How did you get started in music?
My mum took me to a Midnight Oil concert in utero, so I assume that’s where it all began. But I guess it got real when she sent me to classical piano training, aged 4. Within a decade I was stuck in a rabbit hole of Baroque fugues and cool modes and one day realised that I could use that theory and muscle memory to make my own music and say my own things. Turns out I had a lot to say, and it all sort of went downhill from there. I sat down with my dreams of ornithology and radioastronomy and told them that unfortunately the songs would have to come first. They haven’t always come first because life is more complicated than that, but music is and will always be central to my expression and existence on this planet.
For those who don’t know you, how would you describe your sound?
Uber drivers ask me that question a lot, and my answer is always ‘it’s folk music but it’s angrier’. I don’t particularly like using other artists’ names in vain, but a review from a recent show described my set as a cross between Joni Mitchell’s musicianship and songwriting and Alanis Morissette’s view of life and the world. I am okay with both of those if they help.
Who are your music idols or inspirations?
Joni Mitchell and Alanis Moridsette. Jokes, I’ve had a spectacularly broad range of influences. My dad force-fed me The Pretenders, Bruce Springsteen, Missy Higgins and Billy Bragg until I practically lost my accent, and my mum raised me on afro-jazz and South African folk music – Vusi Mahlasela, Dollar Brand, James Phillips, Zolani Mahola. When I was falling in love with writing songs, my favourite artists were probably Glen Hansard and early Chris Martin, and more recently I have found deep inspiration in people like Margaret Glaspy and Leif Vollebekk. And Mary Oliver and Leonard Cohen taught me about words. As long as it’s got a real story to tell, it gets me all giddy.
What has been your musical highlight so far?
Last year, I went back to South Africa on a short tour supported by Melbourne local Billy Barker and a range of brilliant young SA artists that I used to know, and those were some of the most moving
sets I’ve ever played. We sold out practically every headline show, I got to play at my favourite festival Oppikoppi as the sun was setting over the Limpopo savannah and I felt homesick and invincible all at once. Setting your feet back down on home soil is so powerful for your sense of self,
and getting to express that new, weathered, travelled self to a mix of old and new audiences that just pitch up despite the fact that you’ve been gone for so long wrecks me – in the best way.
What are you most looking forward to about playing in Anglesea?
I fell in love with this country purely via my experiences on the South West Victorian coastline. There’s a peace and a creative energy in these waters and I can’t wait to drink it all in with this little pulsing community that The Sound Doctor has created. What a privilege to play such big and warm shows on stages shared by some of my favourite artists. Didirri is rare bird, such an extraordinary vocalist and songwriter.
Ruby Gill is supporting Didirri on Saturday 5 October
Tickets $35 available now: https://www.trybooking.com/BEEPP