Niyati and Gavin Libotte | Musicians

Black and white portrait of Sydney husband and wife duo Gavin and Niyati Libotte on a couch.

Specialities: Acoustic-style nylon guitar and singer songwriter music blended with art - genres include alt/art pop, folk, Jazz, French and world music elements 

Speciality time: Gavin has been performing and composing on guitar for 30 years, with 6 award winning instrumental albums to date. 

Niyati has performed in live bands as a vocalist for 15 years, and over 20 years as a writer. 

Our collaboration Goldfynch is an original contemporary vocal music project with the debut album set for release by mid-2021.

Inspiration for starting: Niyati comes from a musical family (her mother currently performs on the ABC kids show “The Nannas & the Poppas”) and she has sung in several languages from childhood, enjoying blending together myriad influences to create a distinct vocal style that transcends genre or ethnicity.

Gavin learned guitar in his youth because his friends were playing and he needed something to focus on to help with the challenges of teenagehood. From there it was a love affair that took him to the Conservatorium, Brazil and stages around the world.

Full time, part time or hobby: For us creativity is a full time job. Music is our bread and butter alongside indie filmmaking which is our other mutual love. 

Gavin is a skilled cinematographer and Niyati is a trained producer, writer and director. Niyati’s poems and writing have also been featured in exhibitions and anthologies internationally. 

It was only natural that we would pool our mutual loves into an intimate, cathartic and cinematic songwriting and recording project that became Goldfynch. We wrote and recorded it through some challenging times- birth of a daughter, death of a father, the breakdown of a parental home, and then COVID-19.

What do you love about it?
We love that music is universal and can express the human experience in an abstract way people will still connect with. It is an essential tool of communication as it resonates with all our levels of existence. Music - simply put- is the pure expression of what is in the soul. It’s honest, multilayered, emotional and allows the transfer of ideas in subtle but powerful ways. At its best, it is aspirational and healing for the performer as well as for the listener.

When did you first perform?
Gavin's first performance was in a hairdressers playing in a guitar duo. Gavin and Niyati first performed together in 2008, early in their courtship, for the Art Gallery of NSW. Niyati met Gavin at Eastside Radio, where she ran the book show and he was a guest. She jokes that she started performing with him in order to see him on weekends. 

Musicians live a funny schedule and working together keeps us together. 

How much training do you do?
It’s a lifelong calling that needs to be practiced daily. Music is literally therapy for us both. With young kids there isn’t much time to practice but we do upskill in Video production/ photography which we use to promote our various Bands. 

Gavin learns a new pop piece a week for the YouTube channel Gavin Libotte Guitar as a resource enjoyment and also for educational purposes. There is always something new to learn so it never gets boring.

What are you most proud of so far?  
Our debut album for Goldfynch has been somewhat of an opus to complete, an artful studio project with contributions from some of the finest musicians and recording engineers in the business. There is some really nice writing on this album and the production is first rate. We’re very excited to release it to the world in a few short months.

How has COVID-19 affected your ability to do your craft?
COVID-19 has been devastating for music and film, our two disciplines. In March when restrictions came into place in Sydney we had a barrage of cancellations for all performances and work for the foreseeable future. 10 months later and instead of a few gigs a week, we have 1-2 performances a month. Band rehearsals are out of the question as we are in the Northern Beaches zone where no one can enter or leave. After our debut album launch in 2020 we were booked to travel to Wales in March 2021 to record our second album at Rockfield Studios with some top line music producers and engineers, who've worked with Massive Attack, Ronin Keating and the like.  However all our plans are on hold pending easing of restrictions. The film industry has also remained on hold, with no possibility of shoots and travel until mid-2021 at the earliest.

How do you feel not being able to perform/participate because of COVID-19?
When life gives you lemons... whilst it's obviously been a a strain not working or performing (as we mentioned music is our therapy and our chance to exchange on a creative level) and financially it has put our operations back at least a year, we have taken the time to skill up, arrange the back end of our album launch, strategise and even write the songs for our next album. 

Niyati also joined a women in music mentorship program with AIR and Gavin has been working on his YouTube channel.

Have you worked with anyone famous yet?
Music (and film) are a small community in Sydney, you end up continually rubbing shoulders with many including actors, filmmakers, and musicians such as Joseph Tawadros, Kristina Olsen, John Butler, Buena Vista Social Club, Cassandra Wilson and more. That said we’ve absolutely loved working on our album with Aria award winner Jonathan Zwartz, two time Grammy winner Helik Hadar and Emmy award winning producer Sean Carey. A definite musician's dream team.

Are there any positives that you've experienced during lockdown?
It certainly afforded more time to get organised and creative when the kids weren't on top of us. It's also allowed plenty of family time and building an appreciation of all the things we might take usually for granted. Performing has always felt like a special privilege, but it can be tiring. We enjoyed the rest from a gruelling schedule but with COVID-19 we now love the opportunity to perform more than ever. It's a sacred space to share and bond with each other and the audience on the things that matter.

In three words describe how you feel when you're performing?
Blissful, energised and calm. It's a very zen feeling being in the moment, and we are grateful for it.

What’s been your favourite experience doing your speciality?
Our greatest moments have been co-writing these new songs together. We have produced a really interesting body of work and the process felt effortless and very joyful. There's a lot of mutual respect and excitement for each other's ideas.

What do you think your life will be like in the future?
The moment is enough for us. If we can take care of our minds now the future will be taken care of. That said on a wider level, hopefully music will bounce back and Sydney will experience a Renaissance in live music and the Arts. We sorely need it after so many years of policy that has strangled the ability for people to gather, listen, respect, and be creative together. 

If you could ask the politicians one thing to help the performing arts sector going forward, what would it be?
We would say, "stop thinking about the economy and start feeling a connection with your fellow humans". They need to understand that the Arts is essential - more essential than property, residents, taxes and the bottom line. Without live music and arts spaces, and funding for film and live performance, you literally take the heart out of a city and a people. We want our towns to be the place everyone comes to, not leaves due to its lack of soul and character. And - for the bean counters- the Arts is actually vital to the night time economy. Just look at how a little curating has transformed spaces in the Netherlands, Berlin, Paris and London! 

Niyati made a whole investigative doco on the subject which you can catch on Youtube "After the Lockouts: The Search for Sydney's Missing Nightlife".

What do you hope to do with your performing arts career in the future?
We'd love to have our music playing on radio and synced on TV, as well as have the opportunity to perform at international festivals, once the pandemic allows travel beyond our borders. It would also be great to get our kids involved.

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