Warning: This article discusses suicide. Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyond blue on 1300 22 4636. Other organisations include Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78, and Multicultural Mental Health Australia.
Singer-songwriter Kim Churchill has had quite the unique recording experience lately.
His new EP, I AM, is part of a broader collection of EPs, and is the follow up to his latest album Weight_Falls. This exciting new project has taken Churchill to numerous corners of the globe. This first EP was created in Berlin in Germany, EP #2 in the Blue Mountains [New South Wales], the third in Canada and the final one in England.
“It’s basically a big break-up double album. I went through a breakup last year and it had a tremendous impact on my life and I had an enormous amount of music that came out of me. I wanted to do this for a while. When I travel all over the world it inspires me, and all these different colours and flavours come out. They come out in the way I sing, the words that I write, the performances I give, and the kinds of melodies and music that I come up with.”
Traditionally, Churchill has worked on projects with the same people each time. However, for this project, he had a different idea. “I wanted to go a bit deeper into it, and really design the music around the location’s influence over me. So that’s why we’re doing four EPs and one in each different place and this [I AM].”
Listen to Kim Churchill’s new EP, I AM.
Churchill decided to work with long-time friend and musical collaborator Chris Collins for this project, who Churchill believes has had similar experiences in the music industry. Collins played in a band called Tigertown. Tigertown was an alternative indie band, comprised of Collins, and other industry friends. “Chris is the co-producer of the whole lot. He’s mixing it and making sure the entire project, and all the different elements align and fit together as one cohesive project. Chris and I have a similar background, he’s a bit older than me so he’s got more experience, but he used to play in Tigertown and is married to Charlie Collins.”
“He used to work in the same major label realm with Tigertown, but we’ve both been at it long enough to connect with the feelings of something not quite happening; despite a bunch of people telling you it’s going to happen and saying ‘You do this, you do this, you’re gonna be huge,’ and trying to control you a bit and push you in directions and coming out the other side, and realising, ‘I just wanna make music’. I’m kind of hoping that it was an era of music that’s starting to fade – these highly polished, and produced, long-term albums. I’d love for it to go back to the Beatles/[Rolling] Stones mentality. Just making music, maybe release an album every nine months and playing gigs. That’s where Chris and I both connect. We just wanna make good music, and quickly.
Prior to working on these four EPs, Churchill left major label deals he had around the world, which opened up more creative freedoms he didn’t have before.
“I don’t have a label anymore. I was signed to Warner in Australia, Universal in EU, Cadence Music in Canada, and Atlantic Records in the UK. All those deals ended at the same time, and I just decided to stop the whole major label thing. Labels were fun, lovely people. They can give you 20 grand to spend on a clip, but I found that I could do more creative interesting things with a tenth of that money.”
With that in mind, he brought in long time collaborator Connor Rancan, to produce a documentary around the EP. “Within this four EP idea, I’ve got a video director coming with me everywhere. Everything visual is his department. He comes with me everywhere; he films and photographs everything. We go on these amazing little journeys where we find some beautiful location, and I have portable recording equipment, and we shoot these acoustic videos. In one, we trekked up this mountain to an old train line.”
“I’m sick of record labels coming in and saying, ‘We have the budget of $20,000 for the video, and we’ve put forward these four or five directors and here are their pitches,’ and they’ve got all these crazy ideas, like, ‘Yeah we’ve got a skate rink with a disco ball, and there’s gonna be loads of silver dancers on roller skates. And it’s gonna be all shot on three quarter frames at this shutter speed and you’ll be singing in the rain’, and all this crap. I can think of better ways to spend 20 grand. That for me is flying Connor everywhere and having the opportunity to document everything. And the acoustic videos are equally as important to me as the music video clips.”
“I’m not great at dancing around in a clip with silver roller skaters.”
On the topic of record labels, Churchill says: “I didn’t have as much creative freedom. It’s not as if they were forcing me to do anything, but I’m working with these people. If they had opinions and things they’d like to see, I’m gonna try to accommodate that.”
“It was nice to have all that guidance and help, but it started getting in the way of me making some art. I’ve gone out on my own, and I’m enjoying myself a hell of a lot more. I now enjoy making music more. I still love em and still keep in touch. There wasn’t any sense of hard feelings, they didn’t shelf me or take me for all I was worth or leave me with no money. Record labels are really becoming obsolete. It’s like having a bad relationship with the guy that ran the video store.”
Connor Rancan created this video for ‘After The Sun’:
Last year, something else that changed in his life was the loss of a band member. The Australian music industry was reeling when Sydney musician Luke Liang passed away. Liang played drums in Churchill’s band.
“Last year, my drummer committed suicide, which was very tragic, for a lot of people. He played in a lot of bands. Quite a few artists have stripped back their show, because they just can’t bear the thought of replacing him. Alex the Astronaut has gone back to a solo show, among others.”
With this in mind, Churchill was tasked with the idea of trying to translate his previously band supported music, into a solo live experience. “Just me, my guitar, a kick drum, a harmonica and a tambourine. There are also bass amps, guitar amps and all kinds of things to make it massive-sounding. I’m working pretty hard on that show. Instead of having other musicians on stage with me, I’m working with a really great lighting engineer who’s gonna really create a phenomenal lighting show. It’s a busking gig on steroids.”
For now, Churchill is lapping it up in a Kombi van, and travelling up and down Great Ocean Road. “I’ve got this awesome hook up on the Great Ocean Road right now. This company that restores old Kombi vans have let me have one whenever I want. So now, I’m kind of disappearing onto the Great Ocean Road with a Kombi, and that’s where I’m writing a lot, and surfing too.”
“My life is probably 80% music. I probably spend five to 18 hours a day on it in some way or another.”
Soon, Churchill will embark on his tour across the country. This tour will see him play key capital cities and centres across Australia. Tickets are on sale now. Kim Churchill’s latest EP I AM is out now.
KIM CHURCHILL ‘AFTER THE SUN’ TOUR
For complete tour and ticketing info, visit: kimchurchill.com
Friday 7 June
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW
Saturday 8 June
Wooly Mammoth, Brisbane QLD
Saturday 15 June
Howler, Melbourne VIC
Friday 21 June
Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide SA
Saturday 22 June
Jack Rabbit Slim’s, Perth WA