Delving Into Davey

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Multi-instrumentalist Gawain Davey has been seen performing with a number of bands including The Light Rail, The Allganiks, and Chaos Chant. He also spent a large portion of last year touring the world with the Wayfarers Australia Choir. I caught up with him to talk about some of his experiences.


TNL: Tell me about how you got into music.

GD: That was probably in grade three or so. I saw my mum playing the piano and I used to want to do that. My sister and I would always play thunder and lightning on the piano. I would play the thunder down the bottom, she would play the lightning up the top. We would swap occasionally. Mum got me piano lessons and it went from there. Then in high school I started playing sax and eventually I chose saxophone over piano and kept going with that.

TNL: You said your mum played piano. Did you come from a musical family?

GD: Not particularly. My dad was always interested in music but never really played or sang that much. He's got a big record collection that I used to love going through as a kid. Stuff like George Harrison and Neil Diamond, all this random stuff from the '70s and '60s and 80s. So he was into music but wasn't a musician as such. Mum was an amateur pianist. She could play up to grade three standard which is basic songs with basic chords. And of course she sang in church. My sister and I always sang in church. I guess I had a generally musical upbringing.

TNL: You mentioned Neil Diamond and George Harrison. Would you say those were some of your influences? Who else has influenced you?

GD: Those things changed over time. Initially, while I listened to that stuff as a kid, I got into pop in a big way in grade six. I was listening to Celine Dion and Human Nature. (pauses) Now I'm not ashamed of this stuff, because I still love that stuff. It's a bit cheesy now, but there's something good about it that I like. Since then I got into more classical stuff because the more you play an instrument, depending on your teacher, you're going towards more classical things. I actually got into that in year eleven when I did Music Styles. We were taught how to analyse music. That really opened my mind to lots of different kinds of music, and I started to listen to jazz and classical music in new ways. We were listening to Aboriginal music, music from across the world, pop music. Everything. What my music teacher would say is that it can all be broken down into elements. And if you know those elements you can analyse anything. Suddenly, I was like "Wow, I like all music". I can appreciate all kinds of music. There's still bad music of course. It doesn't mean everything's good. So I'm interested in heaps of stuff, but I guess pop still has a heavy influence on me.

TNL: You recently toured the world with the Wayfarers Australia Choir. Tell me about some of your experiences with them and how you got into it.

GD: My friend Rohan was in the choir for a long time and he was trying to convince me to join. "Come on, Gawain. Join the choir. We're going overseas on this massive yearlong tour. It will be a life changing experience. You absolutely have to come." And I was always like "I don't know what I'll be doing then, and 2012, that's a whole year and I just can't think about it." So at the end of 2011, my job finished up and suddenly I had all of 2012 free. I was really keen to try this amazing experience. It was much, much better than I expected. What the director of the choir, Judy, provides is an opportunity for people to explore their passions. I got to explore things like conducting. I got to do more composing. I got to do teaching. All these things I wanted to develop at some point in the future but had never really planned it in. And singing. All of those things got better. Even my clarinet playing, I couldn't take my sax overseas because it was too heavy. We got standing ovations from halls of schoolkids and their parents in Taiwan. Performing in Russia, performing across Europe and in India, teaching kids in India, Seeing music from all over the world. Germany had these traditional musicians that would play at these wine festivals. Everywhere we went in Germany there were wine festivals. And there were musicians playing accordion and singing and guitar and stuff, and they were all dressed up in traditional German clothes.

TNL: You mentioned that your skills improved while you were over there. I imagine that the whole experience was very inspirational to your music.

GD: It was very inspirational, and those two things are very closely linked. I have always wanted to be a composer. I've always wanted to write music. Classical music, as well as pop songs. That might be a very idiotic thing to want because it doesn't make money, but that's what I wanted and last year I got a chance to try that because I had a whole choir willing to sing songs that I produced. I found, to my surprise, that I could write music really quickly, much faster than I have before. I found that I could write music using just a pen and paper, not with a computer. Normally you write classical music on a computer these days, but overseas I found that all I needed was a tuning fork and I could hear it all in my head. So I wrote stuff, and the choir sang it and they loved it. It also made me think a lot about structure, writing short pieces for the choir. I didn't write long pieces, I just wrote pieces that were about thirty seconds long, a minute at most. But writing short pieces makes you think about what you're going to do with materials that you have. So I got to develop my skills and I was inspired to keep going because now I'm composing at home. I'm not looking to get a job right now because I want to give my compositions space. So that's why it's been inspirational. I actually feel that composition is a real possibility for me whereas in the past I was unsure about whether I had the skills or the motivation to do it.

TNL: You recently performed your first solo show supporting your old bandmate, Warren Howden. What was that like?

GD: While overseas, I also played a couple of my own songs, on piano and voice to the choir. People loved it and I've been wanting for a long time now to spend time writing and finishing my own pieces. As well as classical pieces, I'm talking now about songs. Stuff that I sing on piano. And this year, I expressed an interest to Warren in doing my own solo shows. I said "Look, I'm finishing pieces, and at some point this year I want to start doing shows". And he said "You can support me, I've got a show coming up". And I said "Alright, that sounds great!" Originally I was going to perform with this girl called Kia who I met in the choir. She's got her own songs and I was going to perform with her. But she was in Byron that week so it was just me. And I was forced in the month before the gig to finish, to round off pieces, to polish, to do heaps of practice, to work really intensively on my pieces. And now I have a set. I have a set of pieces. Which is so exciting. I've been working for years and years to do these pieces and finally I have a set of my own pieces. It's just the best feeling ever to have music that I can play. And the gig itself, supporting Warren, was lovely. I had so many people there. So many friends. I got a standing ovation ... started by you. So that wasn't rigged at all. I did pay you for that, didn't I?

TNL: We'll work it out later.

GD: We'll work it out. (Laughs) But yeah, it was a lovely atmosphere and I played fairly well. People seemed to enjoy it. I was really happy with the whole night and I look forward to doing more shows.

TNL: You've also been doing shows with the Allganiks. What's it like jamming with them?

GD:  The Allganiks are a crazy bunch of hip hop guys. I honestly thought I would not last. I thought that I would not still be with them now. I thought that would finish up within half a year or so. And when I first went to play with them I thought "I don't really know if this will work, playing sax in a hip hop group". But I played and they loved it and since then, we just hit it off. I used to think they weren't my kind of guys but I actually really enjoy hanging out with them and it's a really relaxed atmosphere with them. I have been playing and enjoying all of our gigs. I got Warren into the group as well to play sax and flute, and my friend Dave is playing trumpet and now we have a three piece horn section which is really good. We're going to Alice Springs soon to play Wide Open Space festival in May, so it's going to be great.

TNL: So you've been doing some recruiting for them?

GD: I was a recruiter. (Laughs) They should be happy. They've got three university trained musicians in their horn section.

TNL: What's next for Gawain Davey?

GD: I'm going to eat this M&M here, and then I'm going to write more of my symphony. It's a symphony that I've been commissioned to write about the Global Financial Crisis, and hopefully I'll have that performed this year. If I can rustle up some musicians. I'll keep working on my solo show, and do more shows.

Gawain is on Facebook ( and Triple J Unearthed (

Wayfarers Australia can be found at

Warren Howden can be found fluteboxing on his SoundCloud,

The Allganiks have an album that is available from

Wide Open Space Festival is on this weekend, more information at

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This page contains a single entry by Lewis Adams published on May 1, 2013 12:35 PM.

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