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Though Sydney native Dustin Tebbutt uprooted to answer the call of the Northern Hemisphere and spent two years enjoying snow-coated winters and fireside hibernation in Sweden, some of his past experiences couldn’t be any truer or bluer, like accidentally starting a bushfire in his own backyard.
Having recently concluded a sold-out Australian tour to celebrate his latest collection of cathartic, intimate acoustic dispatches, the Bones EP, Tebbutt is now looking forward to sharing stages with the likes of Lily Allen, London Grammar, and Foster The People at Splendour In The Grass.
But before Dustin takes to the Splendour stage as part of the event’s incredible Saturday lineup, he’s opened up and shared 10 things you may not have known about this young songwriting talent, like the lengths he’ll go to to win at Monopoly or his peanut butter sandwich fetish.
1. I lit a bushfire.
When I was six, my nan went to Paris for a holiday and she brought back a pack of Eiffel Tower matches as a souvenir. They were giant — 30 centimetres long or so — and had some cool art on the front. Such a good gift for kids!
That school holiday, my sister and I were making the most of the flammable clumps of Spinifex grass on the property I grew up on. I’d light a little clump and then as it burnt down to the greener roots, my sister would stomp it out. Hah-hah! Cool game, right?
One of the outcrops was a bit drier than the rest and it just took off. Within three minutes there were flames climbing up the stringybarks that covered our block. The fire brigade came out with four or five trucks and had the now pretty raging fire back under control within a few hours. Luckily, the house was spared.
2. I played classical guitar first.
One of the first things I learnt to play on guitar was Suite Castellana by Federico Moreno Torroba, it took me about 12 months. It’s a Spanish classical piece with three movements. I couldn’t read sheet music, but used to sit for a few hours a day, just listening section by section, and kind of figured my way through a fair bit of it.
Then a friend showed me how to read guitar tabs, a simple visual way of writing down music for the guitar, and so between my ears and that, I learnt the whole thing.
Watch: Dustin Tebbutt – Bones
3. I think swimming pools are cool.
I had asthma as a kid, so I started swimming to help with that. Our family all took to it, and before long we were training 10 times a week and competing all over the place. Now I find a solid swim to be the best way to clear my head, and if I’m in a new place I’ll try to get to a local outdoor pool and check it out. They’re all unique in their own way.
Favs so far are the outdoor aquatic centre in Perth, the Hobart Aquatic Centre in Tassy, and the stunning new indoor pool near Skanstull in Stockholm, which I think is where they shot part of Let The Right One In.
4. My grandparents are from Estonia and Lithuania.
I went back there on the way home from Sweden the first time around and surprisingly connected in a big way with some distant relatives, friends, places, and stories that, in a way, are part of my extended history.
I met a man over there, Bikunas, who was best friends with my grandfather at primary school, but lost contact as kids during the war. It was an amazing experience. We had this strange connection, him sharing stories of their very early years and us recounting to him the rest of my grandfather’s life once he got to Australia.
5. I’m way too competitive at board games.
Pictionary, Monopoly, and Risk are the worst. If it’s Pictionary, I can usually handle it, but Monopoly or Risk, wow. If I’m losing, look out. It’s like a different person takes over. I’ve frequently found my self stealing from the bank, having a double-turn if no one is watching, or moving other people’s tiny metal things to the wrong place on the board.
It’s really weird, but I get so involved. With Risk, that’s a pretty intense game, and everyone is usually pretty focused, so cheating is definitely out, but if I’m losing — and it’s always a long slow defeat with a game like this — I get so sour. Even a few single malts can’t pull me from that stupor.
6. I can’t touch my toes without bending my knees.
Nope… not even close.
Watch: Dustin Tebbutt – White Lines
7. I’m a big believer in peanut butter sandwiches.
My favourite is a double decker peanut butter and banana on white bread with butter (Hello, arteries!). I’m open to variations on the theme though; peanut butter and honey or jam, peanut butter and tomato, even peanut butter, honey and tomato… okay, that last one is a bit wacky, but hey, don’t knock it till you try it!
8. I practice retail therapy with guitars.
It’s an expensive habit, but the way I see it, if each guitar helps me write at least one song then that’s actually a pretty good investment!
9. I got electrocuted once.
I was helping my dad with a house renovation and we were pulling some lining boards down. Rats had eaten through the cables in the walls of this old house and I grabbed one of the exposed wires. It’s a really horrible feeling and was a pretty scary experience. I was a bit shaken for the rest of the day, but luckily I was okay.
10. I’m a hermit until July.
I’ve got a nice block of time up my sleeve before we play Splendour In The Grass in July, so I’m hoping to finish a batch of songs off before then. I’m pretty much going to be living in the studio 24/7, but when I do surface I’ll be easy to find, sporting a solid Moon-tan. See you on the other side!
Dustin Tebbutt’s ‘Bones’ EP is available now. Dustin will be appearing at Splendour In The Grass in Byron Bay this July — full details here.
Watch: Dustin Tebbutt – Where I Find You