When imagining what real Aussie Indigenous rock looks like, Scott Darlow should be what comes to mind. For more than ten years, he has been one of Australia's hardest working and most successful independent artists. With Scott planning on touring South Africa later this year with his hit singles Sorry and Down Like Flies, I decided to have a chat with the bloke from down under.
Down Like Flies
Where did you start as a musician?
Scott: My mum and dad was Salvation Army officers and played in the brass band in church. I begged my mother to get me a trombone but my arms couldn't reach so they got me a cornet which I played right through high school. When I was eight I had a teacher in primary school, Mr. Hill, who taught me the guitar. It's funny you ask because just in these last two days I found him on Facebook after twenty years and had this amazing opportunity to send him a message saying he probably doesn't remember me but he taught me the guitar. I remember sitting in the library and he taught me how to play Sloop John B by the Beach Boys. Music is what I do for a living now, all these amazing things are happening in my life and that guy really had a hand in setting me on the way.
When will you be arriving in South Africa?
Scott: We're looking at September this year hopefully. Depending on how well the singles go of course, maybe a bit earlier, we'll see. I did a few shows there in Durban a couple of years ago and just fell in love with the people and the braais and the boerewors. This record has been released to the UK and the whole album has gone out to college radio all over the US, and New Zealand as well of course, but I wanted to include South Africa because I had such a great time there.
Your songs are very personal, how does it feel to put all those emotions out there?
Scott: Well with a song like Sorry, it is written about Aboriginal Australians. My mum's side of the family is native Australian so a large part of what I do is sharing my culture. That song really talks a lot about the history of the country but the the funny thing is that when we've toured in places like Hawaii and America and even South Africa, people connect with those lyrics because the ideas behind it are common all over the world.
“...It is great that others want to help, but we have got to help ourselves first...” - Scott Darlow
What is the meaning behind your single 'Down Like Flies'?
Scott: One of the things I do is to spend time in juvenile prisons. There are boys and girls between ten and eighteen in these maximum security prisons, they are locked up from seven at night till seven in the morning. Seventeen percent of these kids are native Australian and yet Aboriginal people only make up about three percent of the population. There are many reasons for it, one is the lack of role models and also just this perpetual generational poverty that the kids are struggling to break out of. A lot of these indigenous kids deliberately re-offend to get back in prison because life at home is harder than life in jail. The government here has launched a big thing called Closing the Gap, it has been started because Aboriginal men die fourteen years younger than any other demographic.
My people are dying because of preventable diseases, so that is what the song is about, the gap isn't closing. We are still dying young, our education rates are horrendous and our kids are still in prison. But the song is really me singing to my own people. It is great that others want to help, but we have got to help ourselves first.
Listening to the words of the song, you are saying stop blaming someone else and take responsibility?
Scott: Yeah, exactly. It is very easy, not just for indigenous Australians but for anyone having a time of trial or hardship, to look around and point the finger and blame others for the situation we find ourselves in. Everybody that I meet in my life, we all have reasons to feel sorry for ourselves. I'm sure you have stories in your life that have made things hard and difficult and hurtful but the truth is no one really cares. I can feel sorry for myself and have every reason to feel that way, but it's not going to change the outcome. You just have to take the hard decision and choose to make things better and choose to take your future in your own hands.
That is a very brutal truth you're saying there...
Scott: It's funny, I am not a Christian artist but there are many of the teachings of Jesus that I like. He said some very hard truths and I think a lot of the time people forget that, they want the love and the rainbows and the cuddles but sometimes we just need someone to say hey mate, get real, do what you gotta do.
What is the next single that you will be releasing?
Scott: The next song is called Runaway. I'm very excited about it, I think it's the catchiest track on the album. I wrote it after spending a day with a bunch of kids in Melbourne, my hometown. One of the boys I met was a fourteen year old whose parents are from Iraq. His mum and dad were married at eighteen and nineteen and she fell pregnant straight away. Things changed politically where they lived so they had to sell all their possession and get out of the country.
They walked eight hundred kilometers from Iraq to Turkey and ended up in a refugee camp before finally making their way to Australia. I was just blown away by this story of courage and love that his mother had for an unborn child. The song is about her singing to the baby, about how she is running away to be with him.