Some of you may have heard of Stephen Hunt as former Neighbours actor Matt Hancock but for most you will know him for his live shows as a singer songwriter and countless charity work that he is involved heavily with. Over the last few years Stephen has been learning his craft building his own studio and recording his current E.P which is available to buy right now from www.stephenhunt.com.au as well as working on his career pioneering the transition of traditional television marketing to the internet throughwww.tubemogul.com which Stephen will talk about more within this interview.
Music Promotions would like to thank Stephen for taking time out to talk to us about his new EP, touring, charity work, his inspirations and more.
Remember to keep updated with all of his latest news and download your copy of ‘Listen’ at www.stephenhunt.com.au
1.Can you tell us more about your new EP? How long have you spent writing and recording it?
It’s been a long time coming but is really exciting now that it’s all locked and loaded. Back in 2004 I released an independent 7 track E.P in the UK called ‘the light’ which sold close to 5700 copies. It was recorded in a bedroom (and bathroom randomly) with virtually no budget. Only one track from ‘the light’ has survived to feature on the current E.P ‘listen’. As in independent artist it took me a long time to save up the investment required to record professionally but it was worth the effort.
Back in 2010 I took a break from work to track out all the songs I had written in a make-shift home studio. I bought a copy of Logic (music recording software) and set up in an empty house at Lake Macquarie for a week of tracking and experimenting. I got a load done in that session but it took several months of additional work from a spare room while living with my parents-in-law before I could take a step back and have a listen to a really long demo CD. The new E.P is a collection of 6 songs selected from the 56 tracks I ended up laying down in that period.
I workshopped the chosen demo tracks with Producer, Pianist and good friend Scott Aplin until we knew what we wanted the E.P to sounds like. The next phase saw us move into Sydney’s Linear Studios for 3 days of recording and 3 days of mixing leveraging an array of great musicians Scott had worked with previously.
The preparation worked to my advantage as we got efficient use out of the studio time leaving sufficient budget to get the mastering done at Abbey Road Studios in London. The mastering polished things off perfectly leaving a professional debut that I’m really proud of.
These songs drop into the singer/songwriter category with lyrics that require a little attention to follow and musical phrases that add the odd surprise. They were chosen not because they were the best or most likable tunes I’ve written, but because they create a particular mood when heard together as an E.P.
Those who have seen me perform live will know I’m a pretty versatile musician who plays several instruments and shifts across a variety of styles from song to song. I can get down and dirty in the blues or rise up into some groovy funk. The ‘listen’ E.P represents the softer side of my sound and the more personal side of my songwriting.
2.Will this just be an Internet release or are you planning a more mainstream release later on with a full album?
At this stage, the E.P is only available through online channels though physical copies can be bought from my website (www.stephenhunt.com.au) or at gigs. I created my own record label (Rivas Records) that has signed two other artists already and will be looking to sign publishing and distribution deals once I find the right partner companies though I’m in no rush.
I would love to progress to recording a full album since I have more than enough material but funding it will depend on how successful this E.P is and finding the time to record it will be stretch for the next year or two while I raise my son. That said it’s not about money for me but following my passion.
You can actually download a digital copy for free from the website if you’re unable to make a financial contribution for it. I make enough from my day job to get by and just hope to earn enough back through my music to support me playing live gigs and writing more songs. My hope is that listeners will enjoy what they hear and introduce ‘listen’ to their friends and family.
The songs are also accessible across a variety of platforms including iTunes and Spotify with UK listeners taking the most interest so far.
3. Any actual single stand out tracks?
The first track (“In my head”) is the ‘single’ that I’m pushing to the radio stations. It’s a bit of a journey with some really beautiful cello parts that drop in after the first chorus.
“Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” (track 3) rocks out a bit more and is my 2ndfavourite from the E.P. I get the most positive feedback from critics about “All in All” though “Harder to Change” has the best lyrics for my mind.
The last track (Precious Moments) is a special song since it was written about my awesome wife but my objective favourite is “Control”. It’s a sweet song that seduces you before erupting into symphonic glory.
