While Australian veterans, The Church, recently cancelled their European tour due to a tumble that left drummer, Tim Powles, with a fractured foot and blood clot in his leg, frontman Steve Kilbey didn’t let that stop him serenading UK audiences with a string of solo shows. Fresh off the plane and terribly jetlagged from screaming children, turbulence and a valium-triggered dream of the same nature, English-Australian singer-songwriter returns home to continue churning out songs and playing solo shows while the band takes a twelve-month recovery break. First stop, The Toff in Town on Saturday 27 July and then onto Montara Wines in Ararat for an intimate evening Under the Milky Way on Friday 2 August.
“When we do these shows there’s a lot of interaction happening. A lot of talking, a lot of joking around, a lot of stories, a lot of anecdotes,” Kilbey says. “It will be intimate, the real sense of the word.”
Kilbey will be presenting songs from his massive catalogue including solo works, collaborative pieces, The Church greats and some covers alongside Chilean musician Rodrigo Bustos. However, that selection doesn’t come easy with a discography of his size. In 2014, APRA reported that Kilbey had 750 original songs registered under his name, with that figure looking in the thousands now.
“That’s the tip of the iceberg. There are all these songs that nobody has ever heard from before The Church. There are probably 1000 songs that people haven’t heard and probably never will hear,” Kilbey says. “To put that into perspective, I believe Nick Cave and Paul Kelly have about 300 published songs. Not that I’m saying quantity is over quality of course, I’m just saying I’ve probably written more published songs than anybody in the world.”
The ARIA Hall of Famer definitely has a flair for standout songwriting and has no intention of shutting up shop any time soon. He recently collaborated with Gareth Koch and has an album ready for release with fellow Hall of Famer, Kate Ceberano, along with a number of other projects in the works.
“Unfortunately it’s weird. You can only make two albums a year. I’d like to make 20 a year. You can overkill it and release too much stuff. I write so much but I have to pace myself, I can’t just flood the market.”
He continues, “But that’s what I am, I’m a songwriter. That’s my vocation, it always has been ever since I was a kid I wanted to write songs and I don’t spend very long on writing the songs. I knock out songs in about 5 or 10 minutes. Recording them takes a lot longer but writing them is quick and easy for me. I just tune into the place and the place – I was reading a quote by Richard Wagner, the German composer and he said something I can totally agree with. He said ‘there’s a place I can tap into and when I get into it, it’s only limited by my capacity to draw the stuff out’ and I feel like that too. I feel I get into a place and it all just comes to me. I had to struggle, it hasn’t always been like that. When I was 16 I wasn’t like that.”
Though it doesn’t seem it with his accolades and status, the frontman has faced a number of struggles in his music career with The Church. Being dropped by labels numerous times, having their sound questioned with a desire for them to sound more like Little River Band, struggling to break into the European market (where they now have a cult following) and also being considered too old for the music business, Kilbey says persistence was key to their 40 year career which will be celebrated next year.
“A funny thing happened though in the 90’s it was a hard slog for us. We were seen as an old band. You know if you have a car that’s 20 years old, it’s just seen as an old car but if you hang onto that car for forty years it becomes a vintage car and then you’re talking a whole new territory, but we prevailed and we overcame being old and turned into veterans and that’s the reward if you keep going long enough,” laughs Kilbey.
“I have to keep going. I can’t stop. I just have an appetite for creation. Well, there was no alternative- what be an electrician or something? I can’t do anything else. I’m no good at anything else so I just keep on keeping on with music,” Kilbey says.
With his flair and passion, we truly hope the 64-year-old never stops. Don’t miss your chance to get up close and personal with Steve Kilbey at Montara Wines on Friday, August 2.
Tickets are on sale now and available via Eventbrite.
Written by Tammy Walters
Photo by TobyBurrows