An Example Band Plan


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Mission statement:

  • To start a FUN band where we can develop our skills in playing together and performing at casual events like BBQs.

  • We’re not aiming for perfection, priority is fun and hanging out, though we would like to develop our skill level wherever we are at.

  • The vibe will be supportive, fun and creative, each member being a Champion of Musical Spirit: supporting a healthy learning environment where we feel safe to take creative risks and make mistakes.

  • 6 month project with goal of BBQ gig on the 1st of July.

  • Meet weekly in a creatively safe space.

  • We love blues, Indonesian punk and Jazz: our setlist will reflect that unique blend of our musical tastes.


Melissa (beginning drums), Tilly (confident vocals), Derek (beginning bass and beginning vocals), Susie (intermediate guitar and beginning vocals).


Alternate weekly jam/rehearsal schedule Melissa available weekdays, check with others

6 month point House concert gig 1st of July 2018


Shed Rehearsal Room @ 1 Fun St, Anytown

Gig @ 1 Fun St, Anytown

Resources we have or need


Bass guitar



PA with mic and stands Costumes


  • Grapevine (Creedance)

  • Looking out my back door (Creedance)

  • Rocking Free World (Neil Young)

  • Bow River (Ian Moss)

  • Jump in my Car

  • Forever Young (Bob Dillon)

  • 3 little Birds (Bob Marley)

Starting a songwriting group

A Supportive Songwriting Group Plan

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VISION: A creatively supportive and diverse group of people who meet regularly to inspire and help each individual participant to develop their songwriting skills.

(inspired by Kristina Olsen‘s songwriting class)

People: a diverse group of people with varying experience, genres and interests but with a shared passion for the craft of songwriting.

Venue: a place that is easy for all participants to get to and be able to share their creative ideas eg: a private loungeroom or a quiet pub corner.

Time: once a month, for a few hours.

Proceedings: Each month, every participant brings a new or re-worked song, song fragment or idea to share, with a few printed lyric sheets. The group offers their feedback which the songwriter chooses to take on as they wish. See below for suggestions on how to give effective feedback.

Note: The song remains the creative property of the presenting songwriter.

How to give good feedback: Remember that people’s songs are very close to their heart: a songwriting group is akin to a therapy group in its need for emotional safety and mutual respect. Especially when the group is new, an emphasis must be placed on creating a CREATIVELY SAFE SPACE for all participants. You might like to suggest that each individual sets the boundaries for what kind of feedback they would like. Or, this is a pretty safe starting point:

  1. Firstly say what you like or enjoyed about the song or performance: make it real because WE ALL KNOW when people are dis-genuine. You may need to practice this skill if you are used to being super-critical or are a “tell-it-to-me-straight-with-no-sugar” type of communicator (you yourself may indeed want this approach, that is fine)

  2. Ask what sort of feedback they would like.

  3. If they say “anything” they don’t mean trash it. They really usually don’t. They want something they can understand and use to make the song better.

  4. Remember everyone is different and has different tastes: this is a good thing and will create strength in your songwriting skills.

  5. Frame your feedback for change in your own context: “For me, I got a bit lost after the 3rd verse”

  6. and offer a concrete suggestion of how to make the improvement you suggest in a way they can easily refuse if they disagree “I think another chorus there might help. Or even a melodic bridge of some kind. You might like to try this” and give them an example of what you mean.

Suitcase Cabarets: a guide

Melissa Main’s Suitcase Cabarets: a guide

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A cabaret is a broad, flexible art form.

It is a well-kept secret that almost anything can be cabaret!

A Suitcase Cabaret, in this case, is loosely a collection of stories and songs, with minimal extra staging resources (except perhaps those that can be transported in a suitcase).

There may be a narrative or a theme, theatre, poetry, movement, dance, audience participation, social commentary, audio-visual, puppetry and storytelling “segues” (or transitions) in between musical numbers.

It could be performed anywhere, in a variety of venues or spaces with a variety of audience types (size, intimacy and formality) and complexity (acoustic or PA, solo or group arrangements, instrumentation etc).

Main’s Suitcase Cabarets tend to have an emphasis on inclusion, empathy, humour, creative freedom, inclusive feminism and the human experience. She encourages performer collaborators to choose personally meaningful themes.


A series of unique cabarets facilitated by Melissa Main’s Suitcase Project providing multiple entry points for inclusive participation that allows for a variety of skill, confidence, energy, time, interest and resource levels. ie: no matter where you’re at, if you want to be part of what we are doing, you are included!


