Meet triple j presenter Bridget Hustwaite. You will love her
You would be hard pressed to find someone more joyful about music than Bridget Hustwaite, whose name pops up in many of our profiles here at Music Love (Who are your favourite Australian women in music? Bridget Hustwaite), and deservedly so. A champion of Australian music and the live music scene, Bridget attends festival after festival, scours the deep trenches of the web for new music, and has a secret Facebook group comprising of a musical sisterhood who share their insights. She's awake between 1am and 6am working in triple j's Melbourne studio and having a rollicking good time. Bridget was born and raised in Ballarat, and at 21, took the plunge by auditioning for Channel V's presenter search. She made it all the way to the top two out of some 6,000 applicants, and was the only woman in the top four. Her audition tape wasn't super polished, but her love and dedication to music shone as bright as the morning sun. Her determination strengthened after the Channel V search, and Bridget took to volunteering for music website the AU Review to polish her writing and reviewing skills. She has presented and produced community TV and radio shows, a pathway that led her to triple j, working the mid-dawn shift as well as casually hosting for Weekend Lunch, House Party and Home & Hosed. Bridget is a dream and took the time to discuss her love of music with Music Love.
What does music mean to you?
Everything! As cringe as that sounds, it really is my life. Music can capture so many moments and so many different feelings. It’s communication, it’s a coping mechanism and it brings people together. I couldn’t live without music.
You have worked in the music industry for five years now. How has it changed in that time?
It’s a bit hard for me to say because for the first four years, my involvement within the music industry has been in a volunteer capacity and on that basis I've always felt I've been in more of a community rather than an industry!
But from what I have experienced, I’ve seen both good things and bad things. I love that more young people are getting involved and doing their own thing – launching their own blogs, running small festivals, managing artists etc. At the same time, I’ve seen lots of companies and brands take advantage of this kind of stuff through unpaid internships. Of course, money in the music industry isn’t growing off a tree and experience is invaluable but so is their work.
I feel Australian music is really peaking, women are taking charge and the industry is as strong as ever but at the same time, this view of being in a creative field as a “lifestyle choice” still needs to vanish. The music industry should be treated as seriously as any other. I hope we can move forward in that direction, more funding and more external support.
Who are your favourite Australian women in music?
Oh, I have a few! The women that spring to mind first are my friends who still review, interview, photograph and present music content as volunteers. I’m lucky to be part of a small blog crew (we even have our own private Facebook group so it’s a legit sisterhood) who all camp together when working at festivals, go to gigs together and just check in with each other and how everyone is doing. These women aren’t in it for personal gain or exposure, they are truly passionate about supporting music (Australian, in particular) and they know who they are.
In the radio world, I really look up to Zan Rowe, Gemma Pike and Linda Marigliano. I truly believe these three women are at the forefront of music presenting in Australia. They are so knowledgeable, so hungry for fresh talent, and they are all so unique in not only their personal taste, but their presenting style. I love listening to them and I actually can’t believe i can call them colleagues!
I must also mention Tess Lawley, the general manager of the Student Youth Network (SYN). Her commitment to youth media is truly inspiring. Chloe turner (Music Victoria, Listen) constantly baffles me with how much work she takes on. She never stops. Vivan Vo (manager of Yeo, Saatsuma) is always hustlin’. And Jane Gazzo (formerly triple j, BBC, Channel V and now Triple M) has always been checking in on me since we met five years ago.
And of course, the women making music! There are so many Australian artists that I adore – Ella Thompson, Gretta Ray (N.B.,: We have an interview with Gretta coming soon! Ed), Woodes (N.B., Read our interview here! Ed.), Meg Mac, Ali Barter (N.B., We have an interview with Ali coming soon! Ed.), Thelma Plum, Alex Lahey, Bec Sandridge. I could go on and on.
When you were in school, did you aspire towards a career in the music industry?
