After a relocation from Brisbane, and a long time honing his singer/songwriter skills through the open mic scene of Melbourne, we spoke to Greg Steps about inspiration, influence and lemon trees in the lead up to the launch of his upcoming EP, ‘The Overland’, accompanied by his band – The Not for Prophets – which is taking place on Friday, February 24th at the esteemed Wesley Anne band room.
Before making the big move from Brisbane to Melbourne, Greg Steps had featured in a number of somewhat noisier, heavier band-type situations without ever really trying to go at it alone. Until the day that he did, and realised that Brisbane was no place for a solo singer/songwriter to develop.
“Brisbane doesn’t have – or at least to my knowledge – doesn’t have much of a folk scene,” reminisces Steps beneath the lemon tree at his Coburg residence, “Whereas down in Melbourne, with open mics and stuff like that, and plenty of like-minded individuals… so it just seemed like a good idea at the time”
Having been in Melbourne for what’s coming up to four years now, you would be quite likely to walk into any of the abundance of open mic nights at any given time and find Greg Steps on the list to play – belting his heart out with his slightly country twang and the storytelling nous of a folk star in the making.
Greg has not only used this scene to build connections in the new place he calls home, but also to reinforce his already clear line of talent, and present a form of his music that he had not always been 100% comfortable with.
“Open mic is kind of a dirty word… especially amongst ‘real musicians’…” says Greg, “But for artists like myself, it’s been really important for my development and pretty much everyone I know in Melbourne is purely through the open mic circuit”
To really appreciate the Greg Steps experience, you need to see the live show. There are a number of singer/songwriters in this town whom you can tell just how much the story they are sharing with the audience means to them, and Steps is no exception, with raw emotion not only shown in what you see from his physicality in front of you, but with the way in which he relaxes deeper into every song, calmly blows away at his impressive collection of harmonicas and speaks of each tune with a memory.
Stylistically, it is difficult to pinpoint Greg’s crossroads. It’s some sort of a coming together of alt-country, folk and a dash of that ‘Australiana’ thing – a Jackson Browne meets Neil Young meets Paul Kelly kind of quality.
“It’s quite bizarre how it came about, because I don’t listen to that much folk music, and country; country is a genre I know nothing about… maybe connections through people like Neil Young, with a bit of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, even though they are not strictly country,” he emanates; “It was more songwriting that I was drawn to, and folk and country, I think, is just an excellent format for writing songs”
“It’s like the bare bones of the song,” Greg continues, recounting his adornment for the rawness and openness of the singer/songwriter format; “[The songs are] completely stripped back, and there’s little distraction and I really am drawn to that…”
“When you have a band, there’s a lot of options that can distract how bad a song can be… [but] there’s no tricks to folk and country music. If the songs’s not good, it’s not good! It’s blatantly obvious.”
‘Early Hours of Morning’ was a video release from Greg Steps in 2016 which told a somewhat solitary and dark tale and proved to be a very worthy visual accompaniment to the song itself. This was Greg’s first foray into the world of music videos, and the hardest part of the process, he says, isn’t probably what many people would think.
“Acting was really hard. I never realised that walking, and trying to make it look like you’re walking normally – I’ve never been so self-conscious about walking in my life – they just said ‘walk normally,’ I’ve never walked normally in my life – then I had to think about it…”
“You look like you’re walking and you know you’re being filmed!”
Reflecting back on the production and release of ‘The Overland’, Greg admits that the impending release has been a “long time in the making,” with songs written and being performed over a number of years and an unpaid band “doing it out of the goodness of their heart”, Greg outwardly possesses a gratitude for the kindness and support they have shown to believe in his songs and be an integral part of this project.
Greg Steps & The Not for Prophets release & launch the EP ‘The Overland’ on Friday, February 24th at The Wesley Anne – 250 High St, Northcote. Support from Anna Cordell and Oliver Downes. Tickets $10 at the door with CDs available on the night.
