Luka Bloom > Song by Merrilyn Simmons
Merrilyn Simmons

Merrilyn Simmons is a singer/songwriter
from Melbourne, Australia. 'Earthbound' is her
debut album and the thirteen songs are all
originals. Merrilyn picked up the Australian
Songwriters Award (1998/99) for the album.
Luka Bloom
by Merrilyn Simmons

Neon lights on the Yarra make the river smile.
St Paul's cathedral spears the night sky,
and I imagine dragons flying from those very highest turrets,
driven by a princess from a wild and ancient tribe, yeah.

Lazy sax is oozing along the southbank promenade
hazy passers by drift to the city hum,
but guess where I've just been.

We've just come from the concert hall
and seen my very favourite bard,
a man of such rare spirit yeah,
Luka Bloom, Luka Bloom.

I caught his flowers at the national,
I was grovelling at some poor man's feet
My heart was in the heavens
and the stars knew they were suns,
even the shadows felt the heat.

But this year I was too far back, third row second tier.
I prayed the gods would intervene and turn his lilies into spears
bit it wasn't my turn this time, oh no, so.

We caught the number nineteen tram home,
and put on Salty Heaven,
I thought how the hells he get those rhythms going
I should have practised more when I was eleven

But I just found something simple,
so I could tell him how I feel.
You fill me up with spirit boy, you're so dam real Luka.

La La La La La La Luka, La La La La La La Luka,
La La La La La La Luka Bloom.

Neon lights on the Yarra make the river smile.

Merrilyn Simmons
Biographical Information

The Earthbound Album was released just over 2 years ago in late 1999 in Melbourne. Two months later I had moved to the small country town of Braidwood in the southern tablelands of NSW and so continued promotion of Earthbound slowed considerably while I adjusted to this sudden but planned change of scene.

Musical History

I was exposed to music from birth as my mother attended the Salvation Army weekly, so from bassinette age, I heard cornets, pianos, trombones, tambourines and singing. Children were actively encouraged to join the singing company (choir) and perform in concerts solo and in groups. I loved this side of church and was performing from the age of 4. At the age of 11 other aspects of the church experience saw me begin to lose interest, but being regularly surrounded by people joining in with music was a considerable influence.

My formal training began and ended at the age of 7 when I received about four lessons from an uncomprimising piano teacher. I delighted in the sounds I could produce and made up many tunes. My teacher pointed impatiently to the printed score. I remembered what I was supposed to read and we soon parted company.

Everything else I have learned has been picked up from other people along the way and things that I have discovered by playing around and experimenting, which is what I love to do. I don't think that piano teacher had a hope really!

After playing in a number of bands on the south coast of NSW for over 15 years I decided it was time to go to Melbourne and see if I could develop my own music further down there. My last two bands 'The Accidentals' and 'Emily's Obsession' had been original bands, and I was keen to continue in this direction and ultimately record a CD. I moved to Melbourne in 1996 and started performing solo in 1998.

In 1998 my song 'Look At The Stars' won an Australian Songwriters Award for folk song of that year. This was recorded for an Ausmusic compilation 'Our Music, Our Say'. This experience really encouraged me to move towards making my own album.

The Album

I had always dreamed of producing an album of my songs but had always found many good reasons not too. In mid 1999, I ran out of reasons and started work on Earthbound.

This was a brand new experience for me and I was assisted by many mentors including my brother, Wayne Simmons who played bass and electric guitar and provided ongoing encouragement, Greg Ham who helped me with studio experience, George Butrumlis who played accordian, piano, wurlitzer, hammond and electric guitar on the album, and the engineer David McCluney who's skill, experience and can do attitude were critical. With all this support and the additional wonderful music of Helen Mountfort (cello), Gary Young (drums), and Michael Harris (violin), the project was in good hands.

I produced the album myself and loved every minute of it. This was a dream unfolding which had been many years in the making.

I called the album 'Earthbound' because it happened to be one of the songs on the album, and I like to think my feet are on the ground even if my head is in the clouds sometimes. The song itself is about being content where you are, here and now, and that is also something I aim for and sometimes achieve in my life.

The Songwriter

As I said I started making up tunes as a small child, but really started writing and performing songs in the mid eighties with an all womens band called 'The Accidentals'. One of the other women, Caty Smyth, was writing songs so I thought I would give it a go. The first song I wrote is only memorable because it got me started. I later worked together with Caty in an all original duo 'Emily's Obsession' for a number of years and then I moved to Melbourne.

I would write songs whether or not I chose to perform them and record them. Songwriting is now a fundamental part of my life. It is a form of self expression and often helps me articulate my emotional response to real things in my life. Things like falling in love, leaving friends, geographical places and spaces, optimism, the loss of my father, hope and joy. The songs are usually based on actual events and often begin with a musical feel which eventually suggests a theme. I eventually realise what it is about. I rarely say, "Today I will write about this." Usually the music suggests the theme which has been on my mind on some level anyway. I generally write my songs on guitar but have written a couple acapella and just started using keyboard.

