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Mama Kin - Interview

  by Dave Goodwin

published: 6 / 6 / 2014

Mama Kin - Interview


Dave Goodwin speaks to rising Australian singer-songwriter Mama Kin on her first British tour about her extraordinary second album, 'The Magician's Daughter'

The sounds that coming out of Australasia at the moment are a breath of fresh air. Pennyblackmusic had the opportunity to have a chat with Australian soulstress Mama Kin. She had a new album to boast about, and was in Britain briefly for a one-off gig at the O2 Islington in London. The album, 'The Magician's Daughter', is the first to be released out of her home country. Hailing from Freemantle, Mama Kin is of great musical and entertainment stock. Funny and humorous, she bared her soul to us about her early days. She also revealed the more vulnerable side to one of the most highly regarded talents to come out of Australia in recent years. PB: I just wanted to congratulate you on the album. It's a real gem of an album. MK: Oh thank you. It’s good when someone has a relationship with a piece of work. I'm glad that you liked it, and it is nice when people like yourself genuinely feel something for it. I'm actually constantly surprised by it all, and I'm always walking round going, “Really?” or “Are you just talking shit?” PB: ‘The Magician’s Daughter’ isn't the first album though, is it? MK: No. I did an album before this called 'Beat and Holler'. There was also an EP before that called 'The Talisman'. This album though is the first that we have released anywhere else but Australia, so it's quite exciting how this album has captured the imagination of other places other than my own turf. PB: Is this new album any different in direction to 'Beat and Holler'? MK: Yeah. It's quite different. 'Beat and Holler' was my war cry. It was me racing out into the field baring my chest. Not baring my breasts, you understand, but my chest going, “Ahhh shit! This is me!” It was actually the scariest thing I've ever done, whereas 'The Magician’s Daughter' was me coming out as a musician and artist and questioning whether or not I'm an artist or not. Before it was like, “Here's what I've had to travel through to make this album,” and now with 'The Magician’s Daughter' it is more like, “Here I am and I've arrived in this place. “ It is more developed artistically. I absolutely love 'Beat and Holler' because it was a war cry for me. I still listen to it and go, “Fuck, this is a really cool album.” A lot of my fans who had bought 'Beat and Holler' said that this new album was totally different, and it took me out of any boxes that people may have put me. 'The Magician’s Daughter' opened up who I was personally, and also opened up who I was artistically to my audience. PB: Everything on the album is all your own work lyrically and musically, isn't it? MK: Yep, it's all mine! I did co-write one of them with my drummer. He had written this piece and I had some lyrics that I wanted to use, but had not as yet allocated to a song. PB: Which track was that? MK: 'Give Me a Reason'. But all the rest - and I'm just scanning all the songs in my mind so I am not telling a lie (Laughs) – and all the other tracks are written by me. PB: The standout track for me is 'Cherokee Boy'. MK: It freaks me out that so many people say that that track is the one for them! It's such a full on song and most people say, “That's the one that fucking hits me in the gut.” That includes my husband. When he came in the studio when we were recording it, he heard it once and there were tears rolling down his face. I didn't write it intentionally to make people cry. When I recorded this album, I brought the songs into the studio absolutely raw, and the band hadn't heard them, and I didn't want them to respond to the songs as they would respond to them live. I wanted them to respond with their instruments and go “Cool”. We'll play and record this song together, and respond to it as artists might respond when telling a story and try to support that story. I recorded it with my brother who plays keys, and every now and then I had to stop because I was in tears, and he said, “We are going to have to listen to the whole fucking song eventually, you know!” It took me a while to get to be with that song because it is a hard one to sing. On 'Beat and Holler' I was dealing with stuff that had actually happened to me, whereas on this album I was dealing with stuff that I had feelings of fear about and with the stuff that kept me up at night. 'Cherokee Boy' is a song about a woman losing her partner and with it the sense of continuity that she thought she was going to have, and all the ambitious investments you make in to the future with somebody, and all the promises you make, and what you do with that bag of promises when that somebody has gone. When I look at the relationship I have with my partner and my kids, that's the stuff that kind of keeps me up at night and I have to grapple with that. And that was the great thing about writing this album. I wanted to go, “Come on I want to deal with that thing that keeps me up at twelve o'clock at night!” I wake up at night scared that we might not be here tomorrow. I wanted to create a fictional story that supports that thing that makes me so personal, and that's what I enjoyed most about writing 'The Magician’s Daughter'. PB: There are a lot of songs over the years that have touched on or broached the subject,but I've not heard anything as stark but as powerful as that before. It just amazes me that we haven't heard anything from you before, even taking in to account that this is the first album to be released outside Australia. What have you been doing? MK: Well, I've been a bit of a late bloomer. I have a big family and I am one of six kids and all my siblings had a family band, so I sort of grew into it. I was musically inherent and learned to use music to communicate, express and articulate everything that happens in life. It was completely inherent to my being, and then when I was a teenager I discovered that couldn’t do that shit. I got butterflies, and I felt I wasn't as good as my sisters. Then I met this guy who I fell in love with and who was a prolific musician, and I went into this amazing support role. I thought that would be enough for me. But I started getting really resentful and people started to notice changes in my behaviour and it became a toxic environment where I wanted to express this thing that was so inherent, so as a mother of two kids I started releasing my music. And here I am some six years later. PB: And, of course, your mum Iris was actually a magician's daughter? MK: Yeah, she is the original magician's daughter. My grandfather was also a magician in post-World War Two Malta, and she was his assistant for a time. She was one of thirteen children, and I was always fascinated by the relationship they shared as I grew up with this man whose whole craft was trickery. They had this incredible bond and telepathy between them in how they communicated and acted together, and it always struck me what existed in her psyche was the archetype for the man based on what she saw as her father. And then beyond that there was this idea that their sole goal in their performance was to open the idea of magic to people, and in that magic exists, and you are creating a moment of perspective shift or you are creating a moment of possibility in opening the place where magic exists. So, yeah, this idea of this whole craft of suspending disbelief was fantastic (Laughs). PB: The producer on ‘The Magician’s Daughter’ is Jan Skubiszewski, who also worked on the Cat Empire’s latest album ‘Steal the Empire’. MK: That's right! In fact, Harry and his wife from the Cat Empire are very good friends of mine, and they suggested Jan when I was looking for someone to produce ‘The Magician’s Daughter’. I actually worked with three or four other producers up to the recording of ‘The Magician’s Daughter’ and I really didn't know what it was I was looking for, but I knew I would recognise it if I found it. Within three hours of being in the room with Jan, I knew he was the one to make the album with me. We made a very fast and solid friendship in the making of it. PB: What do you think he brought to the album? MK: I think he brought cinema to it. A real sort of cinematic visual quality to it. I think that is what has helped to translate the stories in the album in such a potent way. I don't think he could have recorded and produced my voice in such a more cinematic way than he did without actually making a visual representation for it. PB: And what does the future hold for Mama Kin? When do we see you back in Britain? MK: Well, tonight is my first solo show here at the O2 Islington and it looks like it's sold out! It's gone well, so we will definitely come back at some point and hopefully do a few festivals. PB: And the next album? MK: I'm just doing a little side project as a palette cleanser with some stripped back almost Americana stuff with a friend of mine. I then will probably be talking to the band and will thrash out some new ideas. Usually the process for me is very, very private, and then I start to hear things that I like, and I start collecting the ideas, and I'm sort of doing that right now, so there is definitely another album on the way. PB: Thank you.

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Mama Kin - Interview

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The Magician's Daughter (2014)
Emotive second album from Australian singer-songwriter and soul musician, Mama Kin

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