A huge swirl of emotions and memories has been washing over me since relocating back to my home town of Brisbane.

Partly, it’s the end of a five-year journey  promoting my music overseas which has been an incredible experience, both personally and professionally. During that time I have had the great fortune of working with some legendary musicians, as well as creating two awesome band line-ups, both in the UK and and the US, and releasing my debut full-length solo album I Believe.

The first visit to the US in 2007, to represent QLD at Musexpo in LA and also begin work on I Believe, was a huge eye-opener.  Previously, America had not shown that much interest to me, except I knew I wanted to check out New York! But while on a tour to Australia, I met legendary musician Paul Peterson (ex-Prince protege band The Family) and we started writing together and just clicked.

I think we Aussies, like the Brits, tend to view American optimism with skepticism, but upon realising that it’s not an act (or at least then, which was prior to the GFC), it’s hard not to get sucked in! And so I ended up spending quite some time in LA, Minneapolis and Nashville  jamming, writing and recording with some very heavy cats and at the end made a promise to come back. However some visa issues arose as I had not yet worked out that mysterious minefield, so I opted to go to the UK instead.

London was a trip! I was certainly on a lucky streak on arrival; within two weeks I had landed myself a room in one of those feted North London warehouse apartments and picked up a regular rent-paying solo gig. Mind you the apartment hunt took much searching and many interviews, but just when I was about to give up I finally scored in Seven Sisters (Go Tottenham)!

It turned out that one of the roomies was an Aussie who recognised me straight away, so I was in! Our living room, a big open space with an awesome mezzanine level, was the size of a nightclub. And in fact that’s what it turned into on my very first Friday night there; up to 500 people going off! That night I met my dear friend Cristian from Argentina, who it turns out was looking a for a musician to start a regular new music night at the bar/restaurant he was managing in Islington, two suburbs away!

I convinced him (and the owner) to buy some new PA gear. They already had a piano, and so within a week or two  I started a regular Thursday night solo rent-paying residency that continued right up until I was turfed out of the UK 6 months later. In between there were many other great solo, band and DJ gigs all across London and the rest of the UK, and even Wales! Yes Wales. The place nobody knows anything about. That was a fantastic gig, working up a fully arranged and choreo’d show with a six-piece band and the glorious dancers from London’s premier burlesque entertainers, The It Girls.

But back to being turfed out. Half way through my UK visit, a little “adjustment” called the GFC occurred and the UK Home Office decided to scrap their visa system, which to many seemed like a desperate move to force out of the country the only people they really had the power to, i.e. Commonwealth citizens. Specialist visa companies were pulling their hair out trying to offer suggestions, but in the end it came down to the fact I was not going to be able to renew my visa, breaking a long-held tradition for legitimate Commonwealth workers dating back as far as anyone can remember. They told me I had to go home for three months, with a certain amount required in my bank account every day for that period, before I could re-apply to come back. And they had absolutely no idea how long that process would take. I was pissed, as were many other Aussies in London at the time. I had put together a fantastic band, we were doing some great shows and I was slowly but surely raising my profile in London. And after all, Britain is probably the only Western country in the world where a successful musician can feel on the same social level of respect and support as a sport star. But without knowing when I would be able to re-enter the country, I realised I would probably be starting from scratch by the time I returned. So I started looking into the US again.

This time it seemed like the visa laws had relaxed somewhat, perhaps due to Australia’s Howard-era US-friendly policies. Suddenly the green light was on for a 3-year “extraordinary alien” visa and before too long I was living in New York!  I loved every minute living there, despite how confronting and challenging it could be at times. When I first arrived everybody was telling  me “New York’s tough”, and I thought at the time “Well I’m not buying into that”. That old saying “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” sounds so cliched, but it really rings true. It’s the world’s city and a great place to catapult yourself into the international arena; which is why the competitions’s so fierce. I have absolutely no regrets, but on reflection I can now agree that yes, it is a tough town! However I managed to survive for three years as a full-time artist.

The United States is the best and worst of everything all at once. At some point I will elaborate on this further, but no-one I know has ever found an argument with that statement. New York is a perfect example, housing some of the world’s finest creative souls and biggest thinkers, while also hosting the world’s most ferocious white collar criminals down on Wall St. There are strong positive and negative streams of energy siwrling around you all at once, and you have to keep your wits about you to make sure you stay on the right stream! It’s step-up time. Sink or swim. And if you’re an artist there really is no middle ground. Self-promotion is king; you have to let go of any Aussie modesty you may have had before landing. Instead of “Pull your head in mate”, it’s more like pull your head out!

As far as art and culture is concerned, New York’s hard to beat. I used to visit the Guggenheim all the time; and was blown away by witnessing Van Gogh’s Starry Night in the flesh (MOMA), even though I’d seen it in countless books, websites, posters and the like. I just loved getting lost in the swirls and the strokes. Cycling around Central park with my friend Richard Padron was always a pleasure, and discovering the phenomenon known as as a “whole wheat everything bagel toasted with scallion cream cheese” (thanks Andy B) was a delight! But we won’t mention Starbuck’s. Somehow that company managed to convince New Yorkers their coffee is good. But of course Aussies are known as “coffee fascists” in New York. I can name about half a dozen places I can recommend for decent coffee: Little Brown on the Upper East Side; Stumptown on West 29th; Grumpy Cafe in Chelsea, Lower East Side, Park Slope and Greenpoint; Queens Kickshaw in Astoria (one of the best!); Abraco in the East Village; and Pushcart Coffee on East Broadway. You can even order a flat white at Grumpy!

I initially stayed with family friends on that strange little landmass between Manhattan and Queens known as Roosevelt Island. I could write an essay on that place alone (and one day I will), but I guess it’s kind of like the Tasmania of New York. Not many people know much about it at all. Then I landed right in the middle of hipsterville, Williamsburg. For those who know the area, I was literally a stone’s throw from the Bedford Ave subway stop and 7th Ave. My new NY friends were saying “Not sure if that’s your vibe Ty”, but I was convinced I needed to move there anyway. At one of the famed summer Jelly Pool parties down on the river overlooking Manhattan, the line was literally a day and a half long to get into see  local heroes Grizzly Bear. After all, Jay-Z and Beyonce were in the house! I happened to be hanging with two lovely Aussie ladies that day, so we got resourceful. First of all we had to move several blocks away to get mobile range, and once successful we researched the name of Grizzly Bear’s Aussie music distributor. Then we marched confidently up to the VIP area entrance, announced that we were there representing said distributor and that we were on the guest list. I smiled and waited patiently as she checked the guest list, and even though of course she couldn’t find us, she let us in anyway. The accent was definitely an advantage!

I had a great time in Billyburg (and yes before you ask there is a place there called Billy’s Burger); I met some amazing musicians and had some awesome jam sessions, but after 8 months I’d had enough of the dilettantes, wandering around the hood telling themselves “I’m an artist because Daddy bought me a vintage fender, a bunch of pedals and an amp and I’m so cool”. Meanwhile they’d spend all day in the coffee shops or bars just talking about it! I realised if I stayed there much longer, I could turn into one of those people who got drunk and started fights with pompous people like that for no apparent reason!  So I left the home of “fixies”, unnecessary beards and horn-rimmed non-optometrist-prescribed specs and ventured north to Queens. At the time that was considered a maverick move, as the only thing worse than coming from New Jersey was coming from Queens! However I new I’d made the right move when I got invited to my first barbecue, and upon arrival, feeling like I was in someone’s backyard back home! I miss Astoria very much; so many great people in that hood, and no hipster BS (see my other blog post “Why I Love My Hood, Astoria”).

I do believe LIC/Astoria will be the next place in NY to have the spotlight shone over it, like Brooklyn has now. While I lived there a whole slew of new funky bars and restaurants popped up, and you could witness the positive effects of more creative people moving into the area. About a month after I left, an Aussie-themed venue called The Thirsty Koala opened its doors. I have sent my local friends along to investigate and apparently their roo steak is pretty good! Although there were no Aussies on the premises. But it certainly sounds better than Outback Steakhouse, another Aussie-themed restaurant chain that feels decidedly un-Australian. Some of the other things I’ll miss about NY include shit-slinging with my Aussie/Polak buddy Andy Liguz (a brilliant photographer) and my Cuban cuz Richard Padron (his bogan nickname will always be Dicky Padrow), playing and hanging with my New York band, always being spoilt for choice in pretty much everything except for coffee!, down-timing with my roomies, hanging with those crazy cats in the Lower East Side, DJ’ing nothing but punk at Fontana’s and whatever I wanted at Hellgate Social, eating at my local diner, daily felafel rolls from my local kebab shop , getting freebies to Broadway shows (thanks Ritchie and  Jeff!), witnessing the original production of Punchdrunk Theatre Co’s “Sleep No More”, plus all the other parties my mate Andy used to get me into – The Danger Crew’s legendary warehouse and truck parties, Esquire Charity Galas, private hangs at The Bowery and the like. And please don’t blame for calling us “Arsssie” (cue sound like one of us saying “Arsey”). After all, we don’t call the Swiss Swizz do we? 🙂

I’m proud of the fact that I managed to survive almost purely on my musical skills in New York. I decided before moving there that if I had to get a “real job” then even that city wasn’t worth that. Having said that, it’s wonderful to be home and I now appreciate my country much more than I did before I left. There is something so intensely beautiful about the blue skies of Brisbane, particularly when viewing through the trees; at first it just seems like a mirage. And while some would say that Brisbane is still too quiet or conservative, well I’m not sure that really applies anymore.  But it is a slower pace than new York, and there’s nothing wrong with that!  Now about our airport…..