Connor Black-Harry is the type of musician that makes Melbourne the great music city that it is.
Born and bred in the Inner North, he grew up begging his mum to take him to a gig, any gig, after school. By the tender age of 15, he had started performing across the city’s venues, building his way up to working in sessions and touring with the likes of Eliza Hull, Chitra, Gordi, and Gretta Ray.
It’s performers like Black-Harry that Melbourne’s musical reputation is built on; they’re the reason you can assuredly expect to enter any local pub on any night of the week and hear something quality, something quietly memorable.
His new single, “Stupid Monkey”, is a solemn slice of indie folk – think Bon Iver or Phoebe Bridgers – that details the chaotic but inevitable process of healing and growth.
“Everyone knows how it feels to have an insistent weight on their shoulders or a monkey on their back,” Black-Harry explains. “”Stupid Monkey” explores the rude realisation that the process of healing and growth is a messy, frustrating, and yet finally, ultimately cathartic.”
Under gritty guitar lines and wistful strings, his voice is hushed, affected, before his timorous voice finally rises: “Someone get this monkey off my back,” he cries, wishing to finally be rid of painful memories.
To celebrate the release of his first single in a few years, Black-Harry will be celebrating with a show at Thornbury’s Shotkickers on Thursday, April 20th (tickets available here).
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In the meantime, you can read Tone Deaf‘s interview with him as part of our Get to Know series below.
Connor Black-Harry’s “Stupid Monkey” is out now.
How did your artist name come about?
Dad’s surname is Black and Mum’s is Harry. When I was born they asked me to decide whose name to take but they couldn’t get a firm answer from me as I was only a couple of minutes old so just settled on Connor Black-Harry.
How would you describe your music to your grandma?
I’d probably tell my grandma that I’m a Freddie Mercury impersonator just to get her to a gig, but to anyone else’s Nan I’d say it’s a mix of all of her old Neil Young and Springsteen records mushed together with the music that’s ‘a bit loud’ at the local trendy cafe.
Tell us about a few of your tracks; their titles and what they’re about?
“Stupid Monkey” is a serious song about anxiety and rebuilding your mental health with a title yoink’d from a Simpsons quote. I have another animal-titled song called “Wash the Dog” which is essentially a motivator to kick my butt out of a post-burnout slump.
What do you love about your hometown?
I’m incredibly lucky to have grown up and still live in Melbourne’s inner-north. Sometimes on the way home from primary school I’d ask mum if we could see a band that night, not caring what it was or the fact that it was a Tuesday. We’d usually find something within walking distance without any problem and that’s still the case today, though I get myself home from school now.
I also have this theory that our gaslight-y weather helps our music scene because punters are so used to the potential of rain that it’s no longer an excuse to avoid a gig.
Career highlight so far?
Heading to SXSW with Eliza Hull in 2022 and just zipping around Austin on electric scooters in between shows was pretty amazing, but in general, being a musician in a city like Melbourne is pretty unbeatable. I get to make music, play shows, and tour with some of the nicest, talented people around and call it work?! Crazy.
Fave non-music hobby?
I started skateboarding during one of the lockdowns and though I’m sore all of the time and still very goofy looking while I do it, I love it.
What’s on your dream rider?
Blue cheese, quince paste, and a bunch of other things I’d never buy for myself like socks and my own Netflix sub etc.
Dream music collaboration?
Ooft there’s so many! Justin Vernon, Feist, The Staves, Blake Mills, any of the Backstreet Boys just to name a few.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I struggle to picture where I’ll be in 10 minutes but if the last decade’s anything to go off you’ll probably find me in studio gremlin mode and gigging/touring with my best friends! Hopefully with a little more fuel cash and less “Khe Sanh” requests.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
My first and safest choice is “Head Over Heels” by Tears for Fears but I definitely have a memory of leaning in to a rendition of “Special Two” by Missy Higgins at the tail end of a NYE party a few years back.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It feels like something from the self-help section of YouTube but keeping the phrase “Show up like you belong” in my head has really helped me when the imposter syndrome kicks in.
Also to make sure that whatever art you’re making, make it for yourself and for your enjoyment before the opinions/thoughts of others get to you.
AND that every idea deserves a chance to be heard because the funny/dumb ideas often turn out to be the best once you try them out! In the context of making music. Not all funny/dumb ideas are good ideas.
What’s one obsession you have that no one would guess after listening to your music?
Last week went from a podcast on the Roman Empire and its demise > the Huns > a distant memory of my Dad raving about English Longbows > booking an archery lesson. I think I have an obsession with new obsessions and am always open to new suggestions. Maybe a little too open.
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