Brett Goldsmith: Musician and Photographer
Brett Goldsmith is a photographer based between Melbourne and Byron Bay. He has been traveling and shooting photos professionally for over two decades.
In a former life Brett was a songwriter and touring musician. Roaming the world at a young age he learned that life is about living the moment. With the street as his ever changing landscape, Brett shoots from the cuff, capturing the honesty and straightforwardness of the everyday. His pictures are both thought provoking and moving.
(Taken from Brett Goldmith’s website, you can find out more about him by visiting his website)
This interview was originally published back in July 2013.
TSM: Brett, it’s such a pleasure to have you in TSM. Thanks so much for doing an interview for the magazine.
BG: My pleasure, thanks for having me.
TSM: Firstly, have you always wanted to be both a musician and photographer? I know that you’ve been on the music scene since your youth, but how long have you been a photographer?
BG: I have been a working photographer for about ten years. I never really planned being into both, but I took a break from writing and recording music for a few years, and was looking for something else to do. I borrowed a 35mm film camera and started shooting pictures. I pretty much started working from that moment on. I read countless books, and studied images of shots by my photo’s hero’s like Henri Cartier-Bresson plus other street and fashion photographers from the 50′s onwards. I knew other pro photographers from my time in music, so I assisted them on shoots as often as I could.
Both mediums are creative, technical & sometimes frustrating. Not every song written and every photo taken makes the cut. If you put yourself in the right place at the right time you may get what you need or find something special.
TSM: What inspired you to get into both music and photography?
BG: My father operated nightclubs and bars his whole career, so my sisters and I were always around musicians and artists at his bars. I started collecting vinyl and he let me spin records when I was fifteen. I listened to everything I could get my hands, plus Olivia would come to visit and bring me instruments to play. I was and still am inspired by music I hear, both new and old. I love to practice everyday if I can. I’m pretty much obsessed with high end camera’s, lenses and recording equipment. It’s a compulsion many photographers and musicians have, and always will.
TSM: Tell us a bit about your debut album Ordinary Life and why you called it that.
BG: “Ordinary life” was the first song I wrote after a long break and the first time back recording. I knew I wanted to base these new songs around the acoustic guitar and vocals, but I didn’t know if that would work for me. I recorded the vocals and knew that this was what I felt comfortable with doing. If your asking what is the song about…it covers the feelings that most people have on an ordinary day when we fall flat and uninspired about ourselves. Once that feeling passes you realise that’s all we can do and have done extraordinary things. I liked that message.
TSM: What’s your process for writing lyrics? And where do you get the inspiration for your songs?
BG: I write the guitar part first, and when I think I have some good changes I open up a mic, and sing anything that comes out. I don’t write lyrics down on paper, I just sing words and the first verse, or the chorus will find itself. Wherever those lyrics and melodies end up I can then build the story from there. Sometimes i have a subject in mind already, but the melody is the important first step. The ideas for lyrics are there already, you just need the music to get them out.
TSM: What was it like performing with rock legend James Reyne?
BG: This was my first real job as a bass player outside the pop band Chantoozies I was in with my sister Tot. He is a brilliant lyricist and performer. James turned me on to the great American writers from the Beat generation; he encouraged me to read books to be a better writer and I got to play with so many talented Australian musicians. I wrote a few tunes with him, and toured Australia and the US for about four years.
TSM: You’ve also written and produced Olivia Newton- John’s forthcoming EP. Can you tell us about it?
BG: Olivia and I wrote a few songs together a few years ago when I was staying with her in LA. We did some quick demos and I went back to Australia to put the production together. If she was in Australia I would set up a portable studio in her hotel room and we would record a few things together. Some of the recordings on this EP are the originals from back then and she also covered my album track “Ordinary life.” There are a few dance mixes of these songs that may appear as well. Think it gets a release this year sometime.
TSM: Speaking of your Aunt Olivia Newton-John, can you share something special about her that people might not know?
BG: She is very special. I was lucky enough to travel the world with her as a teenager during the hay day of post Grease and Physical tours. An amazing time as you can imagine, and to grow up and write songs with her is the best. She cares about so many people in her cancer fund-raising efforts and the building of her wellness centre in Melbourne. I can’t begin to remember all the causes and individuals she helps that are not made public. PS. She has perfect pitch and I’m envious.
TSM: Who are your major music influences?
BG: I grew up listening to bands like Pink Floyd, Beatles, Neil Young, James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac , Little Feat and 70′s rock. My dad operated clubs so I got to listen to most genres, too many to name. My favourite artist at the moment is “The Tallest Man on Earth,”just one man with a guitar and his songs. True artists with talent in all genres are a pleasure to watch and hear.
TSM: Getting back to photography…what are your favorite subjects to photograph and why?
BG: Street photography is great fun and really challenging, but it’s not so easy these days to walk around with big pro SLR. You need to choose your camera carefully and use stealth to not be noticed. When you want to shoot a person’s face and they see you, there is a split second of eye contact between you both, and then you know if it’s ok or not to shoot. People skills and timing are a must. Portraits are great to shoot; peoples eyes are the focus and can tell a story when it all comes together. I started out commercially shooting fashion, both studio and location work. I still like it, but it’s not as important to me as my other personal work.
TSM: What is your process for a photo shoot?
BG: If your meaning commercial work, I guess like all full time photographers, researching the creative and technical. The location, the lighting conditions, time of day, how many shots are needed, what equipment will do the job. Finding reference shots online and in books is a plus knowing in your mind what the image should feel like in mood and attitude before you even use the camera. For my own personal work I carry a camera everywhere I go.
TSM: If you had the power to do something in the world today, what would it be and why?
BG: No one should be homeless. Food, water and wealth must be shared throughout the world. Cancer must be cured, and people afflicted with mental illness and their carers need more understanding. And stop hurting animals. Enough already!
TSM: What is one of your favorite quotes (or lines) that inspires you?
BG: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr.
TSM: Anything else you’d like to share? And where can our readers find out more about you and your work?
BG: I’m back at out farm recording new song ideas for an EP at the end of the year. My images and music links are on the site below. Hope your readers go and have a look and listen, and maybe like or follow. http://brettgoldsmith.com.au
TSM: Thanks again for doing this interview and best of luck with everything in the future.
BG: Thanks Jessica, nice to talk to you.