When Jamaine moved from country NSW to Brisbane to start his Bachelor of Arts at UQ, he had no idea it would also be where he launched his debut single as a student artist.
As a passionate singer/songwriter and proud Biripi and Worimi man, Jamaine believes his musical journey has been one of healing – for himself, and for others.
With help from his fellow students and the UQ community, he released his first single, Little Bird, under his artist name Durriwiyn, in April through UQ’s own record label Corella Recordings. He’s due to record and release his debut EP later this year.
Jamaine’s determination as a self-taught singer, the inspiring women in his life, and support from his peers and teachers at UQ have all helped him get to this exciting point in his musical career, before he’s even graduated.
But it hasn’t been all catchy pop tunes and rose-tinted sunglasses. Jamaine has taken us on his own healing journey, so that he might better explain his passion for helping others to heal through his music.
Transitioning to uni life
Studying at UQ wasn't Jamaine’s original plan.
“I honestly didn’t see myself going to university when I was in high school,” he admits.
“My pre-existing idea of UQ was that I wasn’t good enough to be here.”
Unfortunately, Jamaine isn’t the only one. Many UQ students believed studying here would be intimidating, insular and, well, a little bit haughty – until they stepped onto campus and experienced student life for themselves. Jamaine quickly discovered that these misconceptions couldn’t be further from the truth.
After a tour around UQ’s St Lucia campus with a friend who is a current student, he quickly fell in love with the place and could easily see himself fitting in with the community.
“Something that's surprised me about my experience at UQ is probably the support I've had,” he says.
“I had a lot of support coming from NSW and travelling all the way up here, away from home and away from family.”
“I got to meet a lot of people just like me – Indigenous students here at UQ,” he says.
“They made me feel really comfortable here, like I had a place.”
Despite starting his degree amid COVID-19 lockdowns, Jamaine mentions the positive sense of community at UQ and how this helped him enjoy life in Brisbane during his studies.
“There are a lot of opportunities to do things with other people and form some type of community on campus,” he says.
Jamaine is a member of the Goorie Berrimpa student collective and was also a NAIDOC Ball convenor. These experiences have helped him become closer to the Indigenous community at UQ.
He’s also been involved in the Indigenous Uni Games, where Indigenous students from different universities compete across various sports.
“I love sport and come from a sporting background, so it’s a great opportunity for us to come together, have a good time and compete,” he says.
That isn’t to say that this drastic shift in lifestyle didn’t come with its challenges. For a country kid with close ties to his community and family back home, moving to the city posed difficulties, some of which Jamaine is still working to overcome.
“It was definitely a culture shock moving to a city from a country town, especially Taree – it made me anxious and nervous,” he says.
“It was also hard being away from my family. But when I got to UQ, I started finding my family away from home. I’ve made a lot of lifelong friends here.”
Jamaine recording in the studio. Photography by Jacob Bulow.
Finding community through music
Among those friends are the students helping Jamaine produce and record his EP. He values not only their technical expertise, but also the way they make him feel at ease in the studio environment.
“Recording in the studio with them is great fun and it actually makes me more comfortable,” he says.
Jamaine and his fellow students gain experience in music production, media management, producing digital content and project management as part of their coursework within the School of Music. Helping artists produce music through UQ’s Corella Recordings gives them real experience working at a record label and helps them forge connections within the Australian music scene.
Beyond their experiences in class, Jamaine explains that he and his classmates also regularly let one another know about new opportunities in their local music spheres.
“It’s really good to have that kind of connection with classmates,” he says.
He attributes this strong sense of community and comradeship to Corella Recording’s director, and UQ lecturer in music technology, Dr Chris Perren.
“Chris makes sure everyone is on the same page and knows one another, so we can create a community in that class,” says Jamaine.
“He takes a lot of care with his students and really takes the time to ensure we understand everything.”
“I thought teachers at uni would deliver the information needed and then go. But Chris sticks around and helps us out after class.”
This emphasis on community and support resonates with Jamaine's Indigenous heritage and has helped to foster a strong sense of belonging among his cohort at UQ.
Healing through song
Jamaine describes his music as intuitive and expressive, and listening to the soaring vocals and emotive instrumentals in his track, Little Bird, you can hear why.
His lyrics touch on his childhood experiences and confront the disappointments and unfulfilled expectations he has carried with him into adulthood.
Writing and singing about his story has been a journey of self-discovery for Jamaine.
“Creating this EP has been scary and confronting but also pleasing and healing; it's meant so much to me,” he says.
“It came at the right time – the moment was perfect for me to start my healing journey, to become more accepting of myself and start being more open to opportunities.
“I began to be comfortable with the idea that I deserved this opportunity.”
While his culture and spirituality have had a massive impact on his music, so has his family.
“The women in my life have probably been the most influential and inspiring to me.”
“I’ve always been close to my Mum and my Nan,” he says.
“I feel like a lot of the traits that they have are also inside of me, and that’s been unlocked through my music – the ability to nurture and comfort people.”
Working through these influences and the process of acceptance has helped Jamaine realise that he can help people through his music.
“I want people to feel safe in it, like I'm speaking for them without them having to say anything,” Jamaine says.
“I want my music to heal people, I’ve always been big on that.”
Jamaine working with Corella Recordings director and lecturer in music technology, Dr Chris Perren, in the recording studio.
Jamaine’s advice for future students
We asked Jamaine what his first piece of advice would be for anyone considering studying at UQ and he was quick to quell any misconceptions future students might have about their perceived suitability for university.
“Don’t believe the doubt that’s in your mind, because everyone has a place at UQ,” he says.