Jade is a North Queensland based woman who has taken a passion for music journalism and created something amazing. Girl At A Rock Show is her brand that encompasses the many hats she wears as a professional in the industry, while also welcoming in other women who share her vision!
She recently took some time out of her hectic schedule to answer a few questions and give us a peek into the world that is Girl At A Rock Show.
Hi Jade! Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into music journalism?
As a little kid in the 1980’s I was lucky enough to be introduced to punk rock, vinyl records, and music television by my older cousin who lived next door. I was a fan of The Sex Pistols in nappies and by the age of three or four I wanted to be like Molly Meldrum and interview bands. I thought you had to do that on TV, though. I was a painfully shy kid and thought I was too ugly for telly, so I decided to be a vet until the age of about nine, when I discovered magazines like Smash Hits. I was always pretty good at English at school, so the fact I could marry the two together was unfathomable.
I was always pretty nerdy when it came to music. I’d read The History of Australian Rock’n’Roll or Music Business for fun. Never attempted to learn an instrument, though; that side of things has never interested me. When I went to uni I studied Arts majoring in Journalism and Law as a dual degree, but two years in I failed Torts because I hated it, and was told I could no longer major in Journalism as they had a whole new degree for that. So I gave Law the flick and switched to a Bachelor of Journalism. During my first year I had pretty much marched into the office of the uni paper and told them I would write their music content, and somehow became their Sub-Editor in the process. I started interviewing bands before I was old enough to go to their concerts.
Who was the first artist you ever interviewed? And on a scale of 1 – 10 how nervous were you?
I actually don’t remember who my first interview was with now! Isn’t that terrible!? I do know it was either Jebediah, Frenzal Rhomb, Killing Heidi or Shihad. I know that all four of those bands were amongst my first interviews because back in those days (2001/2002) they were playing the uni club circuit and I had loved them all throughout high school, so interviewing them was surreal. I guess if I had to put it on a scale of nerves, maybe a seven because I’m naturally a pretty anxious person anyway! Haha.
I did meet and photograph Jebediah about 30 seconds before they walked on stage at Scene & Heard in Cairns last month and was about a 13 on the nerve scale BECAUSE they were one of the first bands I had interviewed and I didn’t want to make them late for their stage call, so we literally had seconds to shoot. I had the stage manager waiting behind me to take them up and they were one of my first touring band portraits as well, it was super nerve-wracking. But I had an instant rapport with two of them especially, which I think is pretty evident in the photos. I was pretty happy with what we got under the circumstances.
If you had to choose only one more person (alive or dead) to interview in your career, who would it be?
ONLY ONE?! Oh gosh… Look, the shallow side of me says Dave Le’Aupepe from Gang of Youths but I’m pretty confident that that will happen one day whether I put it out into the Universe this way or not… so… I’m going to roll with Kurt Cobain. I was only turning 11 when Kurt passed, so I was just starting to get into his music. What a complex individual! I would love to get into some really philosophical questioning with him. I think he would be a really hard subject to interview because I feel like he somewhat resented fame, or at least the ‘celebrity’ aspect of it, and a lot of that is due to media representations of him and the focus on his relationship and all the BS that came with it. But I think once you made a connection with him he would be a hella good subject.
You started Girl At A Rock Show in 2011 and you wear a number of hats in your professional career from Photography to PR to selling merchandise at gigs. How do you describe Girl At A Rock Show and what you do to someone you’ve just met?
When someone asks what I do, I usually respond with, “I’m a journalist, publicist, photographer and merch manager, working mostly with touring bands and comedians in North Queenslnad.” It pretty much covers everything in a nutshell; most people understand what each of those roles entails, what touring bands and comedians are, and where North Queensland is. If they want to get into the nitty gritty, then I will explain more about mentoring and giving women and girls opportunities in music media (journalism and photography), and that the business basically began as a blog so that I could utilise my skills in journalism and photography and maintain my contacts in an industry I love whilst ‘recovering’ from what I now know is a chronic illness that’s actually never going to go away. I thought it was something like glandular fever – it was fibromyalgia. So, the blog turned into a business and a brand that I could build to work from the couch or even bed if I needed to. It took a while to hone what services I wanted to focus on, but we got there in the end.
What are the top 3 experiences you’ve had so far through Girl At A Rock Show?
Well, we got approved for the ARIA Awards a few years ago but I was unable to fly down to attend it myself. I was able to send a girl who had just graduated high school and she did a fantastic job shooting a gallery of red carpet arrivals and winners and writing about her experience. This year, though, I guessed when the ceremony would be and booked sale flights in April because I wasn’t going to miss out. I’m in Sydney for five days at the end of this month and am beside myself with excitement.
