She’s been tapping her toes on stage since she was three years old and since then Miss Mandy Swings has enjoyed an international career.
We sat down for a chat with the local lass about her colourful history as a Gold Coast performer and her thoughts on the future of our city’s music scene.
What was like growing up on the Gold Coast as a performer?
Similar to today, there were dance studios leading to eisteddfods and talent quests. Tropicarnival was a big highlight, performing on stage in Cavill Avenue. There was no Arts Centre early on, so the opportunity to perform in a theatre, with wings, backstage areas and state of the art sound and lighting wasn’t available. It’s a great addition to the Gold Coast for the young talent of today to perform in a professional venue with the opportunity to audition for musicals, The Junior Green Room project and school holiday workshops with industry artists.
What unique opportunities were you given as a local artist here?
I was lucky enough to audition for the Casino when I finished school and performed in two productions – Starz and Galaxies as an acrobat and singer/dancer, the greatest first professional contracts ever! I learned so much from the Directors, Choreographers, guest acts and the cast and crew. We had a live orchestra, galloping horses and a Cadillac driven onto the stage. There was a rotating floor and world-class sets and costumes, it was mind blowing. After the show we’d head to Surfers and perform in the nightclubs doing dance shows at Twains, The Penthouse and Cocktails and Dreams. After a stint in Japan I came home to sing jazz in the piano bar at The Sheraton Mirage. In the corporate market my 9-piece band Oz Hornz have played all the big ballrooms and functions around town. We’ve had the pleasure of playing support for a lot of celebrities – Harry Connick Jnr. and Chris Isaaks being a highlight at the Indy Ball.
You’re performing at Sunday Sounds this weekend, what can we expect from your set?
I’m performing with my quartet to kick off the afternoon of Swing. You can look forward to Natalie Cole and the big band singers of years gone by – Doris Day, Bette Midler, Ella Fitzgerald. I’m a singer and dancer so you won’t see me keep still. The bouncy swing of songs like Stuff Like That There and Get Happy is infectious.
What do you love most about swing music?
Definitely the vibe, it makes you feel good. The lyrics and story telling of the old tunes give you a sense of how much times have changed. The rhythm is so relaxed and cruisey. I love watching the swing dancers kicking their legs and throwing their partners around. The greatest part of swing music is a live band and the horns! You go along for the ride and never know where they will take you.
How have you seen the Gold Coast’s music scene grow in your time as a performer?
I have seen the music scene grow in certain areas. The introduction of Surfers Paradise Festival, Blues on Broadbeach and the Country Music Festival have been great. Miami Marketta and The NightQuarter have also provided locals with options to see live acts. Sunday Sounds at Sanctuary Cove is giving locals a great variety of music and entertainment for families to enjoy. The Broadwater Parklands is a great venue for Christmas Carols and some duos on the weekend. I do like the idea of entertainment in our parks; we have the best climate for outdoor events. Twin Towns have been great supporters of live music and continue to do so. Our local RSL and Sports Clubs are providing a great opportunity for our musicians and entertainers to get some experience too.
Back in the day live rock venues and Sunday sessions were big on the Coast. Live rock, pop and horn bands were something you could go out and enjoy. Kids who are learning instruments actually got to see musicians performing their craft because it gave them something to aspire to.
What do you think is the future of music here?
I think there is a very positive vibe around the GC. There are a lot of people in the industry pushing to keep music alive and live. We have some of the best players/tutors on the Coast teaching our younger generation their instruments. I hope that we can get more live music back in to venues with more players on stage. I’ve seen it at functions; some young people are in awe and have never seen a live band. The young musos need to know they are mastering their talent and have somewhere they can play a live show.
How did your career kick off?
I started singing and dancing at three years old. After performing on a talent show with Paul Sharratt at 10 years old, another producer was looking for young singers and dancers for his program. I made it on to Channel 7’s Super Saturday as a regular junior performing weekly through to high school until I graduated and left for the Casino.
What does the future hold for you?
My business Oz Hornz Entertainment keeps me very busy with all our different acts. I’m performing with my rock/pop band Funky Monkeys at Steampunk Surfers on July 8th, which I am very excited about. I’m pushing to get live bands back into some local venues before the world gets here next April for the Commonwealth Games. I have many dreams to fulfill in this crazy life; cruise ships are on the hit list with my Beehives Tribute Show.
Your favourite piece of life advice…
I live by a few rules:
Beach: The Broadwater and South Currigee. I’m a boaty so our family jump off the grid a couple of times a year and chill out tubing and camping on the Island. If I had to choose a beach it would be The Spit.
Café: Meraki Wholefood Kitchen in Chirn Park
Restaurant: Thai Magik Chirn Park
Music venue: Steampunk Surfers Paradise