Australian singer and songwriter Bud Rokesky stops by THEAUSSIEWORD.COM for a one-on-one chat with Brian Peel.
How and where did it all begin for you? What drew your interest to the music industry?
When I was very young, around two or three, I would wake up very early as most kids do, and to keep me occupied Mum and Dad would put a movie on the tv until they woke up properly. Most kids would have probably watched something like the Lion King or these days maybe Bluey, but for my brother and I we had the Blues Brothers. We knew the movie and songs word for word and would put on short performances for family at gatherings. Being exposed to Jake and Elwood’s performances so young, I’m fairly certain I considered it just a normal part of adult life to be up on stage singing for an audience.
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?
Music is pure magic to me, the way it can take you back to any place or time, the way it stirs emotions until you have a physical reaction like tears or goosebumps, the way it can help you see life through another person’s eyes. I know how impactful artists have been on my life, so connecting with people on those levels is a privilege and a gift that I wish to be a part of.
What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish?
To make a positive impact on as many people’s lives as I can. To help people feel connected to the world when they feel isolated or misunderstood. To show that maybe just about everything can be beautiful with perspective.
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?
Lots of shows, Port Fairy Folk Festival, Tim Easton support, Matt Corby support, Outsider album tour. You can keep up to date with shows via BudRokesky.com
Give us an insight into your creative process. What gets you writing songs?
Driving the highway gives me a lot of time to look around and think. I’ll have a lot of passing thoughts, but when one makes me feel something very strongly, like a memory or curiosity or heartache or comedy, I’ll usually dwell on that for a little longer. Then within that thought I’ll find characters or lessons and see if I can turn them into a song. Words and the ways we speak already have melody, so leaning into those natural melodies helps me find something catchy enough for me to remember, until I can pull over and record it.
Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?
I would say most songs have their meaning blurred just enough to allow the listener to hear and create their own story from the lyrics. One of my favourite aspects of songwriting is cramming as much content into as few words possible, it forces my mind to look at things from different perspectives. But in terms of hidden meanings… I don’t like the idea of singing to someone, only to refuse them the meaning or point of the song sung. So no, I’m not hiding anything.
Success, what is the secret to it?
Love, connection, consistency, hard work, clear vision but roll with the flow.
What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
There have been many- signing autographs and meeting fans, listening to the test pressing of Outsider on vinyl and holding it in my hands, working with Hayley Mary, spending days in the studio with good friends, the list goes on and on.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
Really anyone who has made a full time career from music and has done it with grace and humility.
Are there any new projects in the pipeline?
Always writing new music, sneaking in recordings when we can, playing bigger shows and making some really cool merch, also filming lots of behind the scenes footage.
The music industry is constantly changing, where do you see yourself a few years?
I feel like the gap between artists and fans is shortening even more. I would love for there to be a way in the future, using technology, to engage with people a lot more often and more personally.
What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why?
I’ve dreamt of playing music for most of my life so to be doing it, any part of it, is a blessing. But there are some things I enjoy a little more than others… I really love being in the studio and playing a song to my friends to see their reaction and where their minds go for production or collaboration. As for least favourite, well at this stage its very tricky to bring my family with me to gigs, so time away is hard. I’m hoping that one day it will be possible to take them all over with me.
Name a few of your favourite Australian artists.
There are too many- Civic, The Jezabels, Wifecult, Mou, Great Gable, Jem Cassar-Daley, The Florin Arc, Sara Berki… way too many to name.
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 getting your records out into the public eye?
I think the access that artists have to wider audiences as a result of social media and streaming is incredible. I also think streaming services having almost every song and album imaginable is beneficial to the types of music being created moving forward. How algorithms influence different results is something I don’t know too much about, so all I focus on is writing the songs I want to hear and share
How will you continue appealing to the international market?
I don’t have a plan or methodology when it comes to making music people might enjoy, locally or internationally. I write from the heart about human experiences and hope people connect with it and that it makes a positive impact in their lives.
Do you collaborate with others? Who is on your wish-list?
I was fortunate enough to work with Hayley Mary on the Outsider track “Tell John”. She arrived in Brisbane early to record vocals, before playing a sold out show at The Fortitude Music Hall with the Jezabels that night. It was surreal watching her give her heart to a paired back acoustic song that had come from my brain, then bringing the house down in front of 3000 people like the rock star she is.
What advice do you give for other artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
There are a million ways to make your dream happen, but all of them require dedication, which in most cases comes from pure passion. If we’re talking about music then I would suggest keeping an open mind and listening to every type of music you can find, while learning about the history of it all. Then it’s a good idea to find like-minded friends that you can dream with together, and who will help you to grow and also push you to be better.
A message for your fans. How do you best interact and respond with your followers and fans?
I love meeting and talking with fans. It gets very busy juggling work and music, but I always enjoy talking with anyone about anything. Instagram and Facebook are great when we’re not geographically close, but after gigs is always the best place to catch up, because I’m right there and not behind the wheel, or unloading, or recording!
Any last words?
Thank you to everyone for playing and sharing songs from Outsider. It really feels like I’m achieving what I’ve set out to do.
Spotify: Bud Rokesky on Spotify
MARCH 10-13 – PORT FAIRY FOLK FESTIVAL, Port Fairy VIC
WED MAR 15 – MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, Sydney NSW (w/ Tim Easton USA)
FRI MAR 17 – TAMWORTH HOTEL, Tamworth NSW (w/ Tim Easton USA)
SAT MAR 18 – Back Deck Sessions, Maitland NSW (w/ Tim Easton USA)
MON MAY 22 – THE FORUM, Melbourne VIC (w/ Matt Corby & Great Gable)
FRI MAY 26 – FORTITUDE MUSIC HALL, Brisbane (w/ Matt Corby & Great Gable)
TUE MAY 30 – ENMORE THEATRE, Sydney NSW (w/ Matt Corby & Great Gable)
SAT JUN 3 – HINDLEY STREET MUSIC HALL, Adelaide SA (w/ Matt Corby & Great Gable)