Words by Jamie Preisz | Illustrations by John Ronald
Full disclosure: most music that errs on the side of being earnest lights a fire to my cynicism and conjures memories ill-fated house parties, slaughtered at the hands of some idiot armed with an acoustic guitar and the belief that his cover of ‘Wonderwall’ truly has the power to bring people together.
So, walking up the stairs of the new and improved Lansdowne, clutching a glass and giving the “I’m not drunk, I promise” nod to the security guard I was confused by a silent room of punters staring at a dimly lit stage.
The crowd erupted in applause as a slightly awkward 22-year-old walked on stage pushing his hair behind his ears and giving a coy wave. Standing alone on the stage under a single spotlight, Didirri opened his mouth and suddenly the words and melody had by-passed my inner-curmudgeon and punched me right in the feelings. I looked around at a relaxed but enthusiastic crowd.
I won’t tell you what to think about music. You’re a big kid, clutching your own beer—you can form your own opinion. But I will say was that this was a great performance. You could tell this guy knew what he was doing and was enjoying it. It won me over and I immediately sought him out after the show.
Didirri hails from Warrnambool, a small town right at the end of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Growing up loving music and with a soft spot for soft Australian pop, there is an honest vulnerability that radiates from him. Within the first five minutes of speaking, he revealed that he’s a Kylie fan from way back.
“Two Hearts’ production blows my mind every time,” he says, without a trace of irony.
In this moment it becomes evident why this guy, both in person and on stage, is so disarming: There’s no act. He’s not pretending to be cool—or anything else for that matter—and seems to find validation in honest interactions.
Didirri learned his trade studying Jazz at university in Melbourne, cutting his teeth busking on his days off to make ends meet. But eventually, he had to pack it in.
“My voice couldn’t handle eight sets a day. Nor could my wallet handle eight cents a day. But the true reason is that watching money come in as you play really has an effect on your mental stability. Looking down and having a direct association between income and performance is really demoralising.”
The experience gave him a clear roadmap of what he didn’t want to do with his music.
“You start taking every little step towards making more money—putting in more and more gimmicks into your art that scream for attention. It becomes less and less about authenticity,” he says.
“Gone are the days that a busker can write a good song and capture people’s attention. Now unless you wear a strawberry suit or do your whole set on ice skates, you just don’t capture people’s 11 seconds.”
After finishing university, like many graduates with degrees in creative arts, Didirri went to work at a factory which he less-than-affectionately refers to as “the devil”. The Australian company specialised in direct-to-consumer electronic goods at wholesale prices, employing an Amazon-style strategy that uses minimum-wage employees as human filters to keep shoppers in their very-slightly discounted phone chargers.
“Every day in that factory I moved literally thousands of boxes filled with consumerist trash. One morning I got up and I mistakenly placed a sticker on the wrong box. That was it. That was the day my full-time music career started.”
It would be easy to say that as a musician, selling enough tickets to sustain yourself is living the dream, but Didirri’s tired. When we speak, he’s done six shows in three days up and down the East Coast of Australia, fitting meetings with record execs in between. His new single has garnered him attention from some of the industry’s big players, including a personal message from one of the world’s largest streaming services calling it “one of the best of the year”.
Family seems to be an anchoring point for Didirri. He still trades mixtapes with his sister, a talented painter. Each one is labelled with snapshots of his life. A recent one was titled “This one is a bit cooked. I’ve been drinking a lot.”
He clearly doesn’t believe his own hype but it’s evident that Didirri has a deep care for the music he makes. Following our chat, I messaged Didirri to find out what’s in the pipeline.
“An old shoe, some used earbuds, probably some moss and maybe an EP.”
Keep an ear out.