Formed by a who’s who of Aussie rock, Melbourne musician Aaron Schembri is gaining momentum
After almost 12 months without new music, last month Melbourne musician Aaron Schembri returned to the limelight with the Nashville country sensations of “The Setting Sun”.
A song he co-wrote with famed 80s songwriter Paul Norton during one of Victoria’s lockdowns last year, ‘The Setting Sun’ finds Aaron returning to his country roots, upbeat nature and breezy melody of the song a welcoming tone for ears everywhere.
A session and touring musician who has collaborated with Renee Geyer, Swanee, Kevin Borich, Russell Morris, Normie Rowe and many more, Aaron plans to release his next studio album later this year, featuring guest spots from Anthony Field. and Rob Mills.
Your new single “The Setting Sun” exudes a distinct Nashville countryside vibe; how does the track present your “current” sound?
Yeah, it has that kind of vibe. Things have changed musically in recent years. I listen to a lot of different styles of music, but the genre I always come back to is country and definitely blues.
I’m a big fan of guys like Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, The Eagles. ‘The Setting Sun’ headed for country sensation. I wrote it first on the piano, and it was almost too ballad. I watch it now and I’m glad I gave it the upbeat country kick!
The overall sound of ‘The Setting Sun’ is absolutely where I’m headed sound-wise. I really feel like it’s me.
It’s been over a year since you released new music until “The Setting Sun”; Did Melbourne’s extended closures last year impact your creative output, and if so, did it allow you to focus on other parts of your life by providing a kind of silver lining ?
Ha. The confinements. . . What can I say!
It really was a weird time to be a musician, and there were so many good and bad things about the lockdown. What was great was that I had a lot of time to myself to write and pitch demos and ideas.
There was also a lot of collaboration during the lockdowns with different people, which was a lot of fun.
I definitely think the lockdown gave me a chance to find out what I really want from myself musically. That being said, I’m totally happy and grateful with how things are going for me.
I found myself listening to a lot of music, music that I probably never would have listened to if I hadn’t had so many “downtimes”. It’s amazing how listening to music can shape who you are and what direction you take musically.
With some glimmers at the end of this pandemic tunnel, how do you approach the rest of the year in terms of music production and dare I say plan to tour and travel again?
This year, a lot is happening for me that I am very grateful for.
I’m currently doing a series of shows with my homies Sam + Sam, a great local duo who have a great work ethic. We co-wrote a song called “So Long” during one of the lockdowns, which will be released on their debut album later this year.
We finally kicked off the “Eagle Rock 50th Anniversary Tour” with Ross Wilson. It has been postponed several times over the past year due to the COVID situation.
There’s one show on the tour in particular that I’m looking forward to, and that’s Bluesfest ’22. I’ll be like a kid in a candy store as they say, so many big acts on the bill this year; and 90% Australian actors!
It’s going to be fun hitting the road with Ross Wilson. I have also been given the support slot for some tour dates, I can’t wait to release some of my new material on the road; try testing them live. I’m also going to take a trip to the US later this year, so I’m looking forward to it.
When can we expect Aaron Schembri’s next album to drop (and anything else you can share with us)?
I think this year. Maybe mid-year. I have so many new tracks that I recorded with Chris Gatz at GM Sound Studios that I can’t wait to release.
This new collection of songs has some really cool surprises. I had guests who lent their talents to the album, Anthony Field (The Wiggles), Rob Mills and also other friends in the making. I just have to keep the ball rolling.
You said in a previous interview that Paul Norton and Wendy Stapleton were like your “musician parents”; can you expand on that and share some of the things they taught you?
Yes, I have so much respect for them both. I met them a while ago, I think I was 17 or 18 at the time. I’ve done many gigs with them over the years and it’s always great fun.
Even collaborating with Paul on “The Setting Sun” was awesome; it’s great to collaborate with people who have been doing it for years. You don’t release how one-dimensional you can be until someone comes along and says, “no, it should be that way”, “or try that instead”.
One thing that always stuck with me about Paul and Wendy is that when I first met them, the advice they gave me was something like “work hard and you’ll be fine. good for you,” which, thinking about it now, is so true. I guess, do nothing and nothing will happen, right?
Away from your own music, you play as a touring musician with Renee Geyer and Ross Wilson, while the late Ross Hannaford (aka Daddy Cool) played a vital role in your development as a teenager. having all that experience and knowledge around you must have been like your own personal education in rock school?
Yeah, I love doing these shows. Just when you feel like you’ve learned it all, there’s something about these gigs that makes you realize you still have a lot to learn.
Renee Geyer’s shows are great fun. It really keeps you on your toes musically. You never know where things will go, but when they do, you have to keep up! I love her voice and the first records she released.
And the Ross Wilson shows have really come full circle for me. I remember very well the first time I saw Ross Hannaford play, he totally hypnotized me. From his acting, to his stage persona and even the way he was dressed. He had no worries in the world, he just loved playing music!
In my late teens, I studied those Daddy Cool albums and remember the guitar parts that blew my mind. Hanna was so generous with her time with me; he was just calling to check in and see what I was doing musically. And he was always asking ‘what do you think of what you’re doing?’. It really meant a lot, especially being a young teenager trying to figure out what he was doing.
I remember the first gig I did with Hanna, I was petrified and he could definitely tell. He just looked at me and said ‘you know how to play guitar, don’t you? So own it! For some reason this made me even more nervous, haha. It really felt like a work experience, something I never took for granted, even to this day.
Those early years of playing in pubs, playing with living legends, did that inspire you to look towards the next generation of gamers and what you might be able to offer anyone who wants to listen?
It’s an interesting question. I think in a way it is.
There are two young guitarists, Noah Robbo and Taj Farrant. Two immense talents that make the future of guitarists truly bright and exciting. I hope they stick with it and keep doing it because they love it.
I think the one thing I would say to young budding guitarists is to enjoy what you’re doing and don’t be afraid to jump into whatever you decide to do musically. Stand back and be proud. At least you can say you tried.
Can you tell us a bit about the guitar and tell us about some of your different guitars?
Oh there are a few! The two main ones are my Gibson ES 345 and my Gibson SG. I couldn’t live without them. I also have a few Les Pauls, a Grestch Jet, a few Teles and a Strat. Yeah, I know.
You released your debut album ‘City Lights’ in 2019, which was a labor of love type project built over several years; although as an artist you always look to the future, does this collection of songs still bring back fond memories?
In fact, it sure is. I listened to the album the other week for the first time in a few years. It made me realize how hard I worked for this album and especially how proud I am of it.
I mean, not many 25 year olds could say they’ve written songs for Normie Rowe, Ross Wilson and Swanee. It brings back special memories.
Like ‘Don’t You Worry Now’, which I started writing with Hanna just before she passed away. And also ‘Good Enough For You’, the first single I released which was a tribute to my late grandfather. So yes, it tugs at the heartstrings.
You have an upcoming gig with former footballer Russell Robertson, who also appeared in your “It’s Not Goodbye” music video; is it a creative partnership that could see more projects come together?
It’s great working with Russ. He was a champion soccer player and now a rockin’ musician.
We’re currently releasing something I wrote for Neale Danniher’s Fight MND. Russ leaned his voice over for it and totally broke it. So we’re excited to release this one in the coming months.
As a musician, what is the right number of leather jackets you should own?
The question should be “how many denim jackets do you own?” The answer is six. The leather ones? There are a few!
As a Melburnian, who do you follow in football and are you excited for the upcoming season?
I’m a Bombers man! I always like it when it’s football season. Hope the Bombers show up this year, haha.