Interview: Timothy Carroll (part II)

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This is the second of a multi-part interview with an amazing Brisbane singer-songwriter named Timothy Carroll. In this second part Timothy talks about arts funding, living in Sweden, visiting Berlin and the challenges of making music independently.


Part I can be read here.

Brisbane residents can see Timothy play at the Joynt on Wednesday 16 and 23 November.
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When are you recording the next album?

I teamed up with a manager about the last half-year, a friend of mine who’s pretty savvy and hasn’t actually worked that much in the music business but it’s been great to have him to build some more concrete plans and bounce ideas off … We’re looking at a schedule of potentially going in in December and January to have the recording of tracks done then … But I don’t want to put to much of a deadline on when it’s going to be done because I don’t want to feel pressured. When I did The Deepest Dive EP I was going to Sweden, and it had to be done by this really inflexible date and it was a little bit of hard pressure, and I don’t really want to have that pressure again. Recording in December/January and then early next year is the plan.

And do you want to stay independent? I would imagine it’s a lot of extra work in terms of promotion and distribution – well, you’re distributing online mainly – but ideally would you like a record company to come along and say they’d help you out.

I’m not really that fussed about it, but I tell you the money side of things is kind of freaking me out a bit at the moment. Going into making a record is really expensive. Studio time, and you have to pay the musicians, then printing CDs, and then if you want to go down into doing some degree of press and publicity and promotion, and that’s before you’ve even looked into touring or anything. And so it’s a little bit scary when you’re at this end of it, when you’re just way in the red, you know. So some financial support from somewhere would be awesome. I went for a grant from Arts Queensland but was unsuccessful with that, so I’m again funding this next round of recording out of my credit card and savings. Arts Queensland said we were pretty close but weren’t successful, so I’m kind of moving on now. The grants are a funny beast because they take a long time to do and then you have to wait a very long time also to get an outcome, like six months, and you’re pinning hopes around that and then it falls through, not only have you not got the grant but you’ve lost some of that time. But I’m just going to move forward now and fund it myself, and if I can sell a thousand CDs – which isn’t a huge number – it’ll more or less pay for itself.

It’s interesting you say a thousand, because there is someone – I forget who it is – who has worked out that if you have 1000 true fans, that as an artist you can make a living that way.

Well, great! That’s what I need. I have a job as well – I’m a social worker, and I work four days a week doing that. So I don’t need to make a living [at music] but it’d be nice for the art to pay for itself at least.

Are you back from Sweden permanently, or are you to-ing and fro-ing?

We’re back now for a while – my partner’s from Stockholm, so that’s why we were over there. She’s got permanent residency in Australia now and she’s got two years of uni to do here, so we’ll definitely be around for two years, and then I don’t know what will happen after that. I adore Sweden and was learning the language while I was over there, and I’ve got some dear friends and family over there, and I would love to go back and spend another chunk of time. And another thing was that while I was away for that year, it was so wonderful to have enough time to be able to write and to get into the space where I was just someone who was writing music. Because when I’m back here in Brisbane working as a social worker and managing that side of life, I do find it harder to write. I can still perform and do shows and that side of things, but that pure creative process of writing, I find it somewhat challenging to sit down and do it.

It’s incredibly challenging. I don’t know how anyone does it. I guess that’s why the patronage system of the Renaissance was effective, because someone else would take care of all the concerns like making money and running a household, which all takes time and energy away from being creative.

I went to Berlin three times while I was living in Stockholm, because it was just so close and easy and cheap. And there’s a community of Australian artists that I was lucky enough to be hanging out with over there, so that’s kind of the model they’re using – living in Berlin because it’s so affordable and rent is really cheap and food is really cheap, so they can make a living from their art and really focus on it. And there were painters and sculptors and musicians and film-makers all kind of living in a community and interacting, and there was a real symbiosis of everybody living next to each other and inspiring each other. Just to spend some time amongst that – and we did some recording over there – was really inspiring. So that’s a model. Maybe I could do that.

Brisbane is getting more expensive to live in, I guess, but it’s certainly been fertile ground for musicians for the last few years, or it seems to have been. Given that Brisbane seems to produce a fair amount of rock music, do you feel like you could technically call yourself part of the Brisbane musical scene, or do you stand somewhat apart from it?

I’m feeling quite apart from it at the moment, just having been away for a year. And a year’s not that long, really, but it feels like a long time coming back. I go out and see music fairly often – it’s what I like to do on the weekend – and there are lots of bands that I’ve never heard of and whole scenes that I hadn’t seen. So I do feel a bit different. I feel kind of old, as well. There are all these young bands – 21 years olds, really talented, really eclectic bands happening. So it’s quite interesting and I guess they’re going to start performing more and you can work out what’s going on.

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