Sounds of the Wheatbelt

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian
Merredin musician Ryan Flannigan (centre), with recording engineers Sean Lillico, Eskimo Joe's Joel Quartermaine, Nigel Bird of West Australian Music, and Matt Giovannangelo.
Camera IconMerredin musician Ryan Flannigan (centre), with recording engineers Sean Lillico, Eskimo Joe's Joel Quartermaine, Nigel Bird of West Australian Music, and Matt Giovannangelo. Credit: The West Australian

If you happened to be driving down a gravel road not far from Dowerin last month, you might just have been lucky enough to catch the sounds of some of WA's undiscovered musical talent.

You might even have bumped into Eskimo Joe's lead guitarist Joel Quartermain, who was out in the Wheatbelt to lend a hand to struggling regional musicians looking to crack the big time in Australia's music industry.

In a farmhouse somewhere between Dowerin and Wongan Hills, 10 Wheatbelt bands and musicians have been given the chance of a lifetime to record their music - part of an innovative project called Sounds of the Wheatbelt.

Driven by West Australian Music, formerly the WA Music Industry Association, the project continues the success of other regional Sounds of campaigns that have launched regional artists onto the State and national music scene.

All 10 artists were mentored through the song production process and expert audio engineers will guide those working in the sound engineering field.

WAM regional officer Nigel Bird, who admits he's not too shabby on various musical instruments himself, says the Sounds of projects were all about giving regional musicians the chance to shine.

He says musicians based in the regions will often be found in sheds, garages, lounge rooms, in fact any available space, to not only rehearse their music, but to record it as well.

According to Mr Bird, the project objective was not only to discover and promote regional talent, but to upskill these musicians in using any space available to them to successfully record their music.

"The project was born out of the need to bring professional audio engineers to regional areas, to impart skills to regional musicians," he said.

"Since there are not many professional recording studios, quite often recordings are going to be done in a home environment.

"So the first couple of days of the projects we work with participants, showing them how to acoustically treat a room," he said.

"If you are in a large lounge room that has 12 foot ceilings, when you clap your hands, you are going to get a lot of reverberation, so we treat the room for those things, such as utilising mattresses and couches that are sound absorbent.

"We replicate a normal environmental that Wheatbelt bands might be used to, and make the most of their isolated situation."

And it's not a problem if these musicians need extra instruments to improve their recording process.

"All the professionals who come up here, including myself, can play a number of instruments, so we can act as support musicians for the artist, but they will retain complete copyright," Mr Bird said.

Each recorded single will be included on a compilation CD for local release and promoted nationally through WAM's networks.

Sounds of The Wheatbelt will be launched at the Dowerin Field Days in August, and the proceeds of the CD sales will be put towards a second Sounds of The Wheatbelt project.

"For 10 places, we had 42 applicants, so that clearly indicates we could do another four projects without too much trouble," Mr Bird said.

The bands can also be seen performing at various locations throughout the field days in August.

Sounds of The Wheatbelt will feature Hayden Sprigg (Mukinbudin), The Pipeline Band (Northam), Georgie Sadler (Wongan Hills), Tom O'Brien and Russel Gooley (Narrogin), John Read (Kondinin), Pete Byfield (Northam), Billy Narrier (Mogumber), Ryan Flannigan (Merredin) and Jurien Bay's Gloria Franke and 83-year-old Brian "Buzzer" Bitter.

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