From Scratch

Ted Walker (pictured), Nicole Cross, Dan Baker, Jacob Long, Alex Thomas and Matilda Duncan will perform at this weekend's A Festival of Songs. IMAGE: Aaron Ashley

This weekend’s Festival of Songs will flip the regular live music gig on its head, inviting original songwriters to collaborate and challenge themselves in new ways when it descends on the Maritime Museum Park this Saturday. We caught up with event organiser and musician Nicole Cross to find out about the idea behind the event, and how each of the performances will work.

Tell us about A Festival of Songs!
The idea for the Songwriters Festival came from me playing at a few events in the past – when I toured New Zealand I played at an event called Songwriters in the Round where, rather than musicians getting up on stage individually and performing their original set, there’s multiple up there at once. They go around, each singing a song after each other, and it’s designed to be a bit more conversational than a normal gig. These events are designed for you to understand what the songs are written about. Sometimes the artists will collaborate with each other – so during their songs, other artists may join in with some guitar or sing harmonies. It’s more interactive than your average show, and more of a chance to learn about the songwriter and their music. We’ve wanted to do an event like this for a while to showcase songwriting rather than just music in general.

Are the participating musicians excited?
I think all the musicians are excited and nervous to be doing something a little different, because it means they are getting out of their comfort zone a bit and talking a bit more on stage – the collaboration thing is something different too. I think collaboration in songwriting is super important but I don’t think it’s happening too much in Townsville at the moment. This is a great way to get people together. Dan Baker, Alex Thomas and I are one of the groups performing, so we’re getting together before the Festival and we’re going to try write to song together that we’ll perform.

Everyone on the lineup has played at a Neighbourhood Sessions event before – the other group is Ted Walker, Jacob Long and Matilda Duncan. It’s a bit of a showcase of some of the artists who have performed at Neighbourhood events in the past and we’re excited to showcase them.

Are you seeing a lot of original music being created locally?
All of the artists we talk to are writing their own stuff, and even just going to open mic nights. Catching up with them and talking to them all, they all seem to be writing a lot. The more opportunities you have to get on stage and play an original song, or play at an event that encourages original music, encourages you to write.

Even myself, there’s been times where I haven’t written a song for ages and it’s usually when there’s not many shows or chances to play. But when you have something coming up that you need to sing originals at, you want to write. It encourages you to sing new things and tell different stories. I think having these events is encouraging people to write more songs because it means original music is valued and can be shared.

There’s a few musicians who have been ‘discovered’ in a way through Neighbourhood events – how have you seen them grow?
Matilda Duncan started with Small Stage – when we first saw Matilda play at Small Stage she was doing a lot of covers, but had a few originals up her sleeve. I’d spoken to her parents who told me she was nervous about whether people would like her original songs and whether she liked them herself. I got in her ear a bit, and let her know I knew she had originals. The next time she performed, Matilda played an original without telling anyone and had such a good response and I’ve seen her evolve from Small Stage through to now, pulling more out and telling everyone that they’re originals and she’s proud of them – it’s amazing to have been here to watch that unfold. She’s only 16 but already writes amazing lyrics and music – it scares me to think how far she could go in her career, she has such an exciting and uncertain path ahead of her.

The Festival of Songs is a Neighbourhood Sessions show so will have the same vibe people expect from our events with picnics, but instead of being BYO we have a licenced bar with VIP packages available for something different. We also have Otto’s Hen Haus bringing a food truck along for some different street food options too!

Catch Neighbourhood Sessions’ A Festival of Songs at the Townsville Maritime Museum this Saturday from 6pm, with tickets and info here.

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