A lesson in simple humanity

I can recall that CD from literally the end of last century, as I played it, and from there discovered more composers, more music, and in time, my guest.

That CD was David Campbell’s Taking the Wheel; I was a callow (shallow?!) staffer in Canberra; the driving energy of Taking the Wheel became a motto, a source, a reminder for me.

That CD got played. Lots!

But who of the music behind it, and other tracks on that CD.

Craig Carnelia and the kid inside, as my life changed, evolved and I went from being an up-and-comer to being – what?! – thirtysomething?! Ah, the tortured memories of school, of being clueless in so many ways and knowing how much I did not know, and wishing in some ways to go back in time and change what was then.

And so to this guy, whose is this song, this Taking the Wheel; and the lead track, Grateful.

The door opened to the music of John Bucchino; and with that CD purchases which have stayed fairly constantly in my CD player in my car for all these years. A couple signed by the man himself, on a weekend down to Melbourne one year when I was still in Canberra; another when John played off Chapel St. Always the emotions, always the deep introspection that comes from feeling those feels, and feeling them deeply.

To paraphrase John, that saxophone across the hall, and being transported to a New York apartment building; coming home, listening to it waft through the walls. Or That Smile, a song that has lifted my heart in various ways over time; of the reminder of angst that will pass (Temporay) or life will be ok – or not (It’s Only Life). And of Grateful, which started it all and says so much. And of the song that sends me back to a time – that sliding door moment – If I Ever Say I’m Over You and of lessons of love and loss learned the hardest of hard ways. It’s as if John Bucchino had been there with me and provided some of the soundtracks to moments, reflections, and lessons.

The podcast, conceived as a way of testing my interview chops, literally Taking the Wheel; and a reminder to myself over the 2023-2024 summer that I’m not getting any younger, and what’s the worst that can happen – I send the guy an intro to the show via his website, and see what happens.


What I got, what I was given, was a kind, decent, reminder of humility; a quality that I think we all (including me!) can cultivate more of. B*S free. Ego-less. Not about the self, but others. Taking the time to listen to understand, not to seek to respond or point score. If only it was that easy.

The music and the graciousness and the fundamental decency was a masterclass in what is important. John talked, but in telling his stories and being so candid, what was for me an interview was more of being taken into a piece of music he crafted as he spoke, and his stories wove a nuanced melody; his good nature as I set some stories up for him to tell (at one point, he paused and had an ‘ah ha’ moment about one of the questions and my work was done, thanks very much – that goes on the mantelpiece of memories for this now ex-aspiring journalist!). So many questions to ask, so many roads that could have been transversed, but even for me, a two-hour chat needs a start, and yes, even an ending. And thus it had to end.

A newfound respect, actually, an even greater respect, for those who can create, can craft, can put it on the line and be judged – and to be able to open the door, kindly, gently, and without knowing the person at the end of the link on the other side of the globe, to talk openly.

An unexpected joy – the nuance of a different opening for Taking the Wheel. Those chords are timeless.


When I wrote this piece on thinking ahead to my high school twenty-year reunion (literally virtually thirteen years ago to the day) I was channelling I suspect Taking the Wheel with a big dose of Craig Carnelia’s The Kid Inside. I wrote:

The promise of one’s generation isn’t about changing the world, necessarily, (though we should!) but instead about recommitting to whatever we promised ourselves in our quietest moments as we contemplated being what we could become of ourselves.

My life has changed immeasurably since then, especially personally. That reflection, as I sit at my kitchen table, repeats of Seinfeld on the TV, and the dog snoring on the couch (ah, domestic bliss!) still has merit, particularly in light of John’s comments at the end of the chat about being the you-est you can be.

John’s ability to reflect some of the hardest, most challenging emotions, to be able to start with a completely silent piano – and create – is something I still struggle to comprehend. It’s one thing to do it; it’s another to be able to do it exceptionally well.

And yet, no avarice; no look at me in his comments; no name-dropping for the sake of name dropping. It’s about the scoreboard, I guess – the people who are exceptional at their craft don’t need to talk about themselves; they let their body of work say it all.

I recall years ago at a retiring principal from my old school’s retirement assembly saying to myself “I have walked in the company of giants, and perhaps, one day, they with me.” It was a reflection of hoping to emulate those teachers I admired so much, and for perhaps one day, me to be able to stand with them and their ilk as peers.

I hope John, as I said, in his reflections, as he appreciates having worked with some of the biggest, brightest, most talented musicians of the past decades, that yes, he knows how lucky he has been – and is; but that they too, as we in suburban Melbourne, with the dog, kids, mid-range SUV and even the white picket fence do, that they are equally fortunate to walk with him.

We are better for people like John Bucchino, the creators, those who can be – and share – and give of themselves to so many.

And this? All because for some reason, some day in Canberra, I went and bought David Campbell’s CD.

Ain’t life good.

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