RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW AUSTRALIAN ARTIST COCONUT SHY
Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat. What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
Certain things just grab you from an early age. For me, that was music. I remember as a kid, whenever I would listen to a song I liked, I thought how awesome it was that a musician had mustered that out of their own creativity – out of a mysterious nothingness. The lyrics, the guitars, the music, everything just blew my mind from a young age. Once I started writing songs myself, I was hooked; it’s literally creative problem solving and I kinda fell in love with it!
Introduce us to you and your musical history.
No worries! My name is Joseph – and I’m a singer/songwriter based in Melbourne, Australia performing under the name Coconut Shy. The best way I can describe my music is indie folk ‘campfire’ music that flirts with the edge of acoustic soft rock. I started playing as a kid and writing as a teen. I released my debut EP called ‘Japan Town’ in March 2021, another single in October 2022 called ‘Water, Water’, and now ‘The Finest Day’ a few weeks ago. So yeah. Thanks for having me, I’m glad to be here!
Name me your 3 favorite Albums.
Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms
Incubus – Morning View
Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?
I remember listening to a lot of old-school stuff (60s – 80s) when I was a kid because my old man used to play heaps of records from back then during my childhood. I used to listen to songs like ‘American Pie’ and ‘Walking in Memphis’ a lot – the lyrics told a story and were so well written, and that’s what captivated me. I think that’s something that’s always drawn me to the writing process – when lyrics are written well, that’s what inspires me.
The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in, How do you feel you are doing?
Small steps. My musical journey so far has been a series of small goals that I’ve reached for. I think the reason for that is that there hasn’t been a “big break” and I don’t really expect there to be. As a musician, it’s just so important for your own well-being in the music industry to just compare yourself to how you were doing yesterday, or a month ago, or a year ago, or five years ago – rather than comparing yourself to where another musician is at today. I feel like I’m doing better than I was 2 – 3 years ago, so I’m content with that.
I’m seeing a lot of debate about women not feeling safe at music gigs, any thoughts on what we need to do to help?
Unfortunately, I hear a bit about it as well. Part of it I think comes down to the enforcement of rules at live music venues. There needs to be zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour towards women anywhere, particularly at live music gigs. Another thing is for guys in male social circles to stop normalising behaviour that makes women feel unsafe. Personally, I feel like that aspect of it is slowly improving – as a guy, I feel like the culture in male social circles surrounding inappropriate behaviour towards women is better than it was then, say, a decade ago. But there’s definitely still work to be done. One last thing is that if you see something at a gig – inappropriate behaviour, an assault, whatever it may be – tell someone about it immediately so that action can be taken.
As you develop as an artist and develop using socials what ways do you get new ears on your music? Any tips?
The best advice I’ve received when it comes to using socials to gain more ears for your music is twofold: be genuine and, as much as you can, be consistent. People are more interested in listening to a song when they know more about it. Tell people about the story behind the song, what it means, how you wrote it, and how you were feeling when you wrote it. People can relate to that stuff like that. If someone is a filmmaker, they wouldn’t just say ‘I made a movie, it’s on this platform, go watch it.’ They would tell people what the movie is about, who the characters are, what the synopsis is. In my experience it’s more or less a similar thing with music: tell people about the backstory of a song and they’re more inclined to listen to it. If you can use social media in creative ways to do that while being as consistent as you can, you’re doing a lot right. But that’s just my opinion!
Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.
I was born without a sense of smell, I’ve never seen ‘The Godfather’ and I have an identical twin brother.
What’s your thought on Spotify monopoly on the music industry?
It is what it is. I wouldn’t go so far to call it a monopoly, as there a small number of other listening platforms like Apple Music – which I actually use to listen to my music. It’s the next thing though, probably an oligopoly. The issue for lots of artists is, if you’re not on tour, a lot of reliance on music-based income is most likely through streams. And the money you get from one stream is small. It can add up, if you get enough listeners, which provides the incentive. But it would take time to get to that point. I weirdly have mixed feelings; I have no doubt in my mind that music artists definitely deserve more money from individual streams, but at the same time it incentivises them to work smart and be creative with how to get more streams. I haven’t done much looking into this, oddly; there would be much better people to ask than me!
Do you sign up for any conspiracy theories?
Not really, conspiracy theories aren’t really my thing. Every now and then I’ll be convinced of, say, an ‘alternative explanation’ of something – when the facts and numbers point in that direction. But for the most part, I’m not a big conspiracy theorist. I’m definitely a firm believer that the earth is a globe!
Did you buy anything you don’t need during the pandemic?
