10 July 2023
It’s amazing all the creativity and hard work going on behind closed doors here in Bowden. Recently, the Life More Interesting team were lucky to chat with Leena and Max, owners of Songbird Society, a recording studio and global artist development company, located on Gibson Street.
The couple are highly sought after in the world of music, with songs topping the Billboard Charts and working alongside artists you hear every day on your radio. Through the pandemic they sought some sanity and solitude from Los Angeles, and fate handed them an opportunity for their very own space in our thriving community. Since, the pair have fallen in love with Bowden life.
We discussed music, ethos, and most importantly, where to get the best coffee in Bowden.
Tell us about Songbird Society. What do you do as a business and how did it come about?
Max: At Songbird Society, we are on a mission to break down barriers in the music industry and show artists that their dreams are possible. We are a global artist development company and recording studio that empowers artists with the knowledge and resources they need to create joyfully, grow continually, and connect meaningfully.
Leena: Our individual journeys both began in the 2000s when each of us embarked on our independent artist careers. Along the way, we both witnessed wildly talented and wonderful musicians’ dreams suffocate on the scarcity mindset that if one person succeeds, it means someone else fails. We knew at our core that this notion was bulls**t and saw first-hand how it limited the potential of all artists.
Max: Drawing from over a decade of experience in the professional music industry and tertiary music education space, it is our conviction that success is not finite; there is room for all of us to flourish. We realize that when we share information and resources openly, we not only uplift one another as artists but also elevate the entire culture of music and the industry as a whole.
Leena: That’s why, in 2021, we launched Songbird Society— to create a better place for everyone in the music industry by transforming the historically isolating rat race into a supportive and inclusive community. Through our services, we provide artists with the tools, guidance, and support they need to thrive creatively, grow as human beings, and foster meaningful connections in the world.
What drew you to Bowden?
Max: In the midst of the pandemic chaos in 2020, we found ourselves at a crossroads. Living in Los Angeles, Leena’s vulnerability to COVID-19 made staying there impossible. The pop-up morgues, the loss of our downstairs neighbour, and the military presence on our street—it was clear we needed to find a safer place to call home until things settled down.
Leena: Max is originally from Adelaide, and it began to beckon us with its successful containment of the virus. Prior to our move, we had arranged to work out of Disk Edits recording and mastering studio in Bowden, thanks to the generosity of Max’s first industry mentor, Neville Clarke. Since we didn’t know what kind of resources we would have available to us upon arrival, it felt natural to find a place to live within walking distance, so we set our sights on Bowden as our refuge.
Max: Tragically, Neville passed away just before our plane departed from The States, leaving us in a daze of profound grief and uncertainty. As we mourned his loss and the lives and careers we had left behind, Neville’s wife and business partner, Rosanna, made the difficult decision to sell the studio— a place that had always felt to me, and I’m sure many others, like a beacon of hope for far-fetched dreams.
Leena: Despite the heartbreak, we saw a glimmer of possibility. We realized that acquiring the studio would be a way to honour Neville’s legacy and create something beyond our wildest dreams. So, we took the leap, became owners of the studio, and founded Songbird Society— a decision that would change our lives forever and make Bowden our home.
Max: With the studio now in our hands, we embark on the mission of extending Neville’s legacy and building something truly special here in Bowden—a place where resilience, hope, and the power of community intersects, reminding us that sometimes life takes unexpected turns that leading us to exactly where we’re meant to be.
You’ve worked with some huge names in the music industry, who stands out to you as instrumental in your success?
Max: Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with legendary industry professionals who have helped shape my creative approach and expertise. Mentors such as Erik Ron, Bob Horn, Erik Reichers, and Dave Pensado have been instrumental in guiding my career, and I am so grateful to continue to learn from who I consider to be some of the absolute best in the industry to refine my skills as a producer, engineer, and songwriter.
Leena: I’ve been working professionally in the music industry for over 15 years and have had the honor of collaborating with countless talented individuals along the way. However, the most exciting and rewarding partnerships for me have been when I’ve gotten to work with my friends. A shining example of this is my first Billboard-charting song, Electric Kids by Tritonal ft. Linney, which I co-wrote with my best friend (and vocalist on the song), Linney.
Where is your go-to coffee in the area?
Max: This is a very difficult choice given all the variety in the area, but I am most often drawn to Seven Grounds, Beach Organics, and Bobibao.
Leena: Chatting with a friend over a fancy coffee is one of my greatest joys in life, and I have go-to orders at each of my go-to spots. My top three at the moment are the dirty taro latte at Seven Grounds, the coconut coffee at Bobibao, and the dirty chai at Beach Organics.
What is your favourite thing about being located in Bowden?
Max: Bowden’s vibrant community atmosphere pulses with a creativity and passion that keeps me inspired and energized. And, with its proximity to both the CBD and Bonython Park, Bowden has the perfect balance of bustle and serenity.
Leena: Bowden exudes an entrepreneurial spirit that fuels me, especially on the days when building a company from the ground up feels completely overwhelming. Every time I step into any one of our local businesses, I’m inspired by the presence of a passionate owner behind the counter, boldly pursuing their dream. This community serves as a steadfast reminder to me that big dreams are attainable, and I’m really proud to be a part of it.
What is one thing you’d like the average Adelaidean to know about the music industry?
Max: Behind every hit song, there’s a hidden team of diversely talented people that worked to make it a success.
Leena: Absolutely. And they cost A LOT of money to produce. Think about it: There are acoustical physicists, carpenters, crafts people, electricians, software engineers, coders, songwriters, vocalists, instrumentalists, recording engineers, producers, mix engineers, mastering engineers, A&R’s, managers, interns, receptionists, assistants, administrators, accountants, executives, babysitters, chefs, cleaners, electricians, photographers, videographers, lighting designers, directors, editors, wardrobe stylists, choreographers, set designers, dancers, actors, vocal coaches, personal trainers, makeup artists, hair stylists, marketers, publicists, agents, copywriters, advertisers, and beyond… all behind the success of one song. It takes a village. And it takes money.
What’s your favourite part of what you do?
Max: My favourite part of what I do is connecting with an artist on a deep level, delving into the core of their musical vision and helping bring it to life. It’s a journey fueled by trust and vulnerability, where together, we navigate the intricate maze of their artistic soul. Witnessing the transformation from an idea an artist has in their head to a completed song that anyone can listen to is an electrifying moment that validates the artist and allows them to be seen for who they truly are.
Leena: My favourite thing about being a coach is helping an artist see themselves through the lens of someone who loves them for the very first time. It’s this warm moment of self-belonging and it’s in that moment that they really start to believe that they don’t need to morph into a perceived industry ideal in order to be successful— they have innate value to bring to the world just by being exactly who they are. It doesn’t get much better than that.
And my favourite thing about being an artist is that I can provide possibilities for people to pursue their passion by simply following through on executing my own creative vision. If I’m brave and bold enough to really go all-in on a project, by the time it’s released, I will have contracted the dream work of (at least) 10 people in my community.