Not really, because I was never exposed to it as a potential career pathway. I was always led to believe that after high school you either work or study, but not in a creative field. I never thought it was possible so I never pursued it. In year 12 I did biology, psychology, health and physical education. None of that is relevant to me now!
It’s not that my parents ever dismissed a creative pathway as viable. For some reason i just looked at the art and media subjects as something you just did for fun. It’s funny because every day after school I would go home and watch Channel V. I'd look up to Yumi Stynes and Maya Jupiter and sure, I would think “This would be the coolest job” but I never knew how a country kid like me could pursue something like that.
How did it feel to make the top two in the Channel V presenter search? And to be the only woman in the top four?
It was incredible. As I mentioned before, I grew up watching Channel V and every few years they would hold this presenter search. So in 2012, when I was 21, I decided I’d just go for it.
It was my first time presenting and my first time in front of a camera. I’d done a bit of debating and public speaking in high school, so I think that really helped! But to beat 6000 other applications to reach the final two was a really cool feeling. To also be the last standing female – I had lots of girls tweet me and write on Facebook with their support so that was really nice. I wanted to take one for the team!
Tell us about working at the AU Review?
I vividly remember sitting down in a meeting with the former General Manager of Foxtel during the presenter search and he asked if I had any experience in music journalism to which I had not yet at that point. So once the competition wrapped up, I wanted to polish up on the writing skills as I knew it was a valuable trait to have when presenting. I’m so lucky that the AU Review took me on – they let me review a bunch of gigs both in Ballarat and Melbourne, as well as conduct phone interviews with international and local artists and even film some interviews at Falls Festival and Face the Music. I’ve made a lot of great contacts through the AU Review. I’m really grateful to founder Larry Heath (N.B., read our interview with Larry Heath here, Ed.) and editor Sose Fuamoli for believing in me.
How important are music websites to the Australian music industry?
Pretty important, but I feel that high quality music content and proper journalism is even more vital. There’s been a pretty big surge in all these new blogs and everyone seems to be a writer these days. Which is fine, but I’m pretty sick of seeing articles on what an artist said on Instagram, or interviewers asking if someone prefers apples over oranges. I remember Olympia talked about this exact issue at Bigsound last year - how, as an artist, she wants to talk about her music, not her favourite recipe.
Luckily, we still have some great writers around. Women like Sose Fuamoli, Greer clemens, Holly Pereira and Jules Lefevre, Laura Kebby. They give me hope.
Basically, music websites are great, if they are about the music.
Tell us about your work in community/youth radio?
SYN (Student Youth Network) is a youth media organisation in Melbourne and I signed up as a volunteer in 2012. I started out on their live music show 1700 which would air on community TV station channel 31, and then in 2014 I did radio training for SYN 90.7fm.
I did a few mid-dawn shifts to get the feel of presenting and panelling, then I presented two seasons of The Hoist, which is SYN's flagship Australian music show. In 2015, I produced The Houist and also hosted my own show called Spotlight, which was like a Melbourne gig guide that focussed and shone a light on support acts.
How important is community radio to the industry?
It’s definitely one of the biggest driving forces behind Australian music. Community radio is quite often the first to throw support behind a local band/artist. That’s where so many receive their first radio play, their first interview etc. Its reach to regional areas in particular is so important. It’s the most genuine source of media.
Furthermore, community radio isn’t only important to the music industry, but to the media industry as a whole. It’s where so many of Australia’s best presenters have started out and it’s the voice for so many minorities. We need community radio.
Who has been your favourite artist to interview?
I’ve been really lucky with the array of Australian and international artists that I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with. My first ever phone interview was with Sam Bentley (The Paper Kites) and he was really lovely. I was so stoked to interview Yannis Philippakis at Falls two years ago because Foals are my favourite band. But one of the most memorable interviews would be with Melbourne singer-songwriter Ben aAbraham at Bigsound in 2015. He was just so funny but also so genuine about the struggles of being an independent artist in Australia – it was a very real conversation.
