This week’s Q and A features rock soul vocalist Simon Meli / front man of the Widowbirds rocker of The Voice … Facades, chasing success, day jobs, family, fear, purpose… I always buzz after having a conversation with this guy! Thanks for the wisdom brother!
In an industry where expression collides with business, how do you keep the passion to play/write music alive?
For me, I feel fortunate that I was brought up in a working-class family where my parents encouraged me to have a regular job that paid for the passions in life, where I could then exclude money or business matters from music. However, the difficulty lies here in the Australian music climate. Sadly, in the end, it costs a musician to play and create, as well as tour this country.
The times have changed drastically since the trends of the bands I loved in my upbringing. The key is how to navigate the changes. Back to my first point, my left hand feeds the right hand and right hand feeds the left. Balance.
Have you ever come close to leaving music? If so, what prompted it and what inspired you to stay?
Yes, but not a leaving as such – how could you ask music to leave your body? Your soul? Your spirit?
I struggled for many years with the cliché rock’n’roll expectations of youths in a band. Being young and in a band, thinking “you gotta do this ‘n’ that to be cool man”. The sex, the drugs and the rock’n’roll… rock’n’roll music sure, but the other two… are fabricated and immoral.
That never truly resonated with me, so I struggled to try it in on for years thinking this was “the way”, yet only to realise it’s all a facade and an industry heavily and completely ego driven. My soul got fed up, and it woke me up out of this vicious and material world of commercial music.
I also struggled with the response of this façade by the percentage of gig-goers who believe the same cliché. With all due respect, people are free to live life the way they wish to, but their energy became something that greatly affected me. So, I chose to remove my person from the equation rather than music from me!
The problem I had was not with the music, it was the environment. Now I much prefer to navigate toward occasions that reflect a wholesome, real and emotionally-rewarding experience.
How do you stay true to your vision, in an industry that is filled with opinion?
It depends on how much you rely on the industry, and how intact your truth will be. Everyone has their own vision, and much of that is to do with reaching this “measured success”.
People should lean on the idea that they have success already! You have been given a gift to express yourself using sounds.
I’ve removed the need to see myself on a plateau within the music industry and play for the feeling that a great performance gives you.
What does the day of a gig right up until stepping on stage look like?
My alarm sounds at 4:30am. I’m off to work running a business that I love, either working with management or flying glass up in the air on a crane. I’m relaxed. I have fun at work and can leave by 2:30pm to head home to see my wife and baby daughter. We hang out for a few hours and we prepare the family dinner early.
Then shower, shave and load the car. To every gig, I’m driving and the stereo usually has Frankie Miller or some soul music playing.
Arrive and it’s go-time.
What tips do you have in balancing family with music life?
Exactly that – balance is key. Your family makes you. The energy of the family defines who you are out in the world. I keep the gigs to a balanced flow.
What do you do to stay physically and mentally balanced? (on and off the road if you are a touring artist)
My tradie life keeps the mind active, running the business and performing physically in it on a daily basis. Our family life is a clean living, spirited and healthy home. The wife and I marvel at the joy it is to be parents.
How do you carry out the roles of a performing artist during times when you’re feeling sub-par? Be it unwell or emotionally unstable. What epiphany(s) has altered your approach to music/life?
I’ll answer both questions at once – spirituality and an openness in our family have empowered a calm and stillness in life.
Have you ever experienced anxiety/depression/nervousness around a tour? If so, what are (were) the triggers and how do (did) you manage it?
Yes. It can be a perfectly normal experience nervousness before a performance, but I found that I trusted in the belief that I was only ever going to give my best right here, right now and I’m grateful to do so.
Can you trace your current successes back to any big risks or leaps? If so, what were they?
What is your philosophy on fear? How do you deal with it?
Trust in the universe.
You cannot fear what you don’t know. Don’t let your mind make up what may not even happen.
If you love what you do, no opinion could challenge your love.
If you were to wave a magic wand, how would you like to spend your time in the future?
Exactly as I have today. I wouldn’t want a wand. We’re happy in our home. Here with my wife, my daughter, great food and great music on the ready for singing together and playing in the background of life.
Are there any other wisdom you’d like to share?
It’s all ok.