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Turning Pressure into Creativity: Rock and Life Lessons from Iva Davies

Updated: Jun 3

Iva wrote the score for the opening of the 2000 olympics

Iva Davies, the lead singer and co-founder of the Aussie rock band Icehouse, is a name synonymous with Australian music. His journey with "Great Southern Land" is a prime example of someone who's creativity thrives under pressure. With a career spanning decades, he's crafted unforgettable hits for Icehouse and written ballets, scored films, and composed the music for the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Among his many achievements, one song stands out as an anthem for Australia – "Great Southern Land." This is the story of how Iva pushed himself to create something extraordinary, and what we can learn from his journey.

The Backstory of "Great Southern Land"

Iva Davies

In the early 1980s, as Icehouse was gaining international recognition, Iva felt a growing need to write a song that truly represented Australia. At a time when Men at Work’s "Down Under" was filled with clichés, Davies aimed to create something deeper and more substantial. Despite initial advice to avoid making it explicitly about Australia, "Great Southern Land" was born.

Iva's Creative Challenge

Icehouse Album Cover

When I interviewed Iva on the Mojo Radio Show a few years back, he shared an incredible story of self-imposed pressure and creativity. When I asked him if he set himself a challenge to see if he could write not just a song but an anthem, his response was enlightening. Despite being a conservative person, Iva took on the monumental task of writing a song about his home country, fully aware of the risks if he got it wrong, and the disappointment if it wasn't "iconic".

Iva Discusses His Challenge To Himself- Voodoo Sound

Recording in a Modest Studio

The Lindrum

Initially recorded as a demo in Iva's home studio, "Great Southern Land" was the standout track among ten songs that would eventually become Icehouse's second album. However, when the track was later laid down at a high-profile studio with a high-priced producer in LA, the record company expressed dissatisfaction and ultimately rejected the new version. This led Iva to take a different approach. He brought his new Lindrum drum machine and Prophet Five synthesizer to a small studio in Hollywood. In just four hours, he recorded and mixed the song's final version. This quick, high-pressure session resulted in a huge tick from the record company and, of course, the iconic track as we know it today.

Iva Discussing the Recording Process- Voodoo Sound

Inspiration and Writing Rituals

Iva Davies being creative at the piano

During our conversation, Iva revealed that his inspiration often comes from unexpected places. Whether it's seeing a street sign or drawing from personal experiences, he always keeps an open antenna for ideas. He also mentioned that working with Icehouse guitarist Bob Kretzmer in a makeshift studio in his home in Newtown (Sydney, Australia) and disconnecting from the outside world were key to his creative process. Remember, this was the 80s, and computer-based editing wasn't even a thing. Using a 4-track cassette deck, he laid down the base for many hits in a simple and "back to basics" manner. He even spent two days working with Daryl Hall from Hall & Oates in that studio. The resulting worldwide smash was "Electric Blue." But that's a story for another day...

Iva Discusses His Writing RitualsVoodoo Sound

So what can we take away from all this?

Working at their desk

I love this story so much because of one simple fact, he didn't just set out to write a song, he set himself the goal of writing an ANTHEM. But there are so many things we can learn based on that.

Firstly, whether we're producing a 30-second radio commercial, imaging for the number one station in the market, or a podcast that's our weekend hobby, how often do we set out to create something extraordinary? How often do we push boundaries to make something great? Iva's story reminds us of the importance of setting high standards and pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones. It also demonstrates that less is sometimes more. Stripping back to basics can push us to come up with new and interesting ideas.

Secondly, in life in general, we can all take inspiration from his "I want to create an anthem" attitude. Dare to set ambitious goals, embrace new tools and technologies, and don't shy away from the pressures that come with aiming high. You never know, your next project might just be your own "Great Southern Land."I

Conclusion and Examples of how you can use these lessons

Creative Writing

Iva’s story behind "Great Southern Land" is more than just a tale about a song. It’s about the creative process, the willingness to take risks, and the determination to produce something meaningful. As you go about your work, remember his journey and strive to create your own anthems, no matter the field you are in.

What's that look like you may well as... Well, next time you need to write a script for your job, prepare a presentation as an entrepreneur, or craft a speech for a wedding, consider turning off the computer. Instead, pick up a pen and paper, and find inspiration sitting under a tree.

Challenge yourself to write a blog post or produce a podcast episode that garners double (or even triple) the usual engagement. Think critically about what it will take to achieve those results and push yourself to new creative heights.

Personally, I find it beneficial to set boundaries that stretch my creativity. Sometimes I'll limit myself to using only a few plugins, a specific track count, or a set amount of time to complete a project. This self-imposed pressure often leads to memorable outcomes. I've even experimented by building a promo backward, starting with the ending and working my way to the beginning, to think differently about my approach.

Anything that gets you out of your comfort zone and approaching the "every day" a little differently.

If you enjoyed this blog and want to dive deeper into the world of creativity and audio production, subscribe to our newsletter for more great content and insights. And if you're looking to get your hands on some creative audio for your next project, whether it’s a voice demo, TV program, or anything in between, set up a free "get to know you" session with me here. Let's create something extraordinary together!

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