May is New Zealand Music Month – New Zealand’s annual celebration of homegrown music and the people who make it. In each edition for the month of May, the Oamaru Mail is showcasing and celebrating local talent and all those who have contributed to the music scene in North Otago. This week, Rebecca Ryan talks to Tom Cameron-Duncan.
Music has always been part of Tom Cameron-Duncan’s life, but he never expected it would become his career.
The 20-year-old former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil was back in Oamaru this week taking some time out from what has been a “crazy” three years travelling around Australia playing music.
It all started when Cameron-Duncan went to watch The Delta Riggs in concert in Byron Bay, while on holiday in Australia.
Afterwards, he met the band and mentioned he had come from New Zealand to see them play.
“They were like ‘oh, no way, that’s sick – have you got a flight home yet?’,” Cameron-Duncan said.
He did not – so they invited him to go on tour with them as a stage technician, helping with the setup of their gigs.
From there, he started jamming with them, then playing bass for them, made connections with other big-name Australian artists and is now working full-time in Australia as a freelance musician hired to play bass on recording sessions.
“It kind of just happened – it was crazy,” he said.
“I met the right people and said the right things .. and now it’s a fulltime job.
“I’m very lucky.”
He got a booking agent last year to help keep up with demand as a session musician and has worked with Australian musicians including folk star Angus Stone, of duo Angus and Julia Stone, and Nick Cunningham.
He has also travelled around Australia playing shows and festivals, including Splendour and Falls Festival, in front of crowds of up to 40,000 people.
Cameron-Duncan started learning the guitar in his early teens, when he was at Oamaru Intermediate School.
“Dad’s got a good record collection – I think that’s where it stemmed from,” he said.
“I didn’t really take it seriously, I just watched videos of Liam Gallagher and Oasis playing and just picked it up.”
He also credited Waitaki Boys’ High School English teacher Matt Plunkett for introducing him to different styles of music.
“He’s definitely one of the guys who kicked it all off and made me take it a bit more seriously,” he said.
“Bands like The Trendees – I love what they’re doing. They’ve got this original, crazy sound.”
But it was never something he expected to pursue as a career – he only started playing bass, the instrument that is now his main source of income, about three years ago.
After a few days at home in Oamaru, Cameron-Duncan flew back to Australia on Tuesday with a busy few months ahead.
“Just heaps of studio work with heaps of different artists .. and a tour in August,” he said.
He plays bass on Dope Lemon’s new single Hey You, released yesterday, and is writing more of his own music.
He would like to return to New Zealand in the future, but Australia is home for now and he loves the Byron Bay lifestyle.
“It’s amazing, so cool – it’s a cultural hub, it’s sunny and warm, heaps of cool people and it’s funny you always bump into random people from Oamaru there.”
Cameron-Duncan said the “most special thing” about the past three years was it had come from being inspired and encouraged by Oamaru musicians, like Tony Campbell and Steve Harrop, to play.
“It’s all come from playing Wagon Wheel with Tony at the [Criterion Hotel] – that’s the coolest part about it,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter how many people you’re playing to, or how many people listen to your songs on the radio – as long as people have that connection to what they’re hearing.”