It is quite possible that Kim Churchill is the most chilled-out artist in the Australian music scene. After spending over 18 months working on an album, he decided he didn’t like it, threw it out with the trash, and wrote a whole new record in a week. This album, titled Weight_Falls, is released on August 25 and is his sixth studio album. Dani Brown had a chat with the Merimbula musician to discuss plans for the national tour in September and October, and find out just what was involved in making a whole album in seven days.
Hi Kim, it’s Dani here, how are you?
Good thanks Dani, how are you doing?
Yeah, not too bad thank you. Keeping busy?
Yeah, super busy, but I like to be busy! I think it’s not boring.
Way to keep you on your toes and out of mischief, hey?
Exactly, yeah (laughs).
So obviously you’ve got your album coming out pretty soon, how are you feeling about it?
Yeah, really good! I think it’s the best album I’ve ever come up with. It took a lot of work – I spent 18 months working on an album and had it mixed and mastered and ready to go, and then at the last second threw it in the bin and wrote a new album in a week, and then recorded it in a little garage in Sydney and that’s what I’m about to release. So it was quite the journey to finally feel like I had progressed to a point that I was happy with. So it’s exciting that it’s all gone ahead and it’s coming out and we’re chatting right now, talking about it and everything. I’ve waited a long time.
What didn’t you like about the one that you had created?
It was a bit too grand. It’s sort of felt like walking into the lobby of a really fancy hotel. I wanted to be a bit more, I don’t know, a bit more small town-y or something. That sounds so cryptic doesn’t it? I’m sorry (laughs). I wanted to be a bit more honest and natural, I think. The other album was a bit too big and I felt like I was carrying on a bit.
It seems like you’re a pretty laid-back sort of person, so I guess investing so much of your time into an album, was it a hard decision to throw it all away?
It was very easy when I finally made the call but in hindsight it probably took me nearly a year to come around to the idea, and in the interim I worked incredibly hard on this other album, you know, hoping I could fix the building in the upper levels, which was obviously never going to happen because it was wrong in its foundations. It was a very hard decision in the sense that it took me a long time to finally stop lying to myself about it and say, “It’s just not right and I have to accept that”. But when the moment came I was with my team, my management and my record label in Sydney, and we were discussing the finished album and thinking that maybe the mixes weren’t quite right. The label sort of said, “We’ll drop some money on getting somebody else to mix it”, and they threw around a figure and I was just sitting there listening to the figure and I was like, “Guys, I could make a whole new album with that amount of money”. And they sort of all looked up. It was weird with the album because it was really good, it just wasn’t quite right, and they knew it as well. So they all looked up and they were like, “Could you?” and I said, “Yeah, and I’ll do it in a week, I’ll be back with all the new stuff, leave with me, let’s just do this”. And they were all kinda like, “Well, sounds pretty crazy but if that’s what you want to do let’s see, it’s only going to take a week to see how this unfolds”. They let me do it and I came back with all of these songs that had been waiting for me to finally accept my situation and were just ready. Some of them came out fully formed, I’d just press record and start playing guitar and the whole song would just wander into existence.
Gee, that’s every songwriter’s dream, I reckon!
Yeah, it was almost like an enlightenment for that week. It’s gone now obviously (laughs). That kind of thing doesn’t hang about. And yeah, as we were saying, makes me really happy and proud of the music that’s coming out.
That’s great. So you said you recorded in Sydney, did you do a lot of that and the producing and mixing yourself, or who did you get to do that?
I worked with a producer by the name of Ian Pritchett. He is probably the most incredible producer I’ve ever worked with and I think the reason for that is he is very ego-less and he doesn’t march in with a sound and a way that he produces. He doesn’t march in bringing a style to the table or anything, he kind of lets the artist be everything you can be, and he’s an absolute master of facilitating an artist’s artistic position and bringing it to life in a way that’s bigger and more beautiful than the artist could’ve ever imagined. I think he’s absolutely incredible and as I say, he works out of a tiny little garage studio attached to his house in Sydney. He let me stay in this little shack out the back of his place, and the whole thing was just so simple and it gave me so much space to be creative and emotive. He was an enormous part of facilitating what I wanted to do and I think that essentially is the best thing a producer can be.
Fantastic. Are there any special collaborations that you’ve used on the record or is it all purely you?
There’s a couple of pretty interesting points. One of the songs that I wrote at the time I was travelling quite a lot, doing shows as well, and we had gone over to England to play the Great Escape festival in Brighton and I sat down with Nick Hodgson who is the main songwriter and the old drummer for the Kaiser Chiefs. He still writes most of their songs but he’s doing other work, writing songs for people. A mutual friend sort of hooked us up and we wrote a song together and that was pretty cool, and that made the album. So other than that it was pretty much just me.
Awesome! So it’s titled Weight_Falls – is there a story behind the name at all?