Occasionally a song will almost write itself, very quickly with little or no change. A song like this to me feels like it just has to be let out, where as other songs need working and reworking. They are all different really, and eventually have a life of their own. I'll tell you about a few of the songs and the way they were written to demonstrate this further.

Look At The Stars

Moving to Melbourne from the small country town of Moruya on the South Coast of NSW was a big move. Look at the stars is the song I wrote when I had finally accepted that I was in the city and that the urban life had some great things to offer. I was sitting in my backyard on a stump, fiddling with my guitar and reflecting, and the words to a quote from Oscar Wilde 'We're all in the gutter but some of us are looking the stars' got me thinking. There's also a quote from a letter from my partner who was away at the time, and just images and thoughts of place which happened to be inner city Melbourne.

Melbourne was great, but big moves take time to ease in to, and It seems that many of my songs are products of moving and change.

Life Goes On

I had the opportunity of performing live with some wonderful musicians in Melbourne and sadly had only two gigs with the most amazing drummer I have ever played with. He had a lovely touch and a lovely manner. His name was Bill Wall and shortly after our second gig, he took his life. I didn't know Bill really well but he made a big impact on me and I was really greatful that I had the opportunity to meet him. 'Life Goes On' was written shortly after his funeral and just in time to be included on the CD. It was finalised about 2 days before we recorded.

In 1999 this song won the Australian Songwriters Award for ballad of that year.

Luka Bloom

I'm a Luka Bloom fan and this was written straight after his 1998 concert at the Melbourne Concert Hall. Being the obsessive fan I am, I was totally excited and on a high. The song reflects on this concert and an earlier concert in 1996 in St Kilda where I actually managed to catch his flowers. You can imagine the state I was in. My partner had to lead me gently by the hand in the right direction.

It's all a bit of fun really this song, but definitely a tribute.

I think Luka Bloom is fantastic. Love his voice, guitar, songs, spirtituality, banter, and his live shows are always loaded with feeling. He connects with people.


I once went to a songwriting workshop with a reasonably well known songwriter, who told me that the idea that songs were written outside was really a myth. I beg to differ. Earthbound was also an outdoor song. I happened to be sitting in the garden of our place in Moruya and noticed that the plants I thought had been cabbages were actually cauliflours. Well this got me quite enthused as cauliflours are much harder to grow and this seemed like one of lifes bonuses. The song went from there. I got this happy little tune and started thinking about other aspects of my home that I liked and there was Earthbound.

The moral of this story is that you can't be too prescriptive about how and where songs are written.

I Can Feel Him

When I was a kid my dad used to take me camping regularly. We would really rough it and I just loved it. This song was written a few years after my dad died.

I took my son to one of the places I used to go with dad, and we had a great time. The presence of my father was quite overwhelming in a really positive way. I found myself often catching him out of the corner of my eye and I could just feel him everywhere. I think 'I Can Feel Him' just travelled back to Melbourne and asked to be let out as soon as I could get my hands on a guitar. For me, strong emotional experiences often give birth to songs that just seem to fall out of me.

What I'm up to now

The trip over seas has been postponed for a couple of years as we are just enjoying being in the same place for more than 2 years straight. It is blissful.

I've recently started playing with some great musicians who are based in Canberra. They are Jonathan Jones (drums and percussion), Sandy Gibbney (fiddle). We have started performing together and they will be playing on my next album which I start recording in May. My brother Wayne will play bass again. Dave Steel and Rose Bygrave will also be guests on the album. I plan to release this in Sept/Oct.

I've written new songs for the album and will also be recording some that didn't make it onto the first one. Geography, place, and spiritual themes will also bubble up in the next album.

I also recently applied for my first ever Arts grant and was funded by artsACT to work with children and young people in Womens' Refuges, supporting them to create, perform and record their own songs. I take a four track and mike along, so we do it all on the spot. Children are naturally very creative and with encouragement all children will come up with something. If they don't think they can write a song, I just ask what they would write about if they could. I then write down what they say, check it out and provide a simple melody. That usually gets the ball rolling and then they start to see themselves as songwriters. I love this work and plan to seek further funding to keep it going.

I've also joined the town choir. This is the first time I've sung in a choir since childhood and I love it. There is something special about being one of many voices, each doing their own little bit to create a beautiful sound! I'm even learning to read music off the page which I guess my piano teacher would be happy about.

I don't earn my living exclusively from music and I may never do so, but creating, encouraging and sharing music sustains me. If I can manage to make an album I feel happy with every two or three years that will satisfy me.

Merrilyn Simmons
March 2002

Merrilyn Simmons Discography
Smiling At Strangers

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