Describe a normal day in the life of Sose Fuamoli.
Each day generally involves a lot of emailing, phone calls and an unhealthy amount of tea. Before I came into the Editor in Chief role, I was the AU’s Live Music Editor, which helped when I made the transition as a lot of the role remained the same. Usually, my first priority after I’ve dragged myself out of bed is checking my emails to see if anything urgent has been sent through overnight, before turning attention to editing and readying content submitted by our contributors for publishing. Emails rule supreme in my world (unfortunately, ha) so if I’m not strapped to a laptop cursing Gmail/Google Drive at least once a day, I’m generally checking and updating things even when I’m on the go.
I co-ordinate coverage for our writers and photographers while helping our other editors out where needed, liaise with Australian and international publicists, festivals and artists, all the while fitting in a cheeky live review of my own here and there, as well as the odd artist feature. Aside from a few periods of my year, I’m not necessarily reviewing as much live music as I used to, but I’m still able to listen to a lot of new music every week from around the world all the while still hitting up shows when I can in Adelaide or wherever I happen to be.
How did you get your start in the music industry? Has it been something you just had to do or did you make a conscious decision to make it happen?
I began becoming interested in the arts when I was a teenager living up in Darwin and then music, specifically music journalism, followed on quite quickly from there. For around 10 years I was involved in a dance company in the NT and so I became surrounded by musicians, performers and creatives who were operating out of an isolated area of the country, but still approaching their work with fierce drive and enthusiasm. There weren’t many outlets in Darwin at the time for young people to write and have their work printed or published aside from maybe one youth publication and, aside from the annual BASSINTHEGRASS music festival, I didn’t feel like there were many opportunities in general to explore a love for experiencing live music in the way I get to now.
I moved back to Adelaide for Uni in 2009 and began writing for various online and print publications as a way to unwind (I was studying Classical History and English full-time, so light reading…) and also as a way to find new bands here, get into the larger shows on a uni student’s budget – aka $0 – and also score some CD’s I perhaps wouldn’t normally buy.
I knew interviewing musicians was something I’d always wanted to do; finding out more about how they got to where they are and hopefully getting to just have some really cool experiences with artists who I both admired and ones who were yet to have their break, but were making some really cool music. When I first started working as a teenager, a good chunk of my paycheck would be spent on buying issues of US Rolling Stone, Mojo or Q Magazine and poring over the latest features David Fricke, Paul Trynka and Sylvie Simmons would have published. I don’t even want to think about how much cash I dropped on magazines from 2006-2008…
Once I’d come on board with the AU, I decided to focus on building a career here because I felt like there needed to be a national outlet covering the Adelaide music scene that wasn’t one of the other ‘majors’ and I really vibed on the site’s direction from the early days – supporting writers and photographers regardless of their experience and discovering some great music along the way. I took on the SA Editor’s role during second year at University and then gradually began taking on more responsibilities after I graduated, so I guess you could say it’s snowballed a bit for me.
Do you believe that university/higher education is necessary to work in the music industry?
Tough one – for me personally, I’d say no. If you’re wanting to get a foot in the door as a music writer, a university degree is not going to be the thing to get you over the line. Volunteering, freelancing and writing as much as you can within your local scene builds up experience you simply can’t get through a uni course though in saying this, I wouldn’t have done it any differently. Juggling a full-time study workload while attending festivals, live shows and any networking opportunity I could get myself into taught me about the importance of deadlines, not accepting anything less than the best (works both ways, too) and an ability to multitask and not crack (completely) under the pressure.
When I first started establishing relationships with key industry figures I still maintain strong networks with now, I was approaching the final exams of my entire degree and it was fucking hard. But I got through it and felt like I could do anything afterward. Obviously, I’m not superhuman, but that feeling of accomplishment because you’ve survived being thrown in the deep end is something I try to chase every day.
What tips would you give an artist trying to succeed in Australia? Is there a certain route they should take?
I’d never try to offer advice to any artist in terms of what route they should be taking in order to succeed because, well, I’m still trying to figure that one out myself regularly! Aren’t we all, in some way? My one main tip would probably be to try and remain as true to yourself as possible and avoid the image of ‘the industry’ that dictates you need to sacrifice your love for the craft to get ahead. Once you fall out of love with what you’re doing, that’s when you know something needs to change. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, definitely don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t forget that surrounding yourself with great people outside of ‘the business’ is probably one of the most vital weapons you can have in your arsenal when it comes to staying sane and keeping perspective.
What are the biggest issues/potential issues do you think the current Australian music industry face?
Obviously there are many issues facing our industry at present, whether that be the problems live music venues are facing across the board, lack of funding, it’s seemingly endless. I think there needs to be more respect given to community radio (see: Radio Adelaide’s current state of affairs) and arts bodies by government, for sure. Independent artists need this platforms, volunteers need these avenues to develop their skills; how are these artists expected to thrive and become the types of artists that will be hungrily claimed as ‘Australian exports’ once the international tours come knocking, if they’re having their legs kicked out from underneath them?
