You’re Crap!

One of the hardest things a busker has to overcome is the set of limiting beliefs he/she carries – in other words – his/her ‘mindset’. Nothing in life holds us back more than ourselves, and of course our attachment to a set of beliefs.  (eg doubting your abilities; no faith that you can earn an income doing what you love to do… money doesn’t grow on trees, no such thing as a free lunch, etc, etc).

A particular mindset usually starts off with an experience or a comment from someone in a position of ‘authority’ (parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, etc) or from someone you respect or admire. And don’t ask me why, but if one of those comments happens to be negative, then we tend to get caught up on the doom and gloom and instead of moving forward with our dreams and desires, we usually change our course of direction – sometimes even come to a complete halt – according to what others say or think.

25 years ago, my first girlfriend asked me to shut up when I was singing because she didn’t like it. She just told me, point blank… “you’re crap”!

Take a moment to think about this one… have you ever been told something similar?  Has someone told you that they didn’t like your music, or the songs you write weren’t good enough or the way you play a popular song was all wrong, etc, etc. I’ve had people cover their ears as they walk past me, I’ve made 20 cents after singing for 2 hours on the street and I’ve had bad reviews about my songs! The good news is, this happens to 99% of performers – including the Beatles!

Here’s another example… when my songs hit number one on the Australian independent charts, 99% of the reviews were all positive with 4-5 star ratings, but the ones that jumped out at me were the negative comments that a couple of people made.

If I’d let any of these negatives play a part in my career choices, I would have stayed in my bedroom singing to myself and missed out on years of incredible experiences. Like singing in some of the world’s most stunning cities, meeting some of the most talented, fun and interesting people EVER (including my beautiful wife), playing alongside world class musicians, etc, etc, etc.  To think that my music wouldn’t have made it to my local press, let alone the New York Times is something I can hardly contemplate now.

And get this… when I first ventured out on the street I would play with an old guitar and repair my broken guitar strings.  I didn’t think I could make enough to buy new strings and thoughts of a new guitar were filed under totally impossible! Some of the old beliefs that used to hold me back could possibly be the same ones holding you back. For example “I’m a starving artist… if I make lots of money then I would be selling out!”, I haven’t worked hard enough to deserve that”, “I’m not good enough to be playing alongside other talented performers”, “there are so many more great musicians who are better than me who should be up here on this stage”,  “I’m only a busker so I don’t have enough money to buy (whatever) …new guitar, strings”, blah blah blah blah blah…

As soon as I started to question myself again and again about what I wanted, and got out of my comfort zone to make those things possible, I realised that I was living my life based on other peoples opinions and limiting beliefs.  It was only when I determinedly went for my dreams that all the obstacles and excuses started to fade away and my success started to flow.

Unfortunately most of us feel comfortable living a life according to traditions or a set of beliefs, and as soon as we step out and consider something new, all sorts of chaos occurs within our mind and we start making excuses like “ I’m not clever enough to make it work”, “I can’t afford to do this or buy that or take such a risk”, etc. What we should be doing is continually asking, “What do I want and what steps do I need to take to get it”.  Most people focus on why they can’t do, have or achieve something and usually end up living a tedious and repetitive existence.

I recently received an email from a musician called Christian Jones who lives in Western Australia. I’ve added it into the Busking Stories page because it’s a classic tale of breaking down limiting beliefs, following your dreams and making a great success happen against all odds. It can be hard to take a step like Christian has taken, especially when kids and family are involved, therefore all credit goes out to you Christian – Congratulations for stepping into the unknown and going for it! I’ve decided to make you our new Busker of the Month for setting such a great example!  And whilst I’m handing out accolades… even more credit to your wife and kids for giving you the freedom to play! Now that Christian has a taste of what can happen when a daily existence is filled with passion, I can’t wait to see part 2 of his story.  If he’s anything like me, it will include a family busk!

As for everyone else, I encourage you to get clear about what you want, then step out of your comfort zone and go for it!  What’s the worst that can happen… you’ll come back to doing what you’re doing now.  On the other hand, start thinking of all the things that can happen….!!!!!  My story is a perfect example and I’m not including it to brag or blow my own trumpet, but to show you that it IS possible to live the life of your dreams, no matter what anyone else says or thinks!Similar Posts:

    None Found

BuskerWorld In The New York Times!

It’s happened again!  Another victory for buskers and the image of street performance thanks to Busker World and its rapidly growing network.

