You are a musician based in Darwin, but travel quite a lot performing – apart from being the 2014 NT Australian of the Year and NAIDOC Artist of the Year, you performed at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. What are the reactions like to your music internationally?
The reactions have been very positive and re-affirming to my songwriting and singing, I love to travel, share stories and songs.
Apart from your own music, you’re involved in other initiatives like prison songs, Black Arm Band, Fred Hollows and you work in remote communities around Australia. Can you tell us about those experiences and why they are so important?
To me, I cannot do one without the other, the work in remote communities in the top end of Australia is inspiring to the young people and also helps my soul be reconnected to our stories and languages, it’s also about humans having a voice through songs and building self esteem and courage to stand up, be strong and to be proud of who you are, where you are from and that your story is important and unique.
Describe a normal day in the life of Shellie Morris.
When I am back home especially after travel, catching up with family and friends, I love to cook and wash clothes, hilarious, but when often you are living in hotel rooms the only dream you have is to wash clothes, especially smelly socks lol, watch movies and also catch up on emails and things.
“I think the ARIAS need to be challenged. If my music is in a language from Australia by First Nations Australians why are we in the world music category and competing with other countries from around the world, I understand that the language is unknown and that on a world wide genre it is slotted into this category but please, it just feels wrong.”
How did you get started as a musician?
I mean getting started as a musician was when I was a child I had a natural talent, but as I grew older and was starting to write and sing songs I thought, well I might as well do some gigs and see what happens, I am so happy that I did.
What tips would you give an artist trying to succeed in Australia? Is there a certain route they should take? Any tips for artists from remote areas or communities?
One of the best lessons I have ever learnt along the way was to stay true to yourself and never lose sight of that, I mean I am involved in so many projects that I love and all surrounding music, community engagement and performances and this is what makes me happy, it’s about finding your voice, your style, your pathway.
What issues do you feel the Australian music industry is currently facing and how do you think these could be changed and improved?
I think that the Australian Music Industry as a whole does try to reach out especially in to remote areas of which we are really grateful, we have a wonderful organisation here in the NT called Music NT and they are just awesome. I think the ARIAS need to be challenged. If my music is in a language from Australia by First Nations Australians why are we in the world music category and competing with other countries from around the world, I understand that the language is unknown and that on a world wide genre it is slotted into this category but please, it just feels wrong.
Have you had to overcome any challenges or adversity in your career, and if so how did you approach them?
So many challenges, so many disappointments and so many amazing moments. I think for me to get through especially the disappointments is to stay focused, I had so many people say I’ll do this for you and that for you and then nothing, but the main thing was to do it myself and to keep dreaming and having goals.
Did you ever have a mentor/have you mentored others and do you feel this is a valuable part of the music industry?
I have been lucky to have been mentored by Yothu Yindi Dr Yunupingu and band members G.R Burrawanga and Neil Murray and Sammy Butcher from the Warumpi Band which has been so important to my career and self esteem, knowing that someone was looking out for me and helping me along the way. Over the years I have been a mentor to remote community musicians, both men and women.
What does 2016 hold for you and the initiatives you are working on?
Too many to talk about but exciting none the less, with some awesome amazing surprises. I’m hoping to be working on a film score, finishing a long awaited album with some very surprising guests and loads of gigs in between.
What are 3 artists to look out for in 2016?
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Mustang Sally, why? Who knows just cause I know love to sing it especially with the corny reverbs in the Karaoke desks!