Busker Bill Smith of Goonellabah, A Day in the Life. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star
Busker Bill Smith of Goonellabah, A Day in the Life. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star Doug Eaton

A Day in the Life: Busking heals the heart

BILL SMITH, also known as Black Man Dreaming, is a busker often seen in downtown Lismore playing his signature blend of country rock to passers-by.

He's without doubt the most dedicated (and perhaps only) regular busker in town, playing at least three times a week on Magellan St outside Noah's Arc, or up at Goonellabah outside Coles.

Before he leaves home about 8.30am, the Lismore-born musician will carefully pack his guitar, amplifier, and his song list and make the trip downtown.

"I've got to write the song list, words and chords down - I'm 58 and my memory's not that great," he said frankly.

A busking session usually lasts two hours, a mix of covers and originals from his debut album, which came out last month.

The Bundjalung singer-songwriter has been playing all his life, but it took him years to get over his fear of playing in public, only taking to busking 18 months ago.

"I wrote most of my songs when I was in rehab," he said.

"I just put the way I feel down in words. It comes from the heart."

"I had a hard life when I was younger; I was an alcoholic."

"It was a long battle, but I've overcome it now."

"There's a lot of people out there who go through that... I'm just one of the lucky ones."

"It's all about my trip through life."

He had a heart attack several years ago, and his doctor says busking is good for his health.

One of the highlights of the morning is the conversations he will have with regular passers-by and people who have never seen him before - the old, the young, and people from all over the world.

"Everyone gets the impression I'm doing it because I want to survive, (but) I tell them I do it because I love it, and whatever's in my case at the end of the day is just a bonus."

"People don't have to give me anything. If it makes them happy, it makes me happy."

Fans will often bring him a welcome cup of tea or coffee, a cake or a glass of water.

"It's good to talk to people and gives me a lot of confidence in myself - I've sort of come out my shell in the year and half I've been doing it."

With five kids, he says, "there's always something to do around the house".



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