Straight From the Heart (the Makarrata Song): the story of the song

I wrote the lyrics to Straight From the Heart as a result of hearing talks by campaigners for the Uluru Statement From the Heart at the 2017/18 Woodford Folk Festival.

I was struck by the commitment and intelligence of the speakers (including Thomas Mayor) and the story they told about the Statement. It made me realise the Statement’s historic significance, and how important its message is to our future as a country.

I wasn’t a songwriter at the time, but because I was at a music festival I was thinking that the whole experience of the Statement – how it came to be, what it proposed, how it was shamefully dismissed by the federal government, how it needs to be seen in the context of both our colonial history and current circumstances, and how it’s really now up to us, the Australian community, to make it happen – needed a song. “Straight From the Heart” seemed an obvious title.Soon after the Festival my partner (Carrie Jacobi, a member of Tripple Effect) attended a songwriting camp, and I started to think about songwriting. I think that’s when it occurred to me that maybe I could write that song about the Statement.

Carrie started going to a local monthly songwriting group, and I thought I’d have a go at it. Bringing together all the things I’d been thinking about since the Woodford Festival, I finished writing Straight From the Heart (my first serious song) in April 2018.I handed the words to the band (then called “More or Less”) during one of their early practice sessions, when they were thinking about what songs they might perform, and tossing around ideas.

They read it, liked it, and immediately started playing around with it. I’m not a musician, but I did have a tune in mind to go with the words – but I quickly realised that the one they were developing was better, and from that moment on it was almost entirely their work.

Luckily, they worked very quickly, and were able to cobble it together sufficiently to perform it at the Sydney event marking the first anniversary of the Uluru Statement, in May 2018.It was the first public performance for both the band and the song.  The event – essentially a protest in Malcolm Turnbull’s (then the PM) electorate of Wentworth – was attended by the grandchildren of Vincent Lingiari and Thomas Mayor, who had organised the event, and had agreed to the band performing the song on the basis of the lyrics we sent him.

Compared to the now released studio version, the song they performed that day was a pretty raw and ramshackle version, on a rudimentary, make-shift sound set-up - but it was great fun, and a wonderful way to begin the whole Tripple Effect experience.

The song’s connection with Thomas Mayor continued. On 31 October 2019, Tripple Effect performed the song at the Newcastle launch of Thomas’s book, Finding the Heart of the Nation, based on the year he’d spent travelling with the Statement to various Australian communities.

The highlight of that event was Thomas’s recital of the Statement itself: completely by heart, word perfect, and without falter. It was an experience that everyone who attended will remember for the rest of their lives.

That’s one of the reasons we decided to incorporate the start and end of Thomas’s recital of the Statement into the recorded version of the song. It’s a real honour to have his voice in it, because he’s such an amazing activist, and he’s been so much a part of the song’s story. We think it makes the song more powerful for any listener, but it has special significance for us.

Over the past two years, Tripple Effect has performed the song at many events, festivals and gigs, including NAIDOC Week, St Albans Folk Festival, Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival and the Newcastle Folk Club, where it’s been very well received by audiences, some of whom are becoming familiar enough with it to join in the bridge and final call to action.

During that time, the lyrics have been changed in only minor ways, but the composition has gone through quite a process – one of the verses was transformed into a bridge, and other changes were introduced to give the song more musical variation.

Bill Jacobi – Carrie and Lynden’s brother, and himself a great musician - recorded and produced the song at his Uki studio, incorporating his own electric guitar and bass playing, and Stu Harcourt’s didgeridoo, as well as adding his voice to the bridge (and giving the line “Drives the blood in the bond of sister and brother” an added dimension). Andy Busuttil's mastering made it sparkle.

Winning the prestigious Alistair Hulett “Songs for Social Justice Award” for 2020 was a huge boost for the band and the song.

We’re all keen participants in the National Folk Festival (usually held annually at Easter in Canberra) and look forward every year to the final gala show, when the winner of the award for that year is announced, and the song is performed in the Budawang Pavilion before an audience of thousands. Unfortunately, that festival, and that experience, were COVID casualties, so we had to settle for a (still lovely) certificate and presentation at the Newcastle Folk Club.

We count it as a great honour to be included in the roll call of winners of the Alistair Hulett Songs for Social Justice Award, and in that way to be a small part of Alistair Hulett’s great legacy.

At a very practical level, the award money is what allowed us to produce and release “Straight From the Heart”, so we’re deeply grateful to the Alistair Hulett Memorial Fund for their support.

We hope that people enjoy listening to Straight From the Heart, but we hope even more that people listen to its message, and that our song becomes a small part of the story of how Australians -  Indigenous and non-Indigenous – heeded the call of the heart, and walked together for a better future.

- John Sutton

Newcastle-based contemporary acoustic folk trio Tripple Effect comprises sisters Carrie and Lynden Jacobi, and Len McCarthy, who perform songs about current social and environmental issues, as well as songs that speak to the heart.

Much of their material draws on their backgrounds in social, environmental, and political activism, exploring both serious issues and the lighter side of life.

Their first public performance together was in May 2018, singing their song about the Uluru Statement From the Heart at the Sydney event marking the Statement’s first anniversary.

Since then, they’ve performed their expanding repertoire of mostly original songs at various festivals (including the National Folk Festival, St Albans Folk Festival, Dungog Music Festival, Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival, and Sessionfest); at Newcastle venues (including the Newcastle Folk Club, the Conservatorium of Music, The Regal, Shenanigans, the Croatian Club, and Queen’s Wharf); and at house and online concerts around the NSW Hunter Valley.

Their song about the Uluru Statement – Straight From the Heart (the Makarrata Song) - went on to win the prestigious Alistair Hulett Memorial Fund’s 2020 national Songs for Social Justice Award.

They see music as a way of bringing people together, rousing them to action, soothing them to contemplation, or just giving them a laugh. All multi-instrumentalists, their music features guitar, ukulele, banjo, bodhran, recorder and vocals.