It’s no secret that Torontette loves and supports a lot of electro music – music that is ridden with synths, samples, reverbs and mastered sounds. But every so often there is an artist who comes along that is so pure and simple in design, that the beauty of his stripped-down essence fills a special place in both my musical library and my heart.
20-year old Kim Churchill is this artist for me. He is Australian through and through and lives and breathes what it means to be a hard-working musician. I sat down with him at The Royal York during Canadian Music Week and reflecting on the interview, I can’t help but think of one of my favourite Aussie movies. Rugged, blonde and bronzed, he resembles a younger Croc Dundee and is perhaps the only person who can get away with wearing a tank top in the ostentatious surroundings of the Fairmont. Don’t let his appearance fool you however. He’s intelligent, well-spoken, inspired and inspiring and can sing and play the guitar, harmonica and bass drum all at the same time. And they say men can’t multitask.
Torontette: How old were you when you first picked up a guitar?
Kim Churchill: I was four. Playing the guitar has been something for me almost kind of like breathing. Like walking. Something that I can’t honestly remember my life without. The guitar has been a constant thing in my life for as long as I can remember.
T: I read that when you’re in Australia you live and tour out of your van. Being here in Toronto, are you missing your van?
KC: Oh yes, always miss the van. But there are enough exciting things to distract me. Touring Canada is the closest country that I feel to home, you know. I have no idea why but I connect very well with this country. It’s a home away from home in a way.
T: If you could describe the Australian music scene in three words, what would they be?
KC: It’s very relaxed. That can be a blessing and that can be very hard at the same time because you could pull 300 people at a venue in the city and then the next time you play it’s a nice day, and the beach is good and stuff and everyone is chilled out. And then you could pull like 100 people and really struggle to make any money out of the show or struggle to have music as a job because of how relaxed it is. At the same time though the gigs are always great. The gigs are always beautiful. And I get the same feeling here. There’s a serious appreciation for music.
Another word would be vast. There’s a lot going on. There’s lots of different styles of music that are all sort of intermingled and even the idea of a genre is losing its meaning because everything is four or five genres in one and there are no boundaries anymore, there are no things dividing everything.
And I would say, sporadic, would be my third word. There are real hot spots but then there are a lot of places in Australia where say you can drive for 10 hours and not go through a town with a music venue. So it’s sporadic in the sense that it’s everywhere and nowhere and everywhere and nowhere and so it can be very hard to put a tour together, you have to do a lot of driving to make it all link up.
T: When you are writing your music, do you have any non-musical influences? Things that are reflected in your music and colours what you write?
KC: The romantic poets. Funnily enough. I don’t know why. More as a critique of them than inspired by them but say Coleridge, all the stuff he wrote about excited reverie and kind of these massive connecting with God through nature kind of things. These are subjects that I write about a lot. Sometimes negatively, sometimes positively but it interests me for some reason. And that’s a serious influence upon my writing and my lyrical construction of pieces.
T: What do you like to do more write lyrics or create the melodies? Or is it a combination of both?
KC: I was always a guitarist and I grew up playing classical guitar and within that there were no lyrics so for a seriously large amount of my life – 11 years – I was playing music that had no lyrics. But at the same time I was listening to a lot of Bob Dylan and Nick Drake – artists that were completely lyrically-driven so I always wanted to write strong, meaningful lyrics and that instigated a sort of rebellion against classical guitar and everything that I know because it was the opposite. It was free and creative and there was no discipline in terms of how you were sitting when you played the guitar or anything like that. So these days I must say I fall back on my melodies quite often because it is my subconscious tendency to go to what I know but I find more and more now I will be constructing melodies around the lyrics. And it gives you more room to make a song that flows and works.
T: What are you listening to right now?
KC: We’ve had these massive drives from Winnipeg to Quebec City for like 30 hours and I’ve just had this obsession the past few days with the Jewish rapper, Matisyahu. I’m right into him at the moment. Everything that Jack White does from the White Stripes, all his side projects. And then I have sort of all my regular stuff like Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, stuff like that, that I never really stop listening to. A combination of new stuff and the old stuff that I always listen to.
T: Where are you next?
KC: We fly to New York after this and we play a couple shows there and then we go to Austin for SXSW. And then its back home to try and get fit. I feel so unhealthy at the moment. So many wings. Wings and Tim Horton’s.
T: Where do you see yourself in a year from now?
KC: Hopefully doing a lot more stuff here. And I hope to still be playing music and I hope to still be writing music. I hope to still have the freedom that I have now no matter what happens within my career. Other than that, I hope the rest is a mystery. I hope I don’t know what’s coming.