4. Who inspires you as a songwriter? Any artists/bands in the charts that you would like to work with?
I love Neil Finn and Diesel (Marc Lizzotte) as songwriters though I don’t follow either of their styles in my own writing too much. Sigur Ros made a big impact on me a few years back and you can see their influence in songs like ‘Control’ where I dabbled in some big orchestral sounds. I’d love too collaborate with Lior or Paul Kelly some day and have actually written a song with Paul in mind.
Josh Pyke went to primary school with me and blew me away with his first two records. There is some inspiration borrowed there for sure and I look up to him as the type of lyricist I’d love to become.
Holly Throsby was another school-mate who influenced my style and we should pay tribute to the Stone kids who don’t necessary influence me but we did go to music classes together in Primary School. Jake Stone has made a name for himself as front man of Blue Juice and Elana Stone has done a stellar job of carving her own path.
My favourite band is ‘Whitest Boy Alive’ who inspire a lot of my more funky songs in the live shows. I also have a deep love of Reggae Dub from New Zealand (Fat Freddy’s Drop or The Black Seeds) and South America (Godwana or Los Cafres).
5. Would you ever consider the X factor/voice route in either a judging/mentoring role?
I’d never say never if it made sense but for now I am content doing what I do.
6. You do a lot of charity work, can you tell us more about the projects your involved in?
Sure. I am a bit of a hippy at heart. I used to have the dread-locks and the tie-dye shirt in my teenage years but these days I still stand by the idea that you are only happy when you give unconditionally. If you take, take, take, it stresses and depresses you. If you give….even just once…you feel on top of the world. It is the act of selflessness itself that promotes a smile even if no one else knows you’ve done anything – deep huh?
So in practice, I give cash to causes when I can but prefer to donate time and effort. HIV/AIDS is still my cause of choice since I lost an Uncle to an AIDS-related illness when I was 15. This led me to swim the English Channel in 2002 and the Gibraltar Strait in 2005 to raise funds for the AIDS Trust of Australia.
In between the swims, I met an inspiring young woman named Alischa Ross who was doing some amazing work in preventative HIV/AIDS education targeting young people. We worked together to launch a not-for-profit she had conceived called Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS (www.yeah.org.au).
I would love to swim around Manhattan Island (NYC) or from the North to South Island of New Zealand but my main focus is my family and there isn’t much capacity for something like that in the immediate future.
7. Have you considered a move back in to acting or is music you full on focus You have been in various different bands in the past would you go back to being in a band?
Anything is possible. At the moment I have a great career pioneering the transition of traditional television marketing to the internet throughwww.tubemogul.com and see many more years leading their Australian operation. Acting and playing music were things I always considered hobbies or passions rather than jobs and I expect they will both feature throughout my life as age puts no limitations on either.
8. Do you have any live gigs coming up? What can we expect from your live shows?
Yes! I’ve been playing a lot this year at local beach bars like ‘The Courtyard’ in Coogee where I had a summer residency or ‘34 Degrees South’ in Bondi. I just opened the Australian premiere of the film ‘Cloud Atlas’ at the Bondi Open Air Cinema to a full house (500+ in the crowd). Loads more to come so check out my site for details (www.stephenhunt.com.au).
At my live shows I either bring in a special guest and share the show with both of us playing our own songs, play solo-acoustic or I’ll get the band back together and do a full showcase of my own music. My influences go well beyond what you hear on the E.P so expect to be subdued, serenaded and funked before you rock out.
9. Any plans to return the UK for any live gigs etc?
Yes. More than half of the people who have bought or downloaded my E.P are from the UK so I’ll definitely follow that up. I used to play all over the country when I released ‘the light’ and will get back when work allows the break to do some local live shows for the growing audience there. Last year I was in town for the Olympics and did a few gigs at bars around Hampstead and Highbury where I used to live.
10. What is next for you?
I’m going to spend the year playing a few festivals and building the fan base with my E.P. I am loving my job and being a Dad so they are my top priorities…aside from my wife of course. I love my music and have recently come back to the piano as an instrument of choice so look out for some new songs driven from the keys rather than the guitar at my gigs