Interview – Gossling
We sat down over a cup of tea with singer songwriter Helen Croome (aka Gossling) to get an insight into the ins and outs of the live music scene, her rise from Triple J darling to sell out headline act, and why she still likes Melbourne best.
Croome arrives early to our Friday morning interview at a cozy Hawthorn café – she’s meeting a photographer beforehand for a quick media shot to appear in MX next week. “I’m always on the look out for someone who walks in looking lost with a camera,” she jokes about meeting press. She brushes off the suggestion she is perhaps a little recognizable since the release of her two music videos. “You’d be surprised, half the time they don’t even know who they’ve been sent to shoot until they get here,” she says as she jumps up to greet a hesitant looking man lugging a giant camera bag who is hovering by the door.
After throwing in the towel on a psychology degree so she could take a shot at a career in music, country-raised Croome has spent the last six years making her mark on the Melbourne music scene. On top of the release of her debut EP If You Can’t Whistle and more national tours than you can poke a stick at, her growing success saw the end of 2011 culminate in an appearance at number eight in Triple J’s Hottest 100 on rapper 360’s hit Boys Like You. “It’s been a funny experience performing alongside 360, it’s a pretty different live crowd to my normal audience,” says the indie-pop singer-songwriter.
While supporting artists like Lior, Whitley, Tim Freedman and Oh Mercy on sold out national tours is no mean feat, she admits the crowds drawn to these shows are a little more her style than the heaving mass of teenagers she recently experienced as a result of the 360 hype. Being uncomfortable on stage is familiar ground, however, for the softly spoken Croome, who reveals, “I didn’t really enjoy playing live in the beginning cos I got really nervous. It took me a while to feel comfortable performing, maybe two years. It takes a while to feel comfortable being in front of people and be pouring your heart out in song.”
Croome is utterly grounded and perhaps it is her blatant honesty about the tough breaks of performing live that makes her such a good role model for younger artists. “A teacher friend of mine has asked me talk to her class in a few weeks about working as a musician and I’m going to tell them you’re never going to make any money so don’t do it if you think you are,” she says matter-of-factly. Quick to back up her tough love though, she suggests being multi-skilled is the key to surviving in a notoriously tough and fickle industry.
“You have to be willing to do lots of different sides of it – teaching, engineering, composing – you have to be willing to do a bit of everything to make a living out of it.” Croome herself holds down a day job two days a week when not on tour, the reason it has taken weeks to find space for an interview in her tough schedule. “You’d be surprised how many of the bands being featured on Triple J every day and touring everywhere still come home and have another job to support themselves,” she says.
Despite the unglamorous reality of making it as a musician in a local industry with little money behind it, Croome hasn’t lost sight of her game plan. “When I moved to Melbourne it was my goal to play at The Espy,” she says of an achievement she was quick to realize. “Now it’s The Palais.” Melbourne is well recognised for its slew of notable live music venues so it is perhaps fitting that it is still Croome’s favorite city to perform in. “I don’t know if it’s just because Melbourne is my home ground but it’s definitely always the best crowd to play to,” she says. “Melbourne crowds are the most vocal, which is good. You get more instant acknowledgement that you’re doing a good job. When you’re on stage you want to know straight away if people like you or not!”
Having graced the stages of many of Melbourne’s most loved venues, Croome is well-equipped to offer her opinion on the best in town. “The Northcote Social Club is really good in terms of the stage and sound, and you get a really good crowd,” she says, adding “The Toff is good as a venue but you can get a bit more of a chatty crowd with the bar up the back which can be off-putting.” Different venues come with different perks though and Croome laughs as she recalls a performance at St Kilda’s The Esplanade Hotel in 2003. “It was great, I was a solo act and they gave me a slab which I thought was very generous!”
Mostly Croome performs with a band these days, a move she made after a couple of years of solo gigs. “I decided to become ‘Gossling’ because it meant I could perform with a band or by myself,” she says, noting the opportunity it has given her to perform with other musicians. “Touring is great for that too, just being in the wings every night and seeing these amazing performers doing their thing. It’s an incredible experience.”
Croome is set to take to the stage at The Forum next month supporting friend and fellow musician Josh Pyke, followed by another full calendar of gigs and national tours. She is also set to release her second EP later in the year. “I’d obviously really like to do an album but if I don’t have enough funding I’ll still do another EP. I’d rather release something than nothing,” she says cheerfully. It is perhaps this demeanor of little by little that has seen Croome achieve so much so far, making her a refreshingly realistic example of life under the lights.
Gossling’s latest EP Intentional Living is available from her bandcamp, and she’s playing at the Forum on the 11th of May with Josh Pyke. She’s also playing at this year’s Splendour in the Grass. photo by Nathan Mallon.
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.
Author DetailsGrace Taylor
Grace Taylor is a Melbourne based writer and journalist. Specialising in features, profiles, interviews and reviews, Grace contributes regularly to several popular lifestyle, arts and culture publications throughout Melbourne.