I was also recently chosen as a regional delegate to attend the second annual Australian Women in Music Awards & Forums in Brisbane. Regional delegates were flown down for the duration of the program, they looked after us incredibly well, put us up in a beautiful hotel and we were able to attend some amazing panels addressing themes relating to culture and politics and race and gender stereotyping in the music industry that affect women both on stage and behind the scenes. The awards ceremony was a great warm up for the ARIAs – not quite as long, haha – and the networking experience was incredible! I made some really good friends down there, some of whom I’m already planning to catch up with in Sydney this month.
I think there’s one thing that continually crops up. People knowing the name, “Girl at a Rock Show,” or knowing the brand. People I don’t know that know who I am. Example: I have had someone run up to me in a car park and start talking to me excitedly because they’ve recognised my car decal. Or they come up to me at an event excited to meet me because they follow my social media and ‘love my work’ and for a minute I usually freak out wondering how they know me until I realise I’m wearing a t-shirt with ‘Girl at a Rock Show’ emblazoned on it. One of my girls in Melbourne recently shot portraits of a band that’s been around for 20+ years and I said to her, “Say hello to the singer and tour manager for me,” knowing they know who I am. Next day she reported back that the guitarist – whom I’ve had very little to do with – also knew who I was, just not that my name was Jade. He knew me as ‘Girl at a Rock Show.’ I guess I can’t be mad at that. At least I know the branding is working within the industry itself.
You’ve been quite open on your social media about having fibromyalgia and struggling at times with your mental health. How have you learnt to juggle caring for your wellbeing with the pressures of running Girl At A Rock Show?
I have had to swallow quite a lot of pride and learnt how to say no to things. Another big thing that I still struggle with is asking for help. I try to avoid over-committing but some months are more tour-heavy than others, that’s just the nature of the beast, it’s all cyclical.
Earlier in the year I worked four merch gigs over two weekends with Butterfingers and Peking Duk and started getting sick right before show one. My best friend is on the Girl team and she was thankfully able to come work the shows with me, and at one show she literally had to do all the bending and lifting because my back was spasming and I couldn’t move in certain directions. I am quite good at putting on a façade so people that are just meeting me wouldn’t know what’s going on underneath the surface, particularly when I’m working merch which is all about customer service. I think it’s vital to discuss things like chronic illness and mental health issues, and I am incredibly proud of the fact the core Girl team all identify as having a disability of some type.
For me, photography was a critical element in getting me back to shows. When I first got sick I stopped going out entirely; people thought I had left town. By the time I started Girl, my anxiety was so bad I needed the camera to hide behind. Nowadays, I can’t go to a gig unless I’m taking photos or selling merch. If I can hide back or side of stage where I don’t have to deal with the crowd I might consider going, but generally you won’t find me at any show if I’m not there with a camera or selling t-shirts. I need a purpose for being there. I also have a lot of trouble standing for the duration of shows now – festivals are particularly bad – but have found that generally security guards are really sweet and most know who I am now, they know I follow the three song rule and don’t use flash and don’t try to sneak backstage and all that jazz, so they’re usually happy to let me sit on the step inside the barrier once I’ve finished shooting. Which is also great because carrying $8,000 worth of camera gear through a crowd of rowdy people with drinks is a nightmare, especially at my size!
View this post on Instagram
REAL TALK 🗣🗣🗣 Today has not been a great day. I am physically, mentally and emotionally drained. I trashed about 30 hours worth of photo edits this morning because I hated everything. I am a big advocate for mental health (and an ambassador for @entertainmentassist) so I don’t wanna hide this shit or gloss over it. It’s real. It happens. It’s okay. I know it’ll pass. But for now, whilst the logical side of me is saying, “work is the best it’s been ever,” the anxious side of me is saying, “you’re a fucking imposter.” The logical side says, “do the thing,” while the anxious side says, “don’t do it, you’re just gonna suck at it. Everyone will laugh at your pathetic attempts.” And so on. I know it’s only a matter of time before I’m back to normal. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that some days things aren’t rosy. Some days it’s a struggle. That’s okay. I think there’s a reason why post-cyclone sunsets are extra beautiful… everything has been cleansed. Bodies and brains are the same. Storms create rainbows. 🌈 I’ll be back and better than ever very soon. 🤘🖤 #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealth #blackdog #fibromyalgia #fibrowarriors #realtalk #anxiety #anxietyproblems #itsokaynottobeokay #irregularprogramming
You recently shared a post to your Facebook Page stating that over 50% of musicians experience moderate to severe depression. That’s a frightening statistic! Do you think there’s anything the music industry can do to start turning this figure around? And what can the general public do differently to help support artists?
