Danielle McGrane has chatted and taken selfies with Ed Sheeran, Amy Poehler and Kim Cattrall, but AAP's entertainment reporter's biggest passion is Australian music
Danielle McGrane has a pretty fun life. One day she's on a red carpet waiting to chat to Amy Schumar, Kim Cattrall, Drew Barrymore, Ed Sheeran, Amy Poelher, Demi Lovato and more (too many to list them all), another day she could be covering fashion shows, or attending Hollywood blockbuster movie premieres, theatre productions, ballets, rooftop gigs, operas, award shows, orchestral performances, perhaps even watching Jamie Oliver cook up a storm. All in a week's work when one is the entertainment reporter for the Australian Associated Press (AAP). Yet amidst the glitz, glamour and sparkly celebrities, Danielle remains transfixed on the Australian music scene. She is a part of a team of people who have created a program called The RIght Note, a weekly music news and reviews online show featuring performances by some of Australia's best artists. The Right Note is hosted by Danielle alongside the editor of Rolling Stone Australia Rod Yates, radio presenter and Frenzal Rhomb's lead guitarist Lindsay "the Doctor" McDougall, and The Sydney Morning Herald senior music writer Bernard Zuel. Originally from Ireland, Danielle moved here six years ago and now firmly calls Sydney, Australia home. She took the time to chat with Music Love all about her career in entertainment, her passion for local Australian music with some advice for aspiring music journalists and artists.
What does music mean to you?
Music has been like another language in my life since I was four years of age when I started learning the violin, and it hasn't left my consciousness since then. It's been a constant friend, life-companion and support to me in every aspect of my life. I believe music is an extension of myself.
How long have you been an entertainment reporter?
It doesn't feel like it's been very long because I have daily moments where I say to myself "Oh my God, this is your job! You lucky, lucky thing". But in real terms, I've been an entertainment journalist for eleven years.
How did you get into music media?
I've been playing music and performing my whole life and studied it right up to university level, but always had a huge fascination with people and how they represented themselves in the media. When my friends at uni were imagining their lives as performers, I always had my heart set on becoming a journalist and actually interviewing the creatives and musicians. My first job after uni was an entry-level position with Ireland's music magazine Hot Press and since then I've covered mostly music and entertainment at various news outlets including my current role at Australian Associated Press (AAP).
Who are your favourite Australian women in music?
So many of my dealings are with music publicists and I've grown to respect so many of them for their incredible work ethic and professionalism. But one of the first publicists I dealt with in my role at AAP was Maree Nardone who I've been working with since her role at Alberts and now in her job as National PR & Media Manager at Universal Music Australia. Some publicists just "get" it and she's one of them.
I also adore Melbourne musician Olympia. I think she's pushing the boat out with her brand of pop, both conceptually and musically, and I'm excited to see where her career takes her when she brings her music overseas.
What are your thoughts on the Australian music industry at the moment?
Coming from Ireland over six years ago, I was really impressed with triple J. The fact the station champions local artists at every level has helped foster a thriving music scene here. There's also some incredible Australian musicians making their mark on the international scene and that's testament to the quality of music created here, which I think largely stems from this encouragement to develop their sound from as early as high school.
What advice would you give aspiring music journalists?
Write for anyone and as much as you can. In the beginning, you can't afford to be picky. Offer to cover a gig for a music blog for the free ticket at first. Once you've been published and have got some practice in, start looking for places where you can pitch ideas and then you have will at least have some work to show them. I also think people shouldn't be afraid to do a job that isn't their dream job initially. There are very few music journalism jobs these days, but there is work for people who are digitally creative. So learn how to use photoshop and edit video because you'll be expected to be able to create a full digital package. Don't say no to a job in journalism, jump in and get as much experience as you can.
What advice would you give aspiring musicians?
Write your own songs and upload them online either to SoundCloud or YouTube or triple J unearthed. Countless artists have been discovered this way. Find people to write with and collaborate with and then get some experience performing somewhere locally, either at an open mic night or anywhere you see an opportunity to perform. I think busking is great practice for any artist. The biggest issue with many new musicians these days is they don't have enough performance experience so combining live performance with an online presence is key.
Tell us about the TV show The Right Note
This is the show that has been missing from the Australian musical landscape! It's the brainchild of Rolling Stone Australia editor Rod Yates who was tired of wondering why a music review show didn't exist and decided to create one. Rod is on the panel alongside myself and Bernard Zuel (senior music writer with the Sydney Morning Herald). We discuss the latest events in music and review the week’s most notable album releases, and it's hosted by Lindsay "the Doctor" McDougall from triple J. Every week there's a musical guest on who has a chat with one of us and then does a live performance.
We started the show in late 2016 and it's streamed online every Friday on new online platform, Skipi TV. All our episodes are up there so it's worth taking a look back over them to see the amazing acoustic performances we've had from Holly Throsby, James Mercer of The Shins, Christopher Whitehall of The Griswolds, Middle Kids, Jack Colwell and Abbe May. The next episode will feature Sydney singer-songwriter Dean Lewis.
Australian singer/songwriter Holly Throsby performs on The Right Note
How does AAP champion Australian music?
I reckon about 80 per cent of my output is about Australian artists. It makes sense that we, as the national news wire, report about things that are happening here in this country and to people who live here. For me, personally, I think there are so many musicians here doing interesting things that it's a no-brainer for me to talk to them rather than chasing an elusive international artist.
Occasionally, I do get a chance to speak with musicians from other parts of the world but I always look for the angle that makes the conversation relevant to an Australian audience because that's who I'm writing and reporting for.
How do you find new music to write about for AAP?
Because I've been in this position for several years now, I've built up some great contacts within the music industry at music labels, independent labels, artists, artist managers and publicists. It's a combination then of liaising with them about who is releasing something or touring, and who would like to talk about their creative endeavours. I also keep an eye on things like social media, streaming charts, playlists and blogs to see who else is causing a stir or creating something interesting.
What is your favourite place in Australia?
Definitely Sydney. It's the city I live in and I chose it for a reason. I think it's the most beautiful city in the world and still a place of opportunity and optimism. Every time I return here from somewhere else I feel a rush of positivity.
Getting wet at last year's ARIAs. Like we all did. Images via Twitter
Do you miss Ireland?
Yes, so much. Leaving your home is never easy and, of course, leaving behind your family and friends is one of the most gut-wrenching things you can ever do. I still keep a close-eye on the music scene there because it is a really musical place and I'm lucky I get home to Dublin for a visit nearly every year.
Who is your favourite non-musical Australian artist?
Cate Blanchett. I saw her perform in The Present at the Sydney Theatre Company in 2015 and couldn't shake the feeling that I was in the presence of greatness.
Where is your favourite Australian place to eat?
The Butler in Potts Point because the last time I ate there I was with my Mum who came to visit me and we had an amazing lunch so that day has gone into the memory bank. But I can't go past Messina where my husband and I went to get gelato on our very first date and where we continue to go (probably a little too much!) for their changing weekly flavours.