Johnnie Mac, right, plays the Didgeridoo while busking with a local musician in Prague

This success came from a most unlikely source – mainstream media being the ally this time. And not just your average daily newspaper, I might add.   A couple of weeks ago Matt Gross from the New York Times contacted me and asked if I would do an interview.  I almost fell off my chair!   Since then everyone has been saying… “how the heck did you manage that”.  My answer… “I didn’t do anything… he contacted me!” After hearing that excited and enthusiastic question so many times over the last couple of weeks, it got me thinking.  Why did the New York Times contact ME??? And my conclusion is very exciting for you and me both.

Busking is fast becoming a respected, appreciated and even a (who would’ve thought) desired career choice. Career being the key word! From the emails and comments I receive (just take a look at the comments at the end of the NY Times article to see what I mean), people are actually starting to value the gift that a busker offers.  More and more people are appreciating the creative and artistic side of busking. Some people are even understanding just how much courage it takes for a busker to put himself/herself out there in front of a crowd who haven’t specifically come out to watch them.  Until now, (a time when a widespread change of attitude is developing – and about time to I reckon), a busker had to face judgement from the masses who were presuming that this person is begging or most certainly, down and out.  The artistic skills were overlooked 99% of the time.  What a relief it is that the mindset is changing so positively… and so rapidly.  Bring it on I say!  Street performers… get excited and gear yourself up for a surge of opportunities.

About the interview… it includes some great info on busking and a part of my story that you haven’t heard before. I also talk about how I found success playing mostly my own original music. This is a debatable subject for buskers who think the only way to become successful on the street is to play cover songs.  Matt also covered how busking tied in with my on-stage music career.  He even added a few of my songs to the article. How cool is that!  So when someone tells you that you’re crazy to get out there and busk – that it will dampen your image, you can smile and let that comment slide like water off a ducks back!

Here’s the link to the New York Times Busking Story

So what next? To put this into perspective – for an unknown, independent Aussie musician, let alone a busker (for goodness sake!!!), to get their name and music into a major US newspaper is practically unheard of. So now I have to capitalise on this moment… put my promoters cap on and do the job that the record company would do… that is send a press release out (highlighting the NY Times interview of course) to every newspaper, radio and TV station I can think of. Stay tuned to see what evolves next.Similar Posts:

    None Found

Busking In Darwin-Chapter Two

As you can see from some of the blogs I have been posting one of the great things about performing on the street is that when you get out and start busking classic events seem to pop up out of nowhere. Here is another special event for me  I experienced that only came about as a result of busking. This story begins with a street performance in the Smith St Mall in Darwin’s city center. It was late in the evening when this event occurred and it could really have only happened in a place such as the Northern Territory in Tropical Australia. As I sang, a couple of indigenous folk came up to have a listen and asked if they could play a song or two. (See photo, Eric and Mary come to have a yarn, listen to my music and play a few songs)

Now I’ve had many buskers voice their opinion on the topic of should you or should u not encourage the passerby to have a bash on YOUR guitar. Some buskers are dead set against it as they don’t want just any TOM Cruise, DICK Smith or HARRY Potter playing THEIR instrument. I’ve never had a problem with it, and not a single difficulty even if people happen to be a bit drunk. In fact my experience is that I earn more money when they play than if I play as they usually have a heap of friends with them who egg them on. I’ve found that people respect your pitch and your instrument and after a few songs give it back and rejoin the crowd. I generally tell buskers that if they are worried about their instrument then they should use an old guitar or instrument that can handle a bit of rough stuff. This allows the performer to feel comfortable and at ease instead of nervous or concerned that the instrument is going to get damaged because everyone’s having a good time and people are fighting to play a song. If your relaxed about it then so too will be your audience and the end result is that everyone has a great time.

Busking with the local Larakia folk was no different on this occasion but it was special because Eric from the Darwin mob sang in his own language and told me his own story and that of his girl, Mary. There is something haunting about an acoustic guitar and the indigenous vocal put together on a barmy evening on a city bench in Darwin. It kind of fits in totally with the local vibe and makes great sense when you hear it. The pathos in the vocal, tinged with the sadness of their people is prevalent, so too is the simplicity of the song structure and message, yet together at that moment regardless of the quality of musicianship or performance it hits straight through to your heart and you suddenly connect with the story/struggle of indigenous Australia.

Yet in spite of this kind of “tragic” connection I also felt the awesome power of their ancient culture and a wisdom for the way they continue to practice it. We work our guts out 9-5, 5,6,7 days a week and watch them sitting around and shake our heads saying “ why don’t they do more”!! They watch us and think “ why don’t they stop for a bit”!!! Eric told me that he sings about what they do, ….sitting with family, cousins and relatives talking smoking and drinking, passing on stories about their culture. Eric was saying “ it ain’t no different now to what it’s always been. We are here, now, and we’re just enjoying our nature and environment by the river bed or near the sea as we have done for thousands of years. People say we ain’t got culture anymore but this is our culture, we collect the bush tucker and paint our stories as well and sing our songs, nowadays with a guitar.

