As we approach BalconyTVs 10th anniversary, I thought it would be interesting to interview some of the first artists that performed on the show and find out what has happened to them in the time since.
Gerry Scullion aka Minus Circus performed on September 7thth, 2006. I tracked down Gerry, who is now living in Australia for a chat -
Stephen - You were one of the first artists to perform on BalconyTV. What, if anything do you remember about the performance?
Gerry - I remember I was on my way to a gig (think it might have been The Ruby Sessions) and a songwriter from Scotland I know (Michael Hargan) was also in playing. He suggested a pint beforehand at The Oak, pretty early in the day at about 4.30 (sound check for Ruby Sessions was usually around 730!). I'd already been aware of BalconyTV (remember the old website with the little embedded video in the middle of it!). I remember climbing stairs up to the apartment, and a load of raggedy old knickers and boxers on the radiators. I also remember the U2 coffee book on the table and started to chat to you about it. Then I met Tom Millet. Tom is one of the funniest and craziest guys I have ever met. As I wasn't really 'asked' to play, I more just 'arrived' to play he started to make fun of the situation in the video.
Stephen - What was the song about?
Gerry - I played Good Soul Bad Soul off my first EP, which was created off of a drunken night out. I couldn't get a cab, and ended up walking home, and the lyrics started to fall out of me. The meaning of it is about situations where people you admired, let you down time and time again. Not wanting to become like them...
Stephen - How long had you been playing before that point?
Gerry - I'd been playing seriously only for about a year back then. I had been in bands in college but after travelling to Australia in 2003, I decided I really wanted to take it seriously and see how far I could take it.
Stephen - What were your ambitions then, compared to what they are now?
Gerry - Looking back, I was totally clueless about the industry, and the majority of my peers will probably admit to the same thing. There was and still is no 'road-map' to follow. I was looking for a deal, to get picked up on radio in 2004/2005. I took a spur of the moment trip to Los Angeles for a few gigs with some musician friends, that led to a series of great meetings with some great industry people. I ended up signing a production deal with Rafa Sardina and Cheche Alara, both really well thought of producers and musicians in the industry. I then signed a management deal with a manager in LA, and things were looking up in 06/07. But by this stage, the industry really started to wobble. Myspace had risen, and a whole new world was opening up for musicians. The problem of 'connecting' to new and existing fans was almost overnight taken away overnight. The EP I recorded with the guys in LA was really polished and well done, with some excellent players on it, but it was made with the intention of landing a deal. It just never materialized unfortunately at that time. Plus, I'd met an amazing girl who was moving to Australia and was faced with a dilemma. I visited Australia again for 3 months, and am still here...
Stephen - Are you still performing now?
Gerry - I stopped performing after I launched my album in 2012. It became really difficult to play in Sydney, with venues closing etc. Recording the album was such an emotional drain, having one production fail and then managed to find an incredible producer in Sydney, Brendan O'Brien. Himself and Chris Vallejo at Linear Studios were amazing and helped in every way to go finish it. The completion of the album is totally down to Brendan and Chris's generosity. All up in took 5 years to release the album. I was just burnt out, and fell out of love with music for a long time. I still write and play every day, but the Australian music scene is much more complex than the Irish one. I've also sung on a few advertisements for Louise Dowd, a great English producer who is based in Sydney.
Stephen - The internet has completely transformed music in the last 10 years. When we started out, YouTube was just starting and MySpace was the thing. How have you found dealing with the digital revolution?
Gerry - It's a blessing and a curse, but it's not like we can turn back the clock. You can only play the hand that you've been dealt. I fear for the future of the music industry, not just in Ireland, but globally. Many of the leading venues for breaking artists in Sydney have now closed, leaving a huge gaping hole for emerging talent to play.
I'm not sure 'going to gigs' is as ingrained in Australian culture, as it is in Ireland either. I look back at playing in Ireland with huge happiness, and having great gigs in places like Macroom and Wexford with Shay Cotter and Anthony Furey. Great times!
The entire business model of the industry needs to change in order to support musicians (and the surrounding infrastructure e.g producers, venues) - and this includes how ISPs and Governments are involved.
The obvious benefits are there for musicians now e.g power to get music out there. But that's only the first part of the struggle. The findability and discoverability still has not been solved correctly (Myspace was and still is the closest), plus streaming values has bred a whole new generation who place a different value set on music itself.
Stephen - What do you make of the Australian music scene?
Gerry - To be brutally honest, I would never claim to be a huge Australian music fan. I rate certain artists that I've played with over the years, like Dan Conway, Neda and Jack Carty. All of whom are amazing songwriters and performers. In saying that, I really rate Gang of Youths from Sydney at the moment, as well as Sydney band Rüfus.
Stephen - If you could give the you of 10 years ago advice, 10 years on, what would it be?
Gerry - I wouldn't do anything vastly different. I would just say to have as much fun as possible, and to savour the time when I was younger.
Stephen - What has been the best thing to happen to you in music and life in the last 10 years?
Gerry - The whole experience of recording in Los Angeles was a blast. Getting to play and record with some amazing people, and learn more about the industry was a real eye-opener. Moving to Australia was one of the best things I ever did. Marrying my amazing wife...10 years has flown, but whatever I've done in the last 10 years has led me to this point, and I'm happy. That's all you can really ask for.
Stephen - What is the one song of yours are you most proud of that people should check out?
Gerry - I was really happy with Hide & Seek off the first EP. But feel 'Foolproof' from the album Estuary is closer to my 'sound'.
Stephen - Who has been your favorite Irish artist of the last 10 years?
Gerry - I'll chose U2. I'll probably get stick for that, but their body of work is so incredible at this stage that I find myself returning to a few months of 'U2-only music' every few months.
Stephen Final question. What would your words of wisdom be for anyone starting out? Be as brutal as you like.
Gerry - Get 'hands on earlier' e.g Learn how to record your own music. Invest in the people that stimulate your creativity, and remove people who bring you down. Your circle of friends are everything. Appreciate them. Start building a 'thick skin' and learn how to accept feedback, respect your fellow musicians and go out and support them. Help others achieve their goals.
Define your goals every 3 months. Ask yourself, what does success look like this year? Next year? Work backwards from those 'goals'. Most importantly, but have as much fun as possible.
Stephen - Thank you Gerry!
- Stephen O'Regan