An interview with Brett Hunt

Last week, the year 10s and 11s attended performances by Brett Hunt.

Brett Hunt has been visiting Urrbrae to share his stories and messages for almost 8 years now, and he never ceases to impress. We stayed behind to interview him on his life experiences, what inspires him, and how he overcomes the challenges he faces as a musical performer.

Here are some of his responses.

As a child how would you describe yourself?

Very serious, so mum tells me. If it were soccer, I would do nothing but kick the soccer ball around. If it were Rugby league I would do nothing but play it. That’s the thing with music, I’ve always just been obsessed with getting good at it.

When did you first realise that music and performing were your passion?

Very, very young. Probably in Church. I’m no longer Catholic, but I grew up in a Catholic household. I remember singing, I would have been about 4 or 5.

Who would you say your biggest inspiration is?

My Grandparents.

Which famous musicians do you admire and why?

There’s so many famous musicians that I admire, simply because of the body of their work. Bob Dylan, he can’t be girth to garters, without understanding that he is one of the greatest of his type in many eyes, but it’s all the old blues guys you know, Son House and Howlin’ Wolf. These guys that grew up in the most extraordinary, difficult, racist, segregated societies in Southern America, and despite that they found great beauty in their music. I think it’s those challenges that would be set upon an artist like that and still maintain honour and integrity, and be that quality of musicians, and revolutionise music at the same time. People like Miles Davis, in Jazz, they’re the ones that I really look to, because it was against all odds, and I’ve got that sort of underdog thing. So yeah I guess it would be those the early 30’s-40’s blues musicians.

How do you handle making mistakes during a performance?

You accept them, they’re a natural part of it. There is no such thing as a mistake on stage. The golden rule on stage in music, or in theatre, or in even speeches, is that you must accept everything that happens on stage. You accept it, and through that acceptance you then have a momentum to continue the action on stage. If you say ‘that’s a mistake’ you’ve suddenly put up a wall. You must accept it and go ‘this is a natural part of it, this is what’s happened.’ I’ve had things where I’ve been in Shakespeare, and my mate was really sick, and he missed his cue to come on, and I’ve got three hundred and fifty paying audience members and I had to improvise Shakespeare. To tell his part of the story so we could then get the next cue so the main characters could come on. So then I just went ‘who cares, let’s just go for it’ and I got some of the biggest laughs of the night. Simply because I went ‘oh well, it’s happened.’ He’s missed his cue, and he’s got a good reason to miss his cue, he’s really sick, and you just accept it.

What is the biggest hurdle you had to overcome during your career?

I think it would have to be the digitisation of music. People just don’t buy music anymore. Or very few people do anyway. It’s really hard to survive in a world where your product is now considered free. So that’s without a doubt the most challenging one, just simply on the economics of it. Selling my CD’s was a big part of my work, and my income and so that would be definitely it. There’s always the usual challenges, sometimes you’re at your best, sometimes you’re not at your best, and creativity isn’t a constant. You move in and out of good and not so good work, and you have to accept that. Doubt is a necessary part of it, but it can be very difficult thing that little internal voice. You’ve got to win out with the positive voice all the time, so that’s all the normal stuff. I wouldn’t say that was the hardest thing that’s what happens to every artist, but it is big shifts in technology, in my generation that’s been a huge challenge.

Would you be able to briefly describe your song-writing process and any tips?

Have a notebook with you at all times. Always have a pen that works and any time an idea comes to you, write it down. Be disciplined because once it’s gone it’s gone. It’s that discipline of making sure you write it down and capturing that moment.

Momentum is really hard because sometimes you slow right down, and the older I get the more I realise that there’s bigger gaps between my writing periods and my non-writing periods. So you’ve got to be disciplined. To get to diamonds you’ve got to get through a mountain of coal. Don’t expect it to be great all the time. Don’t self-edit before you’ve finished, editorial stuff is the last bit, what you’re trying to do create a flow, and what you’ll notice is that in your notebook it’ll be convoluted. You’ll get a 6-12 page section where there’s certain relationships there. So what I do is I cross them out and start it again, so you’re getting the best bits of one thing and putting it with the best of another thing. Keep refining it, always refine it. My mate who’s a novelist is always refining. A very famous artist once said ‘A work of art is never finished, it’s only ever abandoned. It’s up to you when you abandon the work and move onto another work.

