Coming from Australia, he’ll be singing and making you laugh – and think – at VegFestUK London, happening this September
If you live in the United States you are probably used to the huge number of veggie festivals happening there and probably have the opportunity to attend at least one now and then. In Europe and in the UK they have been spreading more in the last few years, especially in the UK, and we are happy to say that All About Vegan Food will be at VegFestUK London, taking place at London Olympia on September 27th and 28th.
This year we are supporting the event as media partner and starting today we’ll be interviewing celebrities and special guests that will be speaking or performing during the event and also brands that will be exposing their vegan products there.
For the first interview we have talked to Vegan Smythe, who “writes and performs Earthling-friendly music and comedy to energize the vegan message”. Based in Melbourne, Australia, he’ll perform at both days of VegFestUK London and gives our readers a sneak peek of what we can all expect from him there!
You have been a full-time professional entertainer since 1998. How did you get the idea of start writing songs and making videos to become this different and unique voice for the animals?
I wrote my first song called “Mean Blood” when I was thirteen for a school project. It was basically about ecological issues and how humans are mindlessly destroying the Earth. I think of it now and am amazed by my naïve precociousness. When I was in my twenties my goal was to be a famous singer-songwriter. I took a lot of steps in that direction and despite some small successes I never got the break I needed. This was before the days of YouTube and social media, so it was much more difficult (and expensive) to launch your artistic work into the world.
Life led me in a slightly different direction and my wife and I created a unique music and comedy double-act called String Fever which has been very successful in providing a living for us and has had some recognition within the entertainment industry including being awarded “Variety Entertainers of the Year” in Australia in 2002.
In the last few years though I started feeling some creative frustration and really wanted to get back into songwriting, but I didn’t have a topic that I felt sufficiently passionate about to be be inspired. On becoming vegan in 2012 that problem was solved and inspiration flooded in like a tidal wave! For me its an opportunity to use all the skills of writing, comedy and musical performance that I’ve honed over my lifetime to help animals and our planet.
How’s the public reception of your songs in general? You sing about animal rights addressing some topics that can make people very sensitive about them, such as religion.
I think that animal rights is involved in just about every aspect of human behavior so I try and write songs from many different angles in the hope of finding the right “vegan trigger” for many varied individuals.
Obviously my dream is that my songs are heard primarily by non-vegans. Unfortunately this is far from being the reality, so much of the response to my songs has been very positive. There have been a lot of vegans saying “I love this song – it really encapsulates what I’ve always thought”.
On the other hand there is a percentage of non-vegans who hear my songs and their responses range from bemusement to begrudging acceptance of the message to anger. For me anger is the best because it indicates a person who is very tender to the message of compassion and likely to change their behavior sometime soon.
On the most extreme end I have heard from many people who have actually become vegan in response to my work (among many other factors I’m sure) and its these stories which motivate me to continue.
You’ll be performing in both days of VegFestUK London, happening on September 27th and 28th. What can we expect from you there? Is that the first time you’re performing in the country?
This will be my first performances in the UK and I look forward to meeting a lot of my fans there. I’ll be performing a broad range of my songs with totally different programs on each day. Actually I’ve decided I’d better perform “Where Do You Get Your Protein?” on both days otherwise I may be lynched..
I’ll also be doing some vegan friendly comedy bits between songs. Well, hopefully it will be comedy! As I always say, “if they’re laughing its comedy, if they’re not its just some idiot saying stuff.”
How vegan-friendly do you consider Australia today?
Firstly I object to the term “vegan-friendly”. I prefer the term “animal-friendly” – you don’t need to be friendly to me, I’m fine!
I’m fortunate to live in the city of Melbourne which has a large vegan population and many vegan-friendly (ouch, I just said it!) restaurants and stores. Sadly though I think Australia is about as vegan as the rest of the western world – say around 1-2% of the population – so there’s a lot of work to be done. And once you get outside the major cities you’ll find the only vegan menu items are steamed rice and a soy latte. And sometimes they put butter in the rice.
And for last, people become vegan for many different reasons and we love to read about people’s journeys into veganism. What has inspired you to become vegan?
My journey to veganism was long and convoluted. When I was in my twenties I could have been described as a “meatatarian”. In fact, when my wife and I first got together she was a vegetarian and I talked her out of it!
My journey towards animal rights started when I did a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat and they taught the principal of non-harming. Until then I’d never even considered it I’m embarrassed to say. It still took about 3 years from then before I became vegan. A major turning point was reading the book “Eating Animals” which was sneakily given to me by a colleague. It was that book which educated me about the cruelty of the dairy and egg industries.
At the time we went vegan my wife and I were doing a lot of work on Cruise Ships and traveling constantly on planes. For a long time we justified non-veganism by our work: it would be too difficult. This is actually true and we rarely perform on cruises anymore for this reason.