A few years ago at my sisters place in London, I was playing with my nephew and talking to him about nursery rhymes:
[Me]- “Nathan, just remember that Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Baa Baa Black Sheep are actually the same song with different words.
[try humming them both to yourself right now- same melody, different words. See…? I was right, wasn’t I?]
Don’t let the people at daycare tell you any different- because they’re bastards!”
[My sister]- “Victor!! You know I don’t like you talking like that around Nathan!!”
[Me]- “but it’s the truth! It’s false advertising! He’s almost 2, now! He’ll have to learn at some point!”
My sister doesn’t like it when I discuss the harsh realities of life with her son. But for some reason, 2 years on, he can find Gangnam Style on YouTube and dance along to “Heeeeey, sexy lady” without any objection.
I don’t get it.
How are you?
That trip to London was one of the shorter ones, but I think I managed to get around to see most people despite being unwell for some of the time. I think that was actually a blessing in disguise, as it forced me to actually rest for most of the time, instead of hooning around the way I normally do.
I went straight to my parents’ place from the airport, and my siblings joined me there the day after. They’re as crazy as I am, and it’s awesome when we’re all together. It was nice to see mum and dad, too.
For about 36hours.
Then mum sat next to me: “You’ve changed your mind about going to church, haven’t you…?”
Then later there came the inevitable “ALL YOUR FRIENDS ARE MARRIED WITH CHILDREN!!! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING??!!?? DO YOU THINK THEY’RE ALL CRAZY??!!??”
It was time to go.
I hung out in Winstons apartment in central London while he was on holiday and caught up with a different person each night while just resting during the day.
The main reason for my visiting at that time was Nathans 4th birthday, which was on the last day. I partied with him and his little friends, which was awesome, but the party reached a peak when his dad put on Gangnam Style. I swear- the way his eyes lit up was a complete transformation. He just went mental. I had to get out my phone and record it. Here it is:
I nearly died laughing, but I was also impressed with his rhythm and timing. He just went for it, and he genuinely didn’t care what anyone thought. When I played it back to myself, I found myself thinking “Hmmm….. he reminds me of someone….”.
Then it dawned on me.
“Oh my God”
“He’s like me…!”
Or it may be more accurate to say that I’m like him. That child-like abandon is such an incredible thing, and people can see it in me when I dance to a song that I really like. It’s probably most evident in my’ Getting Jiggy With It’ dance routine: when I was 19 (yes, 19) my sister was starting to come to my friends parties and cramping my style, so I thought I’d choreograph a dance routine so cheesy and embarrassing that she would never want to be seen at a party with me ever again.
It’s basically a collection of Will Smiths cheesiest dance moves arranged in increasing cheesiness.
I did it at Winstons 19th birthday party.
I’ve never been one of the popular kids at school. I was one of the geeky guys who was good at science, but could run fast. Being good at sport gave me some credibility, but it was only when I was asked to sing in the band that people started to look at me as ‘somebody’. My whole family all sing and dance, but one summer, I really got into Guns and Roses, and in particular, Axl Roses voice. So much so that I just had to learn how to do it. It took six weeks, but when the other boys in my year heard me sing like Axl, and with Guns and Roses at the peak of their powers, they just had to have me in the band. It was a really cool feeling- to be on stage, and everyone enjoying what we were doing.
If I’m honest, while the Guns and Roses sounded awesome, my other singing took a while to get off the gorund. It took a lot of patience, practise and perseverance, but eventually, I found my own voice, which you’re familiar with now.
The guitarist (Munawar) and I went off to medical school, while the other 3 guys turned professional. They did pretty well, doing exclusively covers. Munawar and I also did covers in the form of acoustic duets at bars and functions. However, only when I started proper singing lessons that I found real consistency in my voice [that was my girlfriends idea]. By The Way (by the chili Peppers) had been released not long before, and I would always sing it in the car while driving to the next city to see my girlfriend. I guess that’s why a hint of Anthony Kiedis is often mentioned when people hear me.
Jeanne- my singing teacher. She’s a classically trained opera singer. There’s another story behind how we met…
While singing well is great, there are lots of great singers. To make an impact in this art, you need your own songs. These came about in a very bizarre fashion.
No longer being in the same country as my guitarist buddy, I hadn’t performed for literally years, and so I would go to karaoke every week to get into the habit of singing infront of people again, and it worked. Initially, I was so nervous, I couldn’t hold the microphone steady. Or if I did, my legs would start shaking. It seemed like something would have to shake. tbakfully, with time, and growing confidence, this went away. One night, I was approached by a member of the X-Factor staff who wanted me to go on the show. I was a little uncertain about it, but the year later, I thought I’d give a go. After all, what’s the worst that could happen….?
The worst that could happen was that they could force you, at short notice, to sing a song tat you ar eneither familiar with, nor suits you, and then cut the song halfway through, asking why you picked a creepy song, call you a creep and then telling you to get off the stage.
