Interview - Dustin Tebbutt
Emma Jones has an in-depth chat with emerging solo artist Dustin Tebbutt.
If you’re anything like me, with Splendour fast approaching, you’ve already completed your itinerary multiple times and passed it onto your friends so they can start planning now too. If you’re not so crazy, and you need a bit of guidance, take my word for it – see Dustin Tebbutt. Having just wrapped up his national tour in support of his EP, and scoring a support slot for the sold out London Grammar sideshows, Dustin is ready to show you what he’s got! His soothing, beautifully crafted songs are perfect to immerse yourself in, coupled with his meticulous melodies and beats. Being one of the emerging stars from Australia in 2014, we caught up with him in some brief, and rare, down time to check in and see what’s been happening for these past few months!
Tebbutt is also playing a special show in WA at the Fly By Night Club on August 21 (details HERE).
Well, first, I’d like to congratulate you! You’ve had a huge year! What’s been the highlight so far?!
It’s all been amazing. Even just putting the project together before anything was really happening… I was pretty happy just doing it really. From the very start, it’s been a lot of fun. Once I put The Breach out and things started rolling, I think I realised I was actually making music that people enjoyed and I got a lot out of sharing it. I had always made music very privately; I always wanted to put it out there, but was never really happy with it. So now it’s like, “Yeah I can stand behind this,” and it was just so nice realising I had gotten to the point in myself where I was happy to share it. It’s been really rewarding, and getting such positive feedback from the audience is really rewarding as well.
Yeah man, and building confidence as a performer!
Well, yeah, that’s taken a bit longer as well. The live side of things is a whole different story. I’d never really done any shows as singer. For my first gig there were quite a few people from the industry there, and I couldn’t even talk between songs I was so nervous. That was in August last year, so it’s been a pretty rapid growth period, and I’ve been pushing lots of boundaries for myself. That’s really rewarding when you have those times – it’s pretty hard when you’re in the thick of it, but when you look back and you just go, “Woah!” That’s pretty special.
Can you tell me a bit about your time in Sweden? Was it a random choice?
Well it wasn’t a random choice, it was kind of the context of my life at the time. I was writing with some people and we’d been working on some music for a few years. One of the guys was from Stockholm, and he had to move back there. It was just an opportunity to go, really. I was with a group of friends and we were all looking individually to travel somewhere. He had to move back, and we were all just like, “Well… Why don’t we all go with you?” *laughs* He’d always spoken about the music scene there and we just wanted to experience that. It was never a place that I really wanted to go to or anything. I remember buying my plane ticket, then walking home and thinking, “Oh, I better find out what this place is!” I downloaded Google Maps and looked at it then! I didn’t even know where it was exactly, I had a vague idea but not really. So, it was a little bit spontaneous but not completely random.
Okay! Were you making music before you went?
Yep! I studied music for a while, and then I was just kind of doing the Melbourne music scene thing, and writing with a group of people, and then eventually started learning to produce and record stuff down there. I bought my first microphone, and I remember just being in a sharehouse and trying to record acoustic guitars late at night, with traffic and all of that stuff. I’ve been doing it for a while! It was always with other people, and I was always playing guitar. I don’t think I had the confidence or the experience to do my own project at the time. I learned from a lot of mistakes, and lessons. I learned a lot of good things too, from being in various bands and I guess…
So how did moving to Sweden affect your music? A change of scenery is probably pretty good for the creative juices!
It was actually! That was one of the biggest things. I think just being in a different culture where, you know, the native tongue – it’s pretty similar and there is a lot of English spoken there but, I think, lyrically, a lot of the images that Scandinavian people use when they’re speaking their own language, there is a completely different set of metaphors that they use to describe life experiences. The stories that they tell, and the way they experience their lives is a little bit different. They have a different take on things; love or travel or getting older or growing up. There are similarities with the experiences, but they explain it in a different way. I think having access to a whole new palate of “colours”, and images to describe life was really rewarding. I really connected with the way that Scandinavia looks at the world and experiences the world through its language.
Do you prefer to record and create on your own, with your own equipment, or in a studio?
I like doing most of it on my own. It allows you the time to make the mistakes and it allows you the time to mess around with stuff until it’s so far from the standard sounding thing. With a guitar part, you can set up a mic so it sounds good, and you can play the part and it’ll sound good. Once I’ve got that down though, I’ll start to break that down again. I could put bits of foam in the guitar, or put the microphone in a box, and just try and step away from that as far as you can. It’s hard to do that in the studio because you’re conscious of the time. Also, there’s so much nice gear! You’re almost distracted because you’re like, “Okay, well if we get the right mic, and we put it through the right pre-amp, that will give us the right character!” I think that’s true to a point, but I think I’d prefer to spend the time exploring the actual instrument and the space, and how it’s moving in the air in the room and what’s capturing. That’s a lot more natural for me – 3:30 in the morning, and I’m really tired and I’m about to go to sleep and I go “Oh, maybe I’ll just do this!” My brain isn’t thinking, and it just does something. I find it really rewarding to be in a space where, with those random things that you don’t plan on happening come together to form the basis track.
Can you tell me a bit about the stories behind the lyrics? Where does your inspiration come from?
They’re just all from my life, I guess – people that I know, or experiences I’ve had, then me taking a look at them and trying to make them abstract in a way. Like they are in a world that’s not mine, in a sense. I think, in your own life, you get very used to things very quickly. You know, if you have a daily routine, you can’t emotionally connect with the same thing every day. When you have those stories that are in your own life, it’s quite hard to extrapolate a lot of the meaning, or emotional content or images into them because you’ve already experienced that stuff and maybe the images aren’t that strong. You’ve got to take some core experience or some core emotion and try to generate another world for it to exist in. That might mean changing a character, or the content, or something to whatever degree I need to do it to get it to a point where I’m like “Okay, that sounds like a pretty strong… image” *laughs* Until I feel like I can connect with it and there’s a link there for me, it doesn’t feel like my own life, necessarily. It feels like I’m stepping into another life, in a sense.
What are you most looking forward to for Splendour? You’re also supporting London Grammar for their sold out sideshows, right?
I think that whole week is just going to be a lot of fun. Just getting back on the stage I think. The last tour was really good for me, just to be able to do 10 shows back to back with the guys and really get comfortable on stage and get comfortable with my voice. It was only the last three or four shows on the tour where I was really present and really enjoying myself… not that I wasn’t enjoying myself in the earlier shows, but I was really aware and thinking the whole time about what to do next. I’m just looking forward to being on stage in the space where I can just enjoy being there. Also, just hanging out and seeing some of the other bands! It should be a nice weekend!