Readers of Canberra street press magazine BMA got to know him as an affable, witty, incredibility talented columnist. His column was called Struth Be Told, and it was Justin Heazlewood’s first fortnightly column in a widely read publication.
Releasing three albums, including Songs from the 86 Tram, which spawned his hit Northcote (So Hungover), and publishing a book called The Bedroom Philosopher Diaries, he has since written for several publications and become an award winning musical comedian under his moniker the Bedroom Philosopher.
Traversing to Canberra to promote his latest project – a book and EP called Funemployed, these mark a new period of Heazlewood’s life, seeing him leave the Bedroom Pholospher behind to come out under his own name.
Saying being an artist is the single hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life but also the greatest job on earth, Heazlewood explains that the book is an “emotional audit” that gives his side of the story of life as a freelance artist in Australia. It also contains interviews from over 100 other artists including Amanda Palmer, Christos Tsiolkas, Gotye, Tim Rogers and Tony Martin. The launch will be a combination of Heazlewood reading from the book and playing songs that he says are quirkier than his Bedroom Philosopher tracks, and “maybe not even funny.”
After working a good portion of his life to build up a reputation in the comedy space, Heazlewood is seeking to broaden his options.
“I definitely need to release myself from the comedy shackles,” he says. “They literally are these heavy cast iron shackles…which I’ve just finally realised from an existential point of view is kind of really depressing.”
“I’m like a social suicide bomber and I’ve planted a truth bomb to myself and pretty much blown up my whole artistic shopfront,” he explains. “I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars employing shit hot publicists and photographers to appear as shit hot as possible in bid for the industry to embrace me as a shit hot artist, and audiences to keep buying my product because it looks shit hot.
“So, having become completely disillusioned by that entire capitalist system, I’ve just blown the entire thing up by writing 80,000 words about how I’m not shit hot and I’ve actually failed,” he says. “And so the tour is me stepping out from the ruins, just in a modest loin cloth without all my mega space suit on anymore.”
Saying honesty is his new god, this tour becomes an experiment in not having to hide behind a mask of comedy and irony. It is a change he says was brought about in small gradations, over about a three-year period.
“It starts with you doing a gig at the Transit Bar at some time of the day, playing to some drunk person interrupting your gig and going ’I don’t know if I’m enjoying this so much. Maybe I’m just going through the motions.’ And then three years later waking up in your dingy apartment in Melbourne with just heaviness about you, crippled with financial anxiety about how you are going to pay off your second credit card with your Centrelink income, and realising you hate your career with out a doubt.”
Although the Bedroom Philosopher may have crashed up against Heazlewood’s hopes and expectations, with Funemployed the experience has blossomed into a new perspective on his life, and a return to his literary roots. Part confessional, part self-help book, it hopes to shine a light into the “dark corner of the arts.”
It is, he says, a wandering back through the years to see at what point he made a misstep. “It’s a fun, self-help with jokes.”
Justin Heazlewood plays Smith’s Alternative, 2pm Saturday 12 July. Tix: $10
Well into loving the good things in life, Arne is a part time journalist with a background in music and the arts