Yeah well, I guess as I was saying before, that whole process of throwing another album out, I felt like I was carrying this enormous heavy load, and that was really the lie that I was telling myself – that the album was right. And the amount of work that I was putting into keeping that lie in place was becoming harder and harder and more and more strenuous so when I finally said, “Bugger it, the album’s gone, I’m gonna make another one”, it was just an incredible weight sort of falling away from me. I knew who I was again, I knew what I needed to do, I knew exactly how to do it. I was no longer kind of immersed in this complexity. The first song I wrote the next morning was called Weight Falls and it was about that whole idea of how the weight falls away and the freedom to express again. It just felt like the right thing to call the album, too.
And is there a meaning behind the underscore between the two words, or is that just artistic?
Well, what happened was because it was quite a radical decision to put that other album down, I needed to get a lot of the songs across to my record label and management very quickly after that to show them that I knew what I was doing and I wasn’t having one of those little artistic dummy spits. So I downloaded Garage Band onto my iPad and I started using Garage Band for the first time so that I could make the demos sound a little bit nicer, I think. And the result was that I just stumbled into this world – before that I have only ever written songs on an acoustic guitar. Straight out, write it, push record on the voice recorder on my phone, lay it down and then I’ll go into the studio and build it into whatever it becomes. But demoing this way I just stumbled into this wonderful world of Garage Band and I was just chopping up my guitars, moving them around, and adding all these bits, and sort of really dodgy lyric samples that Garage Band has. I was just really into two albums at that particular moment. One was A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead, their recent release at the time, and the other was Portishead, their first album. I was kind of getting all of these vibes from these kind of Bristol UK kind of beats-y thing that Radiohead sort of toyed with here and there and I realise that I wanted to introduce all of that and that I had the outlet to do that through Garage Band, even if it was in a really shitty sounding kind of way. So that digital influence is something I’d never explored before and it was a massive part of what inspired the new sound. So I put the underscore in because when I was transferring files from Garage Band onto my computer they would kind of come out with lots of numbers and underscores and slashes and stuff and I’ve never seen any of that before, and I thought I’ll put it in the title as a bit of a tip of the hat to that whole digital influence.
Oh, that’s cool! So, to promote the album you’re heading out on a national tour, and I’ve noticed that you’ve got a few regionals shows in there. Why do you like to include those regional towns?
I think that Australia is almost best represented in all of its regional areas. I come from a tiny little town myself called Merimbula on the Sapphire Coast, so I grew up in a regional area, and I think that not that I don’t love playing cities and have incredible experiences and wonderful friends and everything there, but my real experiences of travelling and gaining an understanding of the beauty of Australia and the essence of what I love about this country has always been in rural areas. So if anything the regional stuff is my opportunity to travel.
I saw on your Facebook you’re looking at busking around and playing record store shows as well – are those smaller performances just as important to you as the big shows?
Um, probably not, to be honest. I think that kind of stuff is fun. It’s very important to me as the record store performances for example are the places that supported my music and sold my albums way back before I started signing any record deals and had anything played on the radio, and nobody knew who I was – not that many people do now. I didn’t have the platforms that I have now. Those record stores were giving me a chance and selling my stuff. So it is important very much in that sense. But the busking to be honest is just for fun. I think I really miss busking, I did a lot of it in my early career and it’s a style of making music. There’s a way you play when you’re not under the pressures of a live performance in Byron, when you’re singing and you can stop people as they’re walking by on their day. I sort of thought this was a great opportunity to do something with the concept of busking that works with in my currently album release and is a bit of a treat for people that knew me back from those days. Some people say that they like you best when you’re just playing on the street. It’s nice to think that I’ll go back and do a little bit of it. But yeah, the busking as I say is probably just for fun and a nice little thing to do. I don’t think it’s got anything on the big show that we are bringing around to a lot of places.
The first single from your new album, Breakneck Speed – when you first heard that on the radio, what was that like and where were you?
I was in Newcastle, which is where I hang out when I’m not travelling. It was wonderful, I mean it’s a scary thing if you spend two and a half years working on an album, you sort of feel like you lost all your momentum, you feel like everybody’s would’ve just forgotten who you are, and don’t care any more. So when we put out Breakneck Speed, Richard Kingsmill was very excited about the fact that I had new music and he immediately was like, “Yes! I’m gonna play it! I can’t wait! Can I call you on Sunday for an interview before I play it?” and stuff, and it was kind of emotional because Kingsmill, I think he is just one of the best sets of ears on the planet. For him to be excited like that, it sort of gave me a lot of confidence and it made me feel like there was still a bit of love out there. So it was a really lovely moment.
And one last question: What’s the one song from your album that you’re looking forward to performing the most?
Well, the one I was talking about before, Weight Falls, that is so much fun to perform. Partly because it embodies the entire experience I had making the album but also because we unplug all the instruments and set up a condenser mic right at the front of the stage and play it completely unplugged and acoustic. It’s a wonderful chance for the two drummers that I have onstage play either side of me to purely perform and sing, because they’re just incredible singers. And we just have so much fun singing the three-part harmonies and the crowd goes quiet and it’s just a beautiful moment. So I really get excited about doing that bit.
Well, thank you very much for your time, and I’m sure everyone’s looking forward to seeing you play and hearing the new album.
Oh awesome, thank you for your time, thanks for chatting with me!
AMNPLIFY – DB