The musician and the melodious hacker
Busby Marou Photo: Supplied
Tom Busby is a funny man. A friendly, larrikin streak runs through his veins and the boy from Rockhampton has a charming Aussie sense of humour - the one Mel Gibson used to convey with such ease until things fell by the wayside.
When asked how Busby Marou began with good mate and talented guitarist, Jeremy Marou, he explains he met musical partner when returning to Rockhampton between ''uni breaks'' to play his guitar as much as humanly possible. But you sense a mischievous grin curling at the edge of his lip when he reminisces of the first time he and Marou met. It involved him playing love songs for his ''Rocky mates''.
''Jeremy used to play in this cover band and one of my best mates was the lead singer and in order to help them stretch out their set I'd get up before them and I'd sing some slow love songs on an acoustic guitar and then they'd get on and rip it up with all their disgraceful cover songs,'' Busby says.
''It was very funny, you know, as I'd be sitting out the front afterwards having a few beers and watching Jeremy on his guitar thinking 'I'm going to steal him from my mate one of these days' and that's exactly what I did.'' Busby didn't get his man immediately. He ventured overseas for years ''as he got a taste for it'' but when he came back to Rocky he called Jeremy, who just got married, to come play music.
''The chemistry was just instant and I had all these original songs and there was no acoustic music in Rocky at that moment and our mate, who is our manager now, had family that owned a little hotel called the Oxford Hotel,'' Busby says.
''And we just basically played there every night Wednesday to Sunday, free at the start, and then the crowd started coming and then in 10 months we'd built up a bit of an acoustic crowd following and all the young kids finally had something to do and they didn't have to listen to old men singing with their beat-box machines in the background as that was all Rocky was at the time.''
Continual gigs at the Oxford Hotel helped Busby Marou to develop their folk-pop songs until they received funding through Breakthrough - a federal government initiative supporting emerging indigenous contemporary musicians - which assisted in the production of the band's debut self-titled album, released to rave reviews in August 2010. Since then the harmonious duo has picked up a loyal following through a combination of Marou's instinctive musicality and Busby's songwriting abilities. Yet Busby has another notion.
''Jeremy is a remarkable musician as a guitarist in particular and I'm a hacker who just comes up with melodies and he makes me sound good and I make him sound not as good and I think that is what he needs,'' Busby says, laughing.
In late 2010, Busby Marou was approached by former general manager of EMI, John O'Donnell, to feature as the only unsigned act on the He Will Have His Way - Finn Brothers Tribute Album. The album went gold within a month and Busby Marou's version of the Crowded House classic Better Be Home Soon bought these Rocky lads to the rest of the world.
''We were really working hard leading up to the Finn tribute album not so much trying to make a name for our self across Australia but we just loved music so we were working full-time and just doing what we could to play and we loved it,'' Busby says. ''What the He Will Have His Way opportunity gave us is it took our name and our music to the rest of Australia and not only Rockhampton, and from there we developed great relationships with the right people in the industry and they've mentored us and helped us make the right decisions.''
Busby Marou are now held in high esteem. They signed with first Australia indie label Footstomp Records (part of Warner Records), which is helping to cultivate a band influenced by a wide variety of musicians. Busby is a big fan of the ''folky-ballads and love songs where it is a good song and a good lyric'' of Bruce Springsteen, Beach Boys and Neil Finn, whereas Marou gets musical inspiration from such country-blues-rock artists as Keith Urban, Brad Paisley and John Mayer. And if you think there are any concerns of this individual act signing to a major label, then it couldn't be further from the truth as it helps Busby Marou concentrate on the music while the label organises all the promo and tours.
''It was a tough decision, we have done the hard yards and we thought, 'Do we need Warner?' but in the end we said 'Let's go with it' and it has been the best decision,'' Busby says. ''They treat us like family and we are very privileged to have them working for us … other artists don't really appreciate that, but we're from Rockhampton with a big family where you've got to pretty much work hard to get that last chicken leg off your brother at the table.''
WHEN: Saturday, June 23
WHERE: Zierholz, University of Canberra
TICKETS: $23.60 from moshtix.com.au and 1300 GET TIX
■ Sean Palmer is a Canberra writer and a severe tunes enthusiast