Inspired by love and life, local artist Dustin Tebbutt shares with Focus his musical journey in the lead up to the release of his debut album, First Light on August 5…
Hi Dustin. Tell us about your connection with the New England area …
Well, I grew up there, but I wasn’t born there… I moved to the area when I was around two, maybe even younger. I moved to Armidale and grew up out of town near Dumaresq Dam on a property. I went to school there and went through high school.
When did you discover your love for music?
I think there were a few moments. I remember my dad played a lot of music when we were growing up; he played a lot of guitar, and he’s a really good singer. We always had a piano and stuff around, pretty early on; music was always there, and I was pretty inspired by him.
There was this guitarist called Slava Grigoryan; he’s a classical guy who came through Armidale as part of the Musica Viva, which is a touring programme for classical music. I was studying it at school and I saw him, and it just blew me away. It was so beautiful; he played with an orchestra and did all this really cool stuff. I think was one of the earliest times that I was like, “Wow, this stuff’s really cool!”
I obviously listened to a lot of music and had rough bands at school; I was always very interested in music.
Take us on your journey since leaving Armidale …
I always kind of knew that I wanted to have a pretty serious crack at a creative career, and I didn’t really know what that meant or in what form it would take. I guess I just followed the opportunities that came along in my life. That took me to Sydney, and I studied there. Then it took me to Melbourne with some people I’d met, worked and written with and over to Sweden as well through music connections, following what was feeling right in terms of what we were writing or working on.
So that’s kind of been the journey, and it keeps happening that way. It brought me back home to work on my own stuff. Now I’m back in Sydney at the moment, working. There’s a really good space here; I’ve got a lot of the band I play with and the team are all here. It’s been an interesting one, where I’ve done a lot of travelling in a way, but I haven’t thought, “I really wanna go to this place”. It’s more the music has defined chapters for me, in a very subconscious way.
Since then, you’ve been working hard releasing EPs, with your debut album in the works due to be released on August 5th. Tell us about the process of recording this album and how it has differed from your other works?
The first couple of EPs were really me learning how to make things on my own, and learning the skills of recording and developing a sonic palette, really. A lot of experimenting, tangents of sound, going down little rabbit holes, I guess, seeing what worked for me … And this album is really just a representation of all the skills I’ve learnt over the last few years, kind of summarised in a chapter of a story that fit together.
I think this one was a little bit different in that I didn’t know it at the time, but I think this one has a bit more intent in terms of writing and in terms of the narrative of it. I feel like I’ve been able to consolidate all the stuff that I’ve picked up along the way now into something that feels like a body of work that sticks together.
Can you give us some back story as to the inspiration behind some of the lyrics written?
Well, I met a woman. And I fell in love with her, really. I guess the record is a bit of … the arc of that relationship and looking at some of the more vivid moments for me of that relationship and the dynamic of it. Some of the things that she brought to my life and showed me, and that kind of stuff. So, it’s quite a personal story in a way; she really changed the way I looked at a few things and had a big impact on me.
So, how would you describe the overall vibe of this album?
I would like to think that its a look at the intimate side and the early stages of falling in love with someone and that kind of almost toxic feeling and that overwhelming sense of being immersed in that process. Also, I’ve tried to create soundscapes and spaces for those stories to be told in. With the production, I’ve had quite a strong visual sense about what the songs look like in terms of the sonic landscape.
You’ve worked alongside some inspirational artists and played some amazing venues. What have been some of the highlights?
I’ve done some really cool stuff; I’ve been so lucky. I think Falls Festival and Splendour in the Grass were both amazing. They were just incredible – really well organised and just an amazing vibe when you’ve got that many people in one place that are getting along with a positive energy, and everyone’s there for the right reason. No one’s disturbing the peace, everyone’s very open, and it’s a beautiful thing to just be a part of those celebrations.
There’s a lot of small victories that you may not think are the things that would be highlights as they’re happening; they’re not like playing the big shows or whatever. Sometimes it’s just meeting people along the way or some of the co-writing I’ve been able to do and sharing the creative process with people, or bringing the songs to life with different people.
The band guys I’m working with now are fantastic and seeing how they interpret the songs and make them something bigger than they were on the record is really something beautiful to watch.