Drinks in hand, the audience don’t have to wait long before Didirri appears. At first, his sole focus is the guitar as he prepares on stage, taking his time while the audience observes a young man connecting with his instrument. Eventually, the kindred atmosphere becomes charged with intensity as he enforces a bond with each member of his audience. Frequently sharing personal anecdotes, thoughts, and memories between songs - he assures us he is no better or worse than anyone.
Photographer Jade Danielle Smith photographs Didirri in home comforts, creating a story which seeks to portray his soft temper. Stylist Nathan Henry decorates Didirri in casual attire complementing his spirit while working around Didirri’s own signature Mickey Mouse belt. Having thrifted the buckle on his travels, Didirri revamped the belt, transforming it from a cardboard strap into a leather belt with the help of a London-based Italian belt maker.
From busking outside Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena to touring Australia with Vance Joy to touring Europe himself, the Australian musician is just getting started. Having recently released a six-track debut EP, ‘Measurements’, Didirri's potential is found in-between the lyric lines. He lays it all out in song, with an open letter to his ex-girlfriend and another track named after his dog. Before the day of this London gig, we sat down for a chat with the promising musician, enabling a deeper dive into his journey.
What’s your favourite thing about London?
Good question. I don’t know. I’m a massive fan of architecture and then specifically old buildings. In Australia, we’re impressed whenever a university is a hundred years old, but then you come here and it’s like; "this building is a thousand years old!". I like what is now considered up and coming. I don’t know much but I particularly love certain parts of Shoreditch and Camden. I’ve stayed in all sorts of places here. The first time I came here I stayed in South Kensington, which is very la-de-dah. We stayed about a hundred meters from the Natural History Museum - that building is stunning!
Did you go visit?
Yeah, twice. It was so cool - every pillar has a stone-carved animal at the bottom of it holding it up over different species. It was impressive. I like science and I like history, but I only like what I’m interested in - it’s very very particular. I either find it interesting or not.
If you go to a museum, you know the sections you want to go to?
Yeah - maybe, it’s just whatever gets to me at the time. I like human history and evolution in particular. I like anything that makes me feel like I’m at the end of a very long line of events - if that makes sense - or the middle of a long line of things.
You have a very unique name, can you tell me where it comes from? It’s your birth name, isn’t it?
It is, I guess it’s not particularly my place to say - it’s an indigenous Australian name and something I encourage people to research. I know vaguely the origins of it but I respect that people do their own research. The Miriam Rose Foundation is something that I would recommend for people who would like to do some research.
Did you travel a lot when you were younger?
Mostly in Australia but I saw a lot of it - my dad is a travelling musician.
Do you take a lot of inspiration from your dad?
Yeah, the storytelling side of stuff, for sure. He is very good at communicating what is going on and what’s in his head. I definitely got that from him. He taught me to talk to an audience the way you talk to one person rather than doing the hyped up stuff. I try to lock eyes with people and not just look vaguely off at the crowd like so many people do. You can kind of tell when an artist does that, but I like to lock in with certain people.
What inspires you to create music and perform?
It’s a difficult question that I get quite a lot. I’m probably paraphrasing someone but I think a sign of a creative is that they can’t stop creating. I wouldn't be able to stop, not even if you paid me. Even if I took up some other job to pay the bills I’d have to keep doing this. There are so many things that inspire me - that's part of what it is I think. It’s kind of like asking someone why they get out of bed, so it’s different every day. And it should be - I’d get incredibly bored if it was the same thing inspiring me every day.
How would you describe your music style?
The way I write is kind of traditional folk-style: pen, paper, a guitar and maybe a piano or whatever I have at the time. Although, when I’m recording it’s much more of a collected sounds kind of thing. I generally go in with a big box of stuff and fill the recording until it’s full and then strip it back until it’s more sculpture-y and musical. I like dropping things on pianos, playing the wall and stuff, but definitely centred in on singer-songwriter, even though I absolutely despise the term.
Why is that?
