What the streets have taught Reuben Stone about making music
There are performers out there who slave away at music degrees for years, taking to the classroom to learn the skills that carry them when they step up to the stage.
Then there are performers like Reuben Stone. After deciding music was what he wanted to do with his life at the tender age of 11, Stone didn’t turn to books, or adopt an academic approach to gigging: he turned to the streets. The celebrated Melbourne-based musician has spent a decade building on his talents via the unforgiving arena of the local street corner, a trial by fire that he speaks of with a true reverence.
“I haven’t really had a proper job in ten years,” the laidback singer muses in his distinctive, twanging drawl. “I’ve mainly been teaching guitar and doing the street shows. I’ve done a lot of gigs this year, actually.”
Music is in Stone’s blood; always has been. His father was a celebrated performer, and the young Stone began to follow in his dad’s footsteps even before he hit adolescence. “I played my first gig 17 years ago,” he says. “I had been playing with my dad my whole life, drumming and shit. I was swapping around drum kits for the bass and guitars and stuff. When I played I brought together all the things that my dad taught me.”
His career now represents the culmination of all that hard work, and he has transformed all the musical knowledge he has attained over the years into a series of acclaimed electronic rock and pop songs. “[My songs] are pretty much about taking little pieces of everything I’ve learnt over the 15 years of playing,” he says.
“I’ve really developed this sound from playing on the street and seeing what people dig and what stops people; what builds an audience. I’ve tried a bunch of shit over hundreds – maybe thousands – of shows, just seeing what really works and what I can do on my own.”
Stone has also utilised the assistance of a secret weapon – the trombone. He has long found that the instrument has a novelty appeal that really draws punters, and the sheer blowing power he can amass enables him to spread his songs loud and clear. “The trombone helps. People hear a trombone blasting down the street and they’re definitely going to take the time. It’s loud as hell. They hear it from the distance and they think it’s a band but then they come closer and it’s just one person.”
Indeed, the musician’s trusty trombone plays an important role in both his new single Push To The Limit and its accompanying clip, a road movie of sorts following Stone on his colourful international travels. “[The song] was written on the streets over a couple of years. It was developed in the live setting. I finished it in October, early October, when I went and recorded it in the States.”
For Stone, heading over to the US was an easy decision to make, one that paid off in droves almost as soon as he landed stateside. “The song is about travelling anyway, so that’s why I went. We recorded on vintage 1970s equipment. The best shit ever made. [We worked] with a guy called Jim Scott. He’s been a producer for Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash. He was like Rick Rubin’s right-hand man in the ‘90s.”
Better still, Stone’s time with Scott gave him access to what could reasonably be described as the holy grail of rock instruments. “The guitar I used to play on the track was John Frusciante’s guitar he played on Under The Bridge,” Stone says. “[Scott] was like, ‘You should play on that guitar over there.’ So I did, and he was like, ‘That’s John Frusciante’s.’ The actual guitar that he used in the solo.”
He laughs, as though he can barely believe how far he’s come himself. “No shit, dude. It’s not a joke.”
By Joseph Earp