What better way to celebrate the end of lockdown than to feature Western Sydney Mixtape? WSM was due to debut in July this year; its founder Ryan Wicks (aka James the Poet) had put in a ton of work to make the vision of a more vibrant Western Sydney music scene come to life, and was garnering a lot of buzz, before - yep, you may have guessed - lockdown slammed down hard and WSM’s first scheduled show got cancelled.
But there is a silver lining. WSM is likely in a stronger starting position to enter the live scene than it was earlier this year. Ryan is now joined by a co-founder singer-songwriter Reesha and the pair have strung up an impressive lineup of indie artist livestreams over the past months, including indie gig circuit regulars Elysaé and LaHi.
We did some Q&A and Ryan and Reesha did such a fantastic job answering the questions, that we’ve kept the format as is. Give it up for Western Sydney Mixtape!
JAMS FAM: How did WSM begin/what inspired you to start it? Give us a bit of background to the idea / to yourself.
RYAN: In Western Sydney, there is a shortage of open mic nights - most artists in the Western suburbs have to travel to find a community of like-minded people.
My first open mic night experience was at a friend’s house party in Newtown; I was able to perform slam poetry alongside a few musicians. The synergy created was nothing short of spectacular. I had never experienced anything like it. In the weeks that came, I identified a gap, the lack of open mic nights around me and decided that I would be the one to fill it.
The concept for Western Sydney Mixtape: Genesis was born, to test if I could create the same atmosphere I had experienced at the party. I managed to organise an event featuring musicians and poets and had generated a lot of interest. A few weeks before launch, lockdown was announced, and things were put to an aggressive halt.
JAMS FAM: You’ve come out of lockdown with a co-host - can you tell us more about how this duo (aka “R-Squared”) came to be?
RYAN: [During] lockdown, I established a friendship with my now ‘co-host' Reesha. We shared a similar vision and passion, so we decided to partner up and work on this movement together. In hindsight, the delay of the original event has made WSM more concrete. Through a series of weekly meetings, networking and promotions, we have created a version of WSM that never would have existed without lockdown.
What sort of artist are you targeting?
The objective of WSM is to give underground artists a stage and an audience. WSM open mic nights are for underground artists from the whole spectrum of performing arts. Musicians, comedians, poets, dancers, actors. If you can perform it on a stage, we will facilitate it.
How often will your open mic nights be happening?
WSM open mic nights will happen at the end of every month. Each event will showcase two featured artists, which we have personally invited prior to the event and up to 12 sign up acts. The event is open to all artists from anywhere in the spectrum of performing arts.
Lockdown was tough for the live music scene - what did you get up to during that time?
RYAN: We launched weekly Instagram interviews, a project named WSM: Featuring. Sessions consist of two segments, firstly an interview and secondly a mini-concert. These sessions are an excellent way for artists to showcase their music and to potentially grow their following.
Each livestream comes with a funky graphic designed by Ryan
Reesha and I [also] poured our energy into weekly Zoom meetings discussing the WSM structure and how we could build the brand. We have been putting in a lot of work behind the scenes in preparation for the launch of our Open Mic Nights.
Any words you'd like to share to fellow artists and music industry people?
This is the beginning of something fresh and beautiful in Western Sydney. We are passionate about building a community that will support underground artists, providing them with a stage to perform on and an audience who will listen. There are too many voices that go unheard, too many poems that collect dust in a journal, too many songs that remain hidden in the cracks of a Soundcloud account.
This is for the artist who has put down their pen because they are sick and tired of never getting recognition for the hours of grinding they've put into a song that will never be heard. We see you, we hear you, and we invite you to be a part of something bigger than yourself: a Genesis, a rebirth, a revival of the starved artist inside of you. I invite you to Mixtape - coming January 2022.
Well, I couldn’t have said it better (so I didn’t. Heh!).
To keep up to date with what they’re up to, follow Western Sydney Mixtape on Instagram.