Kim Churchill is, without a doubt, one of Australia’s greatest instrumentalists, and his new single, Fighter, is the perfect reminder.
Kim Churchill has seen a fair chunk of the world recently, after recording a four-part EP series: I AM, FORGETTING, THE END, AGAIN, recorded in Berlin, Vancouver Island, Montreal, and Devon respectively, and collaborating with a different producer in each city.
Kim made use of his time in isolation, recording frequent covers which he then released as an EP, featuring songs like Post Malone’s Feeling Whitney, A Whole New World from the Disney film Aladdin, and Ball Park Music’s It’s Nice to Be Alive.
Off the back of his new single Fighter, we chatted to Kim about combatting feelings of inadequacy, blending folk with electronic, and his favourite cover songs.
HAPPY: Every time I’ve seen you play, before each song you often tell a surprising story behind the track. Is there a story behind your new single, Fighter?
KIM: Haha, it’s coming along. I was inspired to write it after dealing with some feelings of inadequacy I was having about different areas of my life. I went on a beautiful date with an absolutely beautiful girl which didn’t eventuate to anything and left me wondering why I wasn’t enough for her. And then the whole touring process and being a musician last year (or I guess kinda…not being a musician last year) and the feelings of strength I had to dig up and reaffirm from inside of myself all really guided Fighter. It’s really a song reassuring to myself that I have everything I need and that I will cope and rise to the occasions of life.
HAPPY: What’s the premise behind the split screen video that accompanied that single?
KIM: Saskia (Burmiester) and I felt it was a beautiful way to express those ideas of a person being ‘enough’ on their own. I love that we never actually meet. We’re just living out our days and navigating the world by ourselves and for ourselves. We also liked the idea of contrasting the natural and the city landscapes. They both ask for so much and can be so challenging in completely different ways. ‘A flower on a path’ – that sort of thing.
HAPPY: On your last set of EPs, you recorded each in a different city around the world with different producers on each, how did you find the landscapes and experience in each page impacted your writing?
KIM: Yeah my angle was really to allow each place to influence my creative process and give the music a certain colour and character. Berlin for example had a slice of ‘industrial’ to it and there was a real backbone and beat to those songs. Where the second EP Forgetting is much more vast and natural and makes me think of the beautiful red pine forests around where we recorded it on Vancouver Island. Each of the producers played huge roles as well. The way that Chris Bond in Devon inspired my songs and the sounds and directions he brought to the table kind of got stirred through with the inspiration I was drawing from exploring the Devon coast and the big cliffs and the beautiful cows wandering around the fields right in front of the ocean.
HAPPY: What was your biggest takeaway from the experience of writing with different producers on each EP?
KIM: Probably a nice sense of my own artistic essence. I was really worried as I went into the project that each EP wouldn’t fit together. But as it all came along I realised there was a real Kim-ness to them all that was beautiful and tied it all together. It was lovely to feel that all the music had such a strength of character. I was really proud of myself. It also really freed me up to just dive headlong into whatever each place had to offer and how that took the music to new places also.
HAPPY: Would you say that blending your acoustic roots with those electronic sounds opened up new directions for your songwriting?
KIM: It sure did, hey. Working with Vince in Berlin was amazing because I’d bring a song in and it would walk out a day later with a wildly new vibe. Like it had had a good wash over with the Berlin style. I loved his sensitivity to what I was doing and how beautifully he worked with natural acoustic sounds.
HAPPY: Do you listen to much electronic music yourself?
KIM: Yeah for sure. I feel like you’d really have to have your head in the sand these days to not have a few favourites in that genre. There’s a lot of things I love but one of favourites would be Sylvan Esso. I think they’re so clever and incredible performers. I also really dig Alter Boy from Perth.
HAPPY: During lockdown you were regularly performing Instagram covers which then became the Bright Side Mixtape. You seem to enjoy playing covering songs and you basically nail every cover you go anywhere near. Where has that appreciation for covers come from?
KIM: Aww thank you! Well, when I was a teenager I used to play all the little restaurants and pubs around the Far South Coast. I was playing those 3 hr sets and had to do lots of covers to keep people happy. It was cool and when I looked back on those times from an alder age I realised it was really inspiring for my own songs to constantly be diving into other peoples and seeing how the fit. A lot of my ideas come from the feeling playing someone else’s song gave me. That feeling grows into its own completely unique idea and vibe.
HAPPY: What other songs are you keen to cover if you get the chance to?
KIM: Ohhh, I think it easing into a nice gentle version of Dreams by Fleetwood Mac. I’m currently messing around with True Colours by Cindy Lauper which myself and Katy Steele from Little Birdy are going to play together in a surf shop in Fremantle. Aaaand, I’ve been playing Old Man by Neil Young again a bit too.
Get a taste of Kim Churchill’s EP of covers, Most of the Time, below.
Interview by Lochie Schuster