Following the success of Australia-wide tours alongside one of Australia’s biggest singer/songwriter names, Byron Bay native – now Melbourne-based – pop/folk songwriter, Domini Forster, gears up for the release of her very first full-length album in early 2017. Armed with a live show that highlights a melancholic sweetness; the great divide between positive and negative emotion, and; Forster’s multi-instrumental skills (with the main focus on guitar and ukulele), the last piece of the puzzle is now almost firmly secured. We caught up with Domini for a chat on all things musical in her past, and into her future, before she appears at Melting Pot’s Songwriters in the Round event at Cromwell Studios on Friday, December 9th.
Music has featured in Domini Forster’s life from a very early age. Being brought up through the Steiner School system in Byron Bay had her introduced to instruments and classroom music training through her formative school years, including a number of years where playing a stringed instrument was a compulsory part of her schooling - yet it wasn’t until Domini’s early teens where the passion exuded itself and transformed into the realm of a songwriter.
“I can’t put a finger on an exact moment, but I always loved singing, and performing and just being involved,” Domini says;
“At some point a boy taught me a few chords on guitar,” she recounts; “The first song I wrote was actually a song about breaking up with him!”
Forster candidly describes her writing style as her main cathartic process, and a way in which she deals with many of her emotions and thoughts. This is unsurprising when you take into account that many songwriters’ processes follow a similar path, however listening to some of Domini’s content and the way in which it is delivered, you’d be forgiven for thinking there was more at play.
She reaches an almost uncomfortable depth at times, clearly showcasing her full appreciation of the wide range of emotion which she intuiting. To come to terms with realising that something so deep and complex sounding having the most simplest of explanations or genesis, is sometimes the best possible result, and also provides a more direct connection with the artist as a whole.
I think this is a big part of what makes Domini Forster such a special artist, she is easily connectable. There are no smoke screens or hidden meanings, in a very much ‘what you see is what you get’ package.
“It’s a cathartic thing for me, and it just felt so satisfying, so there was never a question for me that I would ever stop doing that…”
Domini also reflects on her involvement with Melting Pot’s events over the years, particularly Songwriters in the Round as a reminder of her home area in Byron Bay:
“I grew up in a pretty community-centred place and have gone to a lot of house concerts in my time and that style of music, it just feels like the core of where music started for humans, that ‘round the campfire;’ sharing stories in song form… I love playing to people who want to listen.”
Her move to the big smoke culminated with releasing a small EP, 'Little Dreamer,' in 2013, a snippet of original material which is still available digitally through soundcloud.com/domini-forster.
Having had sprawling success throughout the past couple of years whilst on tour with Lior, Forster has fully capitalised on this exposure to a new and wide-ranging audience.
After discovering Domini at a songwriting competition in which he was the guest artist, Lior approached her to extend some on-stage opportunities which quickly transformed into a range of small regional tours with the multiple ARIA-nominated artist.
The swag of tours accepted Forster’s music so well that she was then given the support slot for Lior’s national tour to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his debut album, ‘Autumn Flow,’
“It was such an incredible record, and so many people have such a connection to it, so it was absolutely amazing,’ Domini reminisces.
She continues work on her debut album, ‘Raven,’ due to be released in March 2017. ‘Raven’ was recorded with the masterful Nick Huggins at his home studio in Point Lonsdale, and will prove to be Domini Forster’s biggest collection of original songs to date. Domini reflected on the making of ‘Raven’ as a difficult yet highly rewarding process;
“If any musician tells you that making an album is fun and easy… they’re bullshitting,” she explains; “But it was an amazing process, and I stressed about it, and put my heart and blood and sweat and tears into it…” something that you’ll no doubt be able to hear and experience upon its release next year.
The future journey for Domini Forster is yet to be mapped out, but if one were to interpret the direction, the feeling amongst her peers and immediate community is certainly that the only direction will be up.
Domini Forster appears with accompaniment from multi-instrumentalist and singer Phoebe Sanger this Friday night, December 9th at Melting Pot’s Songwriters in the Round – to be held at Cromwell Studios: 136A Cromwell St, Collingwood.
Written and compiled by Josh Forner for www.meltingpotonline.com