With the saltwater of the Far South Coast of NSW and the crystal clear water of the Snowy Mountains running through his veins, Jack Biilmann has been surrounded by inspiration his whole life. After five years of national and international touring, six single releases, thousands of Spotify plays and two full length albums. Biilmann has paved a reputation as one of Australia’s most talented singer/songwriter/guitarists.
His tribute Forever Unbeaten* dedicated to fallen cricketer Phillip Hughes in 2016 was internationally acclaimed. Biilmann’s second solo album, Streams released in 2017 charted at #3 on the iTunes singer/songwriter charts and #14 on the Australian Independent Record Labels Association album charts. The Hills Have Eyes released in 2018 debuted at #1 on the Australian ITunes charts.
The last four years has seen Biilmann play over a two hundred live shows/festivals per year while sharing the stage on the festival circuit with some of the country’s biggest artists including John Farnham, The Cat Empire, Tash Sultana, Bobby Alu, Citizen Kay, Ian Moss, Mat Mchugh (The Beautiful Girls), Jay Whalley (Frenzal Rhomb), Abbe May and Kim Churchill.
Vocally Biilmann is a true story teller and has gained vocal comparisons to Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Caleb Followill of Kings of Leon. Biilmann’s songs and guitar playing caught the eye of world renowned guitar brands Gibson & Maton guitars resulting in official player partnerships.
THE STREET TALKED TO JACK BEFORE HIS SHOW AND PERFORMANCE OF NEW SONGS.
WHY MUSIC? TELL US ABOUT YOUR MUSIC JOURNEY.
Music was always in the forefront of my mind. From getting up early to watch Rage and video hits to then mucking around on the guitar as a child, it was always going to be a big part of my life. It fell in my lap at 17 when I had to choose an elective at school and music which resulted in a 90% mark for the HSC despite the fact I cannot read music and play by ear. From there my career built with my first record release in 2009, membership of two bands, a running total of 17 releases and comfortably 1000 shows in Australia and internationally.
WHAT COMES FIRST FOR YOU IN WRITING SONGS – THE WORDS OR THE MUSIC?
Usually the guitar comes first as I always have a stockpile of riffs/chords/ideas from playing about 3 hours of guitar a day. Sometimes the guitar ideas take 4 years to be touched and others a matter of days. I then link them to a mood or the tone of a lyrical idea and piece it together from there as there is usually a great matching pair. My new album has a few songs with the opposite order of creation with lyrics coming first which was a really nice surprise which I hope to build on.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR NEW ALBUM, FULL CIRCLE?
The full circle concept is about everything coming back around and the changing nature of the life we all live and how I see it. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s new and sometimes it’s sad. The album captures that way of thinking, moments of defiance, love, sadness and some darker themes that I have not ever written about. I think this is most definitely the most complete collection of songs I have released to date and am really proud of it. The growth I have experienced in this album process will always be cherished.
YOU HAVE TOURED AROUND THE WORLD AND PERFORMED MANY TIMES IN CANBERRA. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CANBERRA AUDIENCES?
Canberra is my adopted home of 8 years so it has seen my development and supported its growth from the small stages right through to now. Being on stage in Canberra feels like home and I always get very excited to play this show on any touring loop as it’s always the most well attended and the biggest venue on the tour. My relationship is extremely strong with many of my loyal followers turning up show after show for many years and I always enjoy some post show beers with the crowd. I feel a great sense of proudness when I play in front of the audience who took me in and passionately support me in my adopted home.
WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO COLLABORATION AND WORKING WITH OTHER MUSICIANS?
I think it’s something every musician should do because seeing your art through other people’s eyes and learning from that process is an extremely powerful way to amp up your own creativity. I am really looking forward to really exploring this world more and more after the completion of my album tour with plenty of plans to collaborate.
WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON THE MUSIC SCENE IN CANBERRA AND NATIONALLY?
The Canberra scene is unbelievable! There is literally an artist of every genre here that is truly world class with a fantastic supportive culture which spurs each other on. I’m excited to see it continue to grow. I feel we are all grossly overlooked but the tides are certainly changing as the industry is starting to catch on. For me the overall Australian scene will really hit its straps when our government backs musicians as an essential part of our society to really reignite the live music culture. Covid-19 has ripped our scene to shreds and we need help. There have been so many positive steps in the right direction which I hope continue.
WHAT IS INSPIRING YOU IN MUSIC?
I have never been more inspired to be myself if that makes sense. I think I have really got a firm grip on who I am as an artist and am truly comfortable. I have really embraced what I do have rather than looking at what I might not necessarily have and also really embracing my heritage and everything else that makes me who I am. This is a great headspace to be in and I’m looking forward to continuing writing music and following up this new album. Sounds wise, I am really deep into the blues world and all its subgenres. I am just finding so many sounds in this space really appealing.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING AND WATCHING?
I just finished The Book of Daniel about Silverchair’s Daniel Johns. He is a huge influence on my music and it was a great read. I’m currently watching a heap of youtube videos about the blues guitarists of the 1930s-1950s. I am so obsessed with their innovative playing and trying to absorb as much of that knowledge into some new directions for my own music.
WHAT IS ON THE HORIZON FOR YOU?
I aim to finish this tour, write 10 songs between now and then, complete a really cool recording project that’s a very new concept for me and then work out whether to start recording another album or EP. Probably some trout fishing in the back country also.
Jack Biilmann performs at The Street Theatre on the 8 May 2021.