SPECIAL INTERVIEW: Aaron Schembri

THEAUSSIEWORD.COM catches up with Aussie artist Aaron Schembri.

How and where did it all begin for you? What drew your interest to the music industry?

I began learning the piano when I was in Grade 6, and then I begged my dad to get me a guitar because I was eager to learn.

I Remember around that time, my folks dragged me along to see John Fogerty live at the Palais Theatre. He had a different guitar for every song! That was mind blowing in itself!
It was safe to say that I wanted to do exactly that.

My grandfather was a musician in his younger days, he played clarinet in bands around Malta. He used to tell me that he and his band mates would play at small clubs for a free soft drink, haha.

Looking back now, it kind of cements in my mind how special it is to be doing this as a living.

I was fortunate and lucky enough to be the “Apprentice” for the late great Ross Hannaford (Daddy Cool), he took me under his wing and gave me some great guidance into being a musician. I am very grateful for that opportunity and I had learnt so much from being around him. Big loss!

What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?

I’ve got a long list of musical influences and its forever growing. My folks would have artists like

AC/DC, John Farnham, Jimmy Barnes and Creedence Clearwater Revival playing all the time at home.

My grandparents always had the old 50’s and 60’s greats like, Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson and Roy Orbison.

It’s funny now though when I hear certain songs, it kind of takes me back to certain times as a young fella. Whether it was a house party, family get together or particular moments with my family.

Every year when it was one of us kids birthdays, the first thing we’d hear before we were off to school was “Happy Birthday” by Stevie Wonder. Hahah, I never got sick of that.

Influences I believe really shape who you are as a musician. It kind of moulds you without you even realising, whether it be guitar playing, sense of vocal melodies or even the nitty gritty side of producing you’re own songs.

In saying that it is easy to get stuck into one style or artist which can kind of limit your creativity as a songwriter. So I think it’s good to be as broad as you can be with your musical influences.

Over the last 5- 6 years, I’ve been gettng into songwriters like Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, The Stones, Paul McCartney. More or less to try and understand their way of songwriting.

I think every songwriter wishes they could write a tune like those guys! Hahah

What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish?

Interesting question! I don’t really try to set too many goals. I don’t sit there and say, right I am going to release a song once every 3 months for example. I try to keep things as real and naturally flowing as possible. I think mainly so my head space doesn’t go astray.

Even with this new concept album “THE LOCKDOWN SESSIONS”, I woke up one morning and thought, well I’ve got all of these covers that I have recorded. Why not get them out there?

With that being said, I do strive to be better at what I do, songwriting, playing etc.

What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?

I don’t even known what to expect. Haha.

This whole Covid thing has made planning a very difficult thing. We were suppose to be on a national tour at the moment for the “Eagle Rock 50th Anniversary” with Ross Wilson. So yeah things have changed obviously. It is still going to go ahead for sure!

We had a couple of rehearsal before this last lockdown for the tour and I could feel how excited we were all getting! It’s going to be a lotta fun!

Tell us a bit about your latest release and how would you best describe your music?

This latest release “THE LOCKDOWN SESSIONS” as I mentioned, just kind of fell into place.

I had all of these acoustic covers that I had recorded in between the lockdowns. They are all songs that I feel have helped shape me as a musician over the course of my music career. The album was recorded with Chris Gatz at GM Sound Studios in Melbourne.

For me it was like going to back to my roots I suppose.

I also included on the album a re-recorded acoustic version of “Good Enough For You” which was off of my first album ‘City Lights’ and I also cut a piano version of “It’s Not Goodbye” which was a single that was released late 2020.

The music that I write I think has an old school sort of vibe to it, mainly because that’s the era that my influences are from. I love my country, reggae, rock and roll and blues.

So yeah, I try to keep that vintage sound and songwriting style.

Give us an insight into your creaFve process. What gets you writing songs?

Songwriting is a weird one, I’ve never said to myself “I am going to sit down and start writing a song”.

90% of the time I will randomly think of a melody, riff or a chord progression when an instrument is no where in sight! Haha

If I think I’ve come up with something that might be worth working on, then I’ll sit down and “go with the flow” as they say.

I enjoy writing on guitar, but there’s an interesting change of songwriting perspective when I’m writing at a piano. Things seem to feel different and move in different directions that I wouldn’t normally follow through with on guitar.

Once I’ve got the bed of the song down, then I like to tweak things a few days later with a different mind set.

Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?

I wouldn’t say “hidden”, there’s been times where I’ve written songs based on life experiences or life experiences of people that I know.

Then there’s been songs where the story is completely made up! I like doing that kind of thing, because it gives me a challenge to try to get into a fictional characters mindset…. Where there are no rules.

Success, what is the secret to it?

I was always taught that success is measured by how happy you are with what you are doing! Am I successful? Yes, because I love what I do and the people that I do it with!

What has been your biggest career highlight so far?

Ahh, there’s been a whole heap of “pinch myself” moments that I look back on!

In 2019, I released my debut album ‘City Lights’
It featured songs that I had written myself and was sung by Australian Music Royalty!

