Music brings harmony
5 July, 2020, 7:45 pm
Lusi Austin may have been born and raised in Australia, but Fiji has a place in her heart.
Her mum is Australian while her dad hails from Macuata.
The singer-songwriter lives in the west of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
She was raised in a home where music took centre-stage.
She holds an Arts Degree in Drama.
She plays in the Central West NSW music venues and enjoys entertaining local crowds in wine bars, pubs and clubs.
Lusi also sings at weddings, corporate events and other social events.
She says her songs are about life and humanity. This week she shares her journey with The Sunday Times.
Please could you explain a bit about you and your family?
My husband Brett and I have been married almost 20 years. We have five children aged 18, 16, 15, 11 and eight. We live about 6 hours west of Sydney in a small rural town. I was raised in the western suburbs of Sydney and have three siblings.
What is your Fiji connection?
My parents are Talaqea and Karen Vuki. My dad is from Waiqele, Labasa. My parents met when my mum (who is Australian) was teaching at Nabala – a school on Vanua Levu. My mum taught my dad’s brother (my dad had already left school).
How did your parents meet?
Mum and dad met at a dance and have been married now for 45 years! They were married in Labasa in 1974 at the Holy Family Church and my brother was born in Fiji. Due to health reasons, they decided to relocate to Australia in the late 1970s where my sisters and I were born in Sydney.
What are some of your best memories of Fiji?
My family and I would travel back to Labasa to visit my grandparents when we were kids as often as we could. I have amazing memories of ‘koro’ life – playing pani, eating mangoes, going to the Labasa market, riding in busses, learning meke with my cousins, horse riding and practicing our Macuata dialect as best I could. Talk about coming back to Fiji after many years of living abroad! In December 1996, I took my first trip back to Fiji all by myself. I went back in 1998 for four months. Some of our children have Fijian middle names (my eldest has Losalini – after my beautiful Nau). Sadly, my grandfather passed away before my husband or children could meet him. I visited Labasa in 2012 with Brett and all our children, then I visited Labasa again in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
When was your last trip to Fiji?
My last trip was early last year when we got word that my Nau was ill and my parents, my sisters and I all flew over together to say our goodbyes. It was the hardest trip of my life and I’ll never forget it. I have a love for Fiji, for all our family (my aunties, uncles, cousins) and the land but especially for my grandmother. It’s very hard to think of her not in the village under the “volau” anymore.
What was your Nau like?
She loved and accepted me as I was – she knew and understood that life must have been different for us in Australia and she always welcomed me with an open heart. We’d share jokes together and I’d try my best to tell her little stories. I miss her so much.
How and when did you start singing?
I grew up singing with my family as a child. Mum played the piano, dad the guitar and my sisters and I would just break off into three-part harmony. We had lots of exposure to music when we were younger. I have very fond memories of dad singing in Fijian in the lounge. He would sing Isa Lei or Na gauna Au A Sega Ni Tadra (which my parents would sing in harmony).
When and why did you decide to sing as a career?
My sisters and I started entering talent quests during our high school years. One sister became an actor (The Fiji Times covered a story on her in the 1990s) and my other sister is a professional musician. I always sang in church and recorded a worship album but when we moved away from Sydney, I began singing in a duo and eventually went solo. I play in the Central West NSW circuit of music venues,
but I also wanted to record my own songs, songs that talk about life and humanity.
How much of your upbringing influenced your career?
So much! They gave us an upbringing that was rich in culture, in stories, in love and in faith. They taught us that we should always trust in God, live with integrity and hold on to hope during hard times. They taught us the value of loving our family well, of a good work ethic, of living within our means and of
never forgetting your roots. These things I carry in my heart each day, but I think they also come out in my songwriting too.
What inspires you and your songs?
I get really inspired by words. The story in the song is usually the starting point for me. In life in general, I’m inspired by simple things really: the love of my husband, my faith, my struggles and the experiences and issues facing people I deeply care about. I love reflecting on memories and thinking about the
bigger picture of life.
What is your model of success?
Well to me, success is all about living a life that is pleasing to God. From that place, I believe flows peace which can give the most amount of satisfaction that I can get. I had a dream which was to record my own songs and see them being released.
Talk about how your career in music developed over the years
I studied for three years and obtained a Bachelor of Arts – Performance (Drama) when I was younger. I spent many years not on the stage while I was busy raising our young family except for playing in church and recording a worship album in 2011. I then started performing in a duo then went solo singing
cover shows around the Central West of New South Wales.
I got sick last year with Ross River Virus and while I was in the hospital and was experiencing debilitating pain in my joints, I really began to feel that I may never be well enough to record my original songs. I told my husband that if I ever did get well enough, I’d like to book in the studio time and do it. When
I had recovered from the Ross River Virus, I did exactly that – booked in the studio time and began the process of professionally recording my album as an independent artist and have it produced and marketed as best I could.
Where are you right now in terms of your music?
Right now, I’m so excited that my EP ‘Walking Contradiction’ is out in the world. The first single ‘Back in Town’ received a number one on a radio show here called ‘My Country Australia’ which is played in 71 places throughout the world. Some tracks from the EP have received both commercial and community
radio play which has been wonderful. I’ve been selling CDs and hearing from people who have listened to the tracks on Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube.
What’s the feedback like?
It’s great hearing from people who have enjoyed what I’ve produced. It’s humbling to hear. Normally, I have a calendar full of gigs but with the COVID-19 lockdown, obviously everything has been put on hold for the last few months and I’m not sure when that will all go back. It’s just a bit of a waiting game
right now. In the meantime, I’ve been writing more songs and have been contemplating a new album too.
What are your plans for the immediate future and beyond?
Right now, the focus is in trying to market my music. I don’t have a publicist or an agent so I have to do the work myself to get my music heard. I had to build my own website (www.lusiaustin.com) and apply to radio stations locally and internationally to have people hear it. You don’t want to spend time and money creating an album for it to not be heard by anyone. So the publicity of it all is the most immediate plan. Beyond that, I will keep writing and hope to do more shows and some festival gigs too.
Any hobbies (when not immersed in your world of music)?
When I’m not doing music, I am home schooling my children. We have been home schooling them for 12 years and so my sidegig is my home schooling website www.thathomeschoollife.com.au where I help other home schooling parents by designing templates and sharing stories to encourage them in their journey. My other hobbies include reading, photographing our family, catching up with friends and listening to other people’s music.
What advice do you have for Fijian girls and women struggling in music?
Remember why you are trying to get your music out there. For me, it definitely isn’t with the hope of becoming rich and famous but it’s about sharing my stories through my music with the world around me. It doesn’t matter how old you are either – just work hard, act with integrity and give it a good go!
What was COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions period like?
This period of lockdown has been hard for everyone: firstly, for those sick and secondly for everyone not wanting to get sick. It’s sad that the arts sector here has been so debilitated by the lockdown, but it can’t be helped. It will be interesting to see how venues and entertainers recover.
Some delve into music to escape problems in life. What about you?
Music is a lovely escape from the busyness of my life as a wife and mother. I still get to develop the gifts God gave me and I love doing that through music. It’s a great outlet for creativity and for me socially too. I think music also helps to give me perspective and remind me of who I am.
Is there any other thing that you’d liketo add?
With Fiji having such a special place in my life, I have also tried hard to have my kids become familiar with Fijian customs, language and traditions. When my parents visit our home, they’ll often have a Fijian language lesson with my dad or they’ll ask my mum to tell them what it was like when she used to live in Fiji. I always feel blessed to have experienced two cultures and tastes of two worlds: Fiji and Australia.
It has made me who I am today.