The below level list is not a hierarchy or definitive step-by-step guide, you may choose your own adventure throughout the levels in any order that suits you.

Level 1: Vicarious Darling Lurking Audience Collaborator: You watch what we do on social media or interwebs from the comfort of your own home on your own time: building your understanding of what we are doing and dreaming of being part of it at a higher level one day (or just being glad that we exist, living our creative life in the same world as you!). Even though we can’t see you, we know you are there, we still love you and dream that we might have a more committed and challenging relationship one day…

Level 2: Vicarious Audience Collaborator: You see what we are doing on social media and connect in some way: maybe you comment, “like” what we do or share our events. We see you and we love you, on those days we feel like we make art in a vacuum, your online actions count a great deal! Sharing our work online and letting other people know that you love what we do contributes to our work. Please note that Facebook algorithms are making it hard for us to share what we are doing, so if you see something and “like” it or “share” it immediately, more people will see our posts. If you’d like to follow Melissa Main Musica or Melissa Main Band you may also see more posts.

Level 3: Real-life Audience Collaborator: You commit to attending our shows, witnessing our work and making what we do mean something. You clap. You laugh. You say nice things to us afterwards. You bring your friends. You buy tickets beforehand so we’re not panicking about losing money by putting on a show. Thankyou, we really appreciate the effort it takes to attend things in real-life these days. In return, we get to share the same air and perhaps a hug or two. Ps Melissa is much better live, she has been told…

Level 4: Ideas Collaborator: You contact Melissa and start talking about any or all of your songwriting/scriptwriting/performing/costuming/stage-managing/producing/promoting/events dreams AND your reservations/fears/limitations of making any of them come true. Melissa wants to collaborate with you and will probably get excited about where your art/healing/skill-set align with or complement hers, but you can always say “no/not-yet/not-ever thankyou”.

Level 5: Resource Collaborator: You contribute creative, physical or financial resources to a show from afar: perhaps you have some poetry, a song you have written (or half-written!), some costumes or some cool ideas. Maybe you are emotionally, physically or financially supporting a partner or friend to participate. Maybe you have a venue idea, own a printing company, know how to make Apps or have no clue of how to help creatively but have just won the lottery? Financial outlays for participating in festivals, hiring venues, promoting and resourcing shows can be hefty, and any financial assistance to enable our art form is always welcomed.

Level 6: Single Number Performance Collaborator: You plan, rehearse and perform a single song (your own or Melissa’s) as part of a bigger show, curated by Melissa. Equally, you might like to perform a single poem, dance or something else.

Level 7: Full Show Performance Collaborator: You work with Melissa to devise, rehearse and perform a show with a full themed set of Melissa’s songs and scripted poetic/movement/theatrical segues. (example: Melissa Main and the F**k You Betties). This level has sub-levels of group, trio or duo.

Level 8: Full Show Writing and Performance Collaborator: You work with Melissa to write, devise, rehearse and perform a full themed set of songs and segues by Melissa, yourself and other collaborators. This level has sub-levels of group, trio or duo (example: The Patron Saints of Disappointment).

Level 9: Full Solo Show Writer-Producer-Performer: You work with Melissa as a facilitator to help you put together, rehearse, perform and modify your own show, with your own songs and self-devised segues.

Level 10: Suitcase Cabaret Facilitator: You work with Melissa as a coach to facilitate your own group of collaborators to participate at the appropriate level. We all have stories that need to be told. Once we have any power, it is our responsibility to share it and hold space for others to find theirs. Don’t go thinking that helping others is particularly hard: if you want to do it, you can do it too, and this project will gain the most success when everyone who wants to participate is able to at the level their heart desires.



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A Jam is a musical conversation between two or more people. The key to a successful jam is COMMUNICATION and CONNECTION. Overbearing egos are best left at the door: everyone has equal worth here.


  1. One person needs to start something simple: a basic rhythm, not too fast, not too many

    chord changes, loud enough for everyone to hear.

  2. An inclusive jam is guided by the current limitations of the least experienced player or the

    most limited instrument. The most experienced musicians can still have a good time playing with beginners (it is often the sign of how great they really are!). If they are finding it hard to have a good time, suggest they jam on an instrument they have never played before. If that is too hard, they could swap hands or play standing on their head.