Guys like Ross Wilson, Normie Rowe, Swanee, Kevin Borich, Mark Gable, Russell Morris, Colleen Hewett, Mike Rudd… so yeah that’s pretty damn cool to look back on! And the icing on the cake for me personally was that we released the album on Vinyl!! I love my LP’s! So special!

September 2019, I launched the album at Memo Hall in St Kilda. The place was sold out and I was very fortunate to have the guest vocalists from the album perform those songs with me. It was a cast of millions that night! Hahaha

Another was being an honorary “Playboy” for Normie Rowe and The Playboys in 2017 I think it was… We played to a packed house at the iconic Palais Theatre for the Go! Show Reunion.

Playing guitar with Renee Geyer and Ross Wilson is another special moment for me. I grew up listening to and loving these albums. So to be onstage performing “Eagle Rock” or “It’s a Mans World” is a real privilege and honour!

Ok, here’s the one that even I cant comprehend. Meeting Angus Young from AC/DC! We chatted about all things music!

He was kind enough to sign my “Angus Young Gibson SG”. That was a moment I will never forget! That comes to the grave with me!

Sorry for bragging!
*Pinching myself still right now!*

Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?

Ross Wilson is a great musical inspiration, he’s been there and done that for decades! I love the way he conducts himself, especially on stage in front of a crowd! I really admire his songwriting and his passion for music!

It’s funny I had recently emailed him a couple of new tunes that I had written and recorded.

He sent them back to me after he had cut and chopped things up, I thought “I would never have done that, but I get it!” It’s always a learning curve for me, which I love.

We’ve actually got a cool tune that we co-wrote together that will be recorded when things open up again.

Paul Norton and Wendy Stapleton… I’ve always said are like the musical mum and dad. I first met them when I was 17, and they have always been there to give me advice. We still gig together which is always great fun!

Are there any new projects in the pipeline?

Yeah I’ll try to get this new record of original songs out when things settle down.

I am always writing with different people which is great fun, because its nice to get a different perspective of music when you are co-writing with other people.

I co-write a groovy little tune called “So Long” with Sam + Sam. A couple of buddies of mine that are hard working musicians. We actually performed the song at the MCG (yeah I know right), you can find it one YouTube somewhere.

That tune is just about ready to be released.

The music industry is constantly changing, where do you see yourself a few years?

It sure is, I mean if I am still gigging and writing songs when I am 80, then I am a happy man!

What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why?

Well, being a musician during these current times is very difficult obviously. When the lockdown first hit Melbourne last year, I didn’t realise how much I loved what I do. As they say, “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone!” So true!

My favourite thing about the industry is the fact that you get to perform around the country and play music that can bring a smile to peoples faces. If you move people with music then you are on the right pathway! What more could you want?

Name a few of your favourite Australian artists.

Oh there is too many to mention! Daddy Cool, Mondo Rock, Renee Geyer, Powderfinger, Paul Kelly, Skyhooks, AC/DC, Normie Rowe, Spectrum, MadderLake, Little River Band and so much more!

To work with most of these guys is a massive thrill in itself. A feeling that I cant explain!

There’s some newer artists too, such as The Anywheres, Shaun Kirk, Aaron Pollock, Taylor Sheridan, The Bostock, Dean Ray.

Definitely check these guys out!

The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in gettng your records out into the public eye?

Well, I suppose that social media can be a good thing and a bad thing. But it’s a great way to promote yourself and your music, shows etc.

How will you continue appealing to the international market?

I’ve just got keep chipping away! With the analytics for social media that you can dive into, it’s handy to see where people are tuning in from all over the world. Then you work from that.

Before Covid began taking over the world. I connected with Greg Guy, who is the son of legendary blues man “Buddy Guy”. I was planning to head over to the US last year just to see how things operated over there for the musicians. Looks like well have to hold off on the jam for a while.

Do you collaborate with others? Who is on your wish-list?

Yeah I love writing songs with people. They say “two heads are be]er that one” … unless you don’t like the person you are writing with! Haha

Well I’d like to start writing with international artists in the future. I’ve written songs with a lot of Australian Artists, which I will continue to do so. But there’s something that interests me about writing songs with someone from the other side of the world.

I’d like to write a track with Bob Dylan hahah

What advice do you give for other artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Just enjoy what you do, there is no point doing something that you aren’t going to enjoy.

Don’t try to be the best in the world at everything in your musical journey. Make mistakes, make wrong decisions. Don’t let it get you down but it’s the best way to learn! There’s no instruction manual on being a musician. If there was, everyone in the world would be doing it! This just shows how special and unique being a musician is!

A message for your fans. How do you best interact and respond with your followers and fans?

I’d like to say a massive thank you to the people that are listening to or buying my music, and most of all connecting with it. And a thanks to the folks that come to the gigs. Thats what music is all about, bringing people together.

I try to keep reasonably active on social media, responding to people online is important.

Any last words?

Good riddance to this Covid!!!!!!!!!!!! Hopefully.

Website: www.aaronschembri.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aaronschembrimusic/
Instagram: @aaronschembri.music