“Bellin­gen shaped my mu­si­cal ca­reer.” MU­SI­CIAN JACK CARTY’S COUN­TRY CHILD­HOOD



In­die-folk mu­si­cian Jack Carty on grow­ing up in the NSW town of Bellin­gen and how it con­tin­ues to in­spire him.

“THE IN­TER­NET HAS CHANGED EV­ERY­THING,” says Jack. “In the past, you were ei­ther mu­si­cally fa­mous or you weren’t and you couldn’t re­ally make a liv­ing out of it un­less you were signed with a ma­jor la­bel.” Things have cer­tainly changed. We no longer rent videos, we stream films on­line. We often pay money to stay in peo­ple’s homes rather than ho­tels. And in­stead of record shops and top-40 ra­dio disc jock­eys, we have mu­sic down­load­ing and stream­ing ser­vices and lots of choice. “It’s open sea­son,” says Jack, 31. “I can record a song in my bed­room, put it up on the in­ter­net and some­one in Brazil could be lis­ten­ing to it within a few min­utes. The in­ter­net has al­lowed peo­ple like me to forge a ca­reer and find a fan base,” he says. “But it also means so much more mu­sic is out there. The chal­lenge isn’t get­ting your mu­sic to peo­ple now, it’s cut­ting through.” Thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of prodi­gious tal­ent and per­sis­tence, Jack — who went to the Bellin­gen High School, New­town High School of the Per­form­ing Arts in Syd­ney and emerged as a mu­sic grad­u­ate from the Univer­sity of Syd­ney — has man­aged to cut through. Dur­ing his stud­ies, Jack won Acous­tic Singer-song­writer at the Mu­si­coz Awards in 2010 and since fin­ish­ing univer­sity six years ago, he has re­leased five al­bums, some of them col­lab­o­ra­tions (Hospi­tal Hill with Gus Gar­diner, Home State, Esk, Break Your Own Heart and One Thou­sand Origami Birds) and two EPS (The Pre­dictable Cri­sis of Mod­ern Life and Wine & Con­se­quence). In 2015, Jack was awarded an Aus­tralasian Per­form­ing Right As­so­ci­a­tion (APRA) Pro­fes­sional Devel­op­ment Award, which he used to in­de­pen­dently record — yes, in his bed­room — Home State, which shot to Num­ber 1 on the Aus­tralian In­de­pen­dent Al­bums Chart and 36 on the ARIA al­bum chart at the time. Jack played a three-month, 27-date house-con­cert tour across Aus­tralia and New Zealand in 2017, per­form­ing in fans’ back­yards, liv­ing rooms, sheds and even a vine­yard. Hosted by fans, this small and in­ti­mate style of gig has taken off thanks to the on­line com­mu­nity. Jack has writ­ten and recorded songs with a roll­call of in­dus­try heavy­weights, in­clud­ing Dan Wil­son, for­merly of Semisonic — who works with Adele, Tay­lor Swift and Dixie Chicks — Josh Pyke, Katie Noo­nan and Thomas Rawle from Papa vs Pretty and Dreller. Jack’s orig­i­nal mu­sic has been fea­tured on tele­vi­sion sound­tracks: Covert Af­fairs in the United States and lo­cal pro­duc­tions Packed to The Rafters and Win­ners and Losers. Mu­sic started for Jack when he was young. His par­ents, both lawyers, were mu­si­cal. Jack ab­sorbed their record col­lec­tions by os­mo­sis — “I was re­ally into Neil Young, Nick Drake and Bob Dy­lan from my mum’s col­lec­tion and Dad loved Men at Work and Pink Floyd,” he says. As a teenager, Jack’s own col­lec­tion in­cluded Sil­ver­chair, John Mayer and Cold­play. “Typ­i­cal for teens of the time,” he adds. The town of Bellin­gen on the mid-north coast of NSW was also an in­flu­ence. “I saw heaps of great artists play at the Cool Creek Café,” says Jack. “Lior, a beau­ti­ful song­writer, Yothu Yindi and Floyd Vin­cent and the Child Brides. And so much world and un­der­ground mu­sic at the Bellin­gen Global Car­ni­val. Mu­sic that you wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily hear on the ra­dio. It was re­ally good for my mu­si­cal devel­op­ment to be ex­posed to that be­cause, as a kid, some of it’s not easy to find un­less you’re look­ing for it.” Hav­ing landed a man­ager, an agent and a deal with the small record la­bel Gilded Lily, Jack and his wife Natasha, a graphic de­signer and painter, re­lo­cated to Lon­don three years ago. But Bellin­gen is still home with mem­o­ries of long sunny days rid­ing the streets on his trusty Red­line BMX bike with his friends fresh on his mind. “Safe, weird, beau­ti­ful, home…” is how he de­scribes the town and the sto­ries he tells — a car­pet python that lived in the rafters of the fam­ily home, liv­ing and breath­ing all things soc­cer and form­ing a garage band as a young teen — cap­ture some of the char­ac­ter­is­tics that make up a quin­tes­sen­tial Aus­tralian coun­try child­hood. > For more in­for­ma­tion, visit jack­carty.com

