Tim Carroll is a dynamic and experienced music industry creative based in Tasmania (via Brisbane) who, like so many others, wears various hats sometimes all at once. From starting his career as a social worker to becoming an award-winning songwriter of internationally renowned band HOLY HOLY, Tim gives us a peek into his world as a loving father, passionate musician, industrious festival co-founder, and ambitious programmer. Let’s dive in!
It’s difficult to give you just one job title, what would you call your various roles in your own words? And what exactly do those jobs entail?
I sometimes have to fill out a form and it says job title, and I never quite know what to put down, sometimes I think about using the term Creative Entrepreneur which broadly covers the various things that I do. Being more specific, I am the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of a small music festival which is a Festival called PANAMA, Co-Founder and Vocalist of HOLY HOLY, and I’m a programmer as part of Dark Mofo which is a Festival down in Hobart, those are the 3 main tasks that I do. Each of them are quite different and require a different kind of approach. I did a degree in social work out of school and started working as a social worker and did music on the side, then it was a few years later that I realized that music was really where my passion was and I had an opportunity to start booking a venue which was Black Bear Lodge in Brisbane, and so I was able to transition out of social work and into the Music Industry full time, and it felt so right and so good and I felt so much more like I was able to be myself day to day. It’s a clichè, but when you’re doing something that you love you never feel like you’re working, I’ve been very lucky to be living that for the last few years. I really enjoy work so when Monday rolls around I can’t wait to get into it and make progress on the various different projects, especially when those projects became endeavors that I had started myself with other people, it adds another level of excitement.
What does your role with PANAMA entail?
I started PANAMA with a guy called Dan Rook, we’re both the co-founder and co-directors of the event and he and I have a great working relationship where we split up the tasks of running a small festival, and we really trust each other to have those tasks separately and we’re there for each other to bounce ideas off of and give feedback and thoughts or help each other if we need it, but also it allows us not to have to be across all the detail of the event, and just focus on half of it. My areas of PANAMA are booking and curating the lineup, negotiating with the various partners in the industry, the contract and the fees and the conditions, and then overseeing the delivery of that publicly which includes PR, advertising, website and communications with our patrons and punters. I do the logistics and production side of things too, gathering the technical information of what the bands will need and liaising between the production companies that provide PA’s, lights and generators and so on, and recruiting a sound team that I enjoy working with and trust and then being the liaison between the production team, sound team and the artists. I feel like being a touring musicians myself, I have a good understanding now of the type of information that all those parties need and the systems you can put in place to make the event a really smooth experience from when the artist first agrees to do the event to when they land on the ground and come out and do the performance and when they get away. We try to pride ourselves at PANAMA to being across all that detail and for the artist to really feel looked after and everything is really clear and everyone knows the information they need to know. Dan my business partner looks after liaising with the council around the legal requirements for having a public event, insurance and public liability and cancellation. He looks after recruiting and organizing volunteers, and the big physical components of the event which includes toilets, water, electricity, security and the actual movement of people on sight, parking, camping, and waste, which is really difficult and important, so if you get those things right then people have a good experience, and they probably won’t even notice that all those things have happened, so ideally they’ll never notice that they didn’t wait very long at the gate and they were able to find a park and were able to be served a drink at the bar, so if you get all those things right all they notice is they’ve had a good time at the Festival.
What does your role with Dark Mofo at MONA entail?
