He has been busy of late performing at some of the world’s biggest festivals, and has now returned to Australia with his second album Weight Falls and is hoping to connect with people in a real way, not just from the stage.
Following the release of his stunning follow-up to 2014’s Silence/Win, we chat to Kim Churchill about the pressures of backing it up, why he scrapped an entire album and the triumph that is Weight Falls.
When we spoke, Churchill had just wrapped up a run of in-store performances at records shops around the country, and was gearing up for a short busking tour. Getting in touch with locals on the ground and showcasing his record in the way he started, the Merimbula local has come a long way since the tiny local street shows.
Having said that you can take the boy out of the town but you can’t take the town out of the boy, and those grassroots beginnings are definitely not that far behind the Aussie singer. “I think for me taking quite a long time to get this album down, I’ve got this banked up enthusiasm which I’m just throwing at it all now,” he says.
“The idea to go out and do all the busking was something that I’d wanted to do for years because I love it and I miss it. The response to that was incredible, a couple of thousand of people shared it and liked it and commented on places to go, and then out of that we were able to build a pretty manic week of busking in different spots.”
His in-store performances, too were received with fervour from fans. “The record store pop up gigs have been really successful too and we’ve been able to sell a lot of albums straight from me and I’ve always enjoyed that part of it. Selling an album to a person, in person,” he says.
“Of course I sell across a bunch of platforms, iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music, but it’s really nice to have those times being in a record store and selling your music. And it’s been great, people have been coming to that and all in all, people seem to really like it when an artist gives them something real.
And, you know, I have my polished side too, with the major label backing and the fancy looking video clips and all of that, but it’s important for me to do this busking and grass roots stuff as well, it’s one of my strengths and you’ve got to play to them.”
Churchill’s last record, Silence/Win, came out in 2014, and while three years might not seem that long, the build up to Weight Falls has been significant.
With the record almost at completion, Churchill admitted he wasn’t feeling inspired and felt it necessary to go back to square one. So what dictated this kind of change? “Two most important qualities for my music are: one, a really deep sense of honesty, and having a really deep connection to the things you’re saying. I think if you’re trying really hard to write deep metaphorical lyrics or cool sounding lyrics or songs that you think will do well on radio, any of that stuff, all of that gets in the way of saying how you actually feel. Knowing on a deep and personal level that you feel what you are saying and you believe it.
The second one is to enjoy yourself, to have fun making it and to get lost in the process of creation. And I think with the earlier album, I was trying a bit too hard. It’s an interesting concept because we are all told as young children to try our best and to put in as much effort as we can, but I think there is a point where you put in too much effort. You work too hard, you think too seriously about it all, and the damage that can be done is that you don’t enjoy it and that you are so lost in desperation to have it be a certain thing that you stop being honest as well, because you have this vision.
A vision is great and fine, but a vision is its own thing and if you put too much thought into it and try to guide it too much with your own ego, the creative spark it started from is lost. It took that whole first album process to make those mistakes and come back and realise how I was going to be able to that.”
His aesthetic has been closely tied to that of his influences, like John Butler, Xavier Rudd and The Beautiful Girls: that socially aware and environmentally engaged vein of Aussie music that took hold a few years back.
Is there a line to be drawn here though? Is it all for show or is there something to the wave of of consciousness in music? To this Churchill mused “It’s enormously important. I think that music is a platform to not only make people happy and help people get through things, but also a platform to help people find their way.”
“I know music served me enormously in that way when I was a teenager,” he continued. “I had all of this music that was giving this message for people to be kind and calm and considerate. It got cool and we were able to be lovely, kind, considerate and calm surfer dudes and it was cool to be that. You didn’t have to be a jerk and get into fights and tease people to be the cool one. I am definitely aware of a certain element of responsibility.”
Moving on, he began to open up about his responsibility as a songwriter. “I think it’s always important not to be preachy, in a sense I think that so many of the issues we are dealing with are so complicated,” he says.
“Some of them are incredibly simple, like please go out and vote for gay marriage to be allowed in Australia, that’s a very simple one. But there are lots of others that are very complicated. So I try to just go out and write songs about the way that I’m feeling and my adventure and struggle to be the best person I can be for myself and the people that I know and that in itself gets across those messages. I see it as a responsibility, but I also see it coming naturally to the process, which is nice. If you think about it too much you do become a bit preachy and in the end that doesn’t do anyone any good, because everyone switches off.”
