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Getting to know the GRID Series; a development program for outer-suburban based musicians

16 May 2019 | 12:00 pm | Caitlin Medcalf

Developed back in 2013, the GRID Series (Grass Roots Indie Development) is an artist development program aimed at supporting emerging Australian musicians and strengthening surrounding communities. The series focuses on lending both support and and resources to outer-suburban based artists who may have limited access to resources that are more available to artists in city centres.

With their Western Sydney program all wrapped up, the GRID Series will be turning its attention to Melbourne in 2019, with two series set to run over the year.

They've announced that eight artists will have the chance to take part in the GRID Deep West program happening in the Wyndham Area in outer suburban Melbourne. The chosen artists will take part in the program which will feature a weekend of one-on-one music mentoring with industry professionals, a session of songwriting development with an established songwriter, the chance to fully produce & record a track at Box Hill Institute's Sing Sing East studios, video content artists can use to promote their new release and a single launch to round out the program.

They've got an all-star cast on board to assist with the program including award winning songwriters, Ecca VandalLior and Joel Ma. To get to know the program a little more and what the GRID Series' focus is, we put a few questions to their team.

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Check out the interview below and if you're a musician living, working or studying in the Wyndham Area, you should consider applying for the program. Applications for GRID Series' Deep West program close tomorrow. Apply here.


What prompted the creation of the GRID Series?

With my background making people’s records as a producer, it became quite clear over a number of years that very often, emerging artists would come in to the studio and spend a lot of time talking about the types of challenges they faced.

The challenges were both creative and personal, with many artists lacking connections to a community of like-minded people who could help them get their career going.

Making records for many artists living on the cities fringes, it became really clear that there was a gap that needed to be bridged; between artists from outer suburban areas and music industry people who often gather in the centre of the city.

We realised that for artists living in outer suburban areas, access to venues was limited, access to producers and collaborators were limited and very often, access to budgets and support to make records and video clips was limited. On the other hand, community buy-in was deep. Fraternity and hunger to see collective growth was really strong. With all of these facts at play, it demonstrated to us that these communities had all the ingredients to foster their own independent scenes if given the right opportunities.

For those outside of Melbourne, can you tell us a bit about Melbourne’s west and why this first part of the program is headed to Wyndham?

Wyndham is a huge part of Outer Western Melbourne, with a fast growing population of young people. Having run the program in the Outer South East of Melbourne for the last 2 years, we felt now was great time to shine a light on another part of Outer Melbourne that may not be as visible as it should be.

What kind of skills will be taught to those participating? A series like this is vital in giving not only skills to artists, but access too.

So true! A key part of our ethos is to provide artists with experience-based learning, whereby they can apply what they learn from their mentors in real time, using those key hacks to help promote their own new release, that will come out at the end of the program.

We’re so chuffed with the access that the artists get as part of the Deep West Program.

To get a chance to sit in a room with such amazing artists as Ecca Vandal, Joelistics and Lior to develop new work, to spend one-one-one time with Tash Sultana’s manager Dave Morgan and creative powerhouse Vader Fame to develop a release strategy and then get to have song produced by the likes of Anna Laverty, Oscar Dawson and Russell Fawcus is a great mix of amazing people helping out.

By spending time one-on-one with such a great array of mentors, this will hopefully give the artists new skills around songwriting, recording and self-releasing.

How does GRID improve access to artists and vital music industry resources?

After running this program since 2013, we have found that quite often, the lens of what gets backed and supported in the industry is quite narrow. We also noticed that in these outer suburban regions, often the priority of these artists is get props from their community, as opposed to more traditional modes of promotion.

As an example, in 2016, we worked with an amazing artist named Gordon Koang, a blind musician and a bonafide superstar from South Sudan who came to Australia as an asylum seeker. Gordon invited us to his gig at a community hall where 400 people from his community came through, with the show starting at 1am and going through till 5am!

Since his involvement with GRID, whilst he’s still selling out those community shows, he is also now touring around the country having recently played a late night set to 5000 people at Boogie Festival in Victoria. These micro-scenes are scattered all around the country, with amazing work being put in by people at a community level, and where focus is more about community then mainstream commercial outcomes.

There are so many amazing artists hustling hard and so many amazing people working insane- crazy hours in the music industry, but often the opportunity to connect in a personal way is not possible. GRID gives space to both the artists and the mentors to connect in a way that we hope fosters new relationships and gives these amazing artists a leg up to get their career moving.

Access is vital, it’s great to see a program like GRID bridging the gap for artists outside of city centres that may not have access to those resources elsewhere.

We are blessed with some incredible organisations, particularly in Victoria , who work tirelessly to promote the local industry. We see ourselves as one small link in a longer chain of amazing organisations fighting the good fight to preserve a healthy, diverse and equitable industry, where multiple stories are shared.

What would your advice be to the music industry on creating access and fostering a more inclusive culture?

We believe that the key to any discussion around inclusivity is to walk in to spaces with questions and curiosity, as opposed to a rigid model that assumes to know what is needed. As a very small team, we are always learning and speaking with the artists we work with, adapting what we do to suit the needs in particular areas.

Given we are currently running programs in Western Sydney, South West Brisbane, Outer Perth and also Melbourne, we approach each space by enquiring with the artists about what their key challenges are, and do our best to respond to those challenges.

You’ve got an all star cast of mentors on board for the program. How important is community to a series like GRID?

We are blown away with the level of support we have had from our mentors and are so grateful to them for bringing so much of themselves into the space to support emerging artists. Community, not just for GRID, but for any type of human interaction is the cornerstone of what makes people tick and what brings them joy. We encourage the artists to build upon the community they cultivate in the program and run with the energy generated in their short time with us to build something that is led and designed by them in their own communities and suburbs.

What are you hoping artists will take away from their time in the GRID Series?

We hope the artists can build new relationships with other artists in the program and grow their creative work. We hope that we can play a part in helping them gather some momentum so music can remain a mainstay in their lives, in whatever incarnation they would like it to be.

What have previous artists in the GRID program gone on to achieve?

On top of Gordon, who is really flying at the moment, we’ve had some really great things happen for past artists.

Daniel Elia from our 2017 program just played Groovin' the Moo and also runs his own label ALIA Records, to help other artists in his community. Alana Wilkinson (GRID 2016) has become a full-time touring musician, more or less living out of van these days, playing festivals all around the country. Manorism played their first big festival last year at the Indian Summer Festival at the MCG during the Boxing Day test, and Franjapan, an awesome psych band from Mentone keep on selling out shows. They did a single launch at Cherry last year that was completely rammed.

In 2014, a band by the name of The Fabric came through one of our early programs. The guitar player from that band, Ben Griffiths, moved to Chile to become a film composer, the sax player Joseph Buchan is a working engineer and producer and the singer, Angie McMahon, well….she’s done a bunch of pretty cool things since her old band days too.

However, beyond the stuff that gets broadcasted throughout the industry, the less visible outcomes are things we celebrate just as strongly. The fact that for so many artists, GRID is the first time they have had the time, space and resources to write, record and release an original song is a huge achievement for them and something that we hope encourages them to keep on making their own music.

Applications for GRID Series' Deep West program close tomorrow. Apply here.