I think it’s that discipline, and not thinking that it’s going to be genius every time you put pen to paper. Don’t expect it to be amazing every time. Keep writing and sometimes you’ll go back and find something that you wrote a month back that you now think is amazing.

In the show you mentioned that you got extremely nervous before your performance at the Blues festival. Would you say that you still get nervous in that way, and if so how do you deal with those nerves?

We all get nervous, and I think after a while what we do is accept the nerves as part of the process. Nerves are a good sign, my dad said, ‘If you’re feeling nervous on a regular basis, you’re living your life.’ You know? Because you’re taking risks, and you’ve stepped outside of yourself, and from that things can happen. It’s when we stay fearful that momentum stops. So nerves, accept nerves they’re a very healthy part of life in that way.

I don’t get nervous in this kind of performance because I sort of get to know you guys from years 9, 10, and 11. So you’ve seen who I am and I’ve got a repour as an audience performer, but if I’m doing a big show I’ll get those nerves. What I do is breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, accepting those nerves. I go ‘right I’m nervous, this must be a good show.’ Those nerves are telling me that I’m ready for this show.

What happens is it doesn’t mean as much. You don’t buy into the nerves. You start to say alright, I need to think about my set list, I need to think about that song being the right tempo, and then you start thinking about your craft. You start to focus on that, and all those nerves are just an energy.

What are some typical mistakes people make when trying to get into a performance career?

There are no mistakes. I would never have thought that this is what I would have ended up doing, I wanted to be doing what John Butler does, that was my ambition, or with David Field or Steven Berkoff as a one act play actor, but I’m incredibly grateful. I’ve ended up doing this work for whatever reason, and it’s where I’ve found myself to be most comfortable, and feel at home with. I really feel at home in this work, and that this is what I should be doing. I feel incredibly grateful that I’m still able to tell stories and to play music, a lot of blokes my age don’t have that opportunity. So I don’t think there are necessarily mistakes that you can make.

You can get lazy; laziness is not going to ever help a songwriter or performer. You must be disciplined on the craft. You must do your scales, you must carry your book and write down everything that comes to you. You must look after your voice. Having said that, that’s my journey and nobody else’s journey and I wouldn’t want to second guess them.

Just keep turning up. All you do is pick up the guitar and tune it and play it. It’s that simple, when you stop picking it up tuning it and playing it, you stop being a guitar player. You just got to keep picking it up and playing it. It’s not that complicated. You just got to simplify things, and go if I put three hours a day into that thing, this beautiful instrument called a guitar, or my voice, or a harmonica, or song-writing, I’m going to get good at it, because inevitably that’s going to turn into about 10,000 hours, and by then you’re generally going to master what you do. It’s called the ten thousand hour rule. If you want to master something it takes ten thousand hours, that’s what people say. Just keep clocking up those hours.

If you could give one piece of advice to students, regarding school, what would it be?

I think it’s very hard for my generation to make a comment on that, considering that I don’t understand what the challenges are for you guys. I went through a different time, and I wouldn’t pretend to understand that. I think there’s a complication to your generation through technology, through abundance and all these things. I’m tentative to say something.

As a social justice advocate what I’d love to say is, aren’t you lucky you’re going to school, because a lot of kids don’t get that opportunity. A lot of kids don’t have clean water, work on being grateful for it and know that there is a responsibility that comes with that.

When we have a coping mechanism like music or reading or learning something at school, it strengthens us to deal with the challenges we’ve got in front of us. SO school is a wonderful thing to create a way of being. You’re never finished learning, I’m reading three books at the moment. Two history books for my work and a novel for down time reading. I never stop learning, and if you can create that pattern for life now at high school, you’ll always have this wonderful thing to come back to. That knowledge that you can come back to, and that, believe it or not, is a privilege because half of the planet don’t have that.

~ Maddi Jones and Clare Edgecombe