I think the fact that there still aren’t many realistic paid opportunities for younger people entering the industry now, is still a huge problem. It infuriates me that music journalism in today’s climate is synonymous with empty clickbait in some cases and the latter will be the content that gets the cash and the hits, which then feeds the next and the next. It’s something I know I just have to roll with in a lot of ways, but it’s no less aggravating.
It’s a constant hustle to establish a financially sustainable independent business in the online sphere especially and I’m the first to admit that yes, I’m not yet in a position to be paying my writers and photographers, as much as I would love to. Hell, it’s hard enough even sustaining myself a lot of the time, as I’m sure a lot of other people in the field can agree with. I’m sure we’d all love to be as confident as Rihanna on “Bitch Better Have My Money” but y’know, we all gotsta pay rent at the end of the day…money is always going to be an issue across the board, whatever artistic field you find yourself in.
Have you had to overcome any challenges/adversity throughout your career? If so, can you tell us about them and how you approached them?
I’m the first to admit how lucky I’ve been in terms of career achievements so far. There are very few things I would have done differently over the last five or six years. Establishing a work/personal life balance has been the constant challenge but I feel like in the last year or so, I’ve learned to not care as much over every little thing and just accept that I can’t actually be on top of everything at work and be a good, functioning social person outside it all. Just doesn’t work.
Taking on more editorial, managerial responsibilities at around 21 or 22 also brought with it its challenges, some I still find myself running into today; being at conferences or industry and having men twice my age assuming I was either an assistant, dating a band member or turning from being enthusiastic about working with me into slightly hesitant because of my age. It’s very easy to feel like your worth in this industry is weighted upon your age and gender (let’s be real, here, in a lot of ways, it still is), but what I also learned very quickly is that such perspectives can be shattered as easily as they’re formed. I learned not to give a fuck, just kept on working hard and doing me – the results would come through in the work myself and my crew were doing and now I can say that I enjoy some solid working relationships with those who would have intimidated me in the past.
What has been your most memorable moment of your career thus far?
I don’t think I could pick out one defining memorable moment, there have been way too many! Representing for the AU at Lollapalooza in Chicago and then in Berlin (two in one allowed?) though, would have to be up there. The trip I made out to Chicago for the festival in 2014 was the first time I’d gone overseas solo for an ‘assignment’ and it was an eye opener. Similarly, being in Berlin for the first ever European leg in the festival’s history last year was an absolute trip and a half. I was representing the only Australian press outlet on ground, not to mention being one of the only native English speaking press members, and it was again, a learning obstacle but also a tonne of fun. I saw out the final night of the festival in Muse’s dressing room interviewing Dom Howard half an hour before they went on to perform a headline set to near on 90,000. That was pretty cool.
If you could interview anyone in the music world (alive or dead) who would it be?
It’s a tie between Lennon (circa A Hard Day’s Night) and Questlove. Lennon for the banter and Questlove just because I think he’s a bloody genius.
Who are your role models whether they be international/Australian?
I’m very lucky to be surrounded by some amazingly talented people who continue to inspire. Larry Heath (Founder of the AU) always continues to baffle me with his ideas and continued passion to see things through. I owe a lot to where I am now to the influence of people like Emily Cheung (On the Map PR), Leanne de Souza (former artist manager, Thelma Plum, The Medics, Katie Noonan etc) and Mel Lewis (Manager, NGAIIRE) – incredibly strong women who’ve achieved so much and have a work ethic that I can only hope to emulate with half as much coolness and flair. I also look up to the likes of Jess Hopper (that BIGSOUND keynote was incredible), Jen Long, and Solange Knowles (adopt me, Solange).
How do you relax when things are stressful?
Put me in front of the TV with a glass of wine and the perfect double whammy that is Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder and I’m sound as a pound.
What does 2016 hold for you? Any exciting things that you can tell us about?
There are some cool things in the works – with the AU undergoing some internal and creative changes over the New Year, I’m really looking forward to seeing where we go in terms of creating and curating content that will have appeal to a wide range of readers throughout 2016. I’m off to SXSW for my third year (the AU’s seventh) in a few weeks, which will be a lot of fun; every year I come home from Austin feeling exhausted and whinging ‘Never again!’ as a result but there’s nothing more exciting than being able to be discover some incredible musicians ahead of their Australian debut appearances (or indeed, their big break globally), as well as some bucket-list category artists in some interesting venues.
I really enjoyed being involved in judging the Australian Music Prize this year. It was challenging, eye opening and it gave me an opportunity to connect with some other awesome members of our industry who are as passionate as Australian music as I am
Top 3 artists to watch?
I fell in love with Hein’s music at Falls over New Year’s – vocally, he’s brilliant and the stage presence he’s displaying now with a band behind him only points to more great things to come from him throughout this year.
I’ve been banging on about NGAIIRE for ages now to anyone who’ll listen but I’ll do it again here. Just watch this woman take off and bring her brilliance to more and more people – her upcoming album is one I’ll be first in line to get a copy of.
One of the most talented young bands to have come out of Adelaide in the last few years for sure. Their recently released debut album is one of my favourite rock records of this year, even though we’re only three months in!
What is the best piece of advice that you’ve received?
Things happen in their own time – you can’t force it.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
“Still D.R.E” by Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg.
Still takin’ my time to perfect the beat and I still got love for the streets…