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Long way to the top: Angus and Julia Stone, the Presets and more on their rise to stardom

So, you want to be a rock star. That's OK – just about every music lover has a similar fantasy at some point. Of course, few actually pursue such a vocation, let alone have what it takes to succeed, but those who do follow their dreams have to work out how they're going to do so.

Should you just knuckle down and play gigs around pubs and clubs until you get noticed? Or go to music school to learn theory and get classically trained? Perhaps you could try the crowd-funding route and get fans and friends to contribute … or maybe sign up for a reality-TV show and hope you get noticed there? If all else fails, you could always just upload your own videos to YouTube, hope they go viral and use that as a springboard to a career.

One thing is for sure: as a great man once screeched, it's a long way to the top … So we asked five artists who fit into our categories how they got there.

Let's play!

We know them as chart slayers and ARIA award-winning folk-pop titans Angus and Julia Stone, but it wasn't always champagne and caviar for the northern beaches siblings. OK, they probably still don't do champagne and caviar but, the point is the Stones plied their trade around Sydney for a fair while before success came a-knocking.

"Dad was my music teacher in high school and he'd always push to get me up on the stage in school assemblies," Angus says. "I'd do open-mic nights around town. And I started to turn it into making money – y'know, playing at people's weddings and just strange events people would want you in the corner, strumming on a guitar and playing songs."

Julia wasn't so shy at school, where she says, for her, "it was more playing the trumpet a lot and I sang in the choir and things like that". But joining a big-band and occasionally putting down her horn "to sing a few jazz standards", also at weddings, helped her quite literally find her voice.


What did they learn from the whole process?

"I think it's a lot of practise," Julia says. "If you really think about it, all that stuff that I was doing has no relevance to the music I make now. All that time being in front of people at a wedding … your chops get good. You're singing over and over again in bad PAs ... You've gotta learn how to pitch when you can't hear anything."

Angus: "You've gotta break your ego, as well, playing to people who don't give a shit."

Angus was eventually spotted and courted by a record company scout after a solo show. After bringing Julia into the studio to record with him and later play some shows together, they were both offered deals.

"I remember one thing I learnt when I was a kid, that came from some singer-songwriter that had said something once: 'you never know who's at a gig',"  Julia says. "You always perform like you never know who's gonna be there and what opportunity might come."

Angus and Julia Stone play the Sydney Opera House on September 14-15.

Teacher's pet

When the Presets hit us with their astonishing debut Beams in 2005, it was hard to believe these apparently hard-partying hedonists used to stroke their chins with classical/experimental outfit Prop, much less that the duo met at Sydney's Conservatorium of Music. Yet even back in high school, Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes both had their little pre-Preset hearts set on studying at the esteemed music school.

"Back then – and I can speak for Kim, as well – we didn't really know what we wanted to do but we just knew we wanted it to be musical," Hamilton says. "So I went and studied piano and I also did a music teaching degree at the Conservatorium. I was playing classical piano there and learning about composition and harmony and music history and aural skills … All those things kinda just gave me a further grounding in music."

Did he find music theory important? "Yeah, definitely. I mean, I will say that some of the most amazing musicians I know wouldn't even know what a C major chord is – so I wouldn't say it's the be all and end all. But certainly for me – I guess like a lot of the classical arts, like ballet or painting or classical music – if you really dive into it and sort of go deep into it, it sort of sticks with you forever, you know."

Was Hamilton a good student?

"Yeah, I did [behave]. I was well aware at the time what a great thing it was to be able to study at a place like the Conservatorium – I spent probably too much time in the library reading books and being a bit of a nerd and listening to CDs.

"I really got a lot out of university but, you know, it was about 10 years after I left university before we had any huge success with music. Everyone has their own sort of way of getting there."

The Presets latest single, No Fun, is out now.

Quid pro quo

If ever a band had musical pedigree, it's Minneapolis funk supremos fDeluxe. The band comprises Paul Peterson and Jellybean Johnson of the Time, the outfit that took on Prince and the Revolution in Purple Rain; Eric Leeds, the Purple One's sax and flute player of choice during his mid-'80s golden years; and Susannah Melvoin, who not only co-wrote several tunes with her fiance back then – you guessed it, Prince – she inspired hits he wrote such as Nothing Compares 2 U. Indeed, long before Sinead O'Connor got hold of it, it was fDeluxe's original incarnation as the Family that first recorded the song in 1985.

