I am kindly asked to write something about my musical life, which has now spanned several decades. No one had ever asked me that before. Well, I have been making music since I was 13 years old. My mother taught me how to play the guitar, at least the rudimentary playing she mastered. That was when I was thirteen.
Since then, I’ve been playing the guitar. It’s the instrument I desire in terms of beauty, sound, and challenge. In school, they told me I couldn’t sing. I did it anyway.
I spent three or four years as a student in school and University, playing in rock bands and organizing music events. These years were the best of my life, filled with music, love, learning, friendship, and joy. It was also a tumultuous time, with stress, illness, and injury plaguing my life. In the band “Mint,” we played loads of gigs around my University town of Durham and recorded an album, “Leaving It Late,” which marked the culmination of our collective collaboration with a flourish.
After going “off the rails” slightly for this short period, I had to force discipline back into my life. I quit the rock and roll lifestyle completely and returned to being the hard-working, sports-playing, family-oriented guy I was before. I played rugby four times a week. I completed my degree eventually and got married to my girl.
The most vivid artwork I’ve ever seen was a series of blank frames.
The first time I walked into the Dutch Room at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, I was gobsmacked. This room was the site of the most notorious art heist in history, where thirty-three years ago, two thieves disguised as police officers broke into the museum and stole half a billion dollars worth of masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Degas. I’ve never witnessed such a visceral display of the absence of art.
Since I can remember, I’ve been performing. My earliest memories are dancing around my childhood home, singing along to my mom’s records, or doing what I can only describe as a cobra pose inside the giant planter boxes at our local shopping mall, pretending I was Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I used to feel like I could fly when I sang, like I had tiny wings sprouting from my back.
As I got older, my grandma taught me how to play piano, back when my hands were so tiny I couldn’t hit an octave. In school, I added choir, theater, and dance team to my repertoire, and I was sure I would be a big theater star one day. But of course, pragmatism won, and I went to college for something far less fun and ended up in a career even less fun, leaving a part of myself behind.
For years, my creative self was suffocated. I was dying to tap back into the freedom that came with being on stage, that rare out-of-body experience when you get to leave yourself behind and become something else entirely.
In January 2022, I released my fifth studio album, “Hus.” It felt okay, but not particularly great, despite all the work I had put into it. I was taken aback by my own lack of enthusiasm at the time, but I wasn’t particularly surprised either.
Three years had passed since I started a side project, which began with a writer’s block. I had become tired of myself and felt trapped in my own image. A question sneaked up on me. Did I actually like my own music? Or, more specifically: would I listen to it if it were made by someone else? No, probably not. The answer surprised me.
I have just released my first solo album. It is called Mox Nox, a sundial motto that means ‘night, shortly’, and the theme running through the record is the passing of time, particularly the transition from day to night. Rather than writing songs specifically for the album, I looked through my songbook for things I had already written that fit this theme, and one of them (now called The Broken Song) jumped out at me as being a bit of a curiosity.
I’ve always been a night owl. I can be absolutely exhausted at 10pm, but by 11 my head will be racing with ideas. The Broken Song began its life during a nocturnal writing session, and its original lyrics made direct reference to being up all night. The song was clearly relevant – but it was also an underdog, half-written and still wearing its working title. I hadn’t thought about it in years.
Looking over the lyrics, I remembered that I had always liked the verses but struggled to come up with a chorus. I’ve never been too worried about following a verse-chorus structure, but I knew this song needed more, and I knew that it was stuck. The breakthrough came when I deleted my crappy excuse for a chorus and looked at the lyrics that were left. Quite suddenly, I saw that the song I had thought was about a particular event in my life was about something else entirely.
Diving At Dawn has always been a frustrating stop-start affair for me. I’ve never been able to be genuinely productive and build momentum with it because I find working alone so tricky. As part of a band or production team, I’m pretty efficient, but when the responsibility falls solely upon my shoulders, I become a procrastinating perfectionist of epic proportions. The lack of productivity in my solo work has caused me a fair bit of anxiety over the years, but I’ve always been busy enough with other projects to distract myself. However, in 2022 my anxiety levels went through the roof. Unfortunately, age, experience, budget constraints, and technology have all conspired against me, thus turning Diving At Dawn into a genuine one-person band.
It first began in 2019 with the release of ‘guilt.’ There have been three releases since.
The latest release, ‘too artsy for the footy kids, too footy for the art ones,’ was released in February 2023.
It was written and recorded in my bedroom as I moved across Melbourne, Bendigo, and Canberra over the last three years. Its title comes from a line in its second song, ‘michael cera, serotonin.’ It references how I fit in socially, growing up in a country town with an interest in sports and art.
My mother used to say that when I was 2 or 3 years old, I was a little pest, but when music was on the television, it was silent; it was peaceful at home. I was absorbed in what I was wanting to do forever. Music.
I started my sound adventure learning sounds; I created them around me with a k7s recorder. I walked around the house reporting where I went, something like: “And now this is the sound of water, and let’s all listen…” turned on the bathroom faucet “listen, it’s the water singing…”
The Pilgrim is the artistic name I gave myself as a singer-songwriter and guitar player because I’ve done and studied so many different stuff, lived in many places, traveled and changed my life more than once. I’ve lived many lives in one, in the search for myself, guided by inspiration, challenging myself, learning so much and preserving my essence and sensitivity.
I live for freedom, truth, justice, compassion and altruism. I want to get moved, I want to cultivate special experiences, relationships and feelings, I want to investigate the dark sides of the soul.