Roaming Aussie folk-blues singer and songwriter Kim Churchill talks of non-stop touring, surfing, collaborating and plans for album number six
ustralian folk and blues songwriter Kim Churchill benefited from a mother who taught music and loved David Bowie, and a Led Zepplin following father; meaning that he’d begun playing guitar when many people are still learning to tie their shoe laces. Though he went on to form his school’s first ever rock band, it was Coldplay’s Parachutes and Californication by Red Hot Chilli Peppers that made the biggest dent upon his young ears. Aged 15 he began to take heed of the songwriting lessons of one Bob Dylan and decided that he could become a songwriter too.
It was this realisation that has led him to forge a career as a roaming solo artist, one who takes touring as his home, and has now released five albums – though one has been “successfully deleted from history”.
Songwriting was fortunate to catch up with Kim and discover that geography dictates the flavour of his songs…
Do you come from a musical family?
“Fairly musical, though not overly. I was never pressed or pushed to be a musician – I was encouraged. My parents were wonderful in the way they let me find my way, with a gentle nudge in the right direction every now and again.”
How did you get into music?
“My mother sang in choirs and played a little bit of piano. She started guitar lessons with the idea that, after each lesson, she would come home and repeat the lesson to me, as the teacher rather than student. I was about five years old at time and it was incredibly exciting. It really clicked with me.”
What were your first experiences of playing music?
“After my initial lessons with mum, I started getting into the group lessons at school and performing in musical groups. It was all very basic I remember. Sometimes there would be so many guitarists, that we used nails and rubber bands as capo’s so everyone could play together. Later I remember starting the first ‘rock band’ the school had ever had. We were called the Soggy Marshmellows and it was ridiculously fun!”
What were your first experiences of writing music?
“I began realising I could create my own when I was about 15 years old. I was beginning to get really interested in Bob Dylan and in all the early interviews he just used to talk about his songs and writing songs and learning songs, and I wanted to create and digest music in the same way. I was also progressing through the different grades of classical guitar and there was some composition work that I liked too.”
Who were your formative influences?
“Early on my cousins came over from Chichester in West Sussex and they brought Coldplay with them. I was about 10 years old when Parachutes came out and it blew my mind – it was the soundtrack to my childhood. I distinctly remember that and Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as the albums I really liked and personally identified with. My dad was always trying to get me into things like Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. There were also loads of Dylan and Neil Young albums in the house. Mum loved Bowie and all the first songs we learnt on guitar were Beatles songs, naturally. It took me longer to warm to the older stuff, but once I got a taste for it I realised how right my parents had been all along.”
Did you make a conscious decision to become a songwriter, or was it something that was natural?
“I definitely made small conscious decisions along the way that lead me there. I think it would’ve been a bit scary to just one day decide that’s what I was going to do, but I always had a feeling that it would work out and I just made each small decision as I had to.”
Who and what inspires you?
“Everything inspires me. I notice the songs I write as I’m travelling in a certain country have a sound and flavour to them. The things passing me by, the people I meet, they all have an influence on the songs that come out of me. Obviously other art forms are particularly inspiring and I love reading. I also really love surfing and the ocean – I find there’s a constant stream of inspiration to found in the ocean.”
Do you write songs in a particular way?
“No not really. Each song has its own odd way of coming into the world and I normally end up being counter-productive if I try to make it follow rules as it begins its journey to existence. I just try my best to let it be what it’s meant to be. I make decisions along the way, but even that process is dependent upon the nature of the song.”
Tell us about how you wrote one of your songs?
“I wrote a song called Window To The Sky in a dingy little basement in Montreal. I was renting a room there that was under my friend’s apartment and it was a total dive. I was going through a bit of a ‘down and out’ mind set and not feeling great about myself, so I’d sit around each day, while all my friends went out to work, and pretend I was writing good music. One day I was feeling pretty unmotivated, when I realised I had about two hours before everyone got home and that I could clean the house up and make it look immaculate in that amount of time. Not sure why but all the tasks seemed easy and rewarding and, given the place was such an absolute tip. Everyone was amazed to see the place that existed under all the crap. I realised it was the best I had felt in months and wondered why. Eventually, I decided it was probably because I had stopped thinking about myself for a time and focussed on making other people happy. It was mind-blowing.”
What music have you released so far?
“Five albums, one of which I think I’ve successfully deleted from history. My last album, and the only one to be released in the UK, is called Silence/Win and was recorded with British producer Warne Livesey.”
What music are you going to be releasing?
“Lots and lots of it I presume. No immediate releases to talk about, but I begin work on my next album in June and I have some collaborations I’m hoping to release also.”
What are your plans for this year?
“I’m going to Sri Lanka for a month to write and surf. Other than that it’s non-stop touring across the UK, Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and the US. I don’t live anywhere, so I basically have to keep booking gigs to stay out of the ‘officially homeless’ line! I mean, I’ve got a van with a bed in the back, but that lifestyle is incredibly boring unless you’re going somewhere.”
What are your plans for beyond this year?
“Exist… that’s about it.”
Interview: Damien Girling