After representing Australia at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta Paul Greene hung up his boots and picked up his guitar. He has been touring relentlessly for the past 5 years, across all parts of Australia and into NZ & the USA. We catch up with Paul before he plays in Port Macquarie.
> You represented Australia in Athletics at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, tell us about that experience.
It was a goal I had worked on for a long time and a great achievement to get there. I did enjoy the journey a lot more as I got to live in the States for three years and travelled to a number of countries like Algeria, Italy, South Africa and England to name a few. I grew up in Nowra which is a country town and there wasn’t much happening there so it was good to get out and experience some different countries and cultures throughout the world. Which gave me a fantastic perspective on my part of the world in a very strange way.
> What made you swap the joggers for a guitar?
I started playing in bands when I was twelve, I used to play in a covers band in Nowra where we had gigs just about every weekend. Right through the time I was training I was either studying music or I was at gigs; it was more a case of putting down the spikes than picking up the guitar. Leading up to the Sydney Olympics I had some great opportunities with music and I couldn’t really keep doing both at the same time so I decided to give the training away and started working on my first album.
I hadn’t had any ambition with music, it was just something I had always done. If I needed to eat I would busk or play guitar, it just seemed like the job I would always end up with. So, it was only after the year 2000 that I started thinking about making music a career, rather than the thing I did to sustain myself as an athlete. I got in trouble a few times from the Australian Athletics Federation because I would turn up to training sessions a bit tired. I once cancelled a relay squad because my band had a really good gig, I got in quite a lot of trouble for that – they called me into their head quarters and said “ we feel we need to question your dedication to this sport Paul?” to which I said “ well I’ve gotta eat!” It happened on more than one occasion that I chose music over athletics – which didn’t get a good response. I was definitely always a musician although I didn’t always know it. It was good to be able to develop as a singer, songwriter and musician without any real aspirations other than I just loved it. I’m still trying to carry that into my music today; I try not to think of it as my job, more of something that is part of my life that I have to do, I have to eat, I have to sleep, I have to write music.
> It is a big change to go from training every day to a more laid back lifestyle?
They are fairly similar in lots of ways. I spend a lot of time traveling still, and especially things like having to get through the hard times, whether it be a bad race or a bad gig or bad day at work it doesn’t mean you are worthless, you just have to knuckle down, try harder and if you do well then it’s a bonus.Funnily enough I do drink a lot more beer these days – a lot more, but I am fairly fit still as I’m chasing my two year old daughter around.
> You mentioned you have done thousands of gigs over the years, what keeps you on the road?
Like I said I just have to do it. You have to put in the yards and it’s not always easy following what you want to do. The alternative would have been to sign a record deal very early on – which I didn’t want to do, so the only way for me to survive was to get our there and play my music to people night by night, person by person, and get out and meet people and show them what I do. I have to actively go out and find people to play to. The alternative is spending thousands of dollars on marketing and TV ads, but that would also mean that someone else would have control of my music and I didn’t want that to happen. I have been totally nurtured and supported by people that really like my music and it has been a healthy way to progress. I always said to myself that if the albums didn’t work and if I couldn’t survive then I would do something else; I would keep doing music but so something else to survive and pay the rent and whatnot. But I have managed to survive so I have just kept doing it. I really like, I love traveling and love meeting new people; we get a lot of hard gigs and a lot of bad gigs but then I have had some absolute brilliant gigs and met some amazing people. When you go into a town the first time you meet all new people and then when you come back the second time it gets to be like catching up with friends that you have made on past tours, and over times build great friendships.
There are a lot of good stories to be told from that and obviously good songs.
> What’s the best gigs you have played at?
I played at the State Theatre, the Metro in Newtown, and some big stadiums, but I tend to like smaller gigs – where you get closer to people and have a really good connection with the audience. It’s more about how much the audience lets me in; when the audience is putting in as much effort as I am – that’s what makes a good gig.
> How would you describe your style of music?
I don’t have a style – that’s my style. Its all types, I borrow from everywhere. It’s honest and makes you feel good.
> Greatest Influences on your music?
My mum and dad. My dad used to play me lots of The Beatles, James Taylor and Bob Dylan and they are both very musical so it was always around me as a kid.
> You also perform with Midnight Oils Rob Hirst, in the duo Hirst and Greene, how did this come about?
It was around the time of the Olympics in Sydney, there was an album being worked on called Olympic Record and Rob Hirst was the executive producer. Through SOCOG I sent a demo with some stuff that I had been mucking around with – just a 4 track recording to them. They were looking for athletes that could play on the album and I got to work with him. They kept asking me back to sing and play the harmonica. I really liked singing harmonies and I ended up singing harmonies on Rob’s songs. We kept working at it and over four years we wrote a heap of songs together. We ended up as Hirst and Greene with an album out called ‘In the Stealth of Summer.’ We just connected musically and he has been a great mentor for me – he is a hard worker and a very talented musician.
> What do you hope to achieve in the music industry?
I just want to make a living out of it. I’d like to buy a house with a backyard for my daughter. I want to be a better performer and write better songs and make better albums – that’s my goal.
> Thanks for you time Paul.