It’s hard not to draw too many connections, but as Churchill insists, his intention is help the world around him in the ways that he can, if this means through his music then so be it.
But how does an artist like Churchill approach releasing a new album when his last was so incredibly successful? The lead single from Silence/Win, Window to The Sky, went absolutely wild, which is why it is understandable that Churchill has been very particular about the release of this record.
But then again, in the context of authenticity, it would appear that there is only so much analysis that can go in before the raw energy of the album is lost, and this is something that Churchill seemed to try and avoid.
“When Silence/Win came out, we didn’t think Window to the Sky was any more enjoyable or with more potential for success than anything else on the album,” he reflects, “but it turned out that it could do amazing things on its own. And that was amazing to see this song start it’s own life and cruise off and do it’s own thing.
For me the process was so mysterious and enigmatic, why that song got so much love? Why it did so well? I didn’t know how I was supposed to do that again and that was hard. I was like ‘Am I meant to be topping that? Am I meant to be doing something better than that? Am I meant to understand some formula to what that was?’ The pressure of what that song had achieved was like with any single, we can never understand why that is. It’s almost always because it was a good song, but there are always good songs. It was getting beyond that mysterious process and letting it go and writing the music that I was writing and not caring about whether it was going to successful or not.”
Despite an arduous creative process, it seems that Churchill is at peace with not only the material on it, but how it helped him develop as a songwriter. “I will always record albums and go through that process, and I think that this one was particularly powerful in the growth department.
It was a pretty drastic decision but I decided to rewrite the whole album. So I’ve been going through that whole process and understanding some pretty essential, internal guidelines for myself as a person and boundaries that I didn’t know were there. And I think in the case of learning about your own personal boundaries, you have to cross them. And I crossed a few and that lead to all kinds of trouble for a while, and I learnt from that in such a deep way, so this album will always represent that for me.”
And so, we are left with a record that comes from a place of honesty and positivity. Leaving the past at the door, Kim Churchill has given us a taste of the next chapter in Australian folk music with Weight Falls. And it would appear that no one is looking further ahead than him.
Listen to Weight Falls here.
Catch Kim touring in support of Weight Falls at the following dates and grab your tickets here.
THURSDAY 14 SEPTEMBER – CAMBRIDGE HOTEL, NEWCASTLE
FRIDAY 15 SEPTEMBER – UNIBAR, WOLLONGONG
SATURDAY 16 SEPTEMBER– STREET THEATRE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY 21 SEPTEMBER – THE JACK, CAIRNS
FRIDAY 22 SEPTEMBER – THE OFFICE, TOWNSVILLE
SATURDAY 23 SEPTEMBER – TIMBERFEST, MACKAY
FRIDAY 29 SEPTEMBER – CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE
SATURDAY 30 SEPTEMBER – KAROVA LOUNGE, BALLARAT
SUNDAY 1 OCTOBER – SOOKI LOUNGE, BELGRAVE
THURSDAY 5 OCTOBER – FAT CONTROLLER, ADELAIDE
FRIDAY 6 OCTOBER – WARATAH HOTEL, HOBART
SATURDAY 7 OCTOBER – ROYAL OAK, LAUNCESTON
FRIDAY 13 OCTOBER – FREMANTLE ARTS CENTRE FRONT LAWN, FREMANTLE
SATURDAY 14 OCTOBER – PRINCE OF WALES, BUNBURY
SUNDAY 15 OCTOBER – RED ROOM @ CLANCYS FISH PUB, DUNSBOROUGH
FRIDAY 20 OCTOBER – THE FACTORY, SYDNEY
THURSDAY 26 OCTOBER – SOLBAR, SUNSHINE COAST
FRIDAY 27 OCTOBER – SOUNDLOUNGE, GOLD COAST
SATURDAY 28 OCTOBER – THE TRIFFID, BRISBANE
Catch him busking around the country too.
TUESDAY 29 AUGUST – MANLY
TUESDAY 29 AUGUST – MAITLAND
WEDNESDAY 30 AUGUST – BACCHUS MARSH
WEDNESDAY 30 AUGUST – MELBOURNE
THURSDAY 31 AUGUST – BRISBANE