Marty & Sandy van Veluwen
Wed, January 29, 2014 at 15:56
Stephanie Hunt

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The Musician and His Wife

If you like listening to live music while sipping a chardy and have spent time in Coffs Harbour in the last 25 years, chances are you have heard Marty van Veluwen play.  If you’ve cut a record on the mid-north coast, it was probably produced in his music studio.  If you’ve studied song writing at the Conservatorium, he would have been your teacher.  Marty has been making music in this town for a long time.

He credits his wife Sandy with making him a musician, and she says he’s being too kind.

We hear both sides of the story.

 

 

Marty

I had started jamming on the weekends with this guy Mick Dylan at the Railway Hotel in Lidcomb.   That was where I met these two girls, Sandy and Jenny - they were fun, fun, fun! 

My friend Andy started going out with Sandy and we decided the four of us would go camping for a weekend.  Andy and Jenny smoked too much and crawled into the tent. 

I started playing the guitar around the fire.  I loved Graham Nash and it turned out that Sandy was a huge fan.  We discovered all these things we had in common.  Then all of a sudden I realised that she really dug me, but she hadn’t really told

me.  It was great to have a girl that’s so into you.  Kind of blows your head off.

I had a girlfriend at the time and I thought things would just get back to normal after that weekend.  But Sandy and I got together on another night.  We were kissing in the car and then she took me home.  I remember getting up and the sun’s coming up and I just knew things were never going to be the same.

We started living together in a flat in Harris Park.  You really get to know someone when you live with them.  I started to realise that Sandy was a bit of a farmer’s girl like my Mum.  She’d swear at me a lot.  Back in those days I didn’t swear at all and after about a month I’d just had enough.  So we decided to go our separate ways.

I was a bachelor for about a month before I realised how much I missed her.  I decided I liked the fact that she had the balls to stand up to me.  By then she was living in Macksville, so I flew up. We drove up to Thora, had a picnic and I proposed.

My work at the time was boring, a dead-end thing.  Sandy said I should leave, that she would support me.  So she gave me the opportunity to become a (full-time) musician.  A couple of years later she’s the one who said, “Let’s get out of Sydney.  Let’s have kids and go somewhere like Coffs Harbour. You can go solo.”

The great thing about women is that they can grab the steering wheel.  I tend to flounder.  I wouldn’t have left my job.  I wouldn’t have come up to Coffs.  Sometimes you have to be led and she’s good like that.

I was flavour of the month in Coffs Harbour for a while:  Crescent Tavern, the Big Windmill, Opal Cove.  I was flat out.  Then things nose-dived. I went round to the Tide and Pilot and he gave me 2 weekends – and I just stayed.  Beautiful view, chargrilled octopus, a tall glass of Chardonnay and Marty playing Jimmy Buffet: every Saturday night for 11 years.

I turned half of our double garage into Ocean Ways Studios – putting together bits of secondhand gear at first.  I record my own songs and other bands and I’ve done a few movies.  I can’t even read and write music, but I got the job at the Conservatorium through a friend of mine.

Sandy has always been there to support me, to give me a leg up.  She is the woman behind the musician.  Sometimes I wonder what she sees in me.  A lot of people would have gone for the dollar.

I could put out a double album of songs for Sandy, that’s how many love songs I’ve written for her.  She’s The Girl with the Magic Spell. 

 

Sandy

I was a fan…a bit of a groupie.  I thought Marty was all right.  His best friend used to take me out ice-skating, but he was a bit slow on the uptake.  So when Marty made his move I thought he’d be much more fun to hang out with.

What I liked about Marty was that he wasn’t your average beer-drinking, footy-watching Aussie bloke.  He liked the outdoors and camping.  He played music instead of watching TV.  He drank wine, and in those days blokes didn’t drink much wine.  He wasn’t afraid to be different.  That was the attraction.

When we first lived together in Harris Park we didn’t have anything.  We had a drum kit in the lounge room and a few milk crates.  I don’t think we even had a bed, just a mattress on the floor.  Instead of putting our money into buying a lounge or a TV, he would buy a stereo or another $100 worth of records.  I remember at the time thinking, “This is not for me.”  I walked out.

When he came up to Maxville and proposed I thought, “He’s always been persistent.”  He usually got what he wanted.  But I had some conditions.  I wanted a car, a bed, a TV.   I was a little bit more ambitious than Marty.  I thought we should have something more than a drum kit in our lounge room.

He was really interested in sound engineering and I remember saying, “If it’s something you really want go ahead.  I can support you.”  I worked 3 jobs, two different nanny jobs and cleaner for a doctor’s surgery.  It was quite difficult because we only had one car.  I’d get up at 5am and start the cleaning, drop him off at Chatswood, go to Lanecove to start nannying at 7am, go to a different family in the afternoon and then back to Chatswood to pick Marty up at the end of the night.  I don’t know how we used to do it.

But it’s pretty cool being a sound engineer and the studio was moving and shaking.  They got runners-up in the band competition at Rock ’88 in Melbourne.  They won song of the year and we got to go to Great Keppel Island.  I went along for the ride.  I thought it was exciting.

I didn’t want to have babies in Sydney.  I didn’t like the lifestyle in the city.  The mid-north coast is where I grew up and I wanted my kids to be country kids.  When we first moved up to Coffs Harbour Marty was performing five nights a week.  I remember one year he played 18 nights in a row over Christmas.  By then we had two small children.  He’d want to sleep-in in the morning and I’d have to keep the kids quiet.  I remember thinking, “Being married to a musician is not ideal.”

But then he allowed me my lifestyle.  I didn’t have to be a working Mum.  I could bring up the kids, take them for walks on the beach every day and I loved that.    And having the studio in the house has meant the kids have experienced so many different people. 

I remember Harry the Hat from Melbourne decided to pop in on his way to the Gold Coast.  The studio was in the bedroom and Harry was singing dirty ditties.  He’d come out and say, “Did you hear that?  I bit the tit off the doll and she blew away.”  I’d say, “No mate, don’t say that in front of the little kids.”  But now when we get together as a family we always laugh together about those stories.

Marty is extremely talented.  I’m his partner so I’m a bit numb to how great he is sometimes.  But often when I’m cooking dinner and he’s noodling on guitar, or jamming with the kids, I think, “This is nice.”  I don’t have a musical bone in my body, but he’s so naturally talented and I love seeing the kids get that influence.  It’s a real gift.

 

These days Marty is teaching at the Conservatorium, playing in a 3-piece band at Latitude 30 and tinkering in his studio.  His latest album is Similar Orbit.

Sandy is back to having three jobs, but nowadays it’s not to support the family.  She is exploring her own passion for the outdoors as a guide at the Solitary Islands Aquarium, a Discovery Ranger for the National Parks and a Coffs Ambassador for Council.

 

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Sandy tells me that Mark Flanders, the Aboriginal Discovery Ranger at National Parks, is the most interesting person she knows on the Coffs Coast.  She has seen him at work with groups of young kids and admires him as a role model and "one cool guy".  "He's a tiny little man, but he's a huge dynamo," she tells me and I can't wait to meet him.

Article originally appeared on The Most Interesting Person I Know (http://themostinterestingpersoniknow.net/).
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