  1. Let the starting person find their groove before you join in.

  2. Listen to what is there

  3. Feel the Groove (dancing/gestures/tapping etc are important non-verbal communication in a


  4. Smile and connect with your jamming circle

  5. Quietly ask someone the Key or Chords (beginners cheat: you can play the root note of the

    key: eg in the “key of G” you can just play a G note over the whole thing (The G chord will go with most chords in the Key of G and if anyone asks about the interesting ones, just say it’s Jazz) OR Find someone playing the same instrument to copy their hands.

  6. Add your bit. Play softly to start with and get louder as you become more sure that what you are playing “fits” with with conversation. It’s OK to take risks, because this is meant to be fun!


  1. Be a champion of musical spirit: create a safe space for people (you too!) to make mistakes

    and take risks by refraining from any judging or critiquing. Build up rather than tear down.

  2. Include others by making eye contact, smiling, handing them your instrument and showing

    them something simple to add, or doing something vocally with them.

  3. Take turns starting or leading the jam. Encourage others to have a go doing something they

    haven’t done before.

MIXING IT UP (when things get boring…)

  1. Make a simple change to what you are doing: try double time or half time, go back to

    playing just the root note: experiment a little. Make sure you communicate to your jamming

    team if you do something radical!

  2. Maybe it’s time for a solo? You can encourage others to take a solo or step into the space: try

    not to take a solo for too long: once you have finished, indicate non-verbally that you are

    finished and let there be some space afterwards.

14. During another musician’s solo play more quietly and give all your listening energy to the

soloist: nod “yes!yes!” Or shake “this can’t get any better”. Give the look of “That was a

freaking awesome solo” when they are done.
15. Call out “instrument swap!” after about 30 minutes if things are getting stale.





The Suitcase Diaries: July


I raise my head in the winter sun from a deck in Murrumbateman near ACT.

I’ve had about a month since the Suitcase Cabarets at the Anywhere Theatre Festival finished. What an amazing and inspiring (and tiring!) experience! These were our shows:

The Patron Saints Of Disappointment FB EVENT

  • The Patron Saints of Disappointment bring stories and songs they have collected on their sagely travels from unholy misery to gold plated shiny-ness: how do YOU deal with disappointment? A collaboration with Kylie Morrigan and Jan Harvey.

Handle With Care FB EVENT

  • A suitcase cabaret about heartache, heartbreak and heart-mending. Novocastrian songwriters Anousha Victoire and Madeleine Flowers join Melissa Main to sew the pieces of their hearts together and tell the universal and personal story of heartbreak.

Destination: Elsewhere FB EVENT 

  • Four women seeking creative ways to get UNSTUCK. Apply within. A Suitcase Cabaret collaboration with Claire McLisky, Julia Burns, Nicola Ossher and Melissa Main.

The Road To Human FB EVENT

  • She travels making punctuation marks along her life, Melissa Main presents stories, songs and characters from the road. Accompanied by Nicola Ossher and Rob Wheeler. 
Inside Down and Out FB EVENT
  • Two down-and-out travellers meet on the road, share music, tales of childhood, sweet sorrow and a persistent sense of hope for one-day-happy endings. A Suitcase Cabaret collaboration between Jay Kingdom and Melissa Main. 
Life: A Work In Progress FB EVENT
  • 3 unique songwriters Glenys Anderson, Rob Wheeler and Melissa Main present a Suitcase Cabaret looking at life from the Pointy End Nursing Home.

We still have one with Param Berg and Rob Wheeler that we’ll do later in the year called “The Silly Side of the Sun”. It was so lovely to work with everyone: each of the shows was different from the others, but all so entertaining, poignant and fun!



The Suitcase Diaries: March

I sit in the lovely studio apartment of Anita: who has gone off into the wilds of Cooma on a roadtrip of her own. She’ll be back in a few days, when I will need to perform the housesitter-confession in regards to the demise of her love fern (alas ferns are so very thirsty!) and two beautiful whiskey glasses I had left on the window sill and hadn’t survived the random southerly that smashed them into the sink at 4am on a Wednesday morning. Her beautiful 80s second floor abode is strangely private and spacious due to its above carport location and large windows to the East and South. The Easterly window looks over Yaya Neighbour, who feeds the pigeons last night’s pasta and has a pet Galah. She listens to the Sunday mass in Greek for 3 hours on the radio. She had her skirt tucked into her underpants as she hung the washing yesterday. I try not to look into her garden, but the little pigeons are cute and her pomegranates are golden. Her phone goes off every 20 minutes and has a melody and an old school ring to it and when she answers, she sounds angry, although I don’t think she is. She is just very, very passionate.

