Last year I was offered a three month work contract by a previous employer of mine to fly from New Zealand to Byron Bay and help to close the Byron office he’d been running there for the past three years. I’d just flown back to the homeland (NZ) from Monaco where I’d also been re-employed by an old boss. The job there was as a private massage therapist for him and his family. In 2005 I’d done the same job in Monaco and had numerous extravagant encounters. My boss has made me his pet Kiwi, taking me everywhere with him, buying me the correct attire to suit the lifestyle, and I had made my way back to my tiny country hometown with a booty of fabulous designer gowns, necklaces, shoes and watches, much to the envy of my little sister. “No Nicole, I did NOT have to show him my shockers!”

On this trip to Monaco the circumstances had changed somewhat and my boss seemed pre occupied with the challenges of the economic downturn and had little time for foreign accessories like me. I treated his wife and son regularly, but that still gave me ample time to fluff around in the heart of Monaco, lay on the beach, play and sing at the local cafes and dream of returning to the magical town of Byron Bay some day. Well strike me down with a bendy carrot! Talk about manifestation. From February to May 2009 I found myself set up in my boss’ awesome holiday pad in Lilli Pilli, with a car, bike, job, and pretty much no expenses. I went to work and then came home and wrote music. I attended every jam night I could and very quickly made a collection of wonderfully talented musical friends. I definitely felt like I was supposed to be here, even if the six weeks of solid rain did try to deter me.

During my stay in Byron my Mama came over to visit. We had a wonderful time and did all the usual touristy things including a visit to the Crystal Castle. Now, my Mum is a real star gazer. She’s a painter and a singer and a writer and has one foot on this planet and the other is finely tuned into the cosmos. She decided to get herself a tarot reading on that visit to the Crystal Castle while I patiently flicked through books in the library and waited. An hour later she emerged with a happy tear stained face. “Oh Anniekins (my mothers loving name for me), it was amazing. I asked her about you, and OH! You have to see her”.

And so it was. Mum paid for me to see the tarot reader and I went some days later to this woman’s home, expecting incense and planetary mobiles hanging from the ceiling. Instead I found a much centered lady, in a very fresh and professional space, sporting a business card emphasizing that she was a psychologist, naturopath and tarot reader. This appealed to my highly practical Capricorn temperament and I settled in a little easier. “Now, you must understand”, she said, “I’m just reading what the cards say ok?” “Um, uh…ok, sweet”, I said. I concentrated and asked a question. Am I supposed to live in Byron Bay and make music? “Ooooooooooooooh wonderful”, she exclaimed as she drew the cards and laid them down in some cosmic order. “Look here”, she said. “This is the Emperess sitting right in the middle and around her is blah blah, blah blah, and whatsizhoozy. This is very good! The answer is YES. Definitely and utterly yes”. She went on to tell me that as much as NZ was a good place to come home to, the understanding was not there for me and my music and that I would find my mojo, the support and the creative energy in Byron Bay. I didn’t need any more convincing. Her final reading shocked me somewhat though. “There’s a man I see. He’s behaving like a boy, but don’t worry. He’ll come round. He’s your soul partner. Oooh, and look. There’s a baby close by”. I gulped and thanked her for her time, literally flinging the cash at her after her last comment and fled.

At the end of the Byron contract I flew back to New Zealand to tour again with my band. I was amping and chomping at the bit. “Come on you guys. Let’s all move to Byron Bay. It’s incredible. There’s music on every corner. The people are colourful, there’s a dolphin on every wave, and most importantly…they support what we are and what we do. What do you say?” How could they say no? What a convincing argument. In fact…what argument? I’d roped them in. We were going to Byron to make beautiful music together. However, touring can take its toll on a band and this was our 2nd experience being trapped consistently in one van together for an extended period of time. It became clear that the expectations and dreams of us all individually were taking different roads, and one-by-one the Byron Band dream ended. Bugger it! I thought to myself. My heart’s in Byron. I’m gone!

By July we had finished the tour and had sorted all of my things and narrowed them down to one backpack, a guitar and a ukulele. I’d gained a slot in the Himalayas at the Confluence, the world’s highest music festival, and had planned to meet my on again, off again boyfriend of 12 years Locky in Delhi and ride an Enfield together to get to this festival. It was great to see him after a year apart and traveling together was easy riding. He’s my favourite journey buddy and reconnecting confirmed that he is indeed my best friend. The rest of this story can be found in other blogs and articles, and to cut a long story short we now find ourselves in Northern New South Wales, living the Byron Bay dream.