It just applies to anyone who writes and sings a song - it’s like saying a guitarist plays guitar-y music. The term doesn’t speak to me because unless you play instrumental music, everyone’s a singer-songwriter. It’s just a silly term to me. My music, I guess, is centred in folk roots, but I’m a bit more aggressive and flow-y. It's hard to define where the verse or chorus starts and ends. People always say; "Where’s the chorus?" or whatever, and I’ve been like; "well, I think there and there". Often people say they’ve got the verse stuck in their head or whatever, which is the standard thing I guess. That just comes from both being over-experienced and under-experienced.
I don’t know what I’m doing but I’ve been doing it for a long time, so it kind of just comes out the way it comes out. It’s a quality over quantity kind of thing. It’s much more of a stripping back process for me. I’ve never particularly struggled with writer’s block per se. I’ve either been really busy and that’s why I haven’t written or I’m just not writing a good song, but I've never sat down and been like; "I can’t bring myself to write anything". For me, it’s a daily practice and I think there are definitely people with a similar passion. I find that for me I’m constantly having to write down ideas - and that’s a daily practice. I also force myself to put pen to paper most days to keep myself moving. My guitarist is a bit like that with his guitar, he needs to put his fingers to the fretboard, otherwise, he feels a bit bizarre that day.
How do you feel when you perform?
I just did a tour in Australia with Vance Joy and there were like 15 thousand people or whatever there, but because of the lighting, I couldn’t see a single person which definitely affected me. Just singing to a black void of no eyes, it was kind of hard to tell how it went. We played in Auckland for the last show, which is in New Zealand, and they had the house lights slightly up so I could see people and it just changed the show so much. I had so much more energy and involvement with what was going on. When I've done a really good show, I probably won’t remember much of it. It’s kind of like that. I hate that it’s such a cliché - the ‘in the flow’-zone. When it goes really well, it just happens: you switch off, you’re in the moment and not focusing on every little thing.
When it’s a bad show I notice every single little thing that I do - even the good things. I’ll notice the good things more as well - sort of like I need to fight for them, but I guess the aim is just being here. A 'nothing else matters kind of moment', and you can just tell there’s a vibe afterwards with an audience in the way they talk with you afterwards. You can really get a sense of whether or not you connected with people or not. I don’t know, it’s strange, I don’t think live music is going anywhere - I don’t think there’ll be a Tinder app that can get rid of it. People want to stand next to a bunch of people who are feeling the same thing at the same time and not have to talk to them about it, but you all have this feeling and you’re all like; "this is really cool".
What would be your dream gig?
The Cavern! There’s also a theatre in my hometown Warrnambool that’s quite large that I would love to be able to do one day - it’s called the Lighthouse Theatre. I kind of just did it: I used to busk outside the front of this place called Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, which is where we just played for Vance Joy, and that was a really emotional day - standing where I used to busk and make pennies. Then playing in front of all these people and walking out the front again afterwards and just being like; "this is nuts".
Which gig has been your favourite?
Part of the craft to me is seeing how you react to different spaces. Stadiums are weird, house parties are weird, and pubs are cool - it’s always different. It’s always sharpening your tools. I like a medium-sized theatre where everyone is sitting down and there are those classic lights that go down and everyone claps. And a super rock pub because there’s an energy about a place like that when you walk out and you strum a cord and people just go apeshit and they’re just a little bit looser and a bit more aggressive. I came from a protest-y family so that kind of rebellious vibe - and the small town white-bred theatre as well.
What was it like growing up in Australia?
Probably pretty similar to most places, but I guess distance is different. Growing up a touring kid - it’s like 40 hours to drive across our country and there’s nothing in-between. It’s not like America where you can do 30 shows because you pass five capital cities. When I’ve dealt with people in the UK and they’re like; "We’re really sorry, we’ve booked you a show in the Netherlands and then a show in Berlin". I'm like; "what, that’s a six-hour drive? Sweet, not a problem!" Australia's got some amazing things going for it, but also some hard things. I’m from a farming community and the global warming, drought situation is pretty fucked at the moment. A lot of farmers are not making it and a lot of people are incredibly depressed because there’s nothing they can do. This is a situation in Australia that is being ignored by cities one hundred per cent. They’re like; "Well, I still get my groceries". I’m from a city now and I get it, it’s really easy to just be like; "meh!", but I don’t know. Australia is mostly desert, there is about 20 per cent of the land we can live on. Australia’s this weird zone politically - just in terms of our acceptance of refugees into a place where we’ve got so much space is a bit ridiculous to me, but I don’t know. Not that I’m an expert on any of that.
