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Amner Shefford interview
By Baz Bardoe

I recently found myself in the Melbourne CBD. I had just had some lunch and had a little bit of time to kill before a meeting, so I strolled along Swanston street. The area is well known for its high quality street performers and buskers, but there was one that instantly stood out. He had a beautiful, mellow voice, and played a guitar that had a similarly mesmerizing tone. He seemed a bit shy too which further endeared him to me. I sat there for awhile enjoying his music and it occurred to me that this guy was every bit as good as any of the big names out there. So I asked him for an interview and here it is …

Tell me a little about your background? What got you started in music? What are some influences?
Well I was born and raised in the Yarra Valley, east of Melbourne. My influences stem from my dad without a doubt. I would come home from school and have to sit on his lap for 2 hours and listen to his old Zeppelin and Meatloaf records. I got started in music and bought my first guitar with the money from his life insurance.

I have seen you busking – have you done much in the way of other gigs?
Almost zero. I had crippling stage fright until I started travelling and was in a place where nobody knew me and would most likely never see me again. That and the kind words of a special lady is really what I have to thank for giving me that push. Now I’m off and running.


I gather you have a recording out – can you tell me a bit about that?

I’m selling home burnt CDs with my name on them in sharpie at the moment. But the quality of the recording is much better than appearances would have you believe. It was done by a friend of mine who was an engineer for a recording studio in Leeds in the UK. I was working in a pub in York that he would play in and we went upstairs one day and recorded a live set. Most of the songs I recorded went to my girlfriend for a 21st present but 6 or 7 are out for the public. Any member of the public who sees me busking, and has a tenner handy anyway.

Long term music industry types will tell you the industry is dying. Downloading is making it very hard to make a release sell and the old model of touring to support the sales of a album is all but dead … if there is any hope it seems to be in the realm of people busking and running their own career, selling music directly etc – what are your thoughts on this?
It may look to be dying to people who were there for the heyday, but its music. It’s as old as prostitution and it will never go away. iI play on the streets everyday and will happily continue to do so regardless of what the industry decides to do. My real obstacle is city councils, the banning of amplifiers and the regulations of busking. For the most part my music is very soft and no louder than an accordion but I’ve gone days at a time homeless without being able to work in Germany trying to scratch the 20 eEuros for a train somewhere else. But I love what I do and will keep doing it.

You have a lovely guitar – our magazine is devoted to musicians and fans…..tell me a little about your instrument, and getting a tone you like.
That guitar is my only valued possession. It’s been with me from when I first moved out of home, travelling and working all around Australia, Germany and the UK. It’s got plenty of scars to prove it. I started working at Cole Clark when I was 19 and began with pressing inlays and gluing headstocks. Within 2 or 3 months I was one of 3 bodybuilders they had at the time. I bloody loved that job! but it came time for me to leave and after 16 months or so I had  been keeping  my favourite components under my bench. I put it all together and with some after hours help from the fellas in the other sections (which made all the difference in the end.. really!) I had it. It’s been the only guitar I’ve played in the last 5 years or so. As for tone, it does what it wants, I try sing alongside.

What plans do you have for the future?
The first place I played after making the decision to dive headfirst into being a working muso was Edinburgh during the fringe. We made this amazing little community of first timers and old hands. So back there in August is stop one, but my five year goal – the big one –  is to have mobile living quarters (decked out vans) in Australia, Europe, and North America. If I can master my craft enough to bring my girlfriend with me as well there’s really not much more than that I could want. I don’t have much to say, except take a little time for street performers when they’re there. If you don’t have any money don’t feel like you have to leave. Human interaction is a currency of its own and pouring energy into the street without acknowledgment can be seriously draining for us sensitive artist types. Passing a street musician you like is an excellent opportunity to go about the next section of you day with a tune in your head and a smile on your face. I suggest you don’t rush past it because you’re late.

I couldn’t agree more. I am very happy that I had to kill some time in the city and got to hear one of his performances. He is every bit as good as some truly huge names, and has all the credentials to achieve success. Give our buskers a few bucks, and you never know… day you may be able to boast that you saw that guy who now sells out stadiums when he was playing Swanston street.

Find Amner on Facebook and check him out here:

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