Felix Riebl is a unique singer, songwriter, composer and percussionist, chiefly known for showcasing his talent in the world-renowned band, The Cat Empire. After over a decade of greatly successful album releases and global touring with the band, Felix and fellow band member Ollie McGill are now trying something different with their new project, Spinifex Gum. The self-titled debut album was released on the 27th of October and is the result of a two-year collaboration with Marliya, an all-female choir of Indigenous teenagers from Cairns. The full album features an exceptional cast of guest performers, including Briggs (A.B. Original), Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett, and acclaimed singer-songwriter Emma Donovan. This artistically brilliant, alluring and expressive collection of songs surely goes under the definition of ‘music with a message’. If you haven’t come across their single Locked Up on Triple J already, do yourself a favour and give it a listen now.
With his valuable experiences and acquired knowledge from many years the industry, Felix handed us some prime advice for this week’s Savvy Seven.
1) Who was your first musical inspiration? Why?
Bruce Springsteen was my first genuine musical inspiration. When I was younger than 10 I turned on a VHS of him performing Rosalita, live from 1973, that we had at our house. My life was never quite the same after that. Since then, I’ve had so many other influences from so many different places and artists, but the desire to perform and be a part of the action came from that morning when I witnessed him on stage and had my world turned upside down. Why? I love music because it’s never needed a why.
2) What advice do you have for someone who is about to set off on their first tour?
Run riot. Have fun. The music can fire up on any given night no matter if there are 10 people in the audience or it’s a numberless mass. Connect to the moment where it moves you, forget the rest. Remember that it’s happening regardless of how you might rationalise it and that’s the true experience. Give as much as you can and you’ll get more back, that’s how it works.
3) What has been one of your most defining moments in your career?
I guess the first time I performed a song that I wrote and something electric happened in the room. It was in some shitty pub in Melbourne with songs I’d probably be embarrassed about listening back to now. But that’s totally beside the point, that feeling of departure has been the sustaining force in career ever since.
4) How has your music practice changed over time?
I don’t feel the need to make sense anymore. Once upon a time I did. I’ve had enough experience to know when I’m doing something authentic and that’s all that matters to me now. In a strange way, that allows me to be more direct and articulate at the same time as celebrating what’s chaotic (and wonderful) about making music.
5) My top business tip for new artists is…
Always put the music first. Be as daring and artistically ambitious as you can. Write the best songs you possibly can and be prepared to throw the others out. Trust your gut when you entrust people to represent you.
6) My biggest career mistake has been…
Not doing the above all the time.
7) In my opinion, the most important issue facing the music industry is…what do you think can change that?
I guess the most important issue facing the music industry at the moment is that musicians sometimes forget that they’re actually the ones who make the industry at all. To change that? More solidarity between musicians, a modern musician’s union of sorts.
Check out the powerful video to Locked Up below:
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