Doug Wallen - scenestr of the day

Published in SOD  
What do you do? I'm a freelance journalist. Traditionally I've covered music the most – I was Music Editor of The Big Issue for five years and Editor of Mess + Noise for a few years during the same period – but these days I write just as often about food, drinks, and books.

I've been doing it for a long time, since starting a music zine as a teenager 25 years ago (yikes). My main outlets now are Broadsheet, The Big Issue, The Australian, and NME, with occasional bylines in The Guardian and Bandcamp Daily.

I also do a lot of subediting and copywriting, book gigs here in Beechworth, and host the weekly radio show Waste the Alphabet, which spotlights new independent Aus/ NZ music.

Why do you do it? Because I love it. I feel so lucky that I get paid to throw words around while listening to music all day. And the radio and booking roles are equally rewarding in their own right.

What do you love about the city you live in? I actually live in a small country town. But Beechworth is very cool, with top-shelf restaurants (Provenance, The Ox & Hound, Amandhi's, The Empire), cafes (Tiny, Collective, Project 49), and breweries (Bridge Road, Billson's). And a lovely green grocer.

I spend a lot of time at the historic pub Tanswells, where I book gigs. We've been lucky enough to host artists like Dan Kelly, Sarah Mary Chadwick, Hayley Mary, and Ali Barter in the past year alone. Plus the close proximity of lakes, gorges, waterfalls, bike trails, and other green space is so nice, especially during lockdown.

Where did you go for your last holiday? Besides quick visits to my former home town of Ballarat (where I used to book gigs at the incredible pub The Eastern), I guess my last proper holiday was back to the US in January 2020.

I grew up in Pennsylvania, so getting back there and seeing family while hitting my favourite spots in Philly with old friends is always something I appreciate. And obviously I got there just under the wire, in terms of COVID.

What's your favourite item of clothing? I pretty much exclusively wear band t-shirts, interspersed with some shirts from US artist Moon Patrol. I've also spent the entire (quite rainy) winter in bright orange gumboots from Merry People.

What's your favourite show to watch with your kids? My older son and I have been watching the daily YouTube show 'Good Mythical Morning' together for years. I even got to interview the hosts, Rhett and Link, and took my son to see them live in Melbourne. My younger son and I like to watch animated shows together, including 'Hilda', 'Primal', and 'Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts'.

If you could travel back in time for a day, where would you go? I feel like this should be really profound, but I'd probably just go see The Kinks.

If we were coming over to your place, what would you cook us? Right now I'm obsessed with a spiced eggplant stew from Eleanor Ozich's book 'Simply Food'. It's a super easy slow-cooker recipe and makes the whole house smell amazing.

What's the best lesson you've ever learned? Just make your own path. It doesn't have to look like anyone else's.

Are you happy with your work/life balance? I'm not great with this, even after working from home for 15 years. Especially with lockdown and home schooling and all the extra responsibilities I'm always taking on.

But I do make time to take big walks out in nature and play silly games on my phone while half-watching movies I've already seen. I also read a lot and make nifty cocktails. Those things chill me out and give me perspective. And of course family and friends.

How do you define success? I wake up every day pretty excited to get to my desk, so I'd call that success.

What's your spirit animal? Maybe a koala? Being a US expat that's still so fascinated with Australian wildlife, that seems like the obvious choice. Otherwise all the dogs in Beechworth's makeshift dog park, which is really just a golf course.

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