How did 25 year old singer, songwriter, guitarist Aaron Schembri convince some of Australia’s most legendary artists to not only sing and play on his debut album ‘City Lights’ but also perform at the upcoming launch gig in September? Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips phoned him up and asked that very question!
Aaron Schembri is one of those musicians you’ve most likely seen and heard but didn’t even know it. He’s one of those humble guys, a hired hand around town that is more concerned about doing a great job for the artists he’s playing for rather than seeking the spotlight himself. He’s played guitar alongside everyone from Renee Geyer and Ross Hannaford to Normie Rowe, Russell Morris and many others. Unbeknown to most, quietly and steadily Aaron has been working away in the background for the last four years on his own debut album. It’s called City Lights and to celebrate the occasion of his first album, he called on many of the legendary artists he has played with to join him on the recording. Testament to the type of guy Aaron is, anyone who was available had no problem accepting the invitation … but more of that later … let’s first find out who this Aaron Schembri guy is!
Aaron took to the guitar early in life and was playing in his first pub band by the age of fifteen. Inspired by his grandfather, Aaron was schooled in all kinds of pioneering rock n roll. “My grandfather had the Chuck Berry records and Dion, all the great rock ’n’ roll records,” recalls Aaron of his childhood. “Then dad had ACDC, The Stones, ZZ Top … so I had a great range of where it all started. As I got more into guitar I was into Mick Taylor from The Rolling Stones but really, the one for me was Chuck Berry, his songwriting and his stage presence was on another level. If it wasn’t for Chuck Berry we wouldn’t have The Stones, The Beatles and AC/DC. He could tell a story in under 3 minutes.”
The more Aaron developed his guitar chops, the more he got into guitars. Although he has played many different guitars throughout his career, currently his two main instruments are a Gibson SG, ’61 re-issue and a Gibson ES345, which get a workout more than his Strats and Teles. His very first electric guitar was an SG which his father bought for him. “My dad got it for me when he realised I was doing music seriously and it was an Angus Young model SG with the logo at the top and on the tailpiece and I still have it. I actually got Angus to sign it a couple of years ago. So that’s going to stick with me forever that thing. Amp-wise, a Fender Deluxe is my go to amp. I’ve tried Marshalls and didn’t feel it was me. I just have a little pedalboard with a tremolo and hand-made Tube Screamer. The stuff I do is not complicated so I don’t need a spaceship pedalboard.”
Returning to the topic of his debut album, it’s a project which Aaron began four years ago. The concept was always to utilise the many great artists he has worked with throughout his career, the problem was not so much getting them to agree, it was finding gaps in each of their schedules to come into the studio to complete their parts. Aaron’s patience paid off as he has managed to secure the services of; Normie Rowe, Ross Wilson, Russell Morris, Colleen Hewett, Phil Manning, Kevin Borich, Wilbur Wilde, Mark Gable, Mike Rudd, James Cupples and John “Swanee” Swan
Aaron also co-wrote “Living Hell” with James Cupples and had begun co-writing a song with Ross Hannaford “Dont You Worry Now”, which features Daddy Cool’s Ross Wilson singing the lead vocals on this album. “Each track has a different inspiration behind it, covering all aspects of my inspirations from reggae, rock, blues and country. The artists on the album have also been big inspirations to me musically. As much as they are my peers, I’m a huge fan of their craft,“ Aaron said. “I first met Ross Hannaford when I was 17, we jammed together a venue called Musicland. We hit it off and started doing duo gigs together and even had Ross guest-spotting in my band over the years. I had worked with most of these artists before, I played bass for Normie Rowe at the Go! Show concert at the Palais Theatre. Phil Manning, Mike Rudd, James Cupples I work with regularly. Everyone was all for the concept and the idea of the project and it all just fell into place for me.”
However, the track that is closest to Aaron’s heart is the one celebrating his real hero, his grandfather. “I sing two of the songs on the album,” he explains. “There’s a bit of a ballad, with an Everly Brothers feel. I wrote that for my grandfather when he passed away because he was the only musician in the family and we had a great connection. When he passed away that song just came out. I didn’t change anything from when I first wrote it.”
With his City Lights album recorded and on the verge of release, what does Aaron hope people get out of listening to it?
“There are a lot of people of my age who don’t know a lot about Australian music history. I have some of Australia’s greatest artists on my album, singing my songs. So hopefully there’s a connection between my generation, what’s happening now and hearing and learning what has happened in the past. There’s a big gap between my generation and that generation and my dream is to connect both and get people to appreciate those who have come before.”
For a special ONE NIGHT ONLY at MEMO Music Hall, Aaron launches his debut album with appearances from his guest artists and his seven- piece band. The night will consist of three sets, including some of the artists classic Australian hits, that first ever duet between Colleen Hewett and Russell Morris, and the tribute to Ross Hannaford, performing the song that he and Aaron began writing together before Ross became unwell.
$5.00 from each ticket sale will be donated to Aaron’s charity of choice “Support Act: The Heart and Hand of Australian Music” assisting the health and welfare for the people who are doing it hard within the music industry.
Date: Wed 25 September
Time: Doors 7pm, Show 8pm
General Standing Room, $45.00plus bf, A-Reserved Seats $58.00 plus bf, Premium Res. Seats — (13 Available), Guarantees an allocated seat in the Premium Reserved Section (front & Centre) $68.00
Venue: MEMO Music Hall – 88 Acland Street St Kilda