Updated: Apr 21
APRA AMCOS launched the songwriting masterclass series The Regional Sessions this month. Filled with workshops, networking, panels and performances - we sent Yasmin (Syfah), our resident artist/blogger, to check out the Wollongong session.
On a crisp June day, a gaggle of artists, some clutching guitars, others plumed in vivid colours, flocked south to the sunshine-bathed campus of TAFE Wollongong. This was the setting of one of the Regional Sessions, a series of day-long workshops hosted by APRA AMCOS, targeted at emerging and mid-career artists.
We showed up to the auditorium and were immediately given large plastic name badges, breakfast boxes and tea, before sitting down and quickly getting into conversation with the excited delegates around us. I had a feeling it would be the start of a brilliant day.
The Wollongong leg of the Regional Sessions tour was kicked off with a keynote interview with Jim Moginie of the globally acclaimed rock band Midnight Oil. Onstage sporting his trademark hat, he reminded us that “there’s no rule to songwriting” and to never sign ownership of your music completely away (“only lease it for a few years”).
After a satisfying tea break, a panel session followed, including Zach Stephenson of Hockey Dad, Tim Rogers of You Am I and Johnny Took of DMA’s. They were all fantastic, and in particular, singer-songwriter Emma Swift stood out to me when she challenged the high volume, constant productivity culture, maintaining that it’s okay to take it slow and take your time on your art.
We then breaked for lunch during which I sat down in the sun with several new friends; I found it refreshing to meet so many artists just as passionate about music as I am, if not more.
In the afternoon the delegates broke up into small workshops of six or seven led by an established artist or arts educator. My first session was with DMA’s band member Johnny Took who walked us through how the band created their hit ballad ‘Silver’ (it took years for all its parts to come together) and how he experiments with samples and sounds to keep his interest in songwriting perpetually fresh. My next session was with Youth Group lead singer and music professor Toby Martin who magically managed to get eight of us to write a song together, a result that some of the workshop attendees and I agreed was a particularly rewarding part of the day.
It was coming around to nearly 5pm, but the day wasn’t over yet.
We migrated from TAFE and across the road to the University of Wollongong Unibar, where it was an open bar and canapes all around (yes, APRA AMCOS outdid themselves with this fancy addition to an already epic day).
And if you think it couldn’t get any better, think again - as is fitting for a day of getting educated in songwriting, we were treated to watching three talented artists showcase their own songwriting onstage.
First up was Kay Proudlove, an indie-folk artist and Illawarra resident. She immediately had me hooked with her quick-witted ‘May the Fourth’, a punch-line, pun riddled tune which had us in laughs. If there’s anything I like it’s comedy and music put together, but Kay took it a step further because there’s something poignant about her melodies.
Multi-instrumentalist Chelsea Warner showed up with a loop station, suave beats and airy R&B vocals, performing originals like ‘How Come You Don’t Pick Up Your Phone’ effortlessly. This second year music student is already signed to Warner Music, hinting at Chelsea’s promising path ahead.
Last but definitely not least was indie rocker Imogen Clark who showed up in a flamboyant suit but the real pull about Imogen centres on her rich lyrics and powerful vocals. One of her songs, ‘Bastards’, the titular track of her latest EP, focuses on the often unhealthy culture of misogyny and the “boys club” prevalent in the music (which we are seeing, hopefully, a shift in with changes such as Sony Music Australia’s latest leadership restructure). Imogen won me over with her thoughtful song topics and steely spirit.
We came away from the APRA AMCOS Regional Session with fresh minds, filled with ideas, inspiration and the plethora of new faces we’d met. Someone I’d met that day told me the session had inspired him to take songwriting more seriously - already, we’ve been arranging a time to write together. That’s how valuable a day like this can be. In the challenging climate musicians are in at the moment, we need opportunities to bring the arts community together more than ever.
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