Tiana, please tell us your story! How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in a very musical household on the Gold Coast, mum was a music teacher and despite my best rebellious efforts, I ended up falling in love with music too. Everything musically that I was surrounded by early on was very classical and “proper”, I didn’t have a very wide scope that I grew up on, but in between ballet classes and piano lessons I would secretly record Queen, The Beach Boys and Van Halen off the radio onto cassettes hidden under my bed – and that evolved into loving Metallica and Britney Spears simultaneously.
I studied music and sound production and writing at uni, then quickly tacked on a teaching degree because I had no idea how to get a job in the music industry at the time and then accidentally fell into a TV job for just shy of a decade.
Five years ago I decided to start my own music media outlet, The Soundcheck, entirely on my own, it started as a passion/hobby side-project but very quickly grew into a beast that ate all of my spare time – which in turn led to me last year working for The Music, and, until recently, running two weekly podcasts.
I now run my own independent music site The Soundcheck where I write reviews, run interviews and also do some consulting for bands for written and interview work. I’ve solely owned and run The Soundcheck now for five years and have been extremely fortunate to find and work with a community that genuinely makes me love what I do each and every day.
Tell us about your role with ‘The Soundcheck’, what does your day-to-day entail?
Until very recently, I was a full-time presenter and producer for Euphony, and I hosted and produce two weekly podcasts: The Green Room, with high profile music, actors and comedians, and Press Play, a weekly new music podcast.
Currently I am balancing a lot of creative consulting work alongside The Soundcheck’s media outlet, I am writing multiple bios and press releases for artists both for specific events/releases and general brand-building. If I’m not meeting with artists or their managers, I’m reviewing and absorbing all the music I can get my hands on, scheduling interviews and reviews, and I am also sporadically hosting video interviews on DesertTV for Mo’s Desert Clubhouse, a kickass venue on the Gold Coast. Writing, listening and talking is my livelihood, which is great news for the inner introvert in me.
What has been your proudest career achievement so far?
Turning a genuine “after hours” hobby writing about music for fun into a full-time job.
I pinch myself on the regular and still can’t quite believe it. That, and interviewing my actual guitar hero Tom Morello and having Aunty Donna show me their sketch Post-it wall.
Who are your role models in the industry, be they international or Australian?
I have undying admiration and owe a lot of my journey to all of the artists, managers, publicists and labels I work with on a daily basis – the list is endless but each and every one of them have helped shape me in a heap of different ways.
I love what people like Vicki Gordon do for women in the Aussie music industry, I love what people like Pixie Weyand are currently doing for the live sector and I love the journalist trailblazers like Lisa Robinson. And Debbie Harry has and always will be one of my OG musical icons.
Who are your top three ‘artists to watch’?
No huge secret, but Windwaker are doing BIG things and I think 2022 is going to be an insane year for them.
RedHook are also another band who will absolutely take over the world once gigs and touring are fully back on the menu, mark my words.
And a recent Press Play feature, Brisbane artist Jack Bratt; not a new face in the industry, but he just released his debut solo album and it’s sublime.
You started out as a heavy music journalist, was this always your passion and how did you get started?
I did indeed! It was all a beautiful accident, when I went to university some friends introduced me to Mike Patton, Meshuggah and similar bands.
I was already a huge grunge/alternative fan, obsessed with artists like Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder and Queens Of The Stone Age – and, like so many people, Metallica changed my world in my teens. But uni ignited my love for breakdowns and blastbeats and the beautiful chaos of the heavy world.
I think a lot of it actually stems from me growing up around classical music. As odd as it is to say, there’s a lot of correlation between classical and heavy music – technicality, precision and constant surprises. There is nothing quite like being in the same room as a bunch of people at a heavy show, it’s an instant calm and ease being surrounded by like-minded people and riffs, and I genuinely have never felt safer than when I’m at a “heavy” gig. Plus, I am not-so-secretly a diehard hair metal fan and always probably wanted to grow up to be in Whitesnake or something similar, so writing about what excited me and made me happy was a no-brainer when it came time to actually pursuing this as a career.
I got started as a journalist with gusto by just waking up one day and deciding to write about Twelve Foot Ninja’s Outlier album because I got so excited listening to it the day before… the rest was history.
