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

Songs and imaginary friends

As soon as it gets to this time of year it’s easy to feel like the year is practically over. But it’s not! It’s not, we have months and months left. But Oct is almost done and then November is always too much fun, then December is always crazy too much fun and January is also always too quick fun and then BOOM it’s February. Slow down, you move too fast but how the hell do you make a moment last? You cannot, my friends. But you can write a song about it, can’t you? That is one of the most beautiful things about songs for me. They are like a diary. As soon as I revisit one (and there are hundreds in that ol’ vault) I am right back in the time and place and feeling when I wrote it. An aural scrapbook of life and imaginary friends. This year so far has brought me in song to a Bearded Lady, a young smoker, a man discovering his dead mother’s secrets, songs of death and sorrow and songs that make me laugh. One day I will share them with you. Until that day, I hope you take the time to “make the moment last” in the way you love best.  

Lest we forget that War is Stupid but Music is LIFE.

Lest we forget that War is Stupid but Music is LIFE.
I understand that people who died in war need to be remembered. I get that their families need support and understanding. I have been to ANZAC day dawn services and I have been moved by the silhouetted horn player. I have cried. Somewhere, in a biscuit tin, there are medals from an ancestral family member and I have held them in my hand, fascinated by their weight.

I have never, however, felt proud.

War is stupid. The fact that we still have it is stupid. I appreciate that people use their intelligence within its context, like an oversized game of chess or battleships. But it is still stupid.

I wish we put even half of the effort, money and energy we put into war (and dealing with the consequences) into music. I’d be proud of that.

Stue and I went to the National Folk Festival over Easter. They have new Tshirts that say only “Five days of a perfect world”. It’s true. For those five days each year we’ve gone we have lived in a little perfect universe where pretty much everyone is nice to each other. It, not unsignificantly, revolves around making, listening, dancing to and sharing music.

I came back with a cold (it frosted on our tent overnight), but with my hope rejuvenated. Lest we forget that music is LIFE.

The Monday of the year

Don’t you think February is the Monday of the year? January, or at least the start of it, is still lazy Sunday afternoon with a G&T in your slightly sweaty palm. December is definitely Saturday, parties and families and snacks that look like you could put them on a Christmas tree and things actually on the tree that you can eat (remove that shiny wrapper!).

It is SO not worth trying to do work on a Monday sometimes, with the memory of a luscious weekend freedom on your tongue. Yet I have been trying stoopidly hard to achieve something (anything, really) and getting nowhere. Until I realised it was just Monday, and that I really needn’t bother. Let’s wait ’til Tuesday, I say!

Amongst the ridiculous heat, the welcome cool changes, the bushfire alerts, my dog panting like she is going to keel over dessicated and yours truly developing a slight addiction to the True Blood box set, I am almost ready for Tuesday and what it might bring. Recording our new album has been put back a few months, but it is somewhere on the horizon beckoning lazily, sexily, to us (I reckon maybe Thursday?). Hope you’re all settling into the Year of the Horse! PS Really excited about playing with Simon Kerr from my songwriters group this month @ Club Voltaire! ox Melissa

Roddy Read Songwriting Comp

Ahh, High St, Northcote. Sunny and breezy with trams and people going about their day. I sit and type to you trying to avoid the glare although the warmth is welcome. Guess what??? Over the weekend I had the joy of winning the Roddy Read Songwriting competition (part of the Maldon Folk Festival) with my song “Black Silk”!! I’m pretty stoked, especially since there were some really awesome songs in the finals (all so different, “like comparing carrots to cars”, said Jemma, my bassist “which one do you like best, Carrots or Cars?”). I won a pretty snazzy trophy and a Cole Clark guitar (presented to me onstage by my eloquent mate Lloyd Spiegel, which was a real hoot).

Stue and I are furiously procrastinating about getting all packed for our trip to Sydney and Newcastle tomorrow: the new charango is causing a little headache as it is 5.4cm too long for the hard case! I hope to cradle it in its pathetic little soft case on board, although I guess someone may mistake it for a weapon. That reminds me: read this beautiful speech by Harry James Angus (solo artist and member of the Cat Empire) about the true worth of music and musicians.  ox Melissa