The Family imploded in 1987 and the members went their separate ways until 2009, when they rose again as fDeluxe. After struggling to finance the blistering comeback album Gaslight, Peterson and the band's Australian manager, Neil Richards, hatched a plan to pay for recording of a follow-up. By offering some exclusives on crowd-funding site PledgeMusic – from framed handwritten lyrics to your own private fDeluxe gig – the band raised enough cash to make this year's AM Static.

"I put a Skype lesson up there," Peterson says. "I'm still waiting for a good time for that gentleman and myself to connect. He wants to learn some stuff about the old Time records – God knows if I even remember them any more! I'm gonna have to study before I teach …"

All this, of course, is fine for a seasoned group of musicians with a long-established fan base – but how could new bands use crowd-funding? Richards believes the key is building a relationship with what fans you have by communicating with them on social media – then, of course, you can find out what they want.

"As we all know, that gap between the artist and fan is so small these days," Richards says. "If you're willing to work at it, why not ask 'em?"

There's fantastic news for Australian fans of the Minneapolis sound in that fDeluxe are planning on touring in October. "Yeah, it looks like we're coming," Peterson says. "There's always plenty of options of how to spend money, man."

Reality bites

We flagged Cat Torres as our reality-TV graduate for her success with Ricky Martin's team on series two of The Voice but that wasn't her first brush with television talent shows. When she was 15 or 16 (she isn't sure) Torres tried out for Australian Idol.

"That was pretty short-lived, though," says the Melburnian, now 21. "Honestly, I didn't make it past the first round [of the regional auditions]. That was more than anything my parents kinda just going, 'Give it a try, you never know'. I went for it and I guess I just wasn't what they were looking for. But yeah, second time 'round The Voice was a different story."

The Idol experience didn't put her off? "Well, obviously Australian Idol kept going, so I could have gone the next year, and I could have done X-Factor and all those other things but I thought, you know what? I really wanna work on my voice. I want to work on my craft and hone my songwriting skills and make sure I've got my own sound before I even attempt any other show."

Torres got a deal with a major label and spent the next few years getting her desired experience – learning from various hot-shot producers around the globe – but when her deal didn't work out, she saw an opportunity that might work for her on The Voice.

"I got a glimpse of it on the first season and I thought, 'Oh, this show is genuine' – you know? I thought, 'Let's just give it a crack'."

Doesn't she worry about the quick fall that sometimes follows the rise for a lot of these artists? "We've all got the spotlight on us for a few months and then it's kind of gone. We're not on TV regularly any more, so it's natural. But I think if you work hard on it and you have that drive and you have that passion – like I do at the moment – hard work pays off in the end."

Cat Torres's latest single, Easy to Say Goodbye, is out now.

I walk online

There's nothing quite like "going viral" to boost one's profile but it isn't usually the sort of thing you can plan – especially if you want to be known for your talent, rather than some novelty shenanigans. You have to hand it, then, to lip-syncing internet sensation Keenan Cahill, who is well on the path from barely teenage web goofball to serious EDM producer – and he is still only 19.

"I actually just had a song come out called Closer and it was me and SHY & DRS, which is a Scottish rap group," Cahill says. "At first it was kinda hard but after a while people started getting the hang of it – it was like, 'Oh, he's singing, he's actually making his own music."'

After Cahill's video lip-syncing to Katy Perry's Teenage Dream got the approval of the woman herself and an absurd number of YouTube hits (it is now up to 56 million), stars including 50 Cent and Redfoo have appeared in Cahill's clips. But even if they take him seriously, it must have taken a while for anybody else to. 

"Did I ever think maybe I should have chosen a different route? Yes and no. I guess the reason why I would pick, like, the traditional route is because you have to learn the steps."

What advice would he give budding YouTube stars? "Don't care what people say. There's going to be a lot of hate ... y'know, YouTube is kind of a very hateful site, a lot of people go on there just to hate, that's why you can't – don't listen to them.

"Make it interesting. Make it fun. Enjoy doing it. If it's a chore, don't do it – because it shouldn't be a chore, it should be something you love to do and something you really want to do."