"So many people are under the impression that musicians become an overnight success but it's a long, slow road for many," - Lee Morgan
For Lee Morgan, that road began at age 11. Coming from the Gunditjmara Kirrae Whurrong clan from southwest Victoria, Lee grew up at the Framlingham mission and earned the nickname 'Sonnyboy' as the name carries the teaching and memories of spending time on the mission as a boy.
His songs are influenced by his indigenous grandfather, Banjo Clarke (Wisdom Man) who taught him that we all share the land we walk on. His love of music has helped him forge a successful career as a guitarist, singer and songwriter.
He has worked and toured with legendary Australian acts including Midnight Oil, Weddings, Parties, Anything and Yothu Yindi as well as artists like Archie Roach and Paul Kelly. Lee is also a successful recording artist in his own right, producing energetic and honest material.
Before long, Lee came to the attention of Arts Victoria. Since 2008, he has successfully applied for funding through a range of funding programs designed to support him on his musical journey.
Lee explains, "Having the support of a network of people and financial assistance has been such a positive driver for my career."
To assist with his professional development, Lee received funding through the Indigenous Professional Development Program to attend the 2008 Big Sound music summit in Brisbane and in 2009 he received support to attend Sydney's AustralAsian Music Business Conference.
In 2009 Lee also received a Music Career Building grant which supported the recording of his latest solo album, Sonny Boy.
Top of his class
Lee had already made great professional inroads, but his attendance in 2010 at Perth's One Movement for Music (OMFM) conference really helped to boost his career.
Held in October, OMFM is one of the biggest music expos in the Southern Hemisphere, drawing industry professionals from around the globe. It includes a showcase performance of finalists competing for the Australian Indigenous Music Scholarship (AIMS), a highly sought after prize which includes a recording contract and distribution deal.
After qualifying as the Victorian finalist for the AIMS, Lee headed to Perth, again with support from the Indigenous Travel and Professional Development Fund. Lee and the other AIMS finalists performed for a select panel of judges, including Alan Pigram of the Pigram Brothers, Shane Howard of Goanna Music and Rhoda Roberts, Artistic Director of The Dreaming Festival.
Ultimately, Lee took the top prize enabling him to join the roster at Skinnyfish Music (home to Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu and the Saltwater Band, June Mills and Tom E. Lewis), with an album release through MGM Distribution.
"Winning the AIMS showcase will allow me the opportunity to work with a producer, to collaborate on ideas and input, and give me a greater scope for getting my music out there," Lee said.
"It's very encouraging on a personal level, as it's recognition that you are heading in the right direction and being rewarded for your persistence."
AIMS judge Rhonda Roberts was so impressed by Lee's performance that she invited him to perform at the 2010 Dreaming Festival. In 2011 Lee headed to the United States to accompany 65 Amps and Trussart Guitars where he performed in California at the NAMM Guitar Show as well as a variety of other performances across the US.
When Lee is not performing, recording or touring, he teaches guitar and mentors aspiring young musicians as well as assisting at St Kilda Youth Service where her shares and inspires others with his passion for music.
It may well be a long, slow road to success, but it looks like Lee Morgan has definitely arrived.