The Road to Dattilo

(A songwriter’s personal experience of the Australian Songwriters Conference)

To be perfectly honest I was fairly naive about what the Australian Songwriters Conference (ASC) was. Although I’ve lived on the central coast all my life, I still unfortunately had never heard about this songwriter event that happened regularly just down the road. I guess it just wasn’t my time – that is until June 2016.

I never considered myself a musician. Sometimes I would sing a little but I had always written poetry, lyrics and snippets, or what I’ve come to know now as ‘hooks’, but this was automatic to my being, without any real intention.

My parents sent me to piano lessons when I was young but I quickly squirmed my way out, only to mourn my youthful caprice many years later when I picked up the guitar and wilfully tried to master an instrument. I still sit here today with no instrumental capabilities but a firm believer that I have something to share with the music world through my words.

It was two days before the ASC started and Lisa Butler, the founder and coordinator of the event, had invited me on down after hearing my spoken word demos. I had given them to her last minute thanks to Rhythm Hut coordinator, Louise Sawilejskij, who urged me to attend after discovering my secret little passion for wordsmithery.

Before long I was in the twisting rabbit warren corridors of the Ettalong Beach Tourist Resort, only to have my first taste of the ASC and the heightened serendipity of the music business. I believe it is this magic, this profound energy that keeps so many musicians in the game.

Many lectures and workshops began to unfold, one after the other, with some fascinating insights into the music world. We were in a room with high level professionals that cared, so our aspiring little souls were treated as equals.

I was quickly thrown into a co-writing session with other songwriters which was facilitated by Alan Roy Scott, Grammy Award-winning Hollywood songwriter and producer.

“You have one hour to write a song” Alan proclaimed.

A list was presented which displayed all sorts of possible music ‘themes’ for us to work with; Beatles at the beach, Adele at a children’s hospital, Nina Simone at the airport… Now I can’t attest to the accuracy of these topics, but that’s due to the theme we chose stole my attention from the get go.

You see, I had literally just hopped off the plane from a nine month journey around Brazil. From memory I had been home a month or two, but a trip like that doesn’t get wiped from your bones any time soon. I was still recovering from post-traumatic cultural disorder! So anyway, scanning this list of co-writing themes, my eyes land on Bob Dylan at the Rio Olympics… I admit that the feeling in my gut quickly took the reigns as I negotiated with the fellow ‘ASC songwriters’, Andy Barnes and Alana Patmore. I knew it was the one for us to work on, having just seen reality of the Rio Olympics construction for myself.

“Andy can you give me a Bosa Nova/ samba rhythm?” he started to pluck away.
Within 15 minutes I had written out the entire lyrical composition. Alana and Andy did amazing harmonies for the chorus and within the hour we had the song recorded in ASC’s onsite studio provided by The Grove Studios.

Muita Gente, which became the title of the song, was on the Radio by the end of the day. It was stunning to witness the clear magic that was happening in between these walls.

I’m writing this article from a fairly personal point of view because I wish to relay the spirit of ASC. ASC is personal. It is more than an event, it’s a community, and for the songwriters who attend it is an invaluable platform to see that your work is worthy, what you need to work on, and how to accomplish that. Sometimes a change of scenery is all your talent needs to shine, an outside perspective to provide you the truth of your projects.

This experience validated my work and started my epic journey as a songwriter and lyricist.
It has been nearly one year since the release of Muita Gente, and since then, seven songs have flourished out of the Dattilo project and its collaborations.

Dattilo has no face fame and is discovering itself each and every day, bringing musicians together around the globe to create music that focuses on the word in song, the priceless lyrical message.  The idea is to have Dattilo identified with writing, with the words, the unique flare that springs up in each song.

I feel blessed to say that the ASC was the start of my creative love affair, leading me across the world to continue writing. I would highly recommend any ‘budding muso’ to get in there and feel the family spirit.

The fact that these highly talented, dignified people come together as one to share knowledge and help each other grow is outstanding and needs to be encouraged, as it is through community and collaboration we become stronger, allowing art to flourish in ways we could never dream of.

Special thanks to Alan Roy Scott, Lisa J Butler and Adie and Barb Hannan.