January 21, 2013  |  Interview


To say I was nervous about this interview would be an understatement! I don’t think I’d be human if I wasn’t. Mama Kin is a big hero of mine, and when I got the opportunity to talk to her it was a real pinch worthy moment. I’m sitting down in the safe surrounds of my home, but already I can feel my heartbeat grow faster and my hands start to shake as I punch in the numbers. I never needed to hit call however, as the call suddenly came the other way from Danielle herself! Who could blame her? As one of Australia’s most quickly rising acts, she’s a busy lady, especially with her new album, The Magicians Daughter, coming out in February. “Hello, is that Liam?” a familiar voice asks from the other end. I try to stay composed, but listening back to the recording, I did a pretty terrible job. Mama Kin was even more warm and loving than I expected and it was a blast to share a few words (even if auto correct made me mispronounce her new album)! I hope I did her larger than life personality justice in the following interview. I hope you enjoy!

Your family is very musical, with yourself and brothers Michael (Mama Kin, John Butler Trio) and Nicky Bomba (John Butler Trio, Bomba, Bustamento, Melbourne Ska Orchestra) being prominent musicians in Australia. What was it about your upbringing that made you and your sibling so musical?

My dad was kind of a frustrated musician so to speak, so we’d all get together and all play as a family. I suppose it really wasn’t an option for me. I remember going to school for the first time! It was really nerve wracking. I came home absolutely balling my eyes out and I ran to my sister in absolute hysterics! I had gone around asking all the kids what they played? And the answers were all like, “oh netball… basketball”. I was like, “No, what instrument?” and they kind of looked at me weirdly. So for the first time I realised that not everyone played music, and being in my family, I thought that’s just what you did, you know?

Did you have a “big break” to get you where you are now? Or did you gradually build tit up over time?

It’s funny when people say that (laughs), “To get where you are now.” Because I don’t really think I’m anywhere! I’d say I’ve always had a great support around me with my friends and family, and that’s really helped me and my musical career. We’ve been lucky to get some pretty big festivals recently, and because of that we’ve always had to step up and deliver. Which has helped us progress to that next level. Playing live is a massive risk to take really, and to have my own little community there is a really great thing.

Your live show is one of the best I’ve seen…

- Oh stop it you! (laughs).

No really! It’s so casual and loving, yet so effective. Was that your goal? Did you have a certain idea about the aura and atmosphere you wanted to give off? Or did it all come naturally?

Really… without sounding like a twat, it’s just who I am. To really bare all that I am live is a really full on thing to do, and to try and get a relationship with the audience in just a 40-minute set is especially hard too! I just try to put myself into the atmosphere with the songs, and I suppose that’s the result.

How much effort and planning do you put into your live show?

Well, the planning is all musical. I’m a big believer in rehearsals and fleshing things out, and it’