The life of an Australian musician is never a walk in the park, the constant struggle for funding, air time, and nutrition as well as gruelling national tour schedules can really take their toll.
As luck would have it for many of our favourite artists hit the jackpot off that first release or shot to the top of the charts straight off unearthed, affording them luxuries like an air-conditioned tour vehicle or meals that aren’t mi goreng.
There are however the chosen few that despite early setbacks still managed to break into the mainstream, tasting sweet success long enough to quit their day jobs. Here are 11 of our favourite Aussie acts that had to put in the hard yards before making it big.
It wasn’t until Hungry Ghost that Violent Soho finally registered on many mainstream radars. Debuting way back in 2006 with EP Pigs & TV, the band was churning out a stack of banging tunes, steadily gaining momentum. Having picked up a few good reviews and playing shows at Laneway, Meredith and Falls Festivals in that time it’s a genuine surprise that Violent Soho took that long to break.
Powderfinger sure have come a long way from covering The Doors in ’89. After having to self funding their earliest work it wasn’t until the Transfusion EP that ‘Reap What You Sow’ managed to upset Nirvana’s ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ for the number 1 spot on ARIA’s charts, slingshotting the band into the public eye.
Aussie punk rock heavyweights Clowns are currently the go to support for literally any heavy band touring from The States, but before their arse-kicking debut album of 2013 the band released three EP’s and did the hard yards on the Australian pub circuit, including several appearances in the infamous 2am slot at the now defunct punk dive Pony.
Sarah Blasko has been making music since the early 90’s, but it took until mid-way through the 2000’s for her to really capture everyone’s attention. After playing in the Sydney-based band Acquiesce, and then performing under the name Sorija, it wasn’t until Blasko released her debut album The Overture & The Underscore in 2004 that everyone woke up to her brilliance.
It’s pretty common knowledge that John Butler was a busking for years before he burst into the mainstream in the 2001. After busking on the streets of Fremantle in the early 90’s with a mates battery powered amp people started asking for tapes. One thing lead to another and his debut album was suddenly an ARIA winner.
Now one of the most successful bands in Australian history, the blue and purple Wiggles were once The Cockroaches. Experiencing mild success as a pub rock group in the 80’s the band later disbanded before debuting a wigglier sound in 1991, going on to win their first APRA award in 1994.
We recently referenced Hilltop’s early demo Highlanders circa ’94 (a clip that has since been removed from the internet). However it wasn’t until 2003’s The Calling that the band really broke, entering the ARIA Chart at 53 and featuring classic track ‘The Nosebleed Section’ at number 9 in that years Hottest 100.
Forming in ’72 as The Farm, The Oil’s haven’t always been hard-rock pedigree. Their fierce ideology driven by Garrets politics made the bands early efforts highly unpopular in mainstream music press, garnering several bitting reviews and resulting in their removal from an episode of Countdown. It wasn’t until the bands fourth album 10 To 1 marked their breakout, including the singles ‘Power and the Passion’ and ‘Read About It’.
Originally named Orange, Cold Chisel began as a metal cover-band in ’73. A 17 year old Barnesy jumped on the band wagon soon after, but ironically it was his decision the quit the band in ’77 that resulted in Chisel kickstarting their career by signing with Warner music.
The last couple of years have been really good to Melbourne producer Darren Hart, but it’s been a long uphill journey. Picking up music at a young age Hart slogged away learning as many instruments as possible, churning out a stack of demos before signing with Universal in 2011. Even then it wasn’t until 2014 that Daydreamer really skyrocketed his career. Hard work pays off kids!
Luke Dubs and El Gusto have been collaborating since ’94, when they were just 16 and 11. Seriously what the hell were you doing when you were 11? You can’t blame them for waiting until 2002 to release their first EP. After a steady stream of releases including 2011’s Speak of the Devil, HyperParadise won Hermitude their first ARIA, catapulting them into their current mainstream success.
City Calm Down
With almost four years between EP and debut album it’s reasonable to say that ‘Australia’s Safest band’ like to take their time. First experimenting together in 2008 and having just released their triple j feature album In a Restless House, Jack and Sam are currently clocking in at 2 albums in 8 years.