Humans of the Wheatbelt - Mike Barnett

Humans of the Wheatbelt is an initiative by the Wheatbelt Health Network.

Humans of the Wheatbelt is an initiative by the Wheatbelt Health Network.

I am a busker who travels Australia and the world but when I'm in the Wheatbelt I always go to Toodyay and stay with my parents.

My parents bought a house in Toodyay about 25 years ago - but I grew up in Perth. I busk in lots of different spots but the sound has to be good - I rate them out of 10. Outside the Northam Coles its about an 8/10 because it sounds like a cathedral. Nice sharp sounds.

I studied music at school - I was playing in the Southern Districts Brass Band when I was in my mid-teens but I decided that playing a brass instrument and wearing a blazer was not cool. My mates thought I looked like a fireman. So I quit the band. Peer pressure.

I have been busking full-time for 8 years. I find it is sustainable for me. If you had children or a mortgage then you just couldn't do it. I do it for the love of the music. I have played it internationally. Working on the streets you find you learn a lot about people.

I find the Wheatbelt audiences just great. In Northam you get to see the best and worst of people. There is honesty there.

The best moments would be cruising around Australia in my Landrover - I was visiting Katoomba , NSW - it was very cold. I was in a café - I realised that I was going to play music for the rest of my life in places with great acoustic settings.

I'm writing a book called 'Addicted to change - its all about music and money'. You have to eat whilst performing.

The worst moment was at a Nimbin festival when my guitar got stolen - I was is a jolly mood so I let this biker dude with skulls all over his neck play a song. He played a song very badly and the crowd started leaving. Then he played another song and all my crowd left. He then wandered away and just bolted. That was my only guitar.

This young local said - get your guitar case - let's go and find him. He took me to this massive camping site with thousands of people - we went from fire to fire looking for this guy. I had just about given up - but this young guy said - stop and listen. In the faint distance we heard the guy playing a very bad song. We followed the music till we found a group of outlaw bike guys around a fire with my guitar. They passed the guitar around the fire each having a turn - I suggested that I could play them a professional version of Creedence Clearwater Revival - they reluctantly handed me my own guitar.

I played the song then took my guitar back. I haven't let anyone touch my guitar since. My friend wrote a song about it called 'My wooden hearted baby'.

I do allow myself the luxury of new guitar strings every month and a new guitar every 5 years.

My advice would be - just do it. There is millions of reasons you shouldn't do it but only one reason why you should do it.

Human - Mike Barnett

Interviewer & photographer - Anna Cornish