The man behind ‘The Night Sky Is A Jewellery Store Window’
Living in a city such as Melbourne, it’s easy to take for granted the range and quantity of creative events, initiatives and projects that surround us. Perhaps because of this, it is easy for projects to get lost in the noise. From time to time we stumble on things that are simply too good to let that happen and ‘The Night Sky Is A Jewellery Store Window‘ (TNSIAJSW) is a perfect example. In the lead-up to his second showcase event this Thursday (14/7), Melting Pot’s Liam Dixon caught up with the man behind TNIAJSW – singer-songwriter / composer / producer extraordinaire (among other things) Damon Smith.
Liam Dixon: Thanks so much Damon for your time. A lot of things I’m interested in asking about… but to start, the name – “The Night Sky is a Jewellery Store Window”?
Damon Smith: It’s a lyric from a Smog (Bill Callahan) Record named, ‘Rain On Lens’.
LD: Ah would not have picked it! I will put a link in the write-up. (click here for Smog’s Natural Decline) Where did the idea of TNSIAJSW come from? Was there an event or conversation or song that was the catalyst for you starting it?
DS: After building a humble little music studio out the back of my house, I found time slipping away from me and unable to find the time to create and write music the way I did before my Daughter was born, I decided that the space would be a wonderful place to film and record other artists…and scratch the itch of the hobby film maker inside of me. The idea was that I would ask Songwriters that I have played alongside and been inspired by over the years, to come in and do a one take version of a new song plus a cover of a local artist’s song they love. Every artist plays the same old guitar and has the same studio Dog, Jerry Lee, sleeping by their feet. Since then I have abandoned the cover song idea and Jerry Lee has passed on. (After staring in about 20 videos!)
LD: We’ve spoken before about the beauty in the raw and honest performances – even if there is the odd mistake. These days we are so used to hearing things that are “perfect” but maybe they lack the soul or authenticity that you get from a fresh performance of a newish song. I know we have a similar view on such things – but has it been difficult for some artists to agree to do a performance in one take in this beautiful but raw (blemishes and all) environment?
DS: Eek, how do I answer this one without causing suspicion amongst possible offenders!? There has been a few people that have stopped mid song and I am absolutely cool with it although, there have been some occasions where it’s got really out of hand and the takes have become tantamount to an actual recording session where one strives for utter perfection. However, who am I to say that everyone should adopt my very bare bones approach to recording or performing. Having said that though, I will say that the beauty in someone taking their song to the edge of the cliff, with the possibility of a catastrophic fall of said cliff, is great. I feel a little bit awkward about rehearsing something to the point of exhaustion up until the point of the performance. I feel this way, at least in the singer songwriter field and not so much in the classical or theatre performance field…there is obviously differences and obviously a need for perpetual rehearsal, in some cases. The great speeches, performances and sporting moments often come from a place of pure unadulterated passion, emotive drive and grit. An impromptu moment brought on by a real urge to approach normality and punch it in the face, a bit.
Also, some musicians have a unearthly connection to their instruments and it’s output and the flare in which it’s performed…it’s as natural as breathing for them and they can pick up a $10 crappy guitar and blow your mind.
LD: Separate from running TNSIAJSW, you have your own original songs and band the Quality Lightweights, playing honky tonk piano, running a touring theatre show as well as being a stay at home dad. How do you do it?
DS: Ha, you missed out: Composing music for a Ballet, working on a documentary about a legendary Australian blues man, recording and producing other artists (with 2 completed this year) All that plus the touring with the theatre band, Sun Rising, takes up a lot of my time but it’s this very thing, being busy, that is integral to my being on track as a functioning adult. It’s not a secret and I don’t hide the fact that I have a often, debilitating relationship with my diagnosis of an OCD and that plus constant anxiety can take me to very difficult and trying places especially when looking after a 3 year old. One of the things I have learnt while doing the Night Sky series is that there is loads of us creative types out there that share a mental illness.
LD: There have been too many incredible live performances on TNSIAJSW since James Kenyon’s moving storytelling in “The motor bike song”, what are two performances that really surprised you / moved you. (I know it’s a bit of an impossible question to answer but I’m going to ask it all the same!)
DS: Anything with the Late, Jerry Lee doggie in it is a tad hard to watch and I certainly don’t believe in the idea of ‘The Best’ when it comes to art…but some memorable moments have been Loni Rae’s video and the pure starkness and raw vibe in Lindsay Phillips’s clip but generally speaking I love all of them and the artists involved!
LD: Ah we’ve been wanting to get Lindsay back in a round for some time – he’s an incredible songwriter and has such a presence! For those unfamiliar with you and TNSIAJSW, your showcase this Thursday will contain twenty – yes TWENTY – incredible artists performing on your old studio guitar Zach Glickman. I love the ambition – how does this work?
DS: Hmmm, hopefully it will work , ha…a few songs each, all on the same guitar which makes for a quick turn around…Should be great!!!
LD: Last November you did a similar style of showcase of TNSIAJSW at the Yarra Hotel. For any one that attended that show, what do you think will be different this time round?
DS: It will hopefully be exactly the same. A night that ran really smooth with heaps of networking opportunities and loads of great music from great artists.
LD: Who are two artists performing on Thursday that you think people might not have heard of but that you’d recommend them check out.
DS: Ah Crikey, that’s a tough thing to answer! Well, the bulk of the artists playing know each other pretty well and there are a few that are reasonably new to this scene. Nick Costello is relatively foreign to this group and his baritone voice and song Smithing is top notch. Another great singer is Amarina Waters who despite being part of the furniture in some singer -songwriter venues around Melbourne’s North, she hasn’t got a record out currently that features her beautiful music…So there is a couple for you to watch out for!
The Night Sky is a Jewellery Store Window showcase #2 is on at the Gasometer Hotel (484 Smith St Collingwood) THIS THURSDAY NIGHT (14/7). You can buy tickets here (selling fast!), see the facebook event here or otherwise check out NSIAJSW website or facebook.
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.
Author DetailsLiam Dixon
Liam is the founder and director of Melting Pot. Once a regular performer at Melting Pot events as the writer / frontman for local band Creatures of Karma, these days Liam works as a commercial lawyer by day. When hes not busy doing lawyer stuff or with Melting Pot, Liam loves to write, play and record his own music and see the odd gig around town.