Kim Churchill sits, on the edge of his chair, out the back of the Artist’s Enclosure, away back behind the Mojo Stage – one of few quiet spots to be found during the five day marathon that is Byron Bay’s Bluesfest. He’s got an old Mount Franklin water bottle on the table in front of him, filled with an unidentified orange liquid, and he’s got a smile on his face – he’s just finished his third set for the weekend, and there will be a few weeks of respite before a national tour begins, ostensibly to promote his latest release, Detail Of Distance.
The orange liquid in the water bottle isn’t alcohol, it’s most likely some sort of juice, as Churchill has almost completely lost his voice. Two days prior, I’d interviewed him on stage as part of the Rhythms Q&A Sessions, and it was pretty thin then – and he still had two sets to play. “It was great, but it set a new bar for how screwed up your vocals can be and still do the gig,” he croaks with a laugh when I ask how his set that morning had gone.
“It kinda worked though, because three or four songs in, I said to the crowd, ‘My voice is fucked, you know it, I know it’, and so then it was just like, ‘It’s my last set at Bluesfest, and I don’t give a crap and I’m gonna do what I can anyway’, so [the set] had this vibe of, you know, when it’s raining and everybody decides to just dance around in the rain anyway? It had that kind of vibe to it.”
To be honest, this is a vibe you’ll find at most Kim Churchill shows. I’d caught one of his sets earlier in the weekend and the pure joy that radiates off the stage is enough to make anyone dance with reckless abandon – even a crusty journo like yours truly. It’s something Churchill has always brought, ever since he first stepped up onto a stage, and it’s something he carries to this day, with no sign of it becoming lost. A KC show is a joyous event – for him, yes, and because of that, for his audience.
Something else that struck me when watching him play over the Bluesfest weekend, and something which immediately became apparent on listening to his new record, his second official long-player, the aforementioned Detail Of Distance, was how much this young man has evolved as an artist and musician. His instrumentation is more complex, his arrangements are fuller, his lyrics are deeper. This is a man who isn’t just making music for music’s sake, this is a journey, and as he says to me at some point during the interview, “once you stop looking to continue this journey, then it’s over, the art is over.”
Kim Churchill, whilst still at school, studied classical guitar, for around ten years. When he first came to attention then, when I first interviewed him around four years ago, it boggled my mind that this guitar technique and style wasn’t being utilised more in his music. Sure, he was good, but as was pointed out at the time – ad nauseum, as far as Churchill would have been concerned – it was basically like seeing a new Xavier Rudd emerge upon the scene. This though, is a comparison that is no longer applicable – Kim Churchill is, as mentioned, evolving, and evolving hard.
“Yeah, it took a while to get rid of that comparison, and I have a different view on it now,” he says philosophically. “Honestly, I got quite frustrated with it for a while, but what I had to realise was that, for me, it was a general state of maturing to the point of being able to understand it; every artist that wants to be a performer, has to go through a process of sounding very much their inspirations and their influences – it’s an imperative part of the process of finding your own sound.”
Samuel J. Fell