For such a small coastal town, Byron Bay has fostered a thriving local music scene, a place many of Australia's most successful artists first found their feet in the music industry. From heavy metal band Parkway Drive to indie rockers The Jezabels, singer/ songwriter Ziggy Alberts to global sensation Tones and I, the pubs and alleyways of Byron Bay have seen their fair share of up-and-coming stars. With a strong local festival scene and a high calibre of national and international buskers, the Bay is undoubtedly one of Australia's music hotspots.
Kyle Lionhart is one local musician finding international success after honing his live performances and songwriting on the sidewalks of Byron. He has since had tours throughout Australia & UK, and played alongside the likes of Foy Vance, Xavier Rudd, & Niall Horan. We caught up with Kyle to chat about his experiences busking in Byron Bay and what it was like transitioning from the streets to festival stages and sold-out headline shows.
Has growing up in Byron Bay influenced your songwriting?
To be honest I don't feel it really has. I'm about the only musician here with an acoustic guitar that doesn't sing about having my toes in the sand and swimming with whales. I think the surfing culture here and the laid back scene has definitely helped me refine my sound though, and has influenced the pace of my music, that's for sure.
What do you remember from your time busking in Byron Bay?
The thing that has always stuck with me about busking is the audience's purity. They have no other reason to be standing on a street corner, no food or alcohol, other than to listen to you, and I miss that feeling. Don't get me wrong, having a venue full of people there for you and you only is also a magical feeling, but I do miss being discovered for the first time.
What have you Taken from busking into your live performances on stage?
Absolutely; everything I've learnt from busking has helped my live show. Busking can be rough and you need to be giving people a pretty good reason to stop on a street corner, in what are usually pretty uncomfortable circumstances. You need to be engaging on all levels; performance, songs, banter - it's not easy keeping strangers engaged but if you can get that right on the streets and bring that to your own shows, you're almost guaranteed to connect with the audience.
Is the local scene highly competitive or does it foster a supportive community?
I would say it's a highly supportive music community here, most of us are good friends. We often tour with each other and always share each other's music.
Do you remember your first festival performance in Byron Bay?
My first festival performance in Byron was at Falls Festival 2015. I was a runner up in the busking comp, no one knew me, and I played on a packing create to about four and a half people.
What's the first thing you love to do when you return home to Byron Bay?
Surf is usually a top priority, followed by taking my kids for a good amount of time so my wife doesn't kill me haha. I love trying to pretend I have a normal life when I'm home and I actually really enjoy the mundanities, which are pretty sweet when you live in this area - a lot of sunset surfs with my groms and community beach hangs.
Where do you love to go with friends to experience live music?
Well, right now the local scene sucks cause you know, Covid, but honestly the best place to find new music in Byron is usually the streets. The high calibre of national and international buskers here is insane.
Are there any great local musicians that you have recently discovered?
Sure are; Ben Camden, Billy Otto, Jack Botts, Felipe Baldomir. I reckon you'll be hearing a lot from these guys in the coming years.