“MY DAD, JOHN, GREW UP in Terang at the very end of the Great Ocean Road and was one of 12 kids. My mum, Vivien, is from Syd­ney and she moved to Mel­bourne once she fin­ished univer­sity and they met through work. They’re both lawyers. My name is also John, but no-one’s ever called me that. Jack isn’t just a stage name, it’s what ev­ery­one calls me. When I was two and my sis­ter Ruth was six months old, we moved to Bellin­gen on the mid-north coast of NSW — my fa­ther fell in love with the town when he and Mum did a big road trip from Mel­bourne to Kin­garoy in Queens­land for my un­cle’s wed­ding and they stopped there for a night. I don’t think Mum was that keen at first — she was a city girl. But they went and set up a law firm there, Carty and Co., and had two more kids, Vin­cent and Dashiel. We lived in the coun­try, about 40 min­utes from town, down a rick­ety old road in Thora. You have to cross four or five bridges to get there, so you’d get flooded in for weeks on end. I have a mem­ory of the car­pet python that lived in the rafters drop­ping down next to Dad one night when he was do­ing the dishes and him grab­bing it. I re­mem­ber Dad as be­ing brave. I’ve asked him about it since, be­cause it seems kind of crazy, and he said it wrapped it­self around his arm and he was re­ally scared and didn’t know what to do. Any­way, he was fine. Bellin­gen’s a pretty al­ter­na­tive place. There’s the farm­ing fam­i­lies that have been there for a long time and then the hip­pies who’ve been mov­ing there steadily since the ’70s and, more re­cently, peo­ple from the cities who can work from home or have made their money and have re­tired there. As a kid, be­fore I’d done much trav­el­ling, I was al­ways sur­prised when any­one de­scribed Aus­tralia as a dry place be­cause Bellin­gen’s not that dry. It gets a lot of rain. It’s pas­ture­land, with lots of dairy cows, beau­ti­ful rivers, green rolling hills and the Great Di­vid­ing Range above you. What I love most is the river at Glenif­fer. It’s where Tash and I got mar­ried. Or meant to. We planned on get­ting mar­ried in the field next to Glenif­fer Hall, a beau­ti­ful old wooden coun­try hall, and had picked the week­end of the year with the low­est chance of rain. Of course it rained, so we got mar­ried at Ned’s par­ents’ place — Ned was my best friend grow­ing up and I used to spend a lot of time at his place and it is the most amaz­ing house. One of the dis­ad­van­tages of grow­ing up in a small town is that it can feel like there’s not very much to do. I never felt bored though be­cause I was re­ally into foot­ball from a very young age. I played every week­end and also played for the re­gional team. When I was about 16 mu­sic re­ally be­came my main fo­cus. It was a way of stay­ing busy, do­ing things and hang­ing out with your friends and do­ing some­thing con­struc­tive. There was a re­ally cool group of kids in town that were all into mu­sic. We played gui­tar to­gether, tried to write songs and formed a band called I Am. I was 12 when my par­ents di­vorced. There were about five years of it all be­ing up in the air and ev­ery­thing chang­ing, but as far as di­vorces go, it wasn’t that messy. There was a lot of pain in­volved but my par­ents did a pretty good job of be­ing ma­ture adults about it. Be­ing in a small town like Bellin­gen, even though the split was a bit messy for a while, it didn’t feel that tur­bu­lent be­cause Bellin­gen wasn’t chang­ing. That was when I got into mu­sic, play­ing drums, try­ing to write songs, learn how to play gui­tar and find my singing voice. For a while there it was foot­ball and mu­sic, and at about 16 the mu­sic re­ally be­came my main fo­cus. I had a re­ally good mu­sic teacher at school called Mr Meale, my par­ents were al­ways sup­port­ive and the whole town took a vague in­ter­est. It felt like that, any­way. I mean I think a vague in­ter­est is good — peo­ple have busy lives, you know. A lot of good mu­sic comes out of Bellin­gen. It’s got a pull to it so even though it’s a small town there’s a lot of in­spi­ra­tion and a lot of peo­ple to help you fig­ure out how to do things. I’d be­come pretty ob­ses­sive about mu­sic. It was all I thought about and wanted to do. I was just com­pletely bonkers for it, so it was just a given, re­ally. There was no ques­tion in my mind that if I got into the New­town High School of the Per­form­ing Arts in Syd­ney, I’d go. I was sin­gle-minded and it didn’t feel like a de­ci­sion for me to make. If they ac­cepted me, then I was go­ing to go and I didn’t even re­ally think about how hard it might be to live away from my fam­ily until I got here. I was 16 when I left Bellin­gen. It was an amaz­ing place to grow up and, when I think about it now, as an adult, I was very lucky.

FROM LEFT Jack (sec­ond from right) with sib­lings Dashiel, Ruth and Vin­cent; bath time; jour­nal­ist Ge­orge Ne­gus played an in­te­gral role at Jack’s soc­cer club.

FROM LEFT Jack (cen­tre) with one of his best friends, Reilly Mcglashan (right) and Reilly’s friend, Hugh; Jack and his sec­ond cousin, Dean Storch­eneg­ger, in Dor­rigo, a 30-minute drive from Bellin­gen.

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