Gympie musician Aspy Jones has been writing, busking and gigging with his original songs since he was 16 years old.
Aspy crafts and sings about good mental health and his unique perspective on life as someone who lives with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and anxiety.
Over the past few years his band has been at the top of the Triple J Unearthed charts and entertained crowds at various festivals.
This includes the Gympie Music Muster, Woodford Folk Festival, Caloundra Music Festival Undercover Artist Festival, Queensland Music Festival and the Rockhampton River Festival, to name just a few.
Now the 26-year-old award-winning musician is advocating for more inclusion of people with disability within Queensland’s music industry.
“When I was diagnosed at 8 years old, I didn’t really want to accept my autism,” Aspy said.
“But as I got older and started to get more into music, I discovered that having ASD was a good thing. I had a slightly different perspective to writing than most neurotypical people.
“I get a lot of great feedback from neurodiverse people and people with anxiety, but also from parents and carers of children with ASD, especially if the child is non-verbal, because they say it helps them understand how their child may be feeling.
“I love to think that I'm making an impact on people and that they connect to my lyrics and hopefully don’t feel so alone.
“I feel really lucky that I’m doing what I love and it seems to be helping some people. Other people just like my songs and that’s great too.”
Aspy sees music as a tool that can heal
Aspy said music was such a wonderful therapy and could help so many people, including those with ASD.
“Songwriting was a big turning point in my life, it helps me recognise my emotions and deal with them,” he said.
It’s Aspy’s belief that music is a tool that can heal that led him to begin studying a Bachelor Music (Contemporary Music Practice) at the University of Canberra in Brisbane.
His goal is to become a music therapist for people with disability and those working through mental health challenges.
“I highly recommend that people just sit down and write the first thing that comes into their mind, whether it’s poetry, lyrics or a story. Just do it for fun and see what happens,” Aspy said.
Interestingly, Aspy did not consider a career in music until he was half-way through a baker’s apprenticeship and realised it wasn’t for him.
“While I’ve been singing my whole life, I didn’t really pick up a guitar until I was about 13 and I just taught myself for a while until I got the bug and then I went for lessons,” Aspy said.
“I also have a great vocal coach who taught me how to look after my voice as well as improve it.”
Aspy credits a lot of his success to his supportive parents, who’ve always encouraged him to give everything a go.
“I had such severe anxiety but they believed in regularly pushing me out of my comfort zone and it worked,” Aspy said.
“I do it to myself all the time now and it makes me feel so good. I would not be getting up on stages and performing if they hadn’t taught me those skills.”
Aspy said performing for a room full of strangers for the first time was a “very weird” experience.
“I couldn’t look up at people and I couldn’t wait to get off the stage. I sang a Johnny Cash song because those were the first songs I learnt,” Aspy said.
A push for more disability awareness in the music industry
The muso said while there was a bigger level of acceptance for people with disability in the music industry, there was still a long way to go.
“Access is what a lot of people with disability struggle with, but for people with hidden disabilities, I find the biggest difficulty is explaining yourself,” he said.
“For example, what your difficulties are, what you struggle with and what you need. I think this is why people are reluctant to hire people with disabilities, it’s all too hard and too complicated.
“From personal experience, I think the amount of people in the music industry that are undiagnosed is enormous. People don’t want to risk not getting work.”
Aspy says the beauty of music is that it doesn't discriminate and it’s for everyone.
“Everyone can have an opportunity to play anywhere and it is really good for your mental health. There’s absolutely no reason that someone with a disability can't do music,” he said.
“It's very encouraging to know that we're moving into a more accepting, inclusive era where it's not the end of the world to have a disability, and you still can't have a career in the music industry.
“But right now there’s a lack of opportunities for this to happen easily, and there’s definitely a lot of work to be done by the government in regard to funding in this space.”
Keeping it in the family
Aspy says music has also brought his family closer, with two of his three siblings being in the band.
“It's a great thing to do music with your family because it builds such a close bond. Even my parents, big sister and grandma help us out at gigs. It’s a real family affair,” Aspy said.
“At first we tried to be on our best behaviour on stage, but over the past few months we’ve discovered our audience loves seeing us be ourselves and they feed off the sibling bickering and energy on stage.”
Aspy says he’s able to be a full-time musician because he’s diversified and plays a lot of covers gigs to “pay the rent.”
“Obviously I would love to be a singer/songwriter full time as I am passionate about writing and performing my own music,” he said.
Aspy, who is performing at Carers Queensland’s International Day of People with Disability event at Pat Rafter Arena on 30 November, says he’s excited about 2024.
“I write a lot of songs and I’m already in the studio getting ready to release music next year,” Aspy said.
“I’m really hoping a debut album is on the way! Check out my songs on Spotify or any streaming platform and follow my socials for new releases.”
Carers Queensland can support you to find out more about the NDIS, to apply for funding and to help you get started with the NDIS.
If you have a disability but are not eligible for the NDIS, Carers Queensland can help you identify and link to options for support in your community.
You can also contact Carers Queensland on 1300 999 636, email@example.com, or sign up to our LAC Connect app here.