I just started working with them for the first time last year. They reached out to ask me to curate the musical line up for one of the components of the Dark Mofo project. Dark Mofo is quite a big project, it takes over Hobart for a number of weeks and there are different kinds of art exhibitions, musical performances, public events across the whole city in a whole lot of different spaces. One of the components is an event called Winter Feast, and it’s trying to provide some warmth to the rest of the festival’s darkness. Dark Mofo is a lot of really confronting art and sound projects, and some really compelling but heavy music, and Winter Feast is about bonfires and wine and music that is more celebratory, kind of an exploration of feasting and fucking and music that come together. It’s a really interesting brief and it’s really bold and I like being a part of that and the team there are very ambitious and I think what they’re doing is really different to a lot of other events, there’s a lot of events roll out of similar kind of collection of artist and approach to events and they can feel a bit corporate, but Dark Mofo is really bold and they invest very heavily in these experiences that can be quite confronting. It’s a credit to them because the Tasmanian and Australian community have really embraced it and people love it for that. So they brought me on to basically recruit a bunch of bands as a part of Winter Feast and there was a bunch of specifics around how they wanted the performances to feel and what the technical needs were, and they wanted a lot of concurrent performances. So it was just about recruiting artists and then being across all the technical side of things to make sure that it was possible and communicating with the technical team to ensure that was the case, and there was also an element there which is something that is important to all curation which is about diversity and being reflective in the booking, ensuring the booking wasn’t just dominated by a whole heap of white men with guitars standing around bon fires, trying to have representation from Tasmanian and the main lands vibrant community, women and queer performers, and make it a more diverse program. That pays dividends in the artistic merit of what you end up putting together, so that’s really important for curators at the moment to remember that your program will suffer if you just end up with a load of mainstream artists.
You mentioned before that you’re always excited for Monday to roll around so you can get to work, what do these roles demand from on a Monday to Friday basis?
I think a lot of people who work for themselves and work in the Creative Industries, what day it is is somewhat meaningless, I work whenever I have the opportunity really. I have a 2-year-old who’s about to turn 3, so a lot of what I do is around his needs. Almost all my work is laptop and mobile phone based, so I can work anywhere, I can work at a coffee shop or in an airport lounge or on a plane. When HOLY HOLY was touring around Europe I was booking PANAMA from the tour van. I have 4 inboxes, so personal, PANAMA, HOLY HOLY and Dark Mofo, and I use a program called Trello which is a free app across laptop and phone, I use it basically as a slightly more intelligent and flexible to do list, I have a list for each project and I can throw in a bunch of tasks and prioritize them. So I’ll often start my day with a coffee and a sheet of white paper and then I’ll open up my 3 inboxes and do a quick sweep of all of them, to make sure I’m across anything that’s urgent and then it’s about making a list of tasks and establishing when I’m going to work on each project and try to work through each task effectively and in a prioritised way. I think that it’s important in this day in age with the quantity of emails that go around, social media and so on, there can be a temptation to fall into just being there responding to emails that come in, it can feel like you’re working and getting stuff done, and you are to some degree but you also need to set aside solid blocks of time to do those deeper tasks that can be tempting to put off, and stop responding and turn off the social media, to really work through the important macro parts of the different projects that you’re working on.
What are the challenges and accomplishments of these roles?
There’s a lot of detail to be across, and the one thing that I’ve learned in the last couple of years is to really embrace that. Don’t be scared of detail, because if you do drill down and you are really careful with detail then the result to the event or project are better for it. For example, if there’s an email and some small detail is missing or something doesn’t quite make sense, it’s really worth going back and confirming things, because sometimes it can unearth a problem that if you don’t get to it on the day it might mean some serious consequences later on. You must recruit really good people, having good people around you is key, so when you find good people that you trust and enjoy working with, it’s important that you make them feel appreciated and give them a lot of positive feedback, and do everything that you can to keep them within the organisation, if that means spending more on them or giving them more responsibility, that’s really important, and once you have a strong team things becomes a lot easier. And in terms of accomplishments, I have the posters for PANAMA up on my wall and I can’t really believe it that over the 4 years the artists that we’ve had, like Charles Kurt Vile, Courtney Barnett, Big Scary, heaps of our heroes and people that when we started the project we dreamed that we would one day have them. I think people really enjoyed it, PANAMA is different and it’s so small and it’s in a really beautiful part of Tasmania, I think when they get off the bus and land on our farm they pretty quickly realise that its a different type of event, we don’t get very much government funding and not a lot of corporate involvement so it’s a very independent and small scale grass roots event.
Do you have any highlights or lowlights of your week?
