HomeArticlesArts & CultureWe Are Musicians: Gold Coasters making a full-time career from music

Casey Barnes

We Are Musicians: Gold Coasters making a full-time career from music

Samantha Morris | February 2018

Gold Coast has always been a city that comes alive at night, so it’s no surprise that musicians are drawn here.

Between the thriving nighttime economy and Gold Coast’s famous, laidback lifestyle (and great surf), creative workers tend to find their feet here before spreading their wings further afield.

Casey Barnes made the move to the Gold Coast in 1999 and started gigging immediately. He said he’s spent more than half his life here now, and has never looked back. 2017 was a particularly significant year for Casey. Named a Golden Guitar finalist, he also nailed Australian music charts with his single ‘The Way We Ride’, which debuted at #7 on the iTunes Country Charts and spent four weeks at the top of the Country Tracks Top 40 Chart. He has a new single and a new album about to launch, as well as a national tour and some big hometown shows in coming months.

“I started gigging on the Gold Coast pretty much as soon as I got here, having residencies at about four or five different local venues,” he told We Are Gold Coast. “It’s been nearly 20 years now. Time sure does fly!”

20 years is a long time in the music business, and the same rings true for Gold Coast’s music scene. While venues come and go (it’s hard to talk about Gold Coast’s music history without someone bringing up the iconic Playroom), what has grown is the City’s appetite for both outdoor performance spaces and intimate venues. It’s the reason artists like Casey Barnes can one weekend be playing a ticketed show somewhere like the Soundlounge and the next be playing to thousands of punters at a massive festival like Groundwater Country Music Festival.

“I think we’re just so lucky to have so many awesome venues on the coast, a thriving night life and tourism industry. There’s always something happening here and I’ve never been out of work so I have to count myself very fortunate!”

Casey Barnes

While Casey calls the Gold Coast home, he spends many months of the year travelling outside of the city – to record, for media commitments, or to tour.

“It’s been great to have the opportunity to tour over the last few years… not only across Australia but also overseas but there’s nothing like a show in your home town,” he said.

Leesa Gentz and Julz Parker are the Hussy Hicks and like Casey, they’ve also made a career for themselves from their music, spending part of the year at home on the Gold Coast and part of it on tour.

“We love living on the Gold Coast, we’re constantly being asked if we’re from Melbourne because everyone assumes if you exist in the indie music world then you must live in Melbourne – and there’s no doubt it is an awesome music city – but we just adore the Goldie lifestyle and this region is where our hearts call home,” Leesa said.

The pair met back in 2004. Leesa had been doing contract work in five star hotels and cruise ships around the world fronting a show band and Julz had been living in London and travelling in Europe as well as focusing on her rock band Project Winterhaven.

“In the early days we did a lot of cafe and pub gigs, we pretty much took any gig we could get – a lot of them were booked as cover gigs – but we’d just play our music and throw in one or two cover tunes that we enjoyed jamming on and after a while we started to get a bit of a following and no one ever complained about us not playing covers,” Leesa said.

“For a while we had a regular gig downstairs at the Mermaid Tavern on a Sunday night, we had an absolute ball playing those shows, it was sweaty and loud and we’d just play our hearts out for hours.”

While Casey Barnes subsidised his music career in the early days working at Flight Centre, Julz Parker had just one day of unpacking boxes for a corporate relocation company in London.

“I have a few stories from when I was living in Sydney and keeping my self alive with the occasional function waitressing job,” Leesa said.

But both ladies have been gigging since they were children. Leesa out playing pub gigs with her older sister at 13 and Julz playing guitar with Gold Coast bands Donna and the Moderation and Double Shuffle before hitting the road with the Phil Emmanuel Band at 17.

“Neither of us could properly lay claim to holding down normal jobs,” Leesa said.

And while they have a growing number of local fans, the Hussy Hicks spend a great portion of each year touring – with regular visits to the USA, particularly the south as well as the summer festival season in Europe.

“This year we’ll be touring overseas from July so we have a bunch of Gold Coast performances coming up.”

“The truth is that both Julz and I are heavily infected with the travel bug so we take our songs to as many parts of the world as we possibly can. The touring keeps us inspired to push our creative boundaries and we’ve been lucky to have made lots of brilliantly talented artistic friends on our travels who we can collaborate with on gigs and recordings and all sorts of weird and wonderful projects. Then we come back home and hopefully bring some of that creativity to our local performances.”

And the Gold Coast will always be where the Hussy Hicks’ hearts lie.

“We’re so proud to be part of the local arts community that just keeps getting stronger and more vibrant with new festivals, events and arts spaces popping up all the time.”

Leesa Gentz

“Our scene is really quite diverse and there is a strong sense of community amongst all the musicians and artists that we know. There’s also a strong core of incredible women who are leading the way in lots of aspects of the Gold Coast music industry, from musicians, performers and artists to event management, media, publicity and production.”

One of those women is Mel De Regt, who arrived on the Gold Coast when she was just 13 and spent her teenage and adult years here. Mel has been Music Director at Miami Marketta for four years and is one of a growing number of people on the Gold Coast working in behind the scenes roles in the music industry.

“It’s funny when I think back at the defining moments that placed me in this position but the only real one that matters is the feeling music gives me.”

“I have fallen deeply in love with so many people’s music over the years and just wanted to help in any way that I could, and share that feeling it gave me.”

As well as her role booking both local bands for Marketta’s all-ages Friday and Saturday night markets, Mel also books Australian and international tourings acts for the venue’s indoor and laneway spaces but she also has a thing for psychedelia running a boutique management and booking agency called Cult Club that looks after Gold Cost heavy psych outfit The End Less and Byron Bay psych band Sunrose.

“If I had more time I would try and do a lot more,” Mel said, “but the biggest contributor I think is just to be immersed in the local scene and by that I mean actually go to gigs.”

And she has a message for Gold Coasters who want to see the City’s music scene continue to flourish.

“We are a family in this industry and need to support each other,” Mel said.

“Support the bands, go to gigs, buy their merch, and share their songs.”

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