What is the best music festival in Australia?
That’s a tricky one because I’ve had so much fun at so many different festivals and they all do an amazing job with running everything. I have fond memories of interviewing artists backstage at three separate Falls Festivals in Lorne, and I recently had a great time at Unify in Gippsland, my first heavy music gathering of sorts. Watching The Presets at Big Day Out in 2007 also has a special place in my heart as that was my first ever big festival! Rip BDO.
triple j is such a unique platform for young Australian musicians – what is it like to work there?
It’s a dream! It’s literally my dream working there. I’ve only been around for fourteen months so the mid-dawn shifts are usually where you’ll find me, but I have been so lucky with some of the opportunities I have already been granted. Hosting Home & Hosed, Weekend Lunch, House Party, Late Nights over summer and a few things on triple j Unearthed too. It’s already been one heck of a time and I’m looking forward to what the next couple of years hold for me.
How do you discover new music?
triple J Unearthed is definitely my go-to, but I follow a bunch of blogs on Twitter and also a lot of passionate people within the industry who tweet out new tunes they love. I’ve always loved listening to SYN as well. You’re always guaranteed a mixed bag of stuff!
What media and publicity advice would you give aspiring artists?
When it comes to submitting music, an email with a link to their music and a succinct bio/presser is great. Massive attachments, not so great! For interviews, be friendly, open and honest with your answers as that will help build good rapport. Receive feedback and criticism with grace, take it on board. And remember, interviewers/reviewers are often just like you – a music lover who’s likely to be doing it for the love, not the pay – so be nice to them!
What advice would you give aspiring music writers/presenters/announcers/reviewers?
Seize opportunity, get as much experience as you can (writing for blogs, community radio, etc) but also value yourself and your work. It’s not easy to break through, but you gotta be in it for the right reasons. When I volunteered, I always saw it as a hobby. Some of my friends play netball outside their day jobs, I would do community radio and review music. That’s how I saw it and it really helped. You should be doing it because you love it.
Finally, keep it fun and have a bloody good attitude. Be humble. The person who is volunteering next to you could be your boss one day. It’s a small industry so if you have a negative vibe, people will know about it and you won’t last.
You have reviewed many concerts and acts. How hardcore do you go? And, is it hard to write or say something negative if you need to?
I don’t think it’s necessarily hard to say something negative, you just need to be constructive and justify it. That’s the problem with gig reviews now though, half of them sound like a press release. Some writers are afraid to be honest because a negative word could threaten the websites relationship with the artist/manager/label/whatever. Which is a shame. Reviews are there for the good and bad, and we need to accept that. Otherwise, what’s the point?
What is your favourite place in Australia?
Can’t beat Melbourne, baby! It’s the world’s most liveable city for a reason!
What is the best thing about Ballarat?
Definitely the music scene! My love for Australian music is because of the community we have here. I got to attend so many underage gigs and Karova Lounge is without a doubt one of the most renowned regional live music venues. The boys (Shaun Adams and Lachie Anderson) do a wonderful job of bringing some of the best local (and international!) acts to our doorstep. I’m very lucky to have grown up here!
What is your favourite non-musical thing to do?
My partner and i love camping!!!! Our next trip is to Wilsons Prom in April for my birthday and i’m so excited!
Favourite Australian place to eat/drink/hang out?
Anywhere you can have a picnic is so okay with me. I love picnics!
I’ve just been asked to host Home & Hosed on triple j for International Women’s Day (8 March) and I am so stoked to be doing that for the second time. It’s my dream program to host and to be on our #girlstothefront line up again is such a big deal for me.
After that, I’ll continue honing my craft on mid-dawns, keeping you company from 1-6am on triple j! I’ll still be stalking triple j Unearthed for the best new Australian music, tweeting relentlessly and hanging out with my Cavoodle, Tillie!