On the Couch with Caleb Garfinkel

Caleb Garfinkel AAR On the Couch - photo by Mark Gambino Who is Caleb Garfinkel?
I’m a music director, guitar & mandolin player, and academic raised in a (name-withheld) south eastern Melbourne suburb (it casts too many aspersions that distract from the persona I’ve carefully cultivated, but let’s just say I can help if you accidentally lock your keys in your car). I adore Melbourne and unless a much more enticing job or study prospect appears, I’ll be happily building my world here for a long time to come.

When I’m not playing in or leading theatre pits, I’m a university lecturer at the Australian Guild of Music Education (Bachelor of Music) and all styles of guitar and fretted instruments. I also keep busy recording, arranging and producing music for podcasts, jingles, theatre or parodies for my own amusement. I work from and manage my rehearsal and recording complex Got Fink Studios. In recent years I’ve discovered a dormant love and skill for distance running (and now have the calves to prove it), and have an affectionate obsession with a lot of TV series.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
A teacher once told me, as I lamented the lack of time I had given to develop a particular musical style, that he had effectively ‘stopped caring’ about what he had and hadn’t done, and (paraphrasing my lesson) instead just appreciated the journey thus far and the present he was in. I’d do that sooner – stop caring about what I had and hadn’t spent time on, and just enjoy the moment more.

Who inspires you and why?
I’m inspired by anyone who continually strives to learn and better themselves, from all walks of life and interests. More recently, I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from my dad, who passed away a few weeks ago. He was my first inspiration to play music, and the entire reason I do today. I’m going to be playing some of his guitars in Fugitive Songs, and they have taken on a whole new life and energy since he passed.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Remove the remnants of stigma around mental health and illness – it’s ok to not be ok; assure all men that vulnerability and sensitivity is a beautiful and essential part of masculinity – the patriarchy hurts men also; and remind all people of the world that each job exists in service of others, and when we are aware that our role in society is to serve and assist each other, our society might just nudge towards harmony.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
It’s been a long, long time since I begrudgingly took a holiday; but I spent time studying in Prato, a little medieval village in Tuscany, Italy, and fell madly in love. But when I am forced to take my next one, I’ll head out to the Otways and lock myself in a cabin with a mandolin, bottle of scotch and several days’ worth of burritos.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Whatever show I’m currently playing in. It’s not even a selfish thing – I only get involved in shows I totally love and would want friends to see. But as a rule, anything at The Butterfly Club or Chapel Off Chapel.

What are you currently reading?
I say I read more than I actually do, but on my list are Christopher McDougall’s run bible Born To Run; The Barefoot Investor (banking with ING, huh…); and I’ve been halfway through Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend for a disgracefully long time.

What are you currently listening to?
This changes daily, but a common theme is a lot of female singer/songwriters, from electronic to bluegrass – Emma Louise and Ellie Goulding are getting a lot of plays, as is Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan, Brandi Carlile, Nickel Creek, and whatever else Spotify throws forward. I listen to a lot of the types of music I wish I were playing, and rarely to the music I currently am.

Happiness is?
One burrito, one scotch, one beard. And the awareness that each moment is equally unique and utterly insignificant in the broader scheme of our lives, with the knowledge that if one moment isn’t what we want it to be, another is a clock rotation away.

What does the future hold for you?
I have a lot of shows pencilled in that I’m not allowed to talk about yet; and a lot coming that you won’t stop me talking about –Yasgur’s Farm; Age of Stephen; Jekyll and Hyde; Rent; and then it’s Christmas I guess. I’m also training to run my first marathon at the Melbourne Marathon Festival later this year, and crazily enough that’s starting to sound like a normal thing to do. Ideally, my future has a lot more of the things I love to do and a lot less of the anxiety I usually bring to them.

Caleb is the musical director of Fugitive Songs – currently playing at Chapel Off Chapel until 2 September 2018. For more information, visit: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au for details.

Image: Caleb Garfinkel – photo by Mark Gambino