When listening to our favourite musicians, it’s easy to feel like they’re overnight successes (looking at you, Billie Eilish). But artist Ziggy Ramo is here to remind us that it’s actually “many, many nights” of putting in the practice to reach your goals. Especially in a competitive industry like music.
As part of 2023’s Musicians Making A Difference Day (MMAD Day), PEDESTRIAN.TV spoke with Ziggy during a songwriting workshop in Melbourne to learn more about his journey from being a Perth teenager writing songs alone, to becoming one of the most successful (and talented) musicians in the country.
PTV: You began pursuing music in your mid-teens in Perth, did you have much support as a young person to chase those dreams?
Ziggy: My parents were always very supportive of us following our passion and trying to make our lives whatever we wanted. But outside of the theoretical support of, ‘We want you to be happy’ we never had anyone in our family that was in the industry. We didn’t have any connections in that way.
I was very privileged to have such a supportive family, but in terms of a friend-of-an-uncle who was in the industry, that didn’t really exist for me. It was like, ‘I know I want to do this, but I have no idea how to make that happen.’
How did you end up getting your break?
We think about it as a break but it’s lots of little fractures. I knew I loved it and wanted to do it. I’m a bit of a doer and it was just like, ‘Well, somebody’s got to be an artist and make songs and I want to be that person so I’m going to butt my head against the wall until it happens’. It’s persistence, it’s being consistent. It’s not going to happen overnight by any means. It’s many, many nights all adding up over time.
I spent five years writing songs by myself because I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I think you do it for long enough that you eventually meet like-minded people. I’d known since 2010 that I wanted to do music and I didn’t play my first show ’til 2016. I got like, $150, it was the coolest thing ever.
I feel like I’ve come so far in what I want to do, but you just kind of keep pushing. Keep doing the thing that you love.
What’s been a career highlight for you so far?
Just being a full-time artist. The fact that every day I get to wake up and make art, whether that’s music, acting, scoring, and I’m writing a book and it’s just like, that’s so cool. The career highlight is holding on to my childlike creativity and being able to keep exploring and creating because I feel like the further I get, the more I realise how few people get to spend their days doing what they love. That’s such a privilege.
What music has gotten you through hard times in your life?
Oh, so many but one I come back to is ‘Took the Children Away’ by Archie Roach. Mum and Dad played his album Charcoal Lane in the house and I remember loving it as a piece of music when I was younger. I think the music your parents play for you as a kid holds such an important place because you love the music first, and then you get older and the message impacts you in a different way.
Hearing the story and the truth of what Archie was sharing was so profound and it made me feel seen and reflected in a lot of ways. I just want to make things that gave me that same feeling when I was a kid of like, ‘Oh, there’s someone else out there like me, with stories like me and who looks like me.’
Do you think that’s how music can change lives? By making people feel seen?
Definitely! It’s so nuanced, right? That’s the beautiful thing as an artist. You can have all the intention set one way but when you let that go, it’s then kind of free and you breathe air into it.
Music is so special because it can cut to the core of what we’re feeling so deeply and put words to feelings that people haven’t been able to express for themselves. I think that’s such a powerful thing.
What would you say to young people who want to get started in the music industry?
Someone’s got to do it.
That’s something I tell myself all the time. You don’t need permission from anyone else. If you want to do it, that’s all the green light you need. Because you can accomplish anything you want to. You just might have to be okay with letting go of trying to control the timeline.
I think we all want instant gratification. But if you genuinely love something, and you invest enough time into it, it might happen for you in a week, and it might happen for you in 100 years. It’s like Quincy Jones (who’s produced the most successful album of all time) did it when he was 50. You could be 15 right now and you could produce the next ‘Thriller’ in 35 years. It’s just like, will you still be around following your passion in 35 years?
Through your music you communicate a number of social issues and big ideas, what’s it like using your gifts to make a difference?
I just try and focus on making a difference in my own life. I didn’t choose for the subject matter of my art to be socially aware or politically aware. It’s just me figuring out what I think and feel about what I believe. And then that’s deemed to be political or something because of [Australia’s] history.
I’m still so driven to make all the difference that I can, but ultimately, all you can control is your own actions. I’m really focused on trying to create what I know speaks to me and I trust that if I’m my most authentic self and I’m honest with what I’m feeling or experiencing, that’s the best and greatest difference I can make.
You’ve spoken a lot about your experience as a young person and your struggle with your Indigenous identity. So to any young person who might be going through something similar, what would you say to them?
I would say don’t suffer in silence. It’s so natural to feel like you don’t want to burden people or people won’t understand but everyone is going through something. It’s always so much easier when you are vulnerable and able to ask for help because people are amazing and compassionate. If you ask for help, the right person will reveal themselves and support you in whatever you’re going through.
As part of MMAD Day, the charity is urging people to dedicate a song to someone. If you could dedicate one to anyone, who would they be and what song are you choosing?
It’s a little bit self-indulgent, but can I dedicate it to Australia? I’m going to dedicate Little Things, featuring Paul Kelly, to Australia.
On October 20th 2023, band together with the biggest names in the industry (like Ziggy) and make your difference through music.
Dedicate a song to someone with the hashtag #ThisSongIsForYou & tag @mmadaustralia. The awareness you help to create may just connect a young person in need with Musicians Making A Difference (MMAD). Every young person deserves someone who believes in them.