Boys by Girls loves to explore the ways masculinity is changing. How do you feel about this topic?
I have so many conflicting opinions, but I think one of the big ones for me - I don’t know much about the situation here - but in Australia, male suicide is going up in incredible numbers, especially out in the rural communities. I don’t particularly see the help in saying people are being hyper-masculine and that being an issue. I do see it as an issue because I’m an effeminate male and people thought I was gay in high school. It was not fun for me, but I don’t think that talking with a low voice or being into your body is the biggest issue. I think it’s the way you treat people. People might see a fit guy that speaks with a low voice and who is not particularly articulate as a representation of someone misogynistic and homophobic, whereas for years we’ve been trying to say the opposite, like how someone who’s camp and feminine doesn’t necessarily have to be gay. That’s the exact same equation to me just flipped backwards. That’s stereotyping and it's a huge issue in every form. 15-year-old me would be so shocked that I said that because I was so anti anything masculine throughout my high school years. I think I’ve just learnt the more audience I have, the more people have come up to me and shared different points of view which have come from so many different people. Many of which I would’ve considered hyper-masculine and I would’ve avoided straight away because of my thoughts in high school. They have now come up to me and they’re just essentially big boys with feelings. Every single problem that I see, for me, is due to miscommunication in every facet of society. Prove me wrong, but I think, for me, that’s the biggest issue. Good on you for tackling it.
Honestly, I feel like I’m a leftie, but there seems to be one conversation happening all the time that is; "Look at me, I said the right thing", and it’s like; "no, let’s get into the details!". Look at the complicated shit, because that’s where we’re going to find solutions, not in the; "I said the thing! Everyone celebrate!". It’s about the details and people don’t like that it’s about the details - they want a golden rule that applies, but every situation is slightly different and slightly more complicated and convoluted. The way you can do that is by having long conversations. Sometimes I’ll have a two-hour conversation with one of my best friends about it and then it’ll be like; "if that took us two hours, how are people who have differing opinions supposed to have a one comment conversation?".
Like the 140 character limit?
Yeah, I just think it’s complete bullshit to attempt to have a meaningful conversation in a tweet or on Facebook. "Everyone who agrees with this, like it so we can all feel good about ourselves!". Well no, there are some serious chats that I’d like to have, but specifically, I don’t think masculinity is changing or should change. As someone who associates more as a feminine character, I think people are entitled to be as traditionally masculine or feminine as they like. It’s the add-on shit that’s the problem - not the initial thing. There are a lot of people who would argue with me on that, absolutely, but you can be masculine and not be a misogynist. I would say toxic misogyny is a bigger issue than toxic masculinity. I don’t particularly know what you’re saying when you say the second one and I know what you mean when they say the first one. It feels like a broad brush because the implication when you say toxic masculinity, for me, that must mean there is a toxic femininity. Well, I don’t think anyone would understand toxic femininity, so why do we use the first one? Just talk specifically about the details. Misogyny is bad. Homophobia is bad. Sexism is bad.
Do you think social media helps or hinders this conversation?
It’s an interesting one. All I would say is that I’m a naturalist - we’ve had thousands and thousands of years, in my opinion, of socialising, and we’ve had ten years of social media and I don’t think we’ve quite worked out how to deal with that. I’ve been reading a lot about cognitive dissonance which is a psychological theory and one of the things they talk about is people’s ability to do awful things. Like Nazis are a cliché example, but they went along doing evil things while being anonymous. They had the ability to not face the person that they were persecuting, and social media ticks all of these boxes. People have the ability to say things that they wouldn’t say in their real life, and I think for me, that is one of the biggest issues. It’s really difficult but I try not to say anything that I wouldn’t be able to say to a person in real life. Many people are starting conversations with other people on social media about certain issues, so it is a good start for the deeper conversation that we need to have. The proof is there, with for instance the ‘Me Too’ movement that sparked a huge conversation. I don’t think the one online was the best one, but I think the one within the media and the one within households or even within touring parties were great. As a musician, the conversation behind the scenes was as important as it was on the global front.