It ain’t no different johnnie, it ain’t no different. We watch you fellas and think …don’t you guys ever learn, you movin around so fast doin your business u never see nothing, u so busy u never hear nothing and then u gotta die and what have you experienced……you can’t tell cause it was too fast, you forgot your story you fellas and now your runnin around like a mad emu tryin ta find it, where’s it gone? What is it…your story…..your identity….Im still waiting for one of you mad fellas to slow down long enough so I can bloody well see who you are , meet you, hear what it is you are doin and simply get to know and understand you……then maybe we can get along a bit better eh, then maybe we can understand each other. You singin a different tune to most white fellas Johnnie. I ain’t heard many fellas sing like what you do and do it out here, on the street, I think your doin a good thing. Now sing me that Nicotine Dreaming one again while I try and find a smoke to humour you ”.

Eric and Mary taught me more about myself and Australia in half an hour than I had learned in all my history subjects at school or university. I was blown away by this lesson, a lesson that has come to me from many indigenous people I’ve met over the years yet so few of us experience or understand it. The message is clear for me and if it wasn’t for busking I would have missed this treasured experience again. Each indigenous person I hear it from tells it slightly differently but with the same fundamental story line. It has often been the case that my songs that reflect my experience with indigenous Australia have been able to connect me to Australia’s indigenous people. They said “we don’t often come up to white fellas and do this but we heard you singing about Namatjira and felt you, johnnie, must be an OK bloke to talk with”.

Eric tells me his story

Throughout my travels I’ve found that music breaks down cultural barriers and helps heal the wounds of the past. On that barmy night in Darwin it was music again through busking that connected myself, wife and kids with this indigenous couple and helped us to see and hear their story.

If only other Aussies could stop for long enough to do this perhaps we could overcome some of the negatives that we are currently facing with indigenous Australia and its people at present and maybe….just maybe have a little bit more understanding for the present situation we are all facing in this country regarding these issues.

Photo Below shows Eric singing his emotive stories. Smith Street Mall, Darwin 2009

Similar Posts:

Busking in Darwin Capter 1

Busking in Darwin Chapter 1

Hi folks

Its been a crazy ride for me over the year as you have seen with my best friend dying and me breaking my leg just as I hit number one with a few of my songs. Since then it’s been a whole lot more crazy with press (this week I did an interview with The New York Times), gigs and radio ect. So a little while ago Mikey and I decided the family had to get away to one of our favourite bush hiding places about 3 hours south of Darwin to help us rejuvenate and recover from some of the things us and the kids have been through. Now….how does this relate to busking.

Well…..Darwin is a great place to go to do a bit of street performance in the Australian winter as its warm and dry and has some amazing cultural history and natural environments. As we are heading towards that time of the year again it’s a good time for you to be planning to go to Darwin now. From a busking perspective Darwin also has heaps of tourists and tourism drawcards that create great potential for the everyday street performer. Of great interest to my wife in the Northern Territory is its many hot springs. Coincidently, these are what my broken leg desired to help it heal.

My tip for you today comes in response to the many buskers who have made a comment to me recently about some of my Aussie busking video tips. I have heard regular remarks such as “hey it’s so easy for  you in Australia, nice climate, friendly people, quiet country towns etc, but over here in the real world we’ve got beggars, bobbies, pimps and muggers and people who hate us with a passion, busking ain’t that easy”. Well I know that’s a common occurrence, I’ve also experienced that all over the world. However I’ve chosen to raise my kids in a country that has a great standard of living so it’s been easy for me to live and perform in Australia most of my life. However, when I am overseas I now head for the areas in amongst the cities and towns that aren’t such a struggle. But this wasn’t always the case for me. I performed in some weird and way out places when I first began performing both on the street and on stage (Outer Mongolia, The Gobi Dessert, Siberia, Moscow and  Eastern Europe at a time when Perestroika had only just begun its period of influence. Due to my experiences I now ask the questions “why make it hard for yourself”?  and surely, if you are wanting to make a living from Busking, then why go to areas where people don’t appear to have that much money to give?.

