Life behind the songs

Luke O'Shea says travelling the world has given him all the inspiration he needs for storytelling through music.
Luke O'Shea says travelling the world has given him all the inspiration he needs for storytelling through music.

Songwriters in the Round

Friday, May 17

Heritage Hotel, Bulli

"Live first" is the simple advice country singer-songwriter Luke O'Shea gives aspiring musicians.

"Go out and have some experiences and then connect those stories to music," he says.

And O'Shea is one of those who has practised what he preaches.

He's travelled across the globe since the age of 19, first hanging around Byron Bay before heading to the Whitsundays, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Europe.

He alternated working as a teacher with busking to help fund his travels.

In that time he came to realise his passion for songwriting.

"I'm very grateful for my wasted years," O'Shea says.

"I had the luxury of floating around the planet.

"I didn't know I was a songwriter, I didn't know it was in me."

In his travels, O'Shea ignited a passion to understand indigenous cultures across the world from North American Indians to Aboriginal communities in far north Queensland.

"There's a common thread that runs through us all," O'Shea says, adding that the spirituality of indigenous people has inspired his storytelling as well as the name for his band - Medicine Wheel.

O'Shea had been interested in music and played in high school bands but never saw it as a way to make money.

Fast forward about 30 years and he is the 2012 Independent Country Music Artist of the Year and 2013 CMAA Golden Guitar winner for heritage song of the year.

For the past two years he has hosted the Songwriters in the Round roadshow, inspired by a concept developed in Nashville.

"Three singer-songwriters sit side by side and take turns at explaining the stories and inspirations behind the songs before playing them live acoustically," O'Shea says.

"It's just the intimacy of it and the rawness of the show."

O'Shea will be joined by 2011 Australian Independent Country Music Awards of Australia Rising Female Star Aleyce Simmonds and 2013 CMC Best New Male Artist Lachlan Bryan.

"It allows the songwriters to reconnect with the motions that they had when they wrote the song," O'Shea says of the show.

"And it allows the audience to connect to the song at a deeper level because they understand how it was written."

Each artist performs about eight songs in the three-hour showcase.

"It's a very full sound even when it's stripped back," he says.

"As a performing artist it's great to have that variety of intimacy at one gig and then to be surrounded by a band at the next."

Although O'Shea is now a family man with three daughters aged 8, 10 and 12, and juggles work as a high school teacher with his music, he admits the travel bug is alive and well in him.

He and wife Lizzy recently took the kids camping in their Jayco across Australia for three months and O'Shea says the trip has given his daughters a better understanding of the size of the country and their dad's work as a musician.



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