The music industry is a tough one. I mean, I look around at how many people I know – and sadly more in America than Australia – that have lost friends, band mates and colleagues to accidental or intentional overdose or substance abuse and I just get so sad.
These people are under pressure from their record labels to make money – even moreso in today’s climate. The suits want bangers that everyone is going to want to listen to in order to get that $0.006 to $0.0084 cents per Spotify play. Management can sometimes treat them like performing monkeys. Crews have been cut back to save money, so quite often artists are out on the road with one guy who is the roadie, tech and tour manager all rolled into one; some solo acts are just that – completely alone. They’re away from their homes and families at least half the week. If they’re trying at all to stay on the wagon in terms of sobriety you’ll usually find they’ll avoid going out and stay in their hotel room as much as possible when they’re not traveling, sound checking or performing. It’s a pretty bloody lonely existence, really. And then when they do venture out of the hotel room, they have people shoving drinks in their face (which is okay if they’re not trying to stay sober – a lot of artists are, these days) or trying to be their best friend. I have gone out with bands after shows and it’s honestly exhausting and can be really intimidating! You get these complete strangers coming up talking a mile a minute, wanting photos and hugs and on the one hand I get it, but I also think, ‘they’re off the clock, let them relax.’
North Queensland is also hard because you’re in the car for 4-5 hours between shows, so really you’re checking out of one hotel, sitting in the car for hours, checking into the next hotel, sound checking, doing the show and then getting up and doing it all again the next day.
I think the fact many artists go home Monday through Wednesday and are out on the road Thursday through Sunday now helps a lot. I know many I’ve spoken to said they look forward to that down time and recalibration every week. That never happened in the ‘90s or ‘00s. So that’s a step in the right direction for sure. Also, the fact that we’re having these conversations is a great start.
In terms of what the general public can do… just remember I guess that people in bands are, at the end of the day, just people. They have the same emotions and boundaries and anxieties and stresses and cravings and issues the rest of us do. Just because someone has written a great song doesn’t mean their trash takes itself out, you know? Just show some respect and some boundaries and, if you meet your favourite musician and they seem to be having a rough day, ask if they’re okay. That will probably mean more to them than a free drink.
One of the Girl At A Rock Show team members is only 9 years old. Can you tell us a little about her role within the team and how you help mentor someone so young?
I met Ava Jane’s mum Jen in a Facebook group for female music photographers around the world, and she mentioned her daughter AJ was really passionate about music and had started attending gigs with her and taking photos herself, but she was really interested in interviewing bands and Jen was a bit lost as to how to guide her. So I’ve basically gone through Journalism 101 with Jen, and she has helped AJ through writing her questions and been the conduit between us (the time difference makes it tricky to chat with AJ herself). It’s pretty much been focused on getting AJ comfortable using lines of questioning that builds a connection between herself and the artists and for the most part that has been school and music, because those are both topics most musicians and 8-year olds that love music can relate to!
Like I told her, it’s okay to ask, “What was your favourite subject in school?” because you might expect it to be music but it may be drama or maths or science. From there, if they’re a band that likes to dress up a lot or make big theatrical video clips you could ask if their love of drama led to them doing that with the band now. So, focusing on asking open-ended questions, leading questions, actively listening to what they say. Jen shoots her videos so because I speak to her and she gets what I’m saying she’s able to prompt AJ when needed. I’ve had some issues with the website holding clips longer than a few minutes so hopefully I’ll be able to get more of AJ’s videos up soon, she’s doing so great. I’m really proud of her.
What advice would you give to anyone out there wanting to follow in your footsteps and get themselves into music journalism?
Honestly, just do it. Find a publication – Girl has plenty of people asking to shoot but not enough people wanting to write, I’m always looking for good reliable writers and I’m sure many other publications are as well – and start. It isn’t for everyone, I’ll be upfront about that. Not everyone is built for it. Not everyone can write engaging copy that people want to read, especially when we’re all bombarded with so much content from so many sources. Not everyone can build fast connections with people and make them feel at ease; which is especially important when 90% of the interviews you do will be over the phone and you’ll have 15 minutes to get all you need. If you had told my mum 30 years ago that her kid would be on the red carpet at the ARIA Awards interviewing musicians I have zero doubt she would have laughed in your face because I. Was. That. Shy. All of these things can be learned if you find the right people to guide you, or hell, if you just happen to find a fire in your belly like I did and you find a way to fake it til you make it. Find your voice, make it unique, and go do your thing!
And finally, how can our readers follow and support Girl At A Rock Show?
Our main social channels are facebook.com/girlatarockshow and Instagram.com/girlatarockshowofficial – I also share some non-music related photography on Facebook.com/girlatarockshowimagery. Of course our website is girlatarockshow.com and that has all the links and info as well!