• Leading artists passed on invaluable knowledge to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander musicians at APRA's Starting Ground workshop last week at SAE Byron Bay. (NITV)Source: NITV
This week in Byron Bay aspiring Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander musicians had the chance to develop their music, business and marketing skills from some of our most talented and inspirational artists, managers and producers.
By
Emily Nicol

18 May 2017 - 11:04 AM  UPDATED 18 May 2017 - 11:40 AM

With sessions covering song-writing, artist management, touring and more  - APRA’s Starting Ground workshop, a two-day intensive held at the SAE Institute -gave participants a clear insight into how to best navigate the world of music and also managed to produce some creative magic, laying down two original tracks featuring the talents of the group as a collective.

Led by award winning country singer/songwriter, Sue Ray, who has just returned from a few years in musical hotspot Nashville, Triple J favourite and APRA Award Winner Robbie Miller and talented hip-hop artist, singer and creative Fred Leone (AKA MC Rival / Impossible Odds) as mentors, the workshop included  personal insights, plenty of laughs and practical advice. Also giving tips and advice during the workshop was artist manager and publicist Emily Murphy; marketing expert Shane Murphy and APRA AMCOS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander National Representative Michael Hutchings.

Within the group of 12 participants there were varying levels of experience and diverse musical talents, with some returning to refresh their knowledge and others just starting out on their path. Blake Rhodes, one third of hip hop group Teddy Lewis King from Lismore, did the workshop last year and came back for more. "I learnt heaps last year, it helped revitalise our whole system of working as a group..not only creatively but on the business side of things. We’ve seen our fan base grow a whole ton and also with bookings we are getting much quicker responses since making our EPK and website look like the standard that we want to be seen as, both as artists and professionals."

Mentor Sue-Ray was impressed with the group of participants and was able to pass on invaluable knowledge, a lot of which was gained recently working alongside industry greats in Nashville. The talented country singer shared stories about the importance of having your own 'community' within the music scene. 'Whilst in London I didn't feel a sense of a music community and there wasn't really a folk scene. Comparatively in Nashville, where some of my musical heroes such as Willie Nelson, Emmy Lou Harris and Elvis had recorded, people were very supportive and we would have jams and bring food, I felt nourished. I encourage others to 'find their tribe'.  I also struggled with other women thinking that my confidence on stage was cocky. And sometimes we are our own worst enemy, don't let either get in the way.'

The experience of mentoring at Starting Ground was as rewarding for the singer as for the participants, Sue-Ray tells NITV, "As a mentor I was so impressed with the participants we had as they were all unique in their musical tastes and interests in relation to the way they wanted their careers to go. I think that every one of them will go on to do something productive with music, whether it be songwriting, performing or recording and studio work. They were all really eager, interested, enthusiastic and positive." said Sue-Ray.

I think that every one of them will go on to do something productive with music, whether it be songwriting, performing or recording and studio work. They were all really eager, interested, enthusiastic and positive

"For me, the experience was so rewarding as I too learned a lot from their questions, and some of them having grown up in the current social media world of music, were able to teach me some tricks. It's so rewarding being able to pass on any knowledge or tips I've picked up along the way in my career and seeing it benefit others in their journey." Said Sue-Ray.

Roots singer Tamwah, who has had success both here and overseas wanted to attend the workshops to connect with her community through music and get advice on what to do next in her music career. "It was such a positive and uplifting workshop to be part of. I really appreciated receiving the practical download of the varied wealth of knowledge from such wonderful mentors. 

Sue Rays break-down of songwriting, Fred's insight on organising tours, Emily Murphy's grounded advice on how to take my music to the next level and Michael Hutchings advice to get clear on my artist vision and make a long term plan were priceless. I've plenty of homework to sink my teeth into but also the delight of collaborating with all the amazing artists at the event on one of my songs.  My heart is full and my spirit is so thankful for starting ground workshop."

I've plenty of homework to sink my teeth into but also the delight of collaborating with all the amazing artists at the event on one of my songs.  My heart is full and my spirit is so thankful for starting ground workshop

Over the two days, the group as a whole created and laid down two original songs, both produced and recorded by composer and record producer Yanto Browning (The Medics, Kate Miller-Heidke, Jungle Giants).

 

SAE student and workshop participant Tahni Holmes was lucky to write her very first song with award-winning singer/songwriter Robbie Miller. 

 
 

Mentor Fred Leone told NITV that he was impressed with the professionalism of the participants and their willingness to learn about being an artist. "To pass on knowledge is always a good thing, for me personally I think that as a community and as a collective of Indigenous musicians/artists we have power.  That power lies within our songs and our knowledge base gained through many years in the industry at many levels.  If that knowledge helps an emerging artist avoid the hard road then thats a good thing. I think also by giving knowledge it builds the capacity and confidence of emerging artists in that they can move forward with confidence."

If that knowledge helps an emerging artist avoid the hard road then thats a good thing. I think also by giving knowledge it builds the capacity and confidence of emerging artists in that they can move forward with confidence.

By the end of the workshop participants had a chance to collaborate in the songwriting process, have one on one time with mentors to ask questions directly related to their careers and find out whether or not signing to a label or staying independent was the best for them. AMRAP's Chris Johnson was also on hand to help with understanding how to get your music played on radio, a huge hurdle for many artists starting out. 

The workshops have been held in several different parts of the state including Tamworth, Redfern and Tamworth. Previous Starting Ground participant Loren-Ryan was recently on stage with Destiny Child's Kelly Rowland as part of The Voice. 

 

 
 
 To find out more about APRA's Starting Ground program head here.