Chapter One - Brax
Twenty years ago, I had walked into Aushop Studios, having been handed a recording opportunity finally. Musicians and people working in this industry must develop a range of diverse income streams to guarantee a sustainable career. A lot of younger musicians aren’t aware of the plethora of opportunities available, and are bullishly, slogging through with little cash to show for it. Or, more likely as releasing music and touring is so pricey, they end up with negative funds and a sense of defeat.
But there are other ways to make money through music: session work, education, DJ gigs, event work, composing, songwriting for others, busking - and before you laugh let me tell you, I know some incredible people who have sold tens of thousands of compact discs through the hussle, corporate gigs and so many more. There are people all across the industry who are making a living solely from music. Some you may have heard of, but most you probably haven’t. Each of them is a living testament to the fact that being a rockstar isn’t necessarily what it’s cracked up to be. These are regular people, just like you or I, and they’ve waved goodbye to the day job for good in favour of music work across a range of diverse avenues.
That’s not to say that just signing yourself up for a few different odd jobs is going to keep you out of Mi Goreng-and-Vegemite-toast-country. But that’s just it, it’s a lifestyle, not a hobby. I am not a hobbyist, I am an artist. The music is what fuels my blood and energy, it is what inspires me every day to get up and do and be better for my family, and it is what brought me the greatest love life can bestow to one.
My band and I had been blessed with longevity. Was it easy? Absolutely not. But every second - each defeat and triumph paved the way to the life I had been afforded. And just what does that world entail? Richness. I’m not talking about money, although I am not ignorant to say we don’t live comfortably, but wealthy in culture, love, diversity, empathy, friendships and family, learning and inspiring. After the tour… it was my turn to give back.
I could never give up the music, a performer at heart, but there comes a time when you are ready to slow down, to share the spoils you have created and watch the road be paved for the ones that you inspired, to see them take up the mantle and push Australian Hip Hop into the next generation. AusHop Studios had become my home, and a home rich with giving.
You absolutely can be the monk archetype and the business-man/woman archetype at the same time. There’s nothing evil about money, it’s about how you use it. Playing music can be a gift for others. Having money means you can spread your unique flavour to more people. You can give back, even spend some money on genuine not-for-profit organisations that help the world - such as Liam and his commitment to grassroots and helping young artists through the industry. Be the healer, but be the lucrative trader so you can grow your gift and your message.
I had grown as an artist through collaborations. Jasper and I went on to make over a dozen songs together, and even as I signed and joined new artists to the label, I often did cameo raps or verses to help them get their foot in the door. After all, what good was all I had built, if I couldn’t help others? I knew the struggles, well… and didn’t always have to be that way. I wanted to pave a new road in the industry, an inclusive environment that saw the raw talents grafting day in and day out get their shot.
Which led me to today. For the first time, AusHop studios was holding open auditions. Several changes had happened at the studio over the last ten years. The successful escalation of not only my band, Abandoned Bygone, but Jasper and his boys, saw Marcus offered the title of Chief Operating Officer when the position became vacant a few months ago. Marcus, he was the artist’s agent. Everything he did was for the talent he had nurtured, so it was no surprise to us when his initial reaction was to decline the role. If you’re an agent, you’ve got a lot of work to do preparing performances and tours on top of your regular workload. This is something I have learnt over the last few years as I found a balance between my own life as an artist, and my new role as an agent. Sure, it’s not easy but one thing I have learnt - the best things in life rarely are. This was why we had actively encouraged Marcus to take this next step. He only had to look at what his vision had created for all of us.
Until Marcus brought myself, Chester, Shane, Liam and Mark together we had struggled to find the unity and support that being part of a band requires. Abandoned Bygone was his vision and we placed our trust and faith in him wholeheartedly. Why stop there, though? If he could make it with us, he could make it with anyone.
Marcus had come to me within a month of his new gig, and the look on his face told me the next journey was about to commence. His vision - Let’s rewind back to the start. Marcus used to spend excessive hours scouting open mic nights and buskers for the next big thing, after all that was how he found me. No other studio around us was bringing that to them. So we had decided for one week to showcase the studios for open auditions. My team, along with Marcus would hold the performances, shortlisting candidates for the opportunity of five exclusive recording contracts with AusHop Studios.
I was pumped, and I was keen to see what the fresh round of Australian artists could bring to us. It was also the reason I was up at the crack of dawn, busting to get on with the day. I was finishing up my coffee out on our deck when I heard movement inside and turned to look.
“Morning, dad.” My son and youngest child waved as he made his way into the kitchen. Hopping up, I grabbed my empty cup heading inside. Ruffling his hair as he tried to move away from me, I gave my kid a hug and asked why he was up so early. “I didn’t want to make you late, and you said we have to leave early today.”
“You’re too good to me kid, now if you could have a word with your sister…” Before I could finish, we both heard the thundering of the footsteps coming down the hallway. Archie and I looked at each other, smirking before hiding behind the kitchen counter.