What advice would you give someone just starting out in music who would like to work in music journalism and podcasting? Where should they start?
I would say first and foremost: don’t wait 10 years to chase your dreams like I did. I don’t regret the other experiences I had along the way, but if it’s something you want to dive headfirst into: just do it! Check out some local outlets and see how you can contribute, or get to some local gigs and have a chat – you never know who is there and who may just be the gateway to an awesome opportunity.
Get involved in the scene, and keep grinding if it’s something you love doing. Working for yourself is great but not always a lucrative way to start out (I can attest to this), but really – the hardest thing is just to start.
If you want to start a podcast: record a pilot. If you want to get into journalism: start writing reviews and build your portfolio. Get out there, be respectful and get into it because you love it, not because you want free tickets to a gig.
What impact has COVID-19 had on your work?
The big Sydney 2021 lockdown started less than a month into me starting work with The Music and fully branching out into podcasting. It was a bit of a whiplash situation starting a new job in that setting, but luckily I already had a podcast setup at home and had done my own interviews prior. And since no one was touring or travelling, Zoom was the only way to interview people anyway. It meant less gigs and less in-person networking, but I found my network actually grew because we all actually had to speak to each other more without the usual gig hangouts. And Zoom interviews have meant my subjects are relaxed, comfortable and I’m more likely to snag internationals since the time is reduced to just the interview timeframe, not setup and travel etc, etc.
Ultimately though: COVID also meant my day job podcasting was very recently brought to a screeching halt, but it’s opened up chances for me to properly branch out on my own and grow with the skills and experience I’ve had along the way. A change is as good as a holiday!
You recently moved back to the Gold Coast from Sydney. What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about the Gold Coast’s music scene?
It is THRIVING. Back when I was growing up here the venues were very slim and everyone usually had to travel up to Brisbane to really get on the map. But there’s so many amazing venues and bands and pockets of the industry burgeoning here, both on the Goldie and the Northern Rivers, and such a diverse array of artists and genres. Heavy, indie, pop, you name it – and because it’s a smaller area, the community is way more connected and engaged. It’s so damn exciting to see!
What is your big picture career goal?
A question I absolutely should know the answer to but never really have. I am currently working to balance out continuing to build and grow The Soundcheck in a big way as I believe music media in Australia is still really struggling and there continues to be a lot of gatekeeping and not many options for artists to get featured and seen (and vice versa – the smaller outlets get overlooked in lieu of the bigger ones on the regular). I want to simultaneously grow with artists to promote and celebrate the music industry – it’s all about sharing the love and the tunes, and I’ll fight the good fight to keep that happening. And I can talk underwater, so no doubt I’ll start another podcast sometime soon…
What is the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
Never compare, work hard and be patient. I know it’s naff, but it’s three things we’re all told and say, but don’t often put into practice. If you stop comparing yourself to others and just get on with it, in time things fall into place. Hard work isn’t always the sexy option, but if you can stomach it – you’ll definitely see the results.
If you could work with any local artist, who would it be and why?
I would love to work with Northlane and Short Stack. They have some big things on the horizon and I love both equally. How exactly I could work with them remains to be seen, I’d happily carry some gear or buy a T-shirt, but I’m sure we’d find a way!
If you could time travel and see any artist from any time perform live, who would it be and why?
Arrrgghh, this is a great question. More recently, Every Time I Die, because I never got to see them live before they broke up.
But overall… it would have to be Iron Maiden and, maybe controversially, on their Somewhere Back In Time World Tour in 2008/09. Mostly so I could see Bruce Dickinson piloting their plane, but the footage from those shows is bloody jaw-dropping, and they busted out the ’80s bangers too. Hitting your peak after you’ve been touring and creating for decades? There’s hope for us all!
What does 2022 hold for you? Anything exciting you can tell us about?
2022 is a bit of an open book, with the very recent changes to my day job I am all about rebooting The Soundcheck with gusto and I’ve recently expanded into offering creative consultancy packages for artists alongside media coverage, including working with bands on their bios, press kits and bespoke interviews to help them put their best foot forward.
I have a few other irons in the fire, but for now I’m embracing change and am hell bent on fusing my passions with my work all day, every day. And more gigs and festivals please!
What is your go-to karaoke song?
Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi and I refuse to apologise.