It can be a huge mindset hurdle to lift yourself out of a difficult environment particularly if it’s where you were born or where you have made a home with your kids and family, However, if you can make the break and get out of your difficult environment then go for it. I did have to leave my home town and family to find my way when I was starting out and I now live away from my home city of Sydney because of lifestyle choice. And I have had to shift home and move across country with my kids to follow my rock n roll dream. It’s hard to make that decision to break free but once you do its fantastic to finally find yourself where you want to be.

Now where am I ….OH .most importantly Darwin….it has by chance some impressive busking spots and a great system that rewards the genuine and/or dedicated busker. Add to this the great weather in the middle seasons of the year which makes it ideal all day for street performance. You can busk early in the morning and late into the evening in total comfort. The early bird is rewarded through the local tourist information service where you can pick up one of only 3 busking licences that are available each day. Once 3 have been issued then that’s it for that day, so you have to be one of the first 3 to apply on any given day or you miss out on the licence. It costs you a paltry $2.50 for the licence, which is only valid for that day of issue, so you’d better make sure you get out of bed before all the other buskers. This sets you up to busk all day if you want in Smith St Mall in the heart of town, which is very small and hard to get lost in. You can also busk outside the tourist drawcard Crocosaurus after it closes at around 7pm. It’s a great main street locality with restaurants, pubs, shops and bars up and down this strip. It has a big enclave off the street with plenty of room for you to belt it out well out of the way of the passers by. I found that after 9pm was a good time here when everyone going past was a bit tipsy and had a full belly so the mood was Party time.

Another great locality in Darwin is the Mindle Markets. The markets run from the last week in April until the end of October. The market is open on Thursday from 5pm-10 pm and Sunday 4pm – 9pm and is a real mecca for the locals and the tourists alike with many interesting indigenous performers as well as other busking acts from all over the world. The markets are located within a 15-20min walk from the city, Shuttle buses pick up at a regular basis from major hotels, A taxi from the city will cost approx $10.00. Public buses connect the markets to the City and Northern Suburbs. Bus number 4 goes directly to Mindil Market. Call 08 89813454 to enquire about how you can get a busking spot. Stay tuned now folks as next blog will be Darwin part two and a wonderful story of some more great things that can happen when you take on life as a street performer.

Similar Posts:

The Perks of Busking-Chapter Two

Chapter two-The Perks of Busking!

In chapter one of “ The Perks of Busking” we left you in the beautiful city of Prague, in the recording studio of one of the Cities leading musicians. We were pondering the outcome of one of my fans desire to get her hands on some of my music and how to promote George from Prague’s music around the rest of the world.

My time in that studio turned out to be one of the most fortuitous sessions of my performance career – it amped my confidence, confirmed my calling and encouraged me to push through some ‘roadblocks’ that were holding me back… and all this happened because I was busking.   Six songs later, I waved goodbye, smiling from ear to ear, cassette tapes in hand, knowing that everyone – was very happy with the results.

Those tapes wore thin as I played them constantly on my travels, both my recordings and Georges. Then tragedy struck when I was robbed in Amsterdam and all but one of George’s songs disappeared from my collection.  His music was gone, along with all his contact details. Miraculously, one song stayed with me through thick and thin.  It survived years of travels and address changes before a recording engineer friend put George’s remaining song onto CD, then DAT and finally onto hard drive.  15 years later… the song is still with me and even though it sounds a little rough – scratchy, like an old vinyl recording, it does have a unique rustic charm that seems to match the story.

The weird thing is…  who would have thought, 15 years later – when  working on a video for my charity –  which encourages people all over the world to adopt an Aussie tree to help environmental education, reforestation and global cooling, I realised that the missing ingredient was a powerful and emotive piece of music to back the visual story.  George’s song came to mind.  At last I had found a way to promote his music in the west!

So who would have thought that my busk on the Charles Bridge would have led to free studio time and a 6 track recording which gave me a product to sell on the street and scored me many gigs – even an interview and live performance on Irish TV.  And who would have thought that my busking and tree planting endeavours would help me accomplish George’s lifelong dream.  And who would’ve thought that I would fulfil his request a decade or so later and find myself trying to track down Prague’s very own Nick Cave ( at least in attitude and appearance) – to show him that his dream for international recognition was coming true.

Surely in this era of instant global connections and videos that go viral, somebody out there will help me reunite with this incredible musician.  I’m putting our TreeLovers video – with music by George from Prague – out into cyberspace in the hope that it will ‘get around’ quickly and someone will recognise the song and lead me back to George. And if many trees get adopted in the process, then I’ll be one very happy chappy! If you click on the Treelovers link below it should take you straight to the Treelovers website and the video with Georges wonderful music behind it. Posts: