learning new skills and connecting with others virtually.

We heard a lot about resiliency at these sessions, and we learned a lot. Here are just 10 of the takeaways.

1. "How do you arrive at a style of your own?"

This was a question Double J's Karen Leng asked the legendary Ed Kuepper, founding member of The Saints at the Bendigo keynote.

"I copied things and tried to sort of change them. I seriously started to look at it when I was 13, I had enough nous to know I had to make it something of my own.

"I felt like I was a writer once The Saints had a repertoire, before the first album."

In the West Gippsland keynote, George Maple spoke with with Double J's Tim Shiel about accidentally writing a melody that already exists: "Just create and write, there are ways to figure out if you’ve done it. You can workshop it after.”

As a child with a physical disability, singing was a helpful outlet to Eliza Hull. She was bequeathed a piano at age 9 and still writes with it. "I write very intuitively, and -- about what’s inside."

2. Ed Kuepper's two pieces of advice:

1) I regret not getting really good advice on music publishing and record deals. I think it was worse in the old days…but do get advice before signing anything.

2) If you ever get really down…seek help.

3. How to get past the awkwardness of a new collaboration: trust yourself

  • If you meet someone a few minutes before the session, just have a conversation about life, music, common experiences. After that conversation, you’ll be able to find a song. - Joel Quartermain
  • Be open. You really have to get rid of your ego and brainstorm. - Nicky Bomba
  • Collaborating it is a little bit like undressing in front of someone. You can’t hide but it’s a good thing. - Kylie Auldist
  • Embrace the idea that you are there to bring ideas to the table. People think other ideas -- that’s why you are there. - Jan Skubiszewski
  • It’s about believing in my ideas and trusting myself. - Eliza Hull
  • If you can convince yourself the pressure isn’t on -- it's just fun. Also it’s ok if the session is sh*t. Nothing goes to waste. - Yeo

4. How to get past the awkwardness of discussing song splits: communicate

  • You need to understand your percentage value in a song. Don’t reduce your splits if you’ve put in the work - regardless of the final product. - George Maple
  • It’s all about clarity and communication. - Tim Shiel
  • I found the idea of splits really hard when I was younger. You have to be assertive. I now don’t go in thinking everything is going to be equal. You have to get better at talking to people. You need to practice and you can’t be too precious. This isn’t your only song. - Hayley Mary

5. Less is more.

On the panel at West Gippsland, Joel Ma told the audience, "Saying no to things is important. If I do a project, it has to either pay, or be inspirational or give me connections. If it doesn’t fall into these buckets then I don’t do it."

Yeo said, "The more you know, you learn by doing. You’ll know what not to do, or if someone is ripping you don’t have to take every opportunity."

Back in Bendigo, Ed Kuepper spoke about the 1,500 voice memos and ideas languising on his phone. "It used to be easier before you could record everything. Doing less ended up with more things completed."

"Sometimes it really flows. And sometimes you need form. It is about finishing your f***ng ideas. A part of my process - it’s about discipline. I set timers up for myself. You need to build up your tools - what are you drawing on?" said Dallas Frasca.

6. “Melody and sound - add some words and you have a song.”

The quote from above is Ed Kuepper's, he reminded the audience to listen to the sounds all around - industrial noise, nature's sounds and channel it into something more.

"When I was younger I’d sit in the same spot, play a riff, sing nonsense and then replace it with lyrics. Then all my songs would sound the same. So I’ve changed. Sometimes I write poems. Sometimes I’ll co-write," said Imogen Clark.

Kylie Auldist suggests, "Reading and listening to audio books. You need to enjoy language and listen to other people’s writing. Sometimes you say a sentence but then you sing it and it sounds stupid. So you workshop it. It’s like a puzzle."

7. A little DIY goes a long way.

When she was younger, George Maple would start her day learning Logic and Ableton. Now that she's more skilled, the songwriting can flow easier.

"You should have very basic skills with production tools. Get to a place where it’s not daunting. Online tutorials are awesome," said Tim Shiel.

"COVID sort of gave me the time to be at home and learn how to be a producer," said Candice Lorrae, who attended the 'College of Candice' as she described the YouTube tutorials that she learned from as she started her own studio, Candy Suite. "Funding for artists in Victoria was helpful."

8. The fine art of feedback.

You won't get better at this songwriting game without taking feedback on board.

"You need people in your corner that you trust and take their feedback seriously. Give them the freedom to tell you the truth," said Scott Darlow.

As a producer, Jan Skubiszewski says, "Pre-production can be one of the hardest parts of working with someone. It’s when a producer might say not all of these demos or songs are going to work. It’s not a put down, it’s because someone knows you can do better work."

9. Take care, of business.

  • So much of this business is about the relationships. - Scott Darlow
  • You need great accountants and understanding how money works. You need great lawyers. Everything else is up to you. - George Maple
  • Learn as much as you can about the coming to things like this. Going to masterclasses, networking. Understanding the industry, understanding the revenue streams. This is a business, you are the CEO of your business. - Dallas Frasca
  • You have to balance yourself and let relationships (in the industry) unfold. Having the intent but not the urgency… Let it breathe. You can absolutely take your time. - Oscar Dawson

10. Stay regional, think global.

"You can have these grass is greener moments where you want to go overseas. But it’s actually great here. Just put on gigs and play," said Oscar Dawson.

“I used to really like the differences in regional music…that is a bit lost now when it’s more of an international approach,” said Ed Kuepper, but reminded everyone that each gig you play is only going to ever happen in that place at that one time. "Live shows you can make unique - approach it on the night."

Highlights from The Regional Sessions Victoria