I was crushed. I sent them a very strongly worded email telling them that I would take legal action if they aired the footage, and thankfully, they didn’t, but I was still fearful that they would. If they did, I would be a laughing stock. Victor- you need your own songs. You can’t let this be your musical legacy. I bought a guitar 2 days later and got a teacher. I had also had a tumultuous romantic experience that I was getting over, and I’m not quite sure how, but I just had a melody stuck in my head. After 2 guitar lessons, I said to my teacher “hey- I’ve written this song- it’s only 3 chords, but would you mind if we played it, and you can tell me what you think?”.
“Sure” he said. Mauricio loves playing new songs. I strummed and sang, and he played bass. At the end, he turned to me and said “That’s…. a….. great…. song…!”
“Really??” I was surprised. A lot of other people seemed to love it, too. in fact, at one bar in Sydney, whenever I played it, the chef would come out of the kitchen specifically to dance to it. He would completely lose himself in the moment. This almost brought me to tears to know that something I had created could make someone so happy.
I just kept having random melodies come to me at various times, and I just kept turning them into songs which impressed both my guitar and singing teachers who urged me to get them recorded, which I did.
I was put in touch with a music producer, Sean Carey, who used to be lead guitarist in a prominent Australian band called Thirsty Merc. I sent him the YouTube links to the basic demos, and he sounded quite interested. We met up and talked about my songs and what we would do with them and how. We worked out it would take 4 full days to record all 5 songs. The first day, Sean made some minor adjustments to the song structures to give the music a bit more impact, and we recorded the main guitar parts.
Sean and I at the studio.
He sat me with my guitar in front of the studio microphone and I looked at him like he was crazy. “Um… I started guitar lessons 7 months ago…” I told him. “It’s your album- you should be on it” he replied. I played as well as I could, and it actually turned out OK. He added additional guitar parts on top, as well as the bass.
The next day, the drummer arrived. I hadn’t thought much about drumming at all, other than the steady bass drum beat I put in on my laptop. His name was Michael Quigley, and teaches drumming at the Australian Institute of Music. He would listen to a song once, make some notes and then smash out an amazing recording at the first attempt. I was just astonished. I actually cried when we did the first song “Be This Way”. That was when I truly felt it come to life.
I listened to the basic tracks we had so far, with Seans guitaring and Michaels drumming, and thought- “Holy crap- my singing is going to be the worst thing about this..!” We had a week until days 3 and 4, so I did more singing practice than I had ever done before in that week.
Day 3 came, and so did the keyboard player. His name was Beau Golden, and he plays with Guy Sebastian (of X-Factor [shudder] fame) and other Australian celebrities. I held my laptop up to him so that he could hear the string parts to the songs. As he was listening, he was writing down the alphabetical names of each note, and then just played the parts as if he’d been playing them for years. Again, I was astonished.
I did the singing in the remaining time, and Sean did the remaining mixing and sound engineering.
The result was beyond my wildest dreams. I’m ecstatically happy with the EP. I almost can’t believe it’s me sometimes. I almost cringe when I look at my laptop recordings in comparison, and thought about taking them off YouTube, but then I thought “No- keep them. This is how it started. If anyone doubts that these are your songs, you can point them to the prototypes. This is your creation, and you should be proud.”.
I am eternally endebted to Sean for all of this. In particular, for song number 5. It’s both our favourite
This experience literally moved me to tears. To start out with complete silence, and build a song layer by layer, into a complete musical entity was just mindblowing. I was working with some of the best musicians in the country, and in one week, we had made an EP of 5 songs, each of which is a story from my diary. It’s very personal to me, reflecting a personal journey. One which I’m glad you have decided to share with me.
My Debut EP: Factor This
I sang over the instrumental recordings for my singing teacher, and she was over the moon. “You know what’s best about this, Victor? You have something that’s truly yours. And not only that- uniquely yours. You have all your ‘aha-aha’s and ‘hey, hey, hey’s and ‘mmm, mmm, mmm’s and ‘I-I-I’s. It’s truly your own sound.”
I’m in love with it to the point of listening to it at least once a day. Within weeks, I’d sold it to about 30 people, most of whom love it, too. I think they genuinely mean it. Your friends saying they like your music is like your mother telling you that you’re handsome- they want you to feel good, but it’s not always an objective statement. But with this, I can see that each song makes a genuine impact on people who listen. I love it.
The EP is called Factor this [for obvious reasons] and you can check it out here. It has a blend of many of my musical influences, including the Chili Peppers, Jack Johnson, David Gray, and many others. So, if you like those artists, then a signed copy is available to you if you are interested.
Although it took me some years to come out of my shell, I am a performer by nature, and to sing your own songs in front of people like you, who actually care, is a truly special feeling. The ‘reality’ TV experience was horrible, but I’ve grown from it, and it’s partly responsible for the fact that I now have 3 of my own CDs, my own band and increasing local, national and even sometimes international recognition for doing something that I love doing.
Thank you for being a listener, and making it all matter.