Last weekend I packed about 20 musical instruments in my car and headed down to Umina Beach meet up with the Podvan Podcast on collectables. You'll find me in Episode 42 at the 39th minute. I have been on radio before and also on TV, performed in front of 20,000 people in a band in the 80's, performed original music in a pub (playing solo), but this was my first time on a Podcast. Who knows, one day I might start my own, but for now, there's not enough hours in the day.

What started off as a quick opportunity to plug the tongue drum and kalimba musical instruments in the store turned in to a 20 minute chat with Rabbit about all kinds of things, and after watching and listening back, some personal things came to light which I will talk about at the very end of this blog post.

About the Podvan Podcast

Before I talk about my episode, I wanted to tell you a bit about the Podcast.

Podvan Podcast mobile studio

Most people record podcasts from their home / office / bedroom, this one is recorded in a mobile studio made from a renovated old caravan. The host, Rabbit, is a former breakfast radio announcer with multiple Australian Commercial Radio Awards to his name (you can see them to the left of the photo - they look like silver microphones) is the host. Rabbit used to be the breakfast announcer on Star 1045 on the Central Coast and resigned last year after announcing publicly that he was struggling with mental health issues. Two of his leading ladies during his time are both people I have worked with, Julie Goodwin (the winner of the first season of Masterchef) and Gina Jeffreys (Australian Country Music Royalty). Julie is a regular guest on the Podvan Podcast and you can tell they used to work together when you listen. They're a pure joy to listen to.

Christmas 2022, I gave Gina Jeffreys a set of our musical pun dish cloths and she took them to work the following day and said they were the best Christmas present she'd ever received (I'm sure she was exaggerating) and Rabbit proceeded to sing them all. So we have a bit of a history.

What did we chat about on the Podvan Podcast?

It's interesting to sit down and just chat with someone without any prep. Rabbit and I had exchanged a handful of brief messages online, but that was it. I was surprisingly coherent, more so than when I record things solo. It's actually easier to have someone to bounce off and to have a microphone in front of you and a set of cans on the ears. I'm not sure that it really clicked when I sat down in the studio that there was video as well as audio, but I'll talk about that further down, as we touched on a few mental health things in the Podvan Podcast and I had a bit of a breakthrough watching the video back.

What's in my musical instrument collection?

The jewel in the crown of my musical instrument collection is a 6 foot Kawai grand piano. It's not a super expensive one, most people pay more for a car than I paid for this thing, but it's my pride and joy and brings me absolute peace and serenity when I sit down and play it.

I talked about a couple of rare instruments I have, and the best way to explain them is to show some YouTube videos of clever people playing them. The first one is the Harpejji. I describe it looking like an ironing board and a cross between a piano and a guitar. Sting has one. Stevie Wonder has one. Harry Connick Jr has one. And I have one 🙂 I have tried many times to learn the guitar, and I just don't seem to have the knack for it, but this one is right up my alley.

The other rare instrument I own is an Array Mbira. It's a 'big' version of the Kalimbas we sell, and it's fully chromatic so you can play songs in any key. A kalimba is restricted mostly to the white notes of a piano. You can retune them and we do have some coming that are somewhat chromatic, but nothing like this.

I seem to have an attraction to instruments that are beautiful and ethereal almost. This first video is from the man that makes them, Patrick Hadley. When my Mbira was made, it took between 8 and 12 months from me ordering it for it to arrive. They are all made by hand and have quite the process in production, including some rest time at some steps. I got to choose the timber used and got updates, like when you get a puppy from a breeder and they're not quite old enough to come home with you.

Getting to choose the timber for my Array Mbira - I chose the top one - it's Camper Barrel from new Guinea
My Array Mbira before all the metal tines were put on

I also took along a few kalimbas, a ukulele (which I did not pull out of the bad for the Podvan Podcast)

Music By Numbers workshops

We then spent a few minutes talking about tongue drums, and you can see from the image at the top of the screen that I took two in with me, with stands, to teach someone how to play a song on one. I have been running a series of group classes and workshops called MUSIC BY NUMBERS, where I teach people who are not music, to play songs. It's fun in a group and for women in particular, there's some personal growth that goes on in the classes and help with relaxing & mental health.

Rabbit spent a few minutes opening up about his own mental health issues, explaining that if you suffer from anxiety of depression, for example, it doesn't mean you're like it all the time, but you have episodes and then you learn how to cope with them and you seek treatment.

I then go on to talk about how the drums are a really calming influence and help me to switch off and relax if I'm having a stressful day or if anxiety pops up, which it still can from time to time. You can feel the larger tongue drums vibrate in your body when you play them, and they are a pure joy for any time, but in times of stress, they're a great way to switch off and calm down. The scent of frankincense essential oil does something similar for me, because I would always wear it when I was in a stressful situation and trained myself that the scent = calm.

The thing that inspired the classes and the whole tongue drum / kalimba side of my business was a music teacher I had in high school that was our 'Mr Holland's Opus'. I still talk to him today on Facebook, from the other side of the world. Mr Patterson lives in London now and he still keeps in touch with a lot of his students, that's how much he inspired all of us, and the power of music. You can listen to the Podvan podcast (episode 42 starting at the 39th minute) to hear the full story.

We called in someone from the audience for me to teach a song to, and we used the tongue drum to play a game of Simon, which was fun, and then I taught our audience member to play the first part of Amazing Grace. Her name ....... was Grace. It was not a set up. It was divine intervention! Who would have thought I'd drop in to the Podvan Podcast to teach someone to play Amazing Grace and her name was Grace. 'cmon.

I then pulled out a couple of kalimbas, including the tiny pentatonic versions that are just like a musical stress ball. I also brought two 'stupid' instruments with me. I'm so annoyed that the batteries were flat in the first one, but I'll show you here. Sitting in the same room as my grand piano is an Otamatone and a Kazoo. You'll have to listen to the podcast to hear me talk and sing through the kazoo. The Otamatone can be seen on thousands of You Tube videos. Here's one. You're about to be Rick Rolled.

If you have any questions about the musical instruments we sell, please drop me a line. I can answer anything you need to know about them. I am a classically trained musician, composer, music producer (in training), songwriter and teacher.

So what did I learn about myself from watching the playback from the Podvan Podcast?

By nature, I'm an introvert. I don't like having my photo taken, appearing on videos, listening to my voice being recorded, or seeing myself on video. I have always felt a little awkward and self conscious and spent over 20 years in a relationship where I wasn't supported or encouraged to do any of this, in fact, quite the opposite, told I shouldn't.

I have spent the last couple of years, and all of 2023 in particular, pushing myself way outside of my comfort zone to not only get over some pretty big mental health issues surrounding anxiety and my ability to cope out in the real world while flying solo (travelling etc). I also worked on songwriting and performing music in public, but this whole hurdle of recording myself on video and being comfortable watching it back has eluded me a little. I was on the Foxtel show Industry Leaders a few years back and I still find it awkward to watch it now.

Watching the video playback on the Podvan Podcast (and so far I have only seen a little snippet of it) was the first time I have looked at a video and thought to myself, "Yes, you're carrying about 15kg more than you'd like, you are going grey, and all of that is ok. Just get out there and do what you want. Life is too short to be worried about how you look on a video when you're talking about products in the shop."

Growing old is a privilege denied to many. There was a time in my late 20's that I thought I may be denied that, so I'm leaving the natural hair dye on the shelf and embracing the ageing process with open arms.