I’m stopping and taking stock of my Suitcase project today…


These are some of the one-off and ongoing Suitcase projects I have started so far:

1. An Inclusive Music Jam event in Lismore with Param. This has plans to turn into a regular event with Param, Lydia and Ravin.

2. A new garage band in Armidale with Phil and Marty.

3. A new songwriting group in Newcastle with Anousha, Maddy and Carrie.

4. Cabaret Collaboration: “Handle with Care” with Anousha and Maddy in Newcastle

5. Cabaret Collaboration: #empathyrevolution with Matt and Jay in Melbourne and Bellingen

6.Cabaret Collaboration: #Kickthebucketontheroad with Nicola Bell in Melbourne and Brisbane

7. Cabaret Collaboration: #FUBettiesinyourtown Northern Rivers, NSW set for action in April, shows in May

8. Cabaret Collaboration: #ThePatronSaintsofDisappointment with Kylie and Jan Melbourne and Brisbane

9. Community capacity building with Cate: started a “Ain’t Dead Yet Female Musicians” group for late-blooming female-identifying musicians to support each other to develop skills and strategies to take up musical space in Melbourne.

10. Online songwriting collaboration #Iheartcanberra with Clare, Ellen, Greg, Kate, Alex, Genevieve and Erin in Canberra and Melbourne.

11. Cabaret Collaboration: #Monsters with Heidi in Melbourne.

12. Suitcase Incidental Madrina (Fairy Godmother) Actions so far include lifts to and from airports, schools and hospitals, babysitting, meals, inspiration adventures and philosophical discussions; drumkit rehousing project, photo/film assisting and life event planning and Accomplic-ing. These are all things that I never have time to do when I am working and trying to pay rent.


These are some of the beautiful people who have hosted me in their homes so far over the last 6 months: big love out to those sharing their home with me, as it has made my project thus far possible <3

Chiara and Aaron in Canberra, ACT

Margaret and Bill in Canberra, ACT

Bron and Thommo in Canberra, ACT

Kirrin and family in Canberra, ACT

Pia and Story in Sunshine Beach, QLD

Penelope in Lismore, NSW

Rae in Suffolk Park, NSW

Shelly and Dan in Lennox, NSW

Phil and Penny in Armidale, NSW

Mains in Tamworth, NSW

Jay, Jeannie and Des in Coffs Harbour, NSW

Maddy and family in Newcastle, NSW

The Jubbs in Rosedale, NSW

Nellie, Mischa and Marty in Brunswick, VIC

Anita in Northcote, VIC

Jemma and Jules in Northcote, VIC


Not counting incidental trips, I have driven 4,504 Km in between my main destinations so far. (If anyone has any idea of how I can gain some form of petrol-patronage, let me know!)

And drunk about 23 Nippy’s Ice Coffees. And one Mocha. I won’t make that mistake again.

The Birds, The Birds

When you live between a train line, a tram line and a 24-hour busy road, it is quite remarkable when you get woken up by birds. They regularly have a great time on my roof and by my window at 5am. I lie there and try and appreciate the volume of nature in an urban setting. Or just imagine having the odd pot shot with a pellet gun. Or at least giving them socks so their scuffles aren’t so loud.

 We had a great gig in Dean’s Marsh last weekend at Martian’s Cafe. It was great to see people coming out to support live music in their community athough it did make me miss living somewhere quieter. With more sky. Less traffic. Less Noisy Mynars.  Sometimes it seems in Melbourne like there are so many good things to do that you may as well do nothing, since you can’t do it all!

 Last night, though, I focused and went on a silent disco dancing tour of the city with Guru Dudu (very fun, I highy recommend!). About 30 of us donned headphones and danced around the CBD to our own soundtrack. It was interesting to be part of something that other people could see was fun, but had no clue what it was about. And incredible how easy it was to get involved, keep momentum and stay involved when there was such a big group of us having fun together. I started thinking about music and how much more fun it is out of my bedroom, playing with a band and sharing it with people like you.

So thanks a bundle for being part of our community! It totally value-adds to my experience of music-making. Our band is really starting to crank it, we’ve got a number of new songs under our belt and I am loving what transformations my songs go through in our much-fun rehearsals. I’ve got myself a part-time day-job, so I’m looking forward to what music-mayhem we can create in the full-time madness that is my life 🙂

 PS Woodford was incredible, intense and in-tents (ha!). We played to packed out shows and met some fabulous peeps. Hope to rope the full band in next time!

