A budding trumpeter from the age of four, Daniel Isler straddles the worlds of jazz and hip-hop through the two projects he started after graduating in 2020 from the University of Adelaide’s Bachelor of Music (Jazz Performance).
Isler’s post-university introduction to full-time musician life occurred during the uncertainty of the pandemic. Part of an active jazz gigging community, he was forced – along with most other musicians – to reassess his priorities. Enter the Helpmann Academy Creative Development Grant and the opportunity to head into the studio to record his first self-titled album with jazz quintet Soylent Green.
Isler says the opportunity came at just the right time, while also solidifying his aspirations for the future.
“It’s a really hard time right now on the grander scale, with everything up in the air around live gigs. Because of that, a lot of musicians have sort of tucked themselves away into the studio.
“As an emerging artist, I have less flexibility to be doing that without financial support. In this way, the Helpmann Academy have been super integral in me being able to take those next big steps in my music career, with funding to record my first ever album.”
The Creative Development Grant provided Isler and Soylent Green with essential funds to record and master tracks at famed studio Wizard Tone. It also gave the band the opportunity to engage another artist in the production of the cover art for the record.
“I found this art studio in Sydney called Studio A,” Isler says. “They are a neurodiverse art studio, so creating equal opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities in the arts, where in other situations they would have a bit more difficulty, potentially, being able to create and profit off their artworks.
“We have commissioned a work by visual artist Peter Dudding for the album cover, which has been completed and [which] we are excited to see.”
In between preparations for the record, Isler also took part in SONGS, a week-long song-writing intensive at Northern Sound System (NSS). A partnership between Helpmann Academy and NSS, SONGS paired leading South Australian music producers, emerging original artists, and graduates from the Elder Conservatorium of Music from September 27 to October 1 with the aim to write a song a day.
The SONGS model has been running at NSS for three years, and in this iteration, established producers including Godlands, Adam Page and Nic Wilson (EAST AV3) were on hand to support emerging vocalists and musicians to move outside their comfort zones and musical styles while collaborating.
Isler says the strength of the program lies in carving out dedicated time to just play and create without a specific project in mind.
“Sometimes in the jazz world, musicians can be a bit oriented on, ‘When’s the gig? When’s the actual performance that we’re preparing for?’, whereas I think we’re doing this creative week, SONGS, and we’re making music and there’s not necessarily a specific outcome other than making amazing music and making these connections.
“I really enjoyed just making the things and collaborating and getting into a studio without anything written on the board already. You have to put the pieces together as you go, which is so cool.
“It’s made me realise again that I would love to do that; that process of finding, cutting out a week or whatever, and just like working with some people and putting together something and having something at the end of it to be really proud of because it’s just such a cool experience.”
The program also allowed Isler to experience firsthand the creative process of some of South Australia’s most prolific musical producers.
“Making connections with everyone was really cool, particularly people who are outside of my genre, or outside of my usual flow.
“Working with Godlands was exciting, to see her process, and I am really into hip-hop stuff, so I was keen to work with Nic Wilson. It’s just super informative and interesting to be in the same room as people who were really good at what they do.”
Looking to the future, Isler hopes that Soylent Green will be able to hold a big event for the release of their album once it’s completed, but in the meantime he will be focusing on creating new music with the hip-hop and groove group Tervete Collective – with an eye to applying for more Helpmann opportunities to make that dream a reality.
“Helpmann has been pretty integral to a lot of the things that I’ve been doing. I think, just in terms of making me visualise the things that I want. Even outside of the specific grant proposals, it’s helped to solidify what I want generally for my career. It’s been super helpful in putting that together and knowing that there are avenues of support that are readily available and ripe for the taking for passionate artists like myself.”
The 2021 Helpmann Creative Development Grants Round 2 are currently open, offering up to $3000 to kickstart new projects, research and develop ideas/new works or build skills, markets and creative practices. Applications close on Monday, November 15, 2021. For more information or to apply, go here.
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