Recently I had a chat with songwriter and performer Khristian Mizzi ahead of his Adelaide show at the Red Rhino Room (Hilton). Melbourne based songwriter and performer Khristian Mizzi explains that he is just about to play on stage at the Illawarra Folk Festival in Bulli (NSW). ‘I feel very lucky to see the country in this way. I go around playing music, meeting nice people, and playing to audiences’. Khristian is one of two hundred other acts at the four-day festival that features folk, world, roots, bluegrass, gypsy and Celtic music. He is living what many story-driven songwriters would deem the musical dream: zig zagging his way across the country following the music festival circuit. ‘Part of the joy seeking experience that I’m trying to build for me and my fiancé is that we get to see the country’.
I asked Khristian about his thoughts on why there seems to be a resurgence in folk music. ‘Folk music is ‘people music’. When the world is in a messed-up state people want connection again. The last time we saw a songwriter renaissance like this was back in the late 60s early 70s which was also a turbulent time.’ Khristian agrees that festivals are a very important part of our Australian culture in celebrating the Australian story, ‘… getting people together, and celebrate simple, ideas, connections, and stories. We’ve come back to realise that those are the things that are important – especially in a time where there is so much disconnect. I think in the next five years acoustic music and story songs are going to be the order of the day.’
Khristian’s music has the comfort of a warm blanket embrace. His lyrical expression walks you past a myriad of Australian stories perhaps familiar to those who grew up in an Australian country town. In fact Khristian’s music is heavily influenced by his experience of growing up in Moe (Victoria). ‘I think you can see a place much clearer once you’ve left it and you are looking in from the outside’. ‘Many of the songs are inspired by feeling stuck in a place like Moe, but then taking a nostalgic look back at my hometown, a place that I couldn’t wait to get out of, and now that I’ve gone having romantic inner stories about how it played out and my love for my home town.’
His 2009 music release titled The Road Between contains songs that reflect on how Khristian juggled having a young family, being a young father, and trying to ‘keep the music thing going, travelling around Victoria.’ Khristian explains that his latest release, a self-titled EP, was recorded by a record producer friend in his lounge room, ‘He came over with all of his gear and we set up a bit of food, and wine and a few microphones with him and his partner and me and my partner and we all just hung out for the weekend and hit record and just took the best takes and put it out. It’s a really organic process.’
Khristian’s current musical project is a full-length album due for release this year. Currently untitled, this album will feature themes around the change country towns are experiencing, ‘… old things being torn down and new things being erected and a whole bunch of people who are sad about that. I’m connecting with that nostalgic energy where sudden change is affecting our emotions and we are not really equipped to handle it. There is a lot of loss, I feel like there is a lot of grieving to be done in the last ten to fifteen years we just can’t seem to keep up. Everywhere we look we lose something, whether it’s ABC radio, or they’ve knocked down a forest, or the coral reefs are dying. These things are happening in our time that our people don’t have a lot of control over. And it’s all greed and money and it’s sad. One of his tracks A Little Space discusses people who move from crowded cities into country towns and the impact this is having on these towns, ‘right down to refugees trying to escape their country just to find a little space to breathe and to live a normal life and all of the conflict that stirs up’. A Little Space is about running out of space on this planet to coexist in peace.’
Khristian’s advice for younger people looking for opportunities to play their original music is simple: ‘Getting up there and doing it is the best way. Just do it, I know it sounds so simple: working the songs and working the stage all of these things can’t be learnt from books or blogs. You’ve actually got to go out there and stand in your own space and use your own voice and use your own story. And you are going to fail, and it’s going to go wrong and you’re gonna have shit nights but at the same time that’s how you weed it all out and eventually if you are dogged enough and hungry enough you will find joy. I really believe it is just putting in the time. A lot of young people want to ‘make something’ with their music. They see the hype, but they forget the process. Seek out your open mics nights, and organisations like the Songwriters, Composers, and Lyricists Association (SCALA), just get in front of an audience, using a microphone, and plugging in your guitar, and standing there in front of people. And that stuff is hard, and you can’t do it straight away. No matter how good your songs are, no matter how good your mum tells you your songs are you’ve got to get out there and sing them to strangers’. There are so many more elements to it than just writing a good song and knowing the notes and chords. Connecting with an audience, which is exactly what we are trying to do, that’s hard, not everyone can get that straight away.
I’m curious as to how Khristian manages to stay physically and mentally healthy, with family commitments, and travelling around Australia playing festivals and other shows. ‘Balance is essential, maintaining physical health and mental health. Getting rooted in the things that you really do value. For me it’s family, it’s the joy of life. Playing music, being with friends. Not losing site of what’s important. Being in this industry you are surrounded by a lot of buzz, hype, business, and ego. It’s important that I stay grounded. I do that with early meditation, in the morning, just ten minutes – just to get myself grounded. Work out what it is that I’m trying to achieve for the day rather than just going in blind and being reactionary to all the crazy things that can happen at festivals and at gigs. I know for me I can get quite anxious on stage sometimes and just talking to people after the show. Staying grounded and staying in that positive self-space bubble helps.’
Khristian is playing a variety of shows whilst he is in Adelaide starting with a house concert that is already sold out, and a show at the Red Rhino Room with Fergus Maximus and Ian Gibbins. ‘I met Fergus last time I was in Adelaide and he is a wonderful bloke and such a nice guy, great songwriter and artist. Ian Gibbins I’m yet to discover so it will be interesting to see what he brings to the mix, he is a spoken word artist so it will be a bit different’.
Khristian Mizzi will play live at the Red Rhino Room (100 Sir Donald Bradman Drive, Hilton) on Friday February 8, 2019 with Fergus Maximus and Ian Gibbins hosted by Arty Records.
Tickets available through this LINK.
Watch Khristian’s song from his latest EP ‘Tomorrow is a new day’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIMnJGsWOwU
All images supplied