Singer – songwriters are rare diamonds in the music industry. But they are the creative gemstones at the heart of the music industry. And of Smith Street Life.
One of many of the artists at Smith Street's heart is local singer songwriter Natasha Duarte´. You couldn’t pick a more perfect picture of a pop princess, posing here as an urban hipster exclusively for Smith Street Life.
Natasha has just returned home to Smith Street from the United States where she attended a songwriting course at Berkley College of Music in Boston. She won the scholarship to attend the course from winning the Teen section of an International Songwriting Competition. She was in great company, given Missy Higgins won the Folk section, and Kimbra was the overall winner. “It was such an amazing experience, really life changing” Natasha says, fresh off an international flight yesterday.
Natasha was ‘discovered’ by Paul Higgins and Trevor Carter of Studio 52 and Empire records located in the Smith Street precinct. Natasha was part of the ‘Kool Skools’ project which aims to provide education and support students to to ‘find their voice’ with real life enriching outcomes.
Unlike many of the widely televised and suger-coated opportunities that exist for singers such as Australian Idol or The Voice the Kool Skools project focuses on writing and recording songs. It exists as a creative work experience program in an area which most excites young people – music, technology, pop culture, video, photography and live performance. The program has been run for over 17 years, including a few times with the local Collingwood Secondary college, but is now contracted to studios all over Australia.
The gritty reality is that arguably as much talent lies in the Smith Street corridor than on any ‘reality television’. Whether strumming a wild 'air guitar' within its retro rustic laneways, swinging from the 86 Tram, or ‘freestyling’ down its city streetscapes: creativity is a unique ingredient to the symphony of Smith Street Life.
Artists of all facets and faces walk the street, and are part of the Fitztroy and Collingwood diverse community which is hard to find anywhere else in Melbourne. It’s a creative heartbeat that draws artists, of all descriptions to its hearth.
Paul is also a firm supporter of local talent “the majority of the public don’t celebrate the people who actually create the music, the songwriters. There are lots of people creating music that are separate to the reality tv show model. These are the people that are really important”.
“The majority of the public don’t celebrate the people who actually create the music, the songwriters. There are lots of people creating music that are separate to the reality tv show model. These are the people that are really important” Paul Higgins, Producer Studio 52
“We knew from the start that Natasha had amazing talent and potential. She just got better and better. When we signed with her, she was clear she wanted to be a commercially aimed artist, a pop artist, and that was what her music and audience was about. I think that she fits in like a young Katy Perry or Taylor Swift”.
It’s been a long five year journey from Sydney to Smith Street for this talented girl next door, but with already four video clips produced in the area, there are more exciting chords to be strummed round the corner for Natasha Duarte.´ One was shot locally at vintage, fashion and collectables boutique Oonkas Boonkas also pictured in this fashion shoot, tastfully art directed by Dianne Harris.
“My latest single is called Telling Me Not To and it's about teenagers always being told not to do things when they know the adults are telling them not to. They probably did the same things when they were young. I wrote it as a teen anthem and its always a fun song to play live!" . This is abundantly clear whenever Natasha makes an appearance at a local school, or event, “the kids go crazy!” Paul Higgins testifies.
Natasha advises all singers songwriters to give things a go :“Take every opportunity you can. One thing always leads to another and it is so important to get your talent out there and noticed”.
“Take every opportunity you can. One thing always leads to another and it is so important to get your talent out there and noticed”. Natasha Duarte´ A perfect opportunity for this exists in the local collaboration with NMIT and the Smith Street Business Association who are hosting a Smith Street Songwriting Competition in September. NMIT's Associate Director of Arts and Social Science Peter Lamburd tells Smith Street Life “NMIT considers it is important to support and engage with the communities as a corporate citizen. We do this in ways that also support our students, so the Smith Street Songwriters combines these principles nicely” . Many local students and musicians alike will participate in the competition and through their efforts it is likely the program will support other songwriters and support venues as well. “On a different level the success of Smith Street is important for the vitality for all those who work in the precinct. We want to see Smith Street with a vibe which adds to the culture of the area” Peter says.
Music is a great medium to evoke culture and stories. Much like dance it is a common form of expression across every different culture. Highlighted also through the recent Smith Street Dreaming Music Festival, every culture - from the dawn of time - participates in the important art of music story telling. From the bedroom philosophers hilarious depiction of urban hipsters with the Bed Room Philosopher So Hungover , to Natasha’s cry for independence in Don’t tell me what to do, to the soulful indigenous sounds of The Kutcha Edwards Band : rock, pop and soul all take their place as part of Smith Street Life.
Peter Lamburt emphasises “Everyone has a story and musicians expresses their stories in a musical canvas. Songwriting is such a strong feature of emerging musicians and growing as an area for music students' study. Smith Street has a great musical heritage as witnessed by its strong and diverse musical nightlife”.
Now back home on Smith Street, where she belongs, Natasha is looking forward to the release of her new album entitled 'First Time' to be released by Empire Records. And where can she be spotted? You might just catch a glimpse of her on the way to Studio 52, or vintage shopping at Oonkas Boonkas on Smith Street.
She is also rumored to be making a brief appearance at the launch of Smith Street Life, the new web director and portal at the Collingwood Gallery 292 Smith Street Thursday 29 August @ 6:00pm. All are welcome : Invitation
“I love all the amazing unique shops you find on Smith Street. Some of the coolest fashion comes out of Smith Street! And some of the best food I have ever tasted. It is such a cultured street with so much creativity to offer” Nastsha Duarte´“I love all the amazing unique shops you find on Smith Street. Some of the coolest fashion comes out of Smith Street! And some of the best food I have ever tasted. It is such a cultured street with so much creativity to offer”.
Take a bow Natasha. An independent voice of creative success, taking her place as part of the launch of Smith Street life.
Natasha’s New Album is now available on itunes or you can hear it first on Soundcloud here: https://itunes.apple.com/au/artist/natasha-duarte/id5128136