Since being here we’ve had the most incredible experience. After growing up in the southern most city in the world with sub-Antarctic winds rattling your bones for at least six months of the year, Byron can be juxtaposed (is that right Martin?) as the absolute opposite. At least when it rains here you’re not confined to 17 layers of Nana’s home knitted underpants.

We joined the Mullumbimby Toast Masters club a few months back to get savvy on our public speaking. My aim was to learn how to articulate myself better on stage as I’m known for rambling utter nonsense for whole gigs and not even being able to recollect what I’d said by the end of it. A talent in itself I’m sure, but perhaps one that could use a bit of honing. Since joining we have had our club speech contests and I was certainly overwhelmed when I took home two trophies, one for my humorous speech and another for table topics. I’ll be competing in the local comps this month and if that goes well I’ll be working towards the nationals. However, even if I don’t make it any further in this comp I feel that I’ve already gained so much. For those who aren’t aware of what Toastmasters is and what it’s about check out, and also know that you are welcome to drop into your local TM meetings and sit in as a guest and participate if you like. It’s a fabulous experience and I encourage you to try it out.

Mullum Magic Toast Masters Speech Competition
Mullum Magic Toast Masters Speech Competition

So much for cutting a long story short! Somehow my objective here was to explain to you how the tarot reader was right. Well…… Besides winning two trophies in my club competition at Toastmaster I have, since moving to Byron, received six musical nominations in the local Dolphin music awards and gained an award for Children’s song of the year. I made it through to the Brisbane heats in the Telstra road to Tamworth competition. I also made it through to the 2nd round of judging in the Australian Songwriters Competition. I’m still waiting to hear the outcome of that. I’ve found the music partner of the CENTURY Ms Kathryn ‘Cougar’ Jones who I am performing with- with the vengeance of a tornado- and perhaps my almost biggest news to date is that in less than two weeks I’ll have received the delivery of both of my newly mastered and packaged albums Solar Panel and Einey Meiny Miney Mo. Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

AND….. to cap it all off….I have one more massive piece of news….I’ll give you a second to guess…any takers….? Lox and I are having a baby. We heard a heartbeat yesterday that sounded like a manic butterfly trapped in a sock drawer. It was awesome! I’ll be working on my kids song now no doubt!

So the tarot reader was right. I am supposed to be here. “That boy”, is the man of my dreams after all and yes, there is a baby on its way. Wooh! I might have to take a wee lie down. Even I’m finding it hard to keep up so good luck to the rest of you.

In conclusion to this seriously epic edition to my other seriously epic editions, I would like to once again thank all of you for the amazing ongoing support you have given me. A few folks in particular are Kathryn Jones who is not only a super mum with four boys of her own, but a woman who has the most positive attitude this side of the Tweed Valley. Thenks Keth!

The Swingin' Cowgirls @ The Dolphin Awards
The Swingin’ Cowgirls @ The Dolphin Awards

Also Locky, my gorgeous man who reminds me that I can do this whole musical thing and that dreams are not only free, they’re achievable. Good man that one! My cosmic arty Mama, for being my biggest fan (self appointed) and for backing me every step of the way. Dorien Itjsma, my fabulous graphic designer and awesome, awesome friend. Geoff Burn and Leon McElhinney for their tireless work on the mastering of my albums.

And as corny as this sounds, I want to thank all my fans. I have received an overwhelming influx of supportive cards, comments and calls over the past eight months, to the point where it’s left me teary. And I wasn’t even up the duff then. You people are fantastic! You remind me every day that I’m doing the right thing and it’s incredibly humbling from my end. So thank you!!! If you’d like to catch a show with me and the fabulous Kathryn Jones look out in your local gig guide for The Swingin’ Cowgirls, and also check out to see our gig calendar. I’ve also attached an incredible article written about me by Matthew Haggart from the Otago Daily Times in New Zealand. Thanks again Matt. You’re a legend!

Otago Daily Times Article by Matt Haggart
Otago Daily Times Article by Matt Haggart

I’ve been a little complacent on the updating of my website due to feeling like I’ve had a bass-ass hangover for the last two months, but vowel to amend that from this day forward. Any day now you will find a link on my website http://www.annavanriel and my myspace will allow you to purchase a digital copy of my albums online. WOOOOOOHHHHHHOOOOOO! For those wanting physical copies (signed, oh but of course) please email me at [email protected] and I will put you on my orders list and will inform you the moment they arrive. And now, since half of your day has now vanished, I will sign off.

Peace, Love and Mungbeans from the glorious Byron Shire

Anna xoxoxox

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