The jobs I have done and other tales of rejection...

The jobs I have done and other tales of rejection.

 I have had a colourful career outside of music, for quite a while it was made-up primarily of a lot of part time jobs. My strategy was, if I excelled in every position I was employed to do, including sweeping floors or cleaning bathrooms in hotels then I would always be OK and in the wider scheme of things this has turned out to be true.

 Today I enjoy a freedom that allows me to write, release records and enjoy performing but more importantly I am proud of my achievements because I have never compromised my work.  I was never good at churning out commercial hits but that side of the music business was never something I aspired to.  Being interesting, gritty, cutting edge and true to myself means way more to me than if I chart.

  I haven’t always been comfortable with what I am writing here. When you watch all the people you graduated with go off and make something of their lives, start families or have stellar careers then in truth, at times, I have felt stuck, worthless and quite envious.

 Over the years I did try for arts funding but the rejection letters were a little too forthcoming. Missing out on funding time and time again was disheartening at first, not because it hindered my music but because most of my peers were very successful in getting grants and it felt like a snub from the industry.   I got over it though and looked at it like an opportunity to find my own way.

 Another great rejection I received was from Bruce Russell when he was working at Flying Nun. He wrote a letter to my band at the time Cassandra’s Ears which instructed us to “give up now” because we were “fuc%ing awful”. Who else could boast such an extraordinary experience? What that letter made us do was just be more determined to be a great all girls band  and sail with pride into the music sea of lads.

 It’s good to have something like rejection to peeve you off because it means you have something to prove, not to others, but to yourself.  If you really want to do something you can’t let the word no get in the way. You just have to change the definition of the word no to not now but later.  

So in order to keep making music and pay the rent I had to work and it could always only ever be part time because I toured a lot. At the time it did seem like a cruel twist of fate but now I think of all of these jobs were the best experiences I could ever have and the reason I am still writing music today.  

Some of the jobs I had were extremely tough, like packing records in an old warehouse in St Kilda, Melbourne in the winter. It was so cold sometimes my fingers would turn blue. The boxes were incredibly heavy and it took all of my will to move them. It wasn’t exactly good for my guitar/piano playing hands but my take on it at the time was Melbourne was an exotic location, it would be good for my fitness and frankly I just loved being around all the vinyl.

Other jobs I have done to support my music career have been bartending, making bad coffee, working in my Dads panel shop, book-keeping, cleaning hotel rooms, shop sales person, customer service ..the list goes on.

 Many of the people I have worked with over the years and much of imagery in the surroundings of my employment have ended up in a line of a song somewhere. A job I really enjoyed was working in a Jewellery store. There are loads of gemstones in my songs because I found their background stories so compelling. I was selling engagement rings and sometimes I’d be privy to the story behind the purchase. There is nothing like watching some one walk out of the store knowing they are holding a ring that is going to bring such joy and happiness. Not so great when they come back a few days later asking if we would buy it back (that was very rare by the way).


 If diamonds are a girls best friend then use them well to sharpen all your claws it opens door and lots of sores. Excerpt from Geraldine 

 If diamonds are a girls best friend then use them well to sharpen all your claws it opens door and lots of sores. Excerpt from Geraldine 

 I remember one summer I worked at the Whangamata Tavern (pub) which was a kilometre or two out of town. It was a little rough and one particular night a patron decided that there was no way he was going to let me reject his amorous and quite revolting advances. He followed me into the ladies bathroom after my shift, and made some drunken hey how about it love grunting sounds and gestures. I pushed him out of the way and ran out to join my Otago University friends who were drinking in the garden bar.

 Next thing there was a guttural yell and that same crazed patron was jumping on top of the trestle tables with a pool cue proclaiming to all that would listen, no bitch does that to me, fuuchhh yoooou. Of course he just happened to be affiliated with the local gang and the pub was getting ready to rumble. It was pretty scary, and my boss helped my friends and I make an escape via the private back door behind the kitchen. It felt like a crazy fleeing scene from a war movie except it was just a bunch of teenagers and a loser bully.

 Afterwards we drove to the top of a local hill and in the quiet we sat there looking down across resort with its twinkling lights and discussed how lucky we were to get away unscathed. I will always remember the absolute fear of that night. It is experiences like that I draw from when I need raw emotion to come through in a song.

I wanted to write a sensitive song that wasn’t smulchtzy like some of the girls for even kind of quirky like those sensitive new age bands. I wanted to rip the heart out of the most hardened of men and make him bleed tears. I wanted to show the world that maybe I was thinking of you. Excerpt from Dumbfounded

Another interesting job I had was delivering fish to local restaurants in Auckland. I loved that job. There was a real freedom driving around in a delivery truck all day. The crazy thing was that when I did this job I had just released my first album It’s My Sin and it was heading up the charts, so in the evening, courtesy of my record company, I was eating at the same restaurants I was delivering fish to.  I remember my boss at the time gave every one of her customers my album for Christmas. I was blown away. I will also say Tuna is a really heavy fish, and delivering them is like lugging around a human body in a canvas. 

 He came out of the water and took me for a swim with a glint in the eye and a flick of the fin but I was so afraid of going under. Excerpt from Melusine

When I headed into my 30’s I started to get really nervous. I had spent most of my 20’s living on an income that was less than any social welfare benefit. I had a lot of nothing in terms of physical assets but I did have some consolation and that was my songs. I guess with hindsight I feel privileged that I am a songwriter and wouldn’t change a thing, but I do remember how painful it was to be broke and treading water in those early years and this is reflected in my song, Ice

I’ve seen it and the sound that it makes can turn the warmest blood into the coldest of crystal and the hue of the place is such that it can break your heart in two if you would let it. Oh I’m on Ice. Can’t move anywhere it’s so cold here on Ice.

 For a few years I worked for Books in Homes and The Gifted Kids Programme. I loved those two charities and the woman behind them. Christine Fernyhough had a huge influence on me. I loved being around her vitality and enthusiasm for everything she put her heart into.  From her I learned how to throw my self into any project with gusto…and be fearless.  Believe it or not one of my most well known song is actually the theme song for The Books in Homes Programme and when I hear kids singing that song – it really is a proud moment. Over 80,000 kids sing this song every Books and Homes assembly around the country… here’s an example.  There are also versions for kids in Australia the USA.

 I’m going to read my way around the world, jump on a dream and go real far. I’m a Duffy Kid that makes me a star and I read about it. Excerpt from The Books and Home Theme song – Read about it.  (link here the Books in Homes website)

Here are all the song if you would like to donate to a great cause....

But when it was more than just me to look after – things changed. What I had to do was find a new way to making a living. I had two boys that I had to help support and it was no longer all about me. My real interest was the advertising industry and marketing so I managed to wrangle my way into some full time work and was all set for a career in this area until I was called back to music some 10 years later.

 I am proud of the all the work I did to support my music career. My father, who started work at 14 to help feed his family (his father lost his leg under a tram) once said to me, no one owes you a living, and because of that I believe it is up to me to make the best of any given situation. Over the years I have probably had more rejections than a one-legged trapeze artist(it is my understanding that we do in fact have one of these in our family history) however all of these experiences helped me form backbone of iron that only life can give you.

 I believe if I had spent the last 20 years as a full time muso and writing songs all day I would have run out of things to say, but now I find I am never short of material – only time.  I couldn’t ask for more really.  Well maybe a world-wide music hit covered. Lorde? Tayler? Beyonce? Anyone?

To all of you who have given me a job over the years while I have followed my dreams. Thanks.