The Big Ask
from the Melbourne Weekly - 23 April 1996
Stephen Cummings, 42, is best known as a singer and songwriter, but has just
written his first novel...about a music publisher having a mid life crisis.
He lives with his girlfriend Kathleen O'Brien and has a son Curtis, who's 10.
Have you had a mid-life crisis?
Oh yeah, for about 10 years.
Was this book your way of dealing with it?
Yes, I was sick of having a mid-life crisis. I've probably only got another 25
years left and I resolved that I'd enjoy them so I'd dump all this crap now,
and once I've done that, the next book's totally different.
When did your hair go grey?
When I was 16. It was very traumatic.
Did you find writing difficult?
Once I realised it was better to have something there, even though it might be
crap, that was my big breakthrough. You can always fix it up. I had a bit of
help from my girlfriend; when she came to live in Melbourne she didn't have any
money and didn't want to waitress anymore, so she went to a romance writers'
convention at Melbourne University, came home, and immediately wrote a book and
sold it. She wrote four teenage romance novels and sold them in Australia and
England, so she helped me get motivated.
Is the book autobiographical?
Some of the events are true to my life, but the settings are different, it's
just jumbled-up a bit, really, mixed around and exaggerated.
Are you superstitious?
Everything. Like I just touched wood when I said that. I'm really superstitious.
Life's taught me to be superstitious. I was brought up with no religion in my
house. None. Not even a bit.
So you invented your own?
Yes. I'm really superstitious because of that.
Were you worried what people would think of the book?
No. I'm only worried now.
Who's your favourite author?
What's your favourite song line?
"You don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows" It seemed very
important at some stage.
Do you go to the gym?
No. I did join for about three months but I only used to get on the exercise
bike and read magazines for an hour. I didn't work the machinery.
What's your biggest regret?
In the Sports, were travelling around Europe and America and having these
really lavish things happen all the time, I never enjoyed any of it because I
was worrying and feeling guilty. Now I think it was stupid, I should have been
having a great time. You know, this shouldn't be happening to me, I don't
deserve to have a good time.
What song are you proudest of?
No particular song, but I was happy with the last two albums, they both had
Who do you most admire?
That's a hard one. Paul Kelly (fellow musician) has been able to do what he
wants and keep control of it. He's got his head screwed on.
What was your best gig?
I don't know about the best...the most embarrassing was with the Sports when
we'd been flown to the States to play a gig at a big disco in New York. There
were all these tennis players and movie stars there; we started playing and
half the band started one song and the other started another song. We started
again and the same thing happened, the other way around. I think my spirit broke
- I was out the front and there was nowhere for me to crawl and hide.
Has your music career finished?
No, I just kind of feel I've done all I can do for the moment. You can't express
yourself and write love songs all the time.
Are you rich?
With the Sports it (money) came in big lumps, but I've generally made a steady
flow. I make about as much as a schoolteacher, but I don't have to work as many
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