I always enjoy a bit of drama over breakfast. Yelling. Screaming. It’s all good. I especially like it when the drama has nothing to do with me. In fact, it’s someone whose name I can’t remember doing the yelling. Someone on Jerry Springer. Say what you want about Springer — everyone does — but he sure knows how to ease me into the day. Sure, it’s almost one o’clock, but I always feel you shouldn’t rush things.
Sometimes I feel kind of guilty about sleeping in so much, but not today. I’m curled up on the couch in the same David Bowie T-shirt, faded cargo pants and stripy socks that I’ve been asleep in for the past sixteen hours and I’m feeling alright. My older sister, Heather, is working today and my step-mum and dad are still away, touring the country in a caravan, so I’ve got the place to myself for the day.
It’s not a bad place to have to yourself for a bit, I have to say. It’s a nice old house a couple of blocks from the train line in Summer Hill. The sun comes flooding in during the early afternoon and makes the room glow. It makes me feel so mellow that I could almost just sit here all afternoon and not get ready for this gig that Alice is taking me to tonight.
She’s a sweetie, Alice, my best and oldest friend. She’s also the only person I know who is as obsessed with music as I am. The last band she got really excited about and told me I had to listen to, like now, was Vampire Weekend. So when she tells me this guy who’s playing tonight is shit hot, I’m inclined to believe her. And besides, she’s been a bit lethargic lately, sad and aimless since her boyfriend broke up with her. It would probably do her good to get out of the house.
I can tell you exactly when I first knew I wanted to be a musician. I was standing in the hallway upstairs at the Annandale Hotel, waiting for the guitar player from a band I used to like. He was messing around in the band room, and I was waiting outside, hoping to get a chance to talk to him when he came out. I wasn’t going to try to get an autograph or anything lame like that. I just wanted to say hi and maybe ask him a couple of things about guitar effects pedals. I really wanted to know how he got a certain sound that I was always trying to pull off with my old Rickenbacker and never quite nailing.
Anyway, I’m standing there, and he stumbles out of the room looking a bit dazed. He looks straight at me, and I’m just kind of clearing my throat to say something, and this heartbreakingly beautiful girl in a flannelette shirt with silver buttons and skinny black jeans walks straight past me and goes up to the guy and says five magic words. Wonderful, poetic words that convinced me that being a musician was what I was born to do.
She said, ‘Would you sign my tits?’
It was awesome.
By about four in the afternoon, I think I’ve watched enough bad TV for one day, so I move out onto the balcony for a cup of tea and a smoke.
I’d sort of given up smoking a few months ago, in those in-between days of summer after school ended, but then I just found myself doing it again and I’m kind of not bothered about quitting. Lazy, I know, especially as I’ve never actually enjoyed it. I guess I started because I liked how old movie stars looked when they smoked in black-and-white photos. But sitting around watching TV half the day and working in a fast-food place isn’t really as glamorous as being a Hollywood star, so I don’t look as cool as the movie stars did. But smoking has become a habit and it’s one I can’t quite kick. I light up, and put my feet up on the iron balcony fence.
Tea, on the other hand, is something I never want to give up. Today I’ve got some mint tea I bought from Paddington markets, with a little honey in it. It’s divine, the taste so clean and fresh and somehow comforting. I watch the clouds drift over the suburbs, white and grey on deep blue, for what could be a few seconds, or maybe a few minutes.
And then I see Alice, my great tea-drinking companion. She works in a children’s bookstore and wears op-shop frocks, and carries around the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ handwritten on a piece of notepaper in her wallet. She is the most gorgeous thing ever.
She’s standing in the street and looking up at me, wearing a cute red polka-dot vintage dress with white stockings and black school shoes, and a stud in her nose so small you can only see it in a certain light. She looks way too dressed up for an overcast Thursday afternoon. It looks like she’s just stepped out of a beauty salon, but the expression on her porcelain doll’s face is completely blank.
I wave at her and she stares back.
I never sleep the night before a gig.
I’m not sure what I’m nervous about exactly.
But I know I’m nervous.
Maybe I kind of think that people are going to judge me and that I’m exposing too much of myself. Pretty much all of my songs are about old girlfriends, or girls I wanted to be girlfriends who never were. I wonder if people will look at me and think I’m some kind of loser who can’t get girls. I can get girls. I just can’t keep them.
I try to tell myself the people at the pub won’t be focused on me to the point where they’re analysing lyrics and picking apart my personality. Mostly they’ll be too busy playing the pokies.
So I’m not exactly a massive star in the music scene yet, but, to be fair, I am still in school. And tonight is my biggest gig yet. I’m playing in a band competition at the Old Canterbury Hotel, a proper music venue, not just some depressing old place with carpet that smells like piss and horse racing on the TV. There’s going to be real music fans there tonight, I’m sure. Kids heading out into the night with hope in their hearts, looking for something to connect with. People who want to listen to the words I write.
You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About is out on May 1. Follow Daniel Herborn on Twitter