Who the heck is Van Larkins? I hear you ask.
Focus, drive and determination are three words that come to mind talking to Owen, AKA Van Larkins. His compositions are dynamic, artful and complex commanding every ear in the vicinity; the craft of one who literally eats, sleeps & breathes their passion.
Composer, mentor, teacher and troubadour of a unique fingerstyle revolution in Australia, Owen has chanced many opportunities to grow with his craft. It's not just making a classical tune or knocking out some dank rock, (both of which I love mind you), his arrangements are so much more. When this guy picks up a guitar, together, they create an aural story. Having just released his second solo album in July this year, I wanted to know about the uprising of Van Larkins, and his new album 'Cinder Moon'.
You've just recently played a role in a documentary style film, 'Acoustic Uprising'. How did that come about?
I was in discussion with the guy who put the whole thing together, Drew Roller who lives in Melbourne. He started with a successful crowd-funding campaign to launch this project, the world's first Fingerstyle movie and travelled to Europe and South America to interview people. He had got Tommy Emmanuel on board and a few other big names from Canada making really successful film which I was lucky to be part of. So we organised a dual album / DVD launch for some screenings of the film paired with a performance from me at both the Sydney Guitar Festival and Melbourne guitar show.
I noticed there was quite a break between your last studio album and this one. Why was that?
Well the album I released before that was my first full-length solo album, and all the songs on this album are quite a bit more technical, more advanced. I noticed within the transcribing process, which I do to share with other guitarists, that the older songs are maybe 3-5 pages, where the new songs are between 10-15 pages.
I agree, that process must be very complex and I did notice that these compositions are a lot more elaborate when listening to both albums.
It was a long break; I spent four or five years touring and composing, putting the songs together for this. Unlike the album before, 'Wandering Hands', all the songs have been written within the last five years so on this album the song length has increased and become more complex. 'Cinder Moon' is also the first album that I have produced myself.
So how did that production process come together?
Well I wanted to keep the guitar as the main feature, so I didn't go too overboard with over dubs and other instruments. I didn't call on any other musicians to play other parts. It took about a year to record, produce and release as it's quite a process.
You mentioned that you transcribe your music. It that so you can share it with other musicians or to raise the profile of Fingerstyle guitar in Australia?
Well probably a bit of both really. There are quite a lot of people outside of Australia who enjoy playing this style of music, in comparison Australia is fairly new to Fingerstyle guitar. In a funny way, it's a great way of tidying up my arrangements as well. So if something isn't quite right I can fix it up there. There's a bunch of people out there growing to like playing this style of music, so I want to make sure that's encouraged.
"I love teaching, I never run out of things to teach the students and that really inspires me."
I've also just scored an endorsement from Guitar Pro, one of the biggest transcribing programs used. It came about as part of a process where I put in a complaint about some glitches I noticed in the program they had put out. I tried to use it was a bit glitchy, so I suggested a few changes. After a few months the head of marketing got in touch and said they love my music, so I'll be working with that company now. They are going to be releasing my music along with downloads of the program.
That's a really generous thing to do, to share your secrets. So along with that I've noticed you do You Tube videos as well?
Yeah, I've got a few out there; I'm working with a Griffith film school student at the moment, he has done a couple of my videos. But 'Outback Storm' was actually filmed by the guy who filmed the documentary, that was heaps of fun.
Where was the location for that, it looks like it was really fun.
It was filmed in a quarry just east of Melbourne (Moorooduc Quarry). It's good that people in the industry stick together, everyone has their edge, their strengths and it's good to strive to work together in the industry.
Do you have any plans to do more videos?
I do plan on doing some more videos. I'm going to be working on doing some You Tube tutorials with the written music scrolling along down the bottom. I think it's really important for me to think international with my music, and Fingerstyle guitar things like these tutorials are big in the states and Canada which is also where my label 'Candyrat Records' is based.
Talking about the future is there any other plans you'd like to disclose?
I've got a few projects I'm working on, one of which is an orchestral album. I'm working with an arranger in Brisbane, and looking at possibly working with a youth orchestra to get some kids involved in that as well. There's also my teaching, I teach at a local music school in Rothwell. Aside from that I think I'm going to save for a plane ticket. I think Europe has a good music scene and I think Canada would be a great place to base myself. I watch other musicians go overseas and their careers are expanding much faster after heading over there.
There's no harm in chasing something new or different because then you can bring it back to Australia. Experience counts for a lot doesn't it?
I love living here it would just be for work. I noticed after my first trip over there I started putting 'International Touring Artist' in front of my name and all of a sudden I stared getting more gigs.
So where would you like to see yourself in 12 months?
Probably in Canada...otherwise I'll be teaching. I love teaching guitar, and Fingerstyle guitar is a technique based genre so you can incorporate all sorts of different genres in the style. I love teaching, I never run out of things to teach the students and that really inspires me.
So watch this space folks, if you are interested to listen to Van Larkins singles, watch a video or check out his new album 'Cinder Moon', all links are below.
Listen, explore, share... Music is life!
Van Larkins Website
Triple J Unearthed Profile