Happy Mag Exclusive: Unveiling the Untold Tale of Neil Finn – A Chat with the Legendary Jeff Apter

Jeff Apter drops the first-ever Neil Finn biography, giving insights into the Crowded House frontman.

Today, the musical universe is buzzing with excitement as Jeff Apter, the ultimate music aficionado, launches his highly anticipated biography on the enigmatic frontman of Crowded House, Neil Finn, “Don’t Dream Its Over“(Allen & Unwin).

We, at Happy Mag, have known Jeff for quite some time, and he’s been a valued contributor, helping judge our annual NITH competition among other things. We can’t help but love him to bits, and now, we couldn’t be more thrilled to delve into the world of our favourite Kiwi, Neil Finn, through Jeff’s brand spanking new biography.

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In his exploration, Jeff uncovers the brilliance of Neil Finn—a true musical legend renowned for crafting iconic tunes that resonate from Split Enz to Crowded House.

From creating anthems like ‘I Got You’ at the tender age of 21 to gracing the world’s stage with timeless hits such as ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over,’ Neil’s journey stands as a testament to his unwavering spirit amidst life’s trials. With a rock-solid marriage, a devout upbringing, and musical aspirations passed down to his sons, Neil’s legacy resonates across generations, inspiring us all to dream beyond limits.

Through his music, Neil Finn has touched hearts and left an indelible mark on the world. Even Jeff’s path as the ultimate music enthusiast began with sneaking into a Split Enz concert as a scrawny 17-year-old. Today, the spotlight shines on him as we delve into a candid chat with this wordsmith.

Happy: Hey Jeff, what’s up today?

Jeff: Walking the dog, writing, trying to make sense of the world. And you?

Happy: Pretty much the same thing, tbh. But tell us about where you live, and what life is like in your neck of the woods.

Jeff: Wollongong. Very coastal. Mountains to the left of me, water to the right, and some great food to be found if you look hard enough. It sure beats Padstow, where I grew up, with all due respect.

Happy: Ah, that sounds amazing! Now, we’ve heard your average day is pretty much your ultimate day. Can you share a bit about it?

Jeff: Haha, indeed! See, ‘what are you up to today’? I have simple tastes.

Happy: Fair enough! So, what ignited your passion for music and writing? Any specific books, movies, or experiences that fueled this fire?

Jeff: Jerry Hopkins’ book on Jim Morrison and the Doors, ‘No One Here Gets Out Alive,’ was a game-changer for me. Watching ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘The Last Waltz’ at the Padstow Star Cinema was quite the double bill that left an impression.

And who could forget the Woodstock documentary at the State Theatre? These moments, alongside others like Bowie’s concert in ’78 and Dylan in ’79 and ’86, fueled my love for music and writing.

Happy: Amazing! And now, you’re known for your music biographies. How did that journey begin?

Jeff: It all started with a dumb, happy accident, really. I wrote an angry letter to the editor of a magazine’s record reviews column, challenging his take on an REM album. And guess what? He challenged me right back, saying, ‘If you’re such a smartarse, why don’t you write the reviews?’ Well, I did, for the next dozen years.

Happy: That’s quite the story! So, what drew you specifically to write Neil Finn’s biography?

Jeff: Seeing Split Enz at the Pitt Street Gardens in Sydney, winter 1979. They were on the cusp of recording True Colours, and even as a feckless 17-year-old (I’d snuck into the gig, being under-age), I could tell they were about to become famous. Really famous. And they had amazing hair — and bounced around the stage like human pinballs.

Happy: A true turning point! Now, let’s talk about your latest masterpiece, ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over.’ How did you approach the research process for writing Neil Finn’s biography?

Jeff: It was the same dedication as my previous 30 books—dig deep, avoid repetition, and keep pushing forward until the draft is complete.

Happy: Impressive work ethic! Were there any particular challenges you faced while writing about Neil Finn?

Jeff: None at all! Writing about one of the most interesting and gifted musicians of the past 40 years? It was an absolute pleasure from start to finish.

Happy: That’s wonderful to hear! So, during the writing process, did any aspects of Neil Finn’s life or career surprise you?

Jeff: Oh, absolutely! It’s his ability to maintain a normal, grounded family life away from the spotlight that fascinated me the most. And he’s nailed it, taking his sons along on tour—such a beautiful blend of family and career.

Happy: A truly admirable balance. Your writing has evolved over time. What key themes and ideas do you find run through your work?

Jeff: Simplicity is key for me now. No more pretentious words and phrases. I’ve learned to express my opinion clearly and keep the story moving. As for themes, I stick to subjects that I’ve encountered or learned about during my days as a freelancer—write about what you know.

Happy: Wise words! Throughout your career, any particularly memorable moments stand out?

Jeff: Speaking with Happy magazine about my Neil Finn biography is certainly a standout! Also, the joy of not having to work 9 to 5, meeting Aretha Franklin, and witnessing Neil Young perform Greendale.

Happy:“Truly legendary moments! Alright, one last question before we let you go: what makes Jeff Apter happy?

Jeff: You know, I’m not too interested in being happy. I prefer to be satisfied—it’s way more fulfilling, just like Mick Jagger said.

Happy: A profound outlook! Thank you so much, Jeff, for this fantastic chat. We can’t wait to dive into your biography on Neil Finn!

And there you have it, Happy mag fam! Jeff Apter’s journey from a passionate music fan to the maestro behind the captivating biographies of legendary musicians, culminating in his latest masterpiece on Neil Finn. We’re thrilled to have shared this exclusive insight with you and can’t wait for you to immerse yourselves in the world of ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over.’ Cheers, Jeff!

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Buy your good self a copy of “Don’t Dream Its Over’ here, and check out more Jeff Apter Bio goodness here.