Simon's Gamble

Simon Stewart has been through a lot in his near 4 decades of life. From cancer as a teenager to living in Sweden for 10 years and then re-building his life in Australia, Simon’s music career is going from strength to strength. I met up with Simon at his home in the coastal suburb of Merewether to discuss his life as a musician and the biggest life gamble he took.

Upon arriving at Simon’s house, I am warmly greeted by him and his new Cattle Dog Bingo. I notice a worn-out wooden chair, pride of place at the dining table. I am intrigued because on this chair are carvings of different palindromes such as “racecar” and “God a red nugget a fat egg under a dog” (try figuring out that second one!). It’s a sign of Simon’s personality- laid-back and quirky.

Musical beginnings

For Simon, his music career began as a teenager at the age of 14. “One of my best mates, when we were both in Kurri Kurri, took up guitar lessons and then taught me guitar. For many years we would teach each other something.”  But it was tragic news that would bring Simon closer to his music.


At 17, Simon got cancer. He was diagnosed with a tumour that affected the bloodstream to his brain. The prognosis wasn’t good, about a 15% chance of survival, so he began intense radiation and chemo therapy in a bid to shrink the tumour. He also had an operation to remove the tumour, after being told that without it he would only have 2 months to live.  Not being able to play any sport or work, he threw himself into his guitar to help curb his boredom. He also started writing songs about his experience. “That was the defining year for me. I got good. I went from here to up here in a short period,” Simon says.

[caption id="attachment_927" align="aligncenter" width="248"] Photo: Maestro Aki[/caption]

Having survived cancer, Simon began to work on his music, writing and recording songs. He was also performing regular gigs for a few years until love would lead him to another country.

Gamble of his life

He moved to Sweden with his partner at the time. Working there as an elevator technician, he learned how to speak Swedish. It wasn’t until he’d been living there for 7 years that he began to read and write in the language and decided to study. “I studied Maths, Chemistry and Physics at Stockholm University, a bridging course to get into the largest technical university in Sweden (King’s Technical College when translated). I bombed out there”.

Simon was in the middle of a 4-hour long Maths exam when he wrote a song Gambling with My Life. “I was on my way to the exam on the train and I just had this song in my head. I just ignored it. Halfway through the exam I wrote down ‘Gambling with my life. I know it’s gonna get me in strife. I feel it running through my veins now I’m gambling again’, on my Maths exam,” Simon says. He failed the Maths exam by one point, but these lines would quickly become a catchy song. Simon returned to Australia to become a full-time musician. His relationship ended as a result.

I notice a journal on the table, covered in different words and phrases. Simon explains that this is his songwriting and ideas journal. “I’ll just write. But I only write when I’m in the mood. They’re just little ideas that can become a song,” Simon says. He always writes the lyrics first and then the music.

[caption id="attachment_928" align="aligncenter" width="206"] SImon and Bingo[/caption]

Truckin' Headcase

Simon has released a track that can only be described as fun, quirky and different. Titled Truckin’ Headcase, it’s a play on words from a chant Simon heard years ago. “There’s a Rugby team in Kurri Kurri that used to sing a chant. It used to go “nibble, gobble chew. I’m a F---- headcase, who the f--- are you? It was quite crude,” Simon says. Simon had that tune in his head while he was learning to play the Blues. The song was born in Sweden some years later and became a song about trucking through Australia.


Simon was determined to make a career out of his music. Newcastle is a big pool of talented musicians all vying for gigs. Simon’s been one of the lucky ones, he tells me. “When I first came back I’d get one gig and didn’t have another one for a few weeks. Now I get at least one gig a week”. He says the best thing to do is just go around to all the pubs and make yourself known to the manager. The night before our interview, Simon played a gig at The Station Hotel in Kurri Kurri, where he plays on a regular basis.

During a gig, Simon will mostly play covers, but it does depend on the clientele. “If I’m playing at the Pourhouse in Maitland, I’ll play my own music because a lot of people there request originals. At other gigs, people might be watching the Footy at the same time and they want to hear songs like Cold Chisel and ACDC,” Simon says. Truckin’ Headcase goes down a treat with audiences.

[caption id="attachment_931" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Photo: Maestro Aki[/caption]

Simon hosted Peppertown

It’s not hard to see why audiences are drawn to Simon when he performs. Simon recently hosted The Peppertown Jam, where he showcased some of his originals, including songs he is currently working on. His performance showcased his ability as a songwriter, singer and guitarist. His quirky personality shone through to create a memorable performance.

Whenever Simon performs Gambling with My Life, the room always seems to become silent, with all eyes on him. The powerful lyrics, telling the story of a heroin user leaves an eerie atmosphere. It’s clear that a lot of people relate to this song on some level, because we all gamble at some stage in our life.

Simon sampled a new song that is all about being bored. This shows his laidback and quirky personality as a performer. This song is abit of a light-hearted release after the seriousness of Gambling with My Life. It’s a folky song about Simon trying to figure out what he wants to do to curb his boredom. It’s a real treat and demonstrates how versatile Simon is as an artist.

Future Plan

Simon has plans to eventually record an album. For now, he is recording his tracks individually and releasing them on Triple J, under the name of SwedeArt. The name combines his loved for Sweden and the last 3 letters of his surname. Though he says he will probably go back to releasing music under Simon Stewart soon. He has previously released music under his real name on Triple J as well.

For someone who has been through so much, there is no sign of Simon slowing down. He will continue to write, record and perform his music as well as work on his loop pedal skills. One thing this interview shows is that when Simon is around, there’s never a dull moment in the room.

You can listen to his music on Triple J: