In 1999, during a spontaneous road trip to Sydney with my friend Dave Hibbard, I decided to move to Melbourne to become a musician. The decision was made on a stretch of road in NSW, between Lismore and Grafton.
After three years of studying music, I had finished my degree and I was floundering in a half-hearted attempt to do the sensible thing and study law. (Whatever possessed me to think that studying law was a good idea is beyond me.)
Life had become pure drudgery. The amount of reading time required for law was demanding. There was no time for music and I barely touched the guitar for a few months. My hands felt lifeless from not playing guitar, as if atrophy had started to set in. I was living a life that had no creative input or output, and my mind felt like Dave’s 83 Subaru crunching through it’s rusting gears, as we bumped along the pacific hwy.
I first met Dave Hibbard at University in 1996. Originally from Tamworth, he was studying drums, and he was already playing like a pro. We ended up becoming friends, playing together a lot around town, and having a great time. I learnt a lot about music from Dave.
The stretch of road between Lismore and Grafton is 130 kms long. It has the beautiful, melancholy feel of a flat, dry, Australian rural country landscape. As you near Grafton, when the purple Jacarandas are in bloom, they introduce the most incredible colour to the landscape, I’ve tried to capture this feeling in the song Lismore to Grafton, which you can listen to on myspace.
I recorded the song in my studio in Melbourne and sampled lots of stationery (pens, pencils, staplers, etc).
The stationery and kitchen sink form the rhythm track and symbolise the insular loop of home and study that I found myself in at the time.
The hopefulness in the last part of the song represents the Jacarandas, which are a broader metaphor for future I was driving into.
Dave and I left for Sydney in his Subaru 83 wagon. He bought the car from the high yield dividends of his first investment- three dollars in a poker machine.
Dave apologised, “Sorry Lewi, the radio’s busted and we have no music for the trip, so we are just going to have to sing all the way to Sydney.”
For the next 10 hours, we sang the back catalogues of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and James Brown.
Between screaming, “ ’Scuse me, while I kiss the sky!” and “I don’t know Karate but I Know KA-RA-ZY”
Dave grumbled, “Man, why aren’t you playing music? There are plenty of lawyers out there, just move to Sydney, you’ll be okay, you’ll be able to survive as a musician, it just might take you a while. You just gotta have confidence. Get out of Lismore Lewi.”
So I left Lismore, and instead of moving to Sydney, I ended up in Melbourne. This move is one of the best decisions of my life, and the song Lismore to Grafton is a way of saying thanks to Dave.
Dave Hibbard has played with some of Australia’s top acts including Jimmy and Mahalia Barnes, The Whitlams, Wendy Matthews and currently The Bad Loves. Recently he has started an awareness campaign called Sunflowers for Suu, which aims at bringing attention to the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma.