Musician Timothy Chivers
After five long years since a music workshop at Youth ARC, Joel Imber reconnects with and talks to local Hobart musician Timothy Chivers about how he became the local muso hero we all love to see!
Tim started with a couple of originally written and produced songs and since then, has gone on to write more songs, create musical projects and performances, and become more deeply involved with the music industry.
Let’s go back to the beginning, how did you get into songwriting, Tim?
I guess it started when I was 12 years old, that’s when I first picked up a guitar. High school was a pretty crappy experience as it is for most people (haha), and so I had a lot of time by myself to just practice and learn guitar. I started writing songs then. A lot of it was self-taught but I did take a lot of material from my music teacher at the time. My brother and dad were also really good influences, ‘cos they were both musicians and my brother gave me his old guitar (which I think was a crappy Kmart guitar that his friend carved some pretty pictures into). It was a very beautiful sounding guitar though, for something that most likely came from Kmart.
But yeah, I literally self-taught myself, I took home a lot of music sheets from high school and just practiced heaps at home. I’d spend hours in my bedroom learning how to play ‘Smoke on the Water’. That’s where I got my start!
Okay let’s fast track a little bit, so you’ve written some songs but now you’ve gotten into studying a bit more on the technical side?
Yeah, I decided in year 12 that I wanted to study Music Technology at uTas ‘cos I thought I needed a lot of help with the performance side of things, and in retrospect I definitely needed help with performance. So at the end of my degree I decided to get into a Diploma of Performance in guitar. It was quite a challenge at the time.
What’s it like being so connected in the music scene; meeting other songwriters and key people who contribute to creating more opportunities in the music scene?
Meeting people like Amy Fogarty, a key person in the music scene in Hobart has been one of the biggest blessings. To her credit (and for the people reading this, she runs Meraki Management) Amy is one of the most intelligent, honest and hard-working people on Earth! She helped me quite a bit in succeeding and actually making an income from music, which a lot of people don’t think is possible. She helps lots of musicians too, not just me. Musicians are also very resilient people as well so I think that if this social isolation becomes a way of life, then musicians are still going to find ways to make it work.
During this time too, a lot of things that people have been doing while self-isolating is consuming, listening to music, reading books, watching movies etc. So we need artists right now. I know we’re considered ‘non-essential’ workers, but I feel right now more than ever, artists are essential! In the long run, I think it’s going to be a good thing for music because musicians are out there right now in isolation practicing and writing amazing music. They’re refining themselves, and that’s what I’ve been doing too. I haven’t been recording as much music, although there’s been a little bit of that. Mostly I have been practicing and trying to make my sound as solid as possible. So by the time this is all over, there’s going to be an entire generation of musicians who just go out there and kill it! I know people were ‘killin it’ beforehand, but there’s no limit to how good a musician can sound in my opinion. So by the time this next generation of musicians gets out there and gets the word out that music is still alive, audiences are going to start listening and saying to themselves, “Woah this is amazing!”
What was the first music project that you did after you had a few songs under your belt and where has it taken you? Where are you headed now?
I’ve been chipping away at quite a few things. I started a couple of projects at the Youth ARC guitar workshops, in the songwriting workshops. It was in those workshops that I met a long time collaborator Ruben Nomikos who has played bass and keys for me. We even started a band called ‘Nice Pie’, which has since ended but he’s also playing bass for my Willis Peak project, which is my pseudonym as a solo writer, performer and producer. It’s been very much a ‘me-project’ but now that the first EP’s been released I am collaborating with a lot more people. Before the social isolation struck we were getting a pretty good band together!
What are the things that are most important for you about music in that aspect?
I feel like this is something that a lot of musicians forget, from the most amateurs to the most experienced musicians. It’s that music is entertainment! That’s where it all started. Some musicians disagree with that and that’s fine. But music to me is a way to pass the time, while we wander along this earth. I really love listening to music that has really solid songwriting where the chords, melody and lyrics work together so perfectly to make a person feel things. But then also they might have something more interesting in the background; like the vocalist has an interesting inflection or the producer goes crazy with something in the background. A combination of something familiar but something interesting too! They’re the things I’m very attracted to, so you can expect to hear music from me that is very familiar song writing, pop-song-writing styles with just a little something strange to throw you off.
Do you have a particular style or genre that might come to mind, even though that’s often a hard question to answer?
Well I go through very long phases of ‘writer’s block’. When I was in High School I used to write 10 songs a week or something ridiculous like that. Then gradually moved to one song every couple of months. When I decided to start the Willis Peak Project I thought, you know what I’m just putting too much pressure on myself! I’ll just write songs that I think sound good! So I did that and created an EP that is six tracks long, with a couple of tracks on that EP that are more experimental than the others. But mostly I’ve just tried to stick to a song-writing formula that has nice chord progressions, melodies and nice sounding production. So that’s what I’ve gone with. I’ve drawn on influences like The Lumineers who I was listening to a lot of the time and a couple of references like Vance Joy, George Ezra, kind of like that acoustic-based, singer-songwriter stuff. I was also inspired quite a bit by Gang of Youths and Bon Iver as well. It is mostly acoustic-based, folky stuff but in the future I really want to go for more of a rock, alternative route.
If you could go back to your younger self to give some music advice, what would it be?
One thing is that when I was attending the workshops at Youth ARC, I didn’t take music anywhere near as seriously as I take it now. I think the main reason for that is because I was unsure about whether or not music would be a viable option for my future. A lot of musicians do find it hard to make things work financially. But there are people out there, like I mentioned earlier like Amy Fogarty who are so supportive. There are venue owners, events managers and places like Youth ARC that really want to see musicians succeed. If you’re worried about committing to music even though you love it and it’s your absolute passion, you care about music so much that you’ve got that fire, but you don’t want to do it because you’re worried about being able to make ends meet and make money. But if you love it, you’ve just got to work on it and commit to it because you want to be doing something that you love to do.
For more please check out Tim’s music on Spotify at Willis Peak, and if you like it then get on Bandcamp to buy the EP where Tim will donate all proceeds for the remainder of 2020 to ARC who help feed animals that were displaced by the recent bushfires in Australia. What a guy!