Sean Kemp is a favourite of ours on the local music scene and chances are that you would have seen him supporting some of the big names coming in town. We’re really excited for Sean as 2018 will be a huge year for him releasing his album Flicka to the world and no doubt a whole host of opportunities will be coming his way. Sean takes time out to answer a few questions for Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles.
Do you feel the pressure is off now that the album is finished?
Not really, I don’t feel pressure with anything that I do as I try not to have any expectations. Saying that, many, many punters have asked me countless times after playing support shows if I had any type of recording and it was always “Working on it”. So, after that request many times, I finally started scheduling and just got it done. There might be some pressure with a follow up as this recording has gained some good reviews and initial, positive response. I’m pretty blown away by that as I didn’t invest heaps of time into the project. The songs were a breeze to record , Drew and Kirsten nailed their parts with ease and Craig(producer) was pretty snappy with the turn-a-round.
Is it hard letting go of songs knowing that there’s not much more spit polish that can be added?
I was relieved to finally put these songs into a structured, recorded format. As I was saying before, the intention to spend hours on the songs was never a priority. They’re straight forward, acoustic songs with harmonies, added lead guitar and some light percussion. Also, apart from being a guitarist and vocalist, I’m a drummer and percussionist, so the light percussion work was done in one take, I already had the idea in my head from way back when the songs were first written! In the future, I think I’ll further experiment with bass, drums, keys and other interesting percussive instruments I can get my hands on. Eventually it’d be nice to turn my act into some sort of band, I can hear other features being added for sure! Just to add to the experience.
Did you feel that this album really challenged you in ways you never knew it would?
For sure. For starters I’m quite amazed it came together so quickly – But I didn’t feel challenged, as such. The songs have been rehearsed and performed live quite a few times, we knew the material intimately – Like every musician, should. I’m always prepared to over-dub, play something again, build the vocals, add bits and pieces here and there, it goes along with the creative territory, always expecting that a recording is your chance to put the songs under a micro-scope and see how it comes out.
What was the biggest learning you took away from the experience?
With a recording, there will always be something you can take away and that’s the beauty of recording music. This time, I really focused on how our vocals would sound, together as it’s a massive feature of the act when we perform live. Drew and Kirsten, both have excellent voices so there was never a doubt in my mind. The end result, especially for the time we spent, I was very happy with the results and knew I would be. Craig(our producer) Was really relaxed and just let it flow. He understood that we had all the ideas intact and just let all of us just do our thing.
With the way listening to music is going do you still believe in the concept of an album?
Of course! I write about love, loss, friendships and sometimes mental health as those four subjects are pretty important to me. That’s my concept, and already people can relate to those things. A conceptual album, I believe should be about giving something back to the listener. I make music for myself, but also make music and write lyrics that people can relate to. Kirsten has been extremely influential with how we tell a story from start to finish. Story-telling through song can be very powerful and that’s the true craft. Inventing the music/melodies/catchy choruses and then piecing together a lyrical journey the listener can catch onto and make up their own mind.
Is it too early to have a favourite track?
I do like all of the songs on this record, but if I had to pick a favourite it would be Something About Her, a did a tour a couple of years ago and the reviewer of the show I played at Her Majesty’s Theatre said it was a ‘country music hit’. I guess, yes, it’s got an alternative country feel to it and in a funny way that’s where I’m heading slightly with my music. Not all of my songs follow this path but my influences range from ‘Nirvana un-plugged’ to The Sleepy Jackson, so, there is country-feel there in the song-writing. Also, I really like REM, Ryan Adams and heaps of American music particularly from Seattle and that part of the states.
Supporting so many great artists, which has been your favourite and do you have an interesting story to share?
A hard question to answer, but also an easy one. Playing Thebarton Theatre to 2,000 people opening for Dionne Warwick. It was also my brother’s fortieth birthday on stage and I got the crowd to sing ‘happy birthday’, to him. We got along really well with Dionne’s entourage and they asked me to send music to her management. She then posted a picture of us to her personal Facebook page that got hundreds of likes and comments. We also did get to meet Dionne that night, she was lovely, such a legendary musician who has one Grammy’s, also the auntie of Whitney Housten. One other (apart from many) was opening a show for Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet. You listen to them, still, on the radio and his vocals just stand out. Even now, thirty years later he still has the same consistency in his vocal range and was one of the nicest, huge stars I’ve ever met.
What was your first reaction to hearing your song on the radio?
Always exciting! I’ve heard my music on Triple J and Three D Radio but other great radio shows such as The Local, WOW, This is our sound, Radio Adelaide, Coast FM in South Australia have been giving me some solid spins, Three D Radio made the EP ‘Release of the week’. I do really, really love getting played on the radio, a friend of mine, and fellow musician put a call out for ‘Break-up’ songs as she was doing a special on it, for her radio show. Well, which song ya want! Ha ha. She ended up playing a song I wrote called Break-up, which was also featured on the radio stations yearly compilation CD. Always incredibly grateful for any airplay, it’s amazing.
Will touring take Sean Kemp around the country and possibly overseas?
Yes indeed I am planning some touring and will eventually go back to America as I’ve performed in California. I have some solid friendships in LA and also Las Vegas and that’s where I’ll head, again. When I have everything sorted, I’ll share the dates and the act I’m on the road with. For now, will just play locally. I toured for many years and it’s something I still love to do but in Australia it’s expensive and I’m not too fussed anymore. But, the opportunities are presenting themselves so I’ll take some time off from my day job and off we go!
What does the rest of 2018 look like for Sean Kemp?
It’ll be busy. Apart from this band, I also perform in Surviving Sharks plus Jessie and The Beating Hearts, so those bands always give me something to do and I love it. I’ve been writing more music so inevitably the studio will beckon and I’ll re-record. As I was mentioning before, next time I’ll invite my bass playing/ piano/ keys playing buddies in to add their touch and I’ll also set up the drum kit and lay down some beats. More supports, more airplay and I’ll do what I always do – Get out and enjoy more music as much as I can! That’s the inspiration.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Sean Kemp CD Launch
Sunday 15th APRIL, The Wheaty
4pm – 7:30pm
With very special guests – Bullfight
ALL AGES, Free entry.