Thursday, February 2, 2023
Mackay and Whitsunday Life
Here is a story as old as music: the travelling artist - guitar strapped to their back - arrives in a beachside town with song on their lips. And they never leave.
Airlie Beach has become a rest home for more musicians and maestros, more bards and bands than it may have any right to – it is a place polished in creativity, in which artists have scraped at the sheen, hoping to keep a piece for themselves.
It is breezy. Here is the sound of it: water lapping with low sounds at the beachside, the acoustic guitar playing alongside it, as easy as the wind. Airlie Beach connects to the soft sensibility of some artistic core.
Yet, Airlie offers another side to its cruisy village aesthetic: -- it has a raucous, party-boy heart found in places like KCs, Magnums, Boaty’s. It is manifold, like life. At one time serene and another rowdy. And it also has a community.
Ash Smith is one of Airlie Beach’s musicians - part of a long tradition - who has found a home here far from his own.
Most people in Airlie Beach are from somewhere else. Ash is no different: he is a native son of Lisburn in Northern Ireland, having arrived in Airlie Beach six years ago, bringing with him his music from across the globe.
And he is Airlie Beach to a tee, part of its musical fabric: he embraces the swelling sounds of the seaside but can rock it out with the best.
Like all the Beach’s musicians, he has a story:
“I’ve been in a few different bands in my life: one called Whanau, which means family in Maori, and a grunge band, ‘Smoking Tongue’. I’ve always been a big fan of Pearl Jam, Allice in Chains, Soundgarden, and chilled out music like Pink Floyd and Ben Howard. I started gigging around in my early-20s and ended up going to the United States, to New Zealand, and eventually here,” Ash said.
“I was just travelling and if you’re a travelling muso, what’re you going to do? You’re going to play music. And when I came to Airlie Beach to watch another band, and I was gigging around and I couldn’t say anything but yes to living here.
“I was luckily offered a sponsorship from Total Entertainment, and it was a yes, straight away – no hesitation. I still work closely with them today. They’re fantastic. At the time, I was working down in Mackay hauling cane for the visa and then coming up here to play on the weekends. It was an amazing life. I think most of the musicians that come here are the same; they end up loving the place and then finding a community.”
With a repertoire of covers and his originals, Ash has become one of Airlie’s longstanding artists in the music scene. He’s performed everywhere and says it allows him to enjoy both sides of his music – which are also both sides of Airlie.
“Playing music makes me feel good. If anything bad is s happening in your life, you can get lost in it; it clears everything up,” he said.
“On some nights, you’re feeling the slow, intimate stuff and others you’re ready to go hard. I play everywhere – it’s a nice mix of vibes from one to the next. It’s a seven-night-a-week kind of place for musicians. It’s awesome.
“The music scene in Airlie Beach is great, and the original scene is picking up. It’s a great place to write music – it’s a great place to do anything.”
Find Ash on Facebook at Ash Smith Music.