INTERVIEW: Acclaimed songwriter ‘allergic’ to pop songs
Growing up in a small town surrounded by ‘tough guys’, Kim Churchill knew that wasn’t the life he was destined for. With six albums under his belt, the Australian folk, rock, and blues singer-songwriter has cemented his place as a genuine international talent. In this chat, Churchill talks about getting ‘hand-me-down’ guitar lessons and why he is repulsed by mainstream music. Churchill will be performing at the Blues on Broadbeach festival on May 14–17.
Matt Collins: Living on Newcastle’s coast, you must be a coffee man, are you, Kim?
Kim Churchill: I am, I cannot deny it.
MC: What’s the coffee of choice?
KC: I have reached the long black stage of my existence. With a long black you are never let down. It’s hard to be disappointed with a long black.
MC: I tried for a while to get rid of the milk, but I just couldn’t do it long term.
KC: Listen, I’ll still indulge in the odd milky treat. I’ll enjoy a good flat white if I feel as though I’ve earnt it.
MC: Let’s talk school days. What was the goal back then?
KC: I always wanted to play guitar. When I was five years old, mum brought home a second-hand guitar for me. She would actually get a guitar lesson on a Wednesday afternoon and then come home and give me the same lesson.
MC: Second-hand guitar and second-hand lessons.
KC: Yeah, that’s it. I just really took to it. I think back then it was a bit of an identity thing. Like at school you had the person who was good at sports, and the person who was good at art, I wanted to be the guy who was good at guitar.
MC: I want to talk about your songwriting because you certainly write and play songs vastly different from what we hear in mainstream music. Where does the motivation come from?
KC: I have always had a desire to carve out my own path. Anything that sounds generic I feel almost allergic to it. It immediately feels repulsive. It doesn’t always serve me well but I have learnt to live with it in a harmonious way.
MC: Who were the artists you looked up to early on?
KC: There was a lot of them. I wasn’t incredibly loyal to the people I idolised. I went through a big Led Zeppelin stage. I really loved Bob Dylan and then people like John Butler, Xavier Rudd and The Beautiful Girls. Those guys came along at a time when I was discovering who I was. I wasn’t the aggressive bloke who goes down the pub getting in fights and playing rugby. In the small town where I grew up, that’s what most boys were aiming for. But I was like quite a soft lad with a guitar.
MC: Pardon me for saying, but were you so naive to think that’s how the rest of the world was? Or did you kind of know that was just this small-town mentality?
KC: I think I did have a little bit of an inkling. I was very keen to leave. It’s interesting because now when I go back, I meet a lot of people from home and I just have wonderful friendships. But at that time, it didn’t suit what I was trying to grow into. Music like John Butler and Xavier Rudd had all these stunning lyrics about being considerate and being caring. They believed in good causes and that was really important to me. That really gave me a launching pad into doing what was important to me as an artist in a public sphere.
MC: Is having a political message important to you?
KC: I think you need to be careful with how you use your political views. I don’t know enough about politics, if I’m being honest.