It’s always an exciting moment when you confirm an artist, sometimes it’s like fishing, you have all these communications through emails and conversations, and your ear to the ground about who might be willing to come, and you’re wanting to put together a line up that will excite punters and you’ll feel good about promoting over the next year, and then you’re negotiating back and forth trying to make it work with your spreadsheets and your budget, and then when you finally get the email that lands that says ‘We are pleased to confirm Kurt Vile…” I’ve had many moments of dancing around the office and texting my business partner, so that’s a really exciting moment. Lowlights, sometimes I can feel overwhelmed, and over the years being stressed and being anxious and lying awake at night with a million thoughts in my head, that’s a downside to being responsible for a bunch of different things, I was really anxious with the first year, I felt physically sick for first weeks. So that’s interesting, if it had stayed like that I would have had to stop, but once the event starts it all starts to feel good and all the systems we thought were going to work worked, and the event was a success so in the second year that anxiety was way less and more manageable. I think a certain amount of nervousness is okay, it indicates that you’re pushing yourself and doing exciting things, but you don’t want it to become something that you dread because it defeats the whole purpose, I guess managing that and your anxiety is important.
Do you have any words of wisdom for those interested in exploring this as a career path?
I don’t know why I didn’t pursue it from the start, and I think it had something to do with the fact that I didn’t think it was possible, and I didn’t ever dream that it would be possible. So I would say that one thing is if you think of something that you’re really passionate about, you should pursue it, the opportunities will become available once you’ve been there for a while, but it takes time. One thing can really lead to another, if I hadn’t taken the job at Black Bear Lodge – which gave me my first insight into what it takes to book a venue, what agents were and what they did and started to build a personal relationship – I wouldn’t be able to do the work with PANAMA and Dark Mofo, so one thing definitely leads to another. Starting small is good, for example with PANAMA we made up our first event which was break even at 500 people, so it meant we weren’t taking a huge risk, so we could grow slowly and sustainably, do right by everybody and make sure we always paid our bills on time and that built our relationship as a stable and reliable organisation, so down the track if people wanted to work with us again. The music industry in Australia is kinda small, everyone knows everyone, so you want to maintain good relationships with everyone. If you rub anyone up the wrong way or do something that’s not moral you won’t get anywhere at all. The other thing I like with the music industry too is that it’s filled with people who love what they’re doing, and are really excited about the work that they do. And so, if you take the approach that you’re not looking to go out and take advantage, you’re wanting to come to agreements that are mutually beneficial where you’re looking out for their best interest and vice versa, that’s when the best kind of works can transpire.
HOLY HOLY’S sophomore album PAINT is out on the 24th of February, 2017
Pre-order the album and an LTD edition gatefold signed vinyl here:
HOLY HOLY are set to announce the inimitable ‘Painting To PAINT’ project, an extensive taste of this anticipated record through four songs (including new single, That Message) set to be accompanied by stunning videos comprising four award-winning Australian artists (curated by the band alongside prominent Newcastle artist James Drinkwater) painting to PAINT: that is, actualising a complete, unique work, inspired by that one song from the album. With undeniable vision and meticulous attention to detail, That Message, the third single lifted from the awaited new album, will kick off the first video of the set and both song and video are set for release on February 15.
The cover artwork for PAINT is a striking artwork by renowned Australian artist James Drinkwater. Drinkwater’s expressionist work seems the most appropriate visual summarisation for such an arresting and fascinating collection of songs; broad, textured strokes of thick paint bound energetically across the canvas, evoking the influence of the complex music that it represents. Inspired by this, HOLY HOLY and James Drinkwater are thrilled to announce their collaboration Painting To PAINT, in which four local Australian artists, carefully selected by Drinkwater, bring to the canvas four songs lifted from the album. Inspired and accompanied by HOLY HOLY’S music, the process of creation, from blank canvas to completion, will be filmed and edited into four separate films by award winning local Australian director, Charlie Ford (Courtney Barnett, Vance Joy). The first of this series will be That Message, painted by Drinkwater himself, set for release on February 15.