December/January 2024

by Mim Jensen

On Foreign Soil: Mim Jensen

by Mim Jensen

On Foreign Soil: Mim Jensen

In June, when Mim Jensen found out she was going to be performing at the first ever SXSW Sydney, she was in Brisbane, visiting her dad. Mim describes the news as immediately exciting and daunting all at once, a big opportunity that had potential to be very beneficial. Breaking into the Australian market was high on her to-do list, and SXSW could be an important stepping stone. It was. Here’s a glimpse into her SXSW experience.

Tuesday, October 17, two hours before I needed to leave, and I had left everything to the last minute. (‘I work well under pressure,’ I told myself, but it’s inevitably not true.) Scrambling to get everything together, I headed off to meet the boys in the band at the airport, three hours early because I’m an incredibly punctual gal. The duality of life is weird.

We wrapped our guitars and basses with heaps of tape, checked our bags in, then grabbed some coffees and food. While waiting to board our flight to Sydney, we played a lot of cards since we had so much time to kill. Liam, my drummer, won the majority of games, which I’m still salty about. We bumped into about 10 other people we knew were heading to SXSW and talked about set times, how they were feeling about the festival and when we could catch up for beers.

I don’t like flying, at all, but Uno proved to be a really good distraction.

My dad was waiting to pick us up on landing. He arrived in a ridiculously massive rental van and we headed to my favourite place in Australia, Coles, to pick up groceries for the week. What you’d think would be $250 worth of groceries in NZ was only $150 in Aus. Bless you, Coles. We got back to our Sydney AirBnB, and far too shattered to check out the festival, had dinner and got some sleep.

The next day we got up early and headed to the Convention Centre for free coffee and our credentials, then to the Mercure Hotel where I played my first set of SXSW. It was like a hotel lobby performance, but instead at the back of a bar tucked in the bottom corner of the hotel. I had applied for more showcases at SXSW a couple of days before we headed off, and I’m so glad I did because I scored this as an extra show! I feel it’s so important to try to get as many performances as you can because you never know who will stop to listen. The set went really well. It was my first time playing solo for a long time, and my friends Minnie [Robberds] and Joel [Becker] from There’s A Tuesday popped down to watch, which was a nice surprise!

After that show, we headed to Aotearoa House to perform there. This was my favourite performance of the festival. It was so nice to have the comfort of home there to welcome us in. The energy was supportive and felt like a warm hug, it was great to connect with other Kiwi artists and people from home. The boys and I played our 15-minute slot then got to listen to the other bands’ sets. We were joking with other Kiwi musicians saying how funny it is we have to all be in Sydney to finally meet and hangout. The amount of talent that comes out of NZ is truly amazing. I loved how unique every act was, and it made me feel so honoured to be a part of the event. This night was definitely a highlight of the trip for me.

The next morning, Dad woke us all up with another of his signature fry ups, before we left to check out more of the festival. We headed off to catch Molly Payton play with her band, after chatting to them the night before at Aotearoa House. Her set was an absolute highlight for me, she is a literal angel on stage and one of the most talented songwriters I’ve had the pleasure to meet.

On Thursday, October 19, I had my official showcase at the Hollywood Hotel. I was a bit nervous for this one, but we smashed the performance and had fun with it. Some industry members from Aotearoa showed and so did my buddies from DRM to support, which was really wholesome. Afterwards, we stuck around to watch Daffodils and they killed it too!

We had the next day off, so we got to go to a mentor session and met a lot of big dog industry people, everything from lawyers to booking agents, record label reps to management agents. They gave great insight into what a developing artist needs to do to grow their music career. I found this session hugely beneficial and am so glad I went.

We had a little downtime after and went to check out some of Sydney’s OP shops. Seeing that there was a whole strip of op shops that went on for a km in Newtown, that were all amazing, instantly became a mission I had to achieve. Newtown Vintage, Good Times and The Wilde Merchant were stand outs for me. And bumping into Lime Cordiale at Noffs.

On Saturday, October 21, I played my final showcase, South By Inner West by Handsome Tours. This was another favourite performance, because it felt less industry-ey, and more people were there to just enjoy the vibe and music. This was more of a Handsome Tours event than a SXSW one, and it was a nice way to wrap up the festival for me. The team were super awesome and threw a really fun event.

I feel really grateful for the connections I made, especially the musicians I met. SXSW had a real sense of camaraderie and community. It was such a nice feeling having the people you meet come to your gigs and cheer you on, it really didn’t feel like a competition at all. It was a beautiful reminder that your genuineness is what will really ground you in this industry. I kept thinking to myself that I wish the people I had met lived closer because I’d want to hang out with them all the time. It was really special.

The time spent at SXSW was definitely worthwhile. I met a lot of great people and learned about the industry in a way I hadn’t before. The experience made me realise that you go to SXSW for the connections you make, but that it’s also really important to foster those connections. After attending the event it changed my perspective on how I want to approach the next stage of my career. It helped me understand my values better, and what is really important to me. The week was really inspiring, and it brought me out of my shell. Seeing others succeed gave me permission to become clearer in myself and my authenticity.

At the start, I put a lot of expectations on myself, and got in my head a bit. It was easy to feel like I didn’t do enough, but I had to remind myself that it was the first time I’d ever done something like this, so doing my best was more than enough.

If you’re going to perform at SXSW, I definitely recommend absorbing yourself in the festival as much as you can, networking as much as you can, and starting conversations even if it feels difficult and awkward. The reality is you’re spending a lot of money to go there and have put a lot of energy into it, so what have you got to lose? You’ll see your hard work pay off.

I’m really proud of myself for putting in the work and getting to represent Aotearoa music at SXSW Sydney. It makes me feel excited for my future, and I’ll never forget how special the event was. I feel blessed to have even been a part of it.

Did I get everything I’d hoped for out of the event? Yeah, but just in a different way than I imagined, and that is still a huge gift which I’m immensely happy for.