Onto a slightly lighter topic, do you have a muse?
I’d love one, but I don’t trust a muse to not fuck up at some point in my life. It used to be people like Stephen Fry and Tina Fey. Definitely comedians - I love how harsh their job is. To cut your teeth as a comedian is really difficult and brutal, like people either laugh or they don’t. I have a lot of respect for comedians.
What makes you happy?
It’s a daily thing I think. I get pleasure and happiness mixed up all the time, which I think is pretty common for everyone. I think pleasure is the thing that makes you happy straight away, but happiness is the thing that makes you happy sustained. I would say conversations where I feel like I hear the other person and they hear me. I’m a very old man at heart. If the music’s too loud when I’m trying to have a chat or when someone’s trying to chat while I’m listening to music - I hate it. Maybe I’m just a one track guy. Beautiful music, beautiful art, or I guess not so beautiful music and not so beautiful art also makes me happy sometimes. Knowing that you’ve done something good for the day is pretty damn good, and I’m in a privileged position where people message me quite often and say what I’ve done for them that day. It definitely encourages me.
You recently released your debut EP ‘Measurements’, what do you want to communicate to your audience with it?
During that chapter of my life, they were lessons I learnt and advice I gave myself. They are mostly warnings of what not to do in life. One of the biggest themes I think the EP explores is the idea of forgiveness. Mostly it was about realising that you don’t have to drink the Kool-Aid, you can just do the thing that you think is right and ignore the thing that everyone else is telling you to do.
Do you have a favourite song?
The first one. It’s called ‘Blind You’ and it’s a letter to my ex-girlfriend. It says: 'I think you’re rad and you’re an awesome person, but we don’t work'. It was a really difficult thing to say. I think it’s really easy to say; ‘screw you, I hate you, I never loved you’, which are all just stupid things that you tell yourself because that’s obviously not true. No one gets into a relationship because they don’t love someone. It’s kind of like; "I hope you find someone". I woke up at 3 am with that 'You’ll find a love to blind you' line on my mind. It's also sort of a letter to myself. In the end, it always is. Six months after I put it out I was like; "ah shit’". I was kind of telling myself that it was okay for me to go find someone and move on.
Does she know it’s about her?
Yeah. We called each other and chatted about it. She said she'd listened to it three times and that she never wanted to hear it again, but she also said thank you. It just feels like that is the song on the EP that says everything I wanted it to say. There’s a great quote - I remember the quote but I don’t remember the details – that says a work of art is never finished, it's just given up on. That is generally applicable, but that song I feel like I finished, which is cool.
As the theme of our last issue was about dreamers, what do you tend to dream about?
You’ve caught me at the perfect time because I usually don’t remember my dreams but whenever I’m jetlagged I wake up in the middle of them and actually remember what I was just dreaming. I dream a lot - they’re definitely some of the most terrifying things I’ve ever thought about in my whole life - not that they’re night terrors or anything - but I am so shocked by the capability of my brain sometimes. I love when people talk about schizophrenia and they’re like; "I can’t understand what that would be like", and I’m like; "really?". Every night I think up the craziest things ever, where I'm in a different reality. We all go absolutely bonkers every night and that keeps you in the right place. I’m very shocked by my brain some nights, either it’s just super boring or it's really bizarre. I’m jealous of my guitarist, he’s a lucid dreamer and he can control what happens in his dreams. Often he’s like; "I’m going to fly today!", and he jumps out the window and flies around in his dream.
Do you have any long-term plans?
I really try not to have goals. I like to think I’ll get to a state where I’m pretty happy most days, but I think with goals you just tick them off. If you’re on track every day to do the thing you want to do, you’ll probably kick those goals without even noticing it. If I set myself out to just do the one thing, I feel like it just stresses me out. Setting a goal is very binary: you either succeed or fail. It's better to work towards that thing every day. It doesn’t matter how long it takes; "I’ll get there, that’s my thing!".
What is one statement you wish to put out into this world?
Know that you don’t know everything and that it is the most beautiful thing about you.