It’s been quite an interesting year for Gold Coast all-rounder Mark Gray – aka Eddie Ray. I guess the same could be said for most of us. But what most of us COULDN’T say is that our one man comedy show got cancelled due to COVID-19 so we rode a friend’s motorbike home across Australia, filming an impromptu apocalyptic web comedy series on the way, and upon our return to the Gold Coast won an award for a music video we made on our partner’s smartphone, out of sketches and cutouts from children’s books. Nope, that honour is pretty much reserved for Mark.
We thought we’d better have a chat with him about it all to try and get our heads around it. Turns out, Mark was still doing the same thing.
Still reeling from his unexpected win for Video of the Year at this year’s Gold Coast Music Awards (a home DIY animated video for his musical alter-ego Eddie Ray’s single ‘The Story’), Mark laughs about how the clip came about.
‘I found a This Is Your Life book at an op shop for $3, and I just got this stop animation app on my partner’s phone and we took a bunch of photos of me and printed and cut them out and I drew a whole bunch of cartoons like a TV and cityscapes and kind of played with it and cut out pictures from children’s books and was just mucking around! I had a couple of hours to kill and I thought ‘I’m gonna give this a go’.
“After the first six hours I realised I’ve had about 30 second’s worth, (laughs) and it was at that point I thought ‘well I’ve started now so I can’t stop’.”
The end result is a lively and diverting stop animation that pairs perfectly with the song’s anti-establishment sentiments. In fact, it’s so thoughtful and so seamlessly executed, it’s exactly as though it’s come out of a big budget production house after a month of storyboarding, with a brief to nonetheless try and make it “look low budget and off the cuff”. An astonishing achievement.
It’s hard to believe it was done by one guy, on a phone. Especially one who doesn’t even own his own smartphone, a point Eddie Ray makes so regularly in his various appearances that he even made a one-man comedy show out of it, called the Leader of the Resistance.
“[The show] was full of terminator references – my Nokia has the sound of the Terminator,” explains Mark.
“It was this idea that I accidentally became the leader of the resistance by not having a smartphone. It was super silly and it ended up having a fight scene with a smartphone in it and it was quite autobiographical as well.”
Having performed in Darwin, Hobart, Perth and Adelaide, to positive critical and audience reviews, the show was really beginning to gain some momentum when the dreaded virus struck, and Mark and his partner were forced to head home from the Flinders range. But with the universe clearly wanting the Eddie Ray phenomenon to continue, opportunity struck. Or disaster, depending on who you ask.
“My mate broke his ankle and asked if I could ride his bike back to the coast for him, and it was this accidental fluke we were able to do it,” Mark says.
“I had a couple of ideas bouncing around my head about being isolated by yourself, and not knowing what’s going on with COVID-19 because you don’t have a smartphone or any access to media.”
And thus, the Road Worrier was born. Four short web episodes, shot in the Australian outback, of Eddie Ray at his tomfool best, trying to figure out why Australia is suddenly deserted. Thoroughly ridiculous and altogether hilarious. Even more impressive when you throw in the fact that all four episodes were filmed over five days, and were completely improvised.
Post-production happened once Mark and his partner Amy returned to the Gold Coast, and was funded in part by HOTA’s Rage Against the V(irus) initiative.
“I think it’s really cool that HOTA’s being so proactive and not just waiting for the storm to pass, I think it’s great they’re giving us these opportunities, and it’s nice to see what other people are doing and how this thing is inspiring people,” Mark enthuses.
“Mine is a prime example – I never would have done that if I hadn’t got that funding. It’s keeping us motivated. My news feeds are full of amazing beautiful creative people supporting each other and I’ve always felt like the Gold Coast arts community is really good. It’s nice to see it manifesting in this way and see people sharing.”
With Mark emailing various peeps to see if he can get a second Road Worrier season happening, plus more music and vids on the horizon (his vid for single ‘Lost’ has just dropped on his socials, and his band Burger Joint may well bounce back after this forced hiatus), this Gold Coast musician-artist-comedian-actor is not likely to be resting on his laurels any time soon.
“I’m trying to stay busy, not really interested in just sitting around,” he states. Good. More fabulous content for the rest of us!
The best place to get all of your Eddie Ray goodness is over at fb.com/theeddieray, and if you feel like a good old fashioned belly laugh (who doesn’t), you can check out the Road Worrier now over at hota.com.au/eddie-ray-road-worrier. Eddie will be participating in Stories in Song at HOTA’s Fireside session this Sunday 2 August, alongside The Oogars. Grab your tickets here.