“Are you kidding me! Why am I the first up…” Molly started to thunder, but was cut off when Archie and I jumped up from behind the bench, scaring the shit out of her. “Dammit, you two suck!” High-fiving my son, I set about getting my moody teenager and his breakfast and it wasn’t long before my midget came wandering down.
“Morning, cutie.” I opened my arms for my wife, giving her a gentle kiss… as our loving daughter started making vomiting sounds in the background.
“That’s so gross,” She muttered under her breath while polishing off the breakfast I had sorted.
“You are a byproduct of that grossness, kid.”
“Dad!” She squealed with a face of horror as her mother and I chuckled.
“What’s up your backside this morning?” I quizzed my unapologetic daughter.
Before she could answer, Archie mumbled under his breath, “Shit, just like she’s talking.”
“You would know,” She turned on him, just as Charlie stepped in between them.
“My wholesome loving family, please… shut up. Let me have my coffee in peace.” She kissed both the kids on the forehead, stole my coffee and headed outside.
“You heard the boss, finish your breakfast and get ready for school. We are leaving at seven fifteen.” After some protest from Molly, I left the kids to get sorted and headed outside with Charlie. Giving her another kiss before pulling up a chair beside, I tried to snatch my coffee back, only to receive a slap on the wrist. “Evil midget.”
“Don’t you start too,” She winked at me before smiling. “What time did you get up?”
“Early babes, I am excited for today.” She put her phone down and locked it, turning to face me.
“This is a great opportunity for people who really struggle to get noticed, and should be babe. We are all so proud of you.” I knew she was, and I was just as proud of Charlie’s involvement also. As I have always said, I am only the man I became because of her. When the restructure at the studio took place, I was fortunate enough to have my little magician become a full time member of my team. People often say it is difficult working and living with someone, and I admit there are trying times. That being said, Charlie has always been an influential figure in my career, so there was no reason why that shouldn’t continue now.
As the Marketing Manager for Aushop Studios she now ran a small team of three. Each of her staff had been carefully chosen, with her visions and work ethic in mind. Afterall, we spend so much time together, you become friends, and ultimately a family. Protecting that environment and unity first is of the utmost importance. When we heard the kids start to make a move to get dressed, I went to stand up when Charlie touched my wrist.
“Go sort yourself, today is an important one for you. I will get the kids to school then meet you down the studio.”
“Are you sure, cutie?” She nodded, indicating it was no bother. “Thank you. Make sure you head straight down though, I don’t want to do this without you.”
“You know I will.” I was out the door while the kids and Charlie were still getting sorted, and after a brief battle with traffic, I had pulled into my allotted spot, and made my way up into our building. As the elevator opened and I stepped out into the lobby, the first thing that greeted me was the ornamentally encased copy of the first song, Family Vibes, which Jasper and I had created together. This was the video we had shot down in the mines in Western Australia, and a song we had unveiled during our first festival appearance together. The album had gone Diamond, over ten million records sold, within the first eighteen months of release. It was also my highest debut single. Lost in the memory, I suddenly found myself in a headlock and scrambling for my footing.
“That was almost too easy, you old prick.” Chester cackled as I pushed him off me. Smirking back at the shit stirring twat, I gave him a hug. “You good, bro?”
“Yeah man, that record up there,” I pointed to the wall, “Still fucking gives me chills everytime I see it.”
“You and me both, fam. We really knocked it out of the ballpark with that.” And he was right, we really did. It was everything we stood for. Chester and I made our way through reception and down to the staging area. I wasn’t surprised to find Marcus already there, along with Shane who had been in charge of the set up and staging for the auditions. We wanted to give these kids the best opportunity and starting point, so having the right equipment in place to help their confidence was critical. It wasn’t long before Liam and Mark joined us, and finally Jasper. Of course I still had him sit in from time to time, when he wasn’t touring. After all, he was my highest grossing artist now. By nine thirty as I heard the halls filling up with excited artists, all scrambling for one of those lucrative recording contracts, I was starting to get irritable, wondering where Charlie was. I hated doing anything like this without her, she was my calming presence and my voice of reason.
“She’ll be here, brother. She’s never let you down.” Mark patted me on the shoulder. “She is probably just held up in traffic.” He was right. Yet when Marcus shouted to everyone to quiet down and we would be starting in five, I started to get more wound up.
“You alright, cutie? I thought you would be here by now?” I shot her off a text. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long for the reply.
“Just parked, sorry babe. Traffic was a nightmare. I am two minutes away.” Relief instantly washed over me, as everyone started filing in. Once they had their places in the auditorium, ready for Marcus to do a quick address and introduction, I waited by the door for Charlie. When I heard the footsteps down the corridor, I turned…There was my wife, and my daughter?”
“Why isn’t Molly at school?” I asked them both confused.
“Auditions are today, right?” Molly asked me, but she already knew the answer.
“They are?” I threw the question back at her, still puzzled. I noticed Charlie standing calmly beside our daughter, letting her take the lead on this.
“I’m ready, dad.” My eyes grew slightly. “Let me audition, please?”