The Early Days
Music, in particular singing, has always been a very big part of my life, in fact I can never remember a time when it was not. As a child growing up in Ireland and coming from a very musical family, carving out a career in music was a natural progression for me.
I remember the big family shindigs as a child everyone sitting around the piano there were percussive instruments, mandolins, guitars and a piano accordion as well. Everybody sang and played there own party pieces and they did them well too. I was always encouraged to sing at these parties, not that it took much persuasion on my part.
Those nights were always big and happy affairs with cake, cordial (well, for the kids anyway) there were lots of stories and people laughing and me trying as hard as I could to stay up late with the grown ups. I'll always hold very fond memories in my heart of those times. I guess nothing has changed really.
We moved to Australia and a friend of mines mother was an opera singer with the Adelaide Opera Company, I was in absolute awe of her voice. When I was 17, I got in touch with her singing teacher at Adelaide Conservatorium of Music and started to learn classical singing myself.
My singing teacher was a man called Donald Munroe and he was the singing teacher for the Adelaide and Sydney Opera Companies. His advice to me at the end of my first lesson was to go down to the Rundle Mall in Adelaide and start busking and try and implement the techniques he had just shown me. So I did that. I was surprised as to how much money Buskers actually make too
The picture below taken in the Rundle Mall in Adelaide is one of the first times I ever went busking. I remember we were both very nervous - I am the devilishly handsome looking fella on your left with the George Harrison-esque looks. The other guy is Steve Opitz an old school friend, a huge influence on me musically, and a great guy.
In my early twenties I bought an old Kombi van and took off exploring, I teamed up with a couple of guys in Melbourne we were known as Capricorn Express... you guessed it all Capricorns, two of us were even born on the same day.
Not blowing my own trumpet but we were a very good, tight little act too. An acoustic guitar orientated three piece act specializing in vocal harmonies and punchy rhythmic songs.
It wasn't long before we were picked up by a local booking agent to be the opening act for Bushwackers, Matt Taylor and Chain and several other name acts of the time when they were playing in Melbourne. We also had a steady flow of our own pub and cafe gigs in the Melbourne live music scene.
I was always pretty keen on doing a solo thing so I started picking up a few solo gigs here and there to help fund my musicians lifestyle.
As with most bands, our little three piece eventually broke up too, it was fun while it lasted though. I was starting to miss family and friends so I decided to move back to Adelaide.
Arriving in Adelaide I quickly found my first solo gig at a tavern called the Norfolk Tavern. It was an underground dark, dingy little place, right in the heart of the Rundle mall affectionately known by the locals as "The Snake Pit".
The place was frequented by all manner of shady types, who were good guys really providing you didn't ask too many questions about how they were making their money. I still have many fond memories of the year I spent playing there and all the colorful characters that frequented the place.
Over the next couple of years I built up a nice little circuit for myself in Adelaide playing at some of the best little venues around town. I also studied drama at the Adelaide School of Drama in this time. Made several TV commercials, did a few modelling shoots for various magazines and had several bit parts as an extra in a couple of movies.
As much as I liked living in Adelaide, the music scene there slowed almost to a standstill during the winter months.
Moving to Perth
Realizing I needed to act quickly and stabilize an income before I went stoney broke, I left Adelaide and headed out across the Nullabor Plain to Perth. The place was buzzing and the climate was much more temperate the feeling started returning to my fingers as I thawed. The America's Cup had recently been there and Perth and Fremantle were on the rise as a holiday destination
I really liked Perth. The music scene was good too, I was kept reasonably busy. For two and a half years I hung out in Perth and Fremantle playing at all the different venues. Every so often I would book in a run of gigs in Kalgoorlie and Geraldton, and do the whole rock star thing which was always a good time. I got itchy feet eventually and decided to go back to Adelaide
History repeats itself
Once again I set about building a little circuit for myself as a solo singer guitarist. I also branched out and joined a rock band as the lead singer. Being a singer in a rock band is very demanding work vocally so it was back to classical singing lessons again.
The guy everybody was going to was Malcolm Potter he had trained John Swann and rumor had John's half brother Jimmy Barnes as well amongst other great singers. Anyway, name dropping aside any serious singer in Adelaide at the time was being trained by him, he was a very busy singing teacher and that was more than a good enough recommendation for me.
The Adelaide winter once again proved to be just too hard a task master.
The Tropics and Cairns
I went to Darwin and landed the residency as the musician/entertainer at a place called the Melia, a prestigious high rise hotel motel right in the heart of town. I was booked there 3 nights a week for about 8 months.
I liked Darwin but it was not the tourist mecca I needed, I decided to move on. Next stop Cairns - Nth Queensland.
Like an economic refugee (finally get to use that line) in search of a better life, I arrived in Cairns. I have been living in North Queensland ever since. I spent 12 years in Cairns and played at just about every venue going in that time between Port Douglas and Townsville including a few stints out at Mt Isa performing in hotels for the Rodeo weekend there.
I also became actively involved in the Community Radio in Cairns as a presenter and as their sales and marketing guy. The Australian Songwriters Association asked me to be their North Queensland Coordinator. The post was to assist the ASA in their work in the region from steering artists in the right direction on legal matters to providing opportunities for original song performance in local venues.
Using my role within the Community Radio network it wasn't long before I with the help of many others had secured a national radio show called Wax Lyrical on the Comrad satellite coming out of Sydney, promoting unsigned artists. It was a half hour show, which I presented once a week for 7 months we even took it on tour through towns in regional Queensland. To the best of my knowledge that show is still running today.
Also and with plenty of help from others we produced two TV shows featuring unsigned artists from the Nth Queensland region for the Wax Lyrical TV show, a national broadcast coming out of Perth Western Australia on the Community Television network.
Dunk Island and Mission Beach
In August of 2006 the then Voyages owned Dunk Island resort offered me the position as their solo singer guitarist/entertainer. I happily accepted the position. Dunk Island is situated about 8 klms off the coast of Mission Beach. My job was to entertain their guests six nights a week plus perform as the solo singer guitarist at any weddings or corporate functions as required, of which there were many. That took me up to Cyclone Yasi in February 2011 which closed the place down for everybody who worked there.
These days I mainly perform at weddings, hotels, corporate functions etc as a professional solo vocalist/singer guitarist in Port Douglas, Cairns, Innisfail, Mission Beach and Townsville