Look, probably! I can’t really remember; the pandemic, the lockdowns, the moral panic surrounding covid, it already seems like a little while ago for me. Looking back, I was pretty fortunate to be in my last year of Uni when it all started, so I had something productive to do at home to keep my mind off things like pointless online shopping. Not that I’ve never done that! I think we all have at some point or another!
What was the worst experience on stage?
I’ve had plenty of bad gigs, I remember one ages ago in 2017 where I was singing inside a really strange shaped tent, so much so that the sound of my vocals bounced off the edges and back to me so I couldn’t really hear myself sing. I listened back afterward and sounded pretty terrible and very off-note! It probably showed on my face I wasn’t having the best time either. It was a hot day too, so lots of sweat in my eyes and face. That was definitely one of the worser experiences. Oh well. But I’m very fortunate to have never experienced something super traumatic on stage if that’s what you mean!
Tell us something about you / each member that you think people would be surprised about?
I’m a leftie in everything but play guitar right-handed.
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
I think I what I like to present Coconut Shy as a songwriter (hopefully in the foreseeable future, a band); I’m not the greatest singer or guitar player, but I like being able to take and form ideas for structures and melodies in songs that provide the listener with easy but captivating listening, as well as conscientiously written lyrics. That’s what I’m going for anyway. I question everyday whether it’s working or not!
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it.
Sure! ‘The Finest Day’ is a song I released a few weeks ago on April 7th. It’s a song inspired by change, being at peace with the past, letting go of good times that are no longer and becoming optimistic and excited for the future, rather than being anxious or terrified. I like to call it the twin-brother of ‘Water, Water’, which is another song I released last year in October, because I wrote both songs on the same day. It was bizarre how the writing process unfolded, I had the one idea for a song, and it sort of spilled out into two different versions. Simultaneous writing had never happened to me before, nor do I expect it to happen again, but for some reason it happened that day and I’ll take it!
Talk me through the thought process of the new tune/s.
No worries! Like I said, ‘The Finest Day’ and ‘Water, Water’ are kind of like twins because I wrote them on the same day, and they’re both inspired by the same idea: being at peace with the past, letting go of it, or just being happy that it happened, and looking to the future. ‘Water, Water’ is definitely the more melancholic and nostalgic of the two. It’s me struggling to pull myself out of a state of brooding. The pandemic was just starting when I wrote it, and it felt like the whole world was freaking out. I found myself reminiscing on good times that had happened for me pre-covid, and how they probably weren’t coming back, at least not for the foreseeable future. So that was ‘Water, Water’. With ‘The Finest Day’, I wanted to put a more positive spin on the idea. Rather than feeling anxious or scared about letting go of the past and diving into the future, feel excited and motivated. The last line really sums up the crux of the song: ‘The widest grace knocking at your door, the finest day may come after all’. That’s what it is for me: there’s a lot to look forward to. It may not sound like your typical upbeat banger, but it’s ultimately a happy song.
What was the recording process like?
Really awesome. It can take a while for musicians to find the right recording studio and music producer that they, for lack of a better word, ‘vibe’ with. You’ve got to find what works for you because putting your faith into a recording studio that is passionate about the type of music you write is so important. Four Doors Studios is the one I found in Melbourne, and I honestly could not have asked for anything better. Simon Paparo, the studio’s producer, is so talented at what he does, and right from our first day, things clicked and fell into place. So, very fortunately, we were able to get both ‘Water, Water’ and ‘The Finest Day’ recorded in basically one day each. So, for that reason it was a heap of fun and insanely time efficient.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
I think one of the biggest learning curves is that if you write a bad song, don’t beat yourself up about it. The more songs you write, the high the chance of writing a good one. Out of every 10 bad songs, there might be one pearler, and that makes it worth it. There’re heaps of amazing songwriters out there, and if I can write one that’s as good as their worst, then I’ll be happy. Pumping out heaps of ideas into a bunch of mediocre songs is a good way to rid yourself of writer’s block too. It frees up your subconscious and creates new avenues for introspective and creative thinking – which is definitely conducive to productive songwriting!
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
Not especially. There’s a little riff I do after the end of The Finest Day’s last line at live gigs now, but I thought of it well after the recording process was completed. So maybe I’d go back and add that it in, but that’s no big deal. I’m also curious as to how the song would have sounded if the full drumbeat had carried through right to the end of the last chorus, but it comes out in the wash. Good question!
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
Other than music, I’m not really sure at this stage! There’re so many ways to be creative though, so who knows what the future brings. Thanks so much for having me on the virtual RGM lounge!