Summer is calling me

And I keep picking up, but it’s a prank caller. Late spring disguising its voice and asking if my refrigerator is running. And I can’t catch it! Melbourne doesn’t allow you to pack away your woolies in November, no way. But you have to get out your sandals and thigh-rub remedies, oh yes you do.

Stue and I are so so excited because we are playing at Woodford this year. We’re not looking forward to the lengthy  drive (or the inevitable thigh-rub) but we’re splashing out and renting a tent this time around: no 40 degree sweltering Christmas day tent erections for us this year! Due to our earlier crazy Fringe and Burning Seed madness, followed closely by day-job report-writing (me), fixing up the house (Stue), a photography job in the NT (Nicky) and a new baby (Rohan), our little duo QLD jaunt is looking more like a driving holiday and less like a music tour, although Stue and I do have a few house concert/music camp dates booked along the way. Do let us know if you’re keen to have us drop by!

Oh BTW, our Fringe show was a success! See a lovely review here. Video will be available for those of you who just couldn’t make it.
ox MM

Death is really rather busy

We’ve been rehearsing and writing and photographing and playing dress ups and we’re so close to being ready to perform KICK THE BUCKET for you! We’ve just got a few more things to do, but it is very very close to being finished. It is the most complex show I’ve done to date and it’s got almost everything I could wish for (we did think tonight how awesome it would be to have Bonesy fly in and out on a wire, but I think we might leave that one for Broadway). Nicky and I don’t usually do duo stuff, since being in our band is so fun, but this was a great chance at a collaboration and has been a nice chunky project to sink our choppers into.

Before we started, we both researched death and dying: I was interested mostly in people’s stories and visual vignettes and feelings and death as part of a natural cycle. I had a bit of a creative and personal dead patch over Spring/Summer last year which was really tricky for me (you might have noticed that we still haven’t released our newest album: it’s still quite a way off!) but did get me thinking about the natural cycle of things and how we need death, winter and the night to be able to rest and renew. This show in part is me trying to process that. I’ve started to think about it more like compost. I would like to be buried in a composting pod, btw.

Nicky got stuck into researching funeral rituals, particularly rhythms (her being a drummer and all). I’m always amazed at what her drumming adds to the skeleton songs I write. We joked tonight that she gives them feet and fat! But she also makes them dance. I do so love to dance.

We’ve been having so much fun with such a tricky subject. We’ve done our best to balance our humour with grace and space for people’s feelings- I hope you can come along, it’s quite a special thing for us and we would love to share it with you.

Ps I’d just like to also take a minute to acknowledge the amazing people I have had in my life who have died in my lifetime so far. Dear ones, I couldn’t possibly have imagined at the time of my immediate sorrow that your deaths would have in some way inspired songs in a show quite like this, as funny as this, as moving as this. I am still surprised that it never gets less sad that I don’t get to see you or hug you, but I am forever grateful that laughter and tears come from the same well and my well just keeps getting deeper the longer I live. ox MM

A quiet revolution

See what I mean? It’s nearing the end of February already! Festivals, celebrating, catching up with peeps, meeting new ones, getting a day job Ka boom. Summer done.
I went to Melbourne’s White Night the other night. Except I went to bed at 9pm and I got up at 3.30am to skip the crowds. What a lovely time I had frolicking from library to museum to gallery to botanic gardens! I loved being in the city by myself at that time on a Saturday night (or Sunday morning!) feeling safe and enthused and with that little tingly feeling I get when I see art and have a playful adventure going wherever I please doing whatever I please whenever I please.

 I’ve been in a reflective space musically, writing a few more introspective songs than usual. I had some friends around to play some new tunes the other night which was really great. Our back room has become a right little musical playground, what with my new term’s music workshop class every Tuesday, rehearsing and writing.

In other news, I’m supporting April Maze on the 28th Feb. They are a classic: dressing like they’re from the 70’s but with a sense of humour on them that gives them away as contemporaries. We met over bacon at the Maldon Folk Festival last year. I’ll be sharing the stage with Michael Waugh who kicked my butt in a songwriting comp a few years back (no hard feelings: his song was ace AND he was on the panel the next year when I won with “Black Silk”!) and Kate Crowley: I’ve heard great things about her, so really looking forward to it! ox