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Mountain high: Scenic Rim to inspire a new band of songwriters

Culture

Some of Queensland’s most accomplished musicians will head for the hills in spring – as part of an annual songwriting retreat established by Brisbane singer-songwriter Emma Bosworth.

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Bosworth came up with the concept for Wild Mountain Songs in 2015 when she was struggling to make time to focus on her songwriting after the birth of her first child.

“I could not find the space – either at home, as in the physical space, or the mental space – to create music,” Bosworth told InQueensland.

Less than a year later, Bosworth had assembled a small group of her peers – Benjamin Hale, Megan Cooper, Tim Steward, Kahl Wallis and Kellie Lloyd – for what would become the inaugural Wild Mountain Songs retreat.

From October 8-11, this year’s singer-songwriters will gather at a large plot of land administered by non-profit community conservation group Wild Mountains Trust on Mununjali land in the Scenic Rim, south of Rathdowney, where they will co-create new works that are then recorded in a mobile studio.

Musicians involved in this year’s retreat include Ben Ely (Regurgitator), Charles Wall (better known by his stage moniker Bobby Alu), Chris Farrer (The Quickening), Emily Lubitz (Tinpan Orange); I Heart Songwriting Club’s Francesca de Valence; Fred Leone, Gavin Cook, Jackie Marshall, Rohin Jones (The Middle East), Seja Vogel (Sekiden) and Megan Cooper.

Ben Ely will be one of the participants at this year’s Wild Mountain Songs retreat.

Each participant will leave the retreat with two co-written works, new professional connections and a deeper understanding of connection with the natural environment and their practice.

“There are lots of big differences about writing at Wild Mountains than, say, your own home – you’ve got none of the distractions you normally would have at home,” Bosworth said.

“If I said to my family, ‘you need to leave me [at home] for four days and I’m going to write songs’, there would still be distractions. I’ve still got housework that needs to be done, I’ve still got a garden that I can tend to, I’ve got Netflix, I’ve got sewing projects – I’ve got all these other things that distract.

“If you take yourself out of your normal situation, and particularly somewhere that’s beautiful, and you have to finish a song within 24 hours, you just do it.”

Bosworth said the concept was partly inspired by Songs of Applewood, a project ARIA Award-winning producer Lachlan “Magoo” Gould and his wife, acclaimed singer-songwriter Tylea, which they ran from their former home studio – a 100-year-old converted Catholic Church at Fernvale, west of Brisbane – for several years until 2012.

“They did it for three years and then stopped and I just really remembered the strong connections that I was able to make with other people through that and I missed that and thought that our community needed it,” she said.

Seja Vogel. (Photo: Stephen Booth)

Bosworth said one of the primary focuses of the program was to offer support to mid-career artists in order to encourage and motivate keep them pursuing their creativity, saying she feared Australia could lose some of its “more mature voices” due to the fickle nature of the music industry.

Last year was the first year Wild Mountain Songs received financial assistance from any music industry associations, with this year’s retreat also subsidised by APRA AMCOS and the Australia Council for the Arts.

“I feel like it’s received the support from APRA AMCOS and Australia Council For the Arts, because there is a lack of opportunities for artists of our age, and our experience and for the cross of genres, too.”

Wild Mountain Songs 2020 was originally open to submissions from artists from across the country but as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, Bosworth said she quickly realised it made sense to make it a Queensland-only retreat this year.

“There were still about 40 local artists who had applied,” she said. “I’d already locked in Bobby Alu and Jackie Marshall, because they were two artists that I really wanted to be there, and then based on that, I’m still a writer in the process too so that was three artists out of 12 already chosen.

“Then it’s a matter of looking at the applicants and thinking about how will they will all fit in together and working out who’s going to co-write with one another.”

Bosworth said one of the most rewarding aspects of Mountain Songs in previous years has been seeing and hearing the collaborative results of some of the pairings she has put together and witnessing the formation of ongoing creative bonds.

“People are influenced heavily by the nature of where they’re writing,” she said. “You’re in pristine nature, you’re potentially with someone that you’ve never written with or met before, so there’s this whole thing of opening up to a stranger.

“You’re also writing with somebody who you’ve never played music with before maybe you don’t even know what they’re capable of so you have to work within those realms and it’s pretty amazing what comes out of it.”

Although Bosworth said Wild Mountain Songs was “not an outcome-driven exercise” she said two songs she collaborated on in previous years had achieved some pleasing results.

“One of those was ‘People Get Ready’, which I wrote that with my friend Rob Crook, and when I released that it was the first time I received Triple J airplay, and ‘Oh Man’ was also written there and that’s just been licensed to series three the ABC-TV show Harrow.

“You get a sync fee for it and that’s nothing to sneeze at … It wasn’t a huge amount but it’s still like, ‘Oh, thank f—, I can actually maybe pay for my next record.”

Bosworth said the most rewarding part of the annual retreat was being able to give back to other musicians, saying “some artists don’t ever get to have holidays, or have a break or be looked after”.

“I just want people to feel looked after and loved and to have creative freedom and making people happy makes me really happy, so I’ll be looking for smiles on their faces.”

Bosworth advised any artists wanting to take place in next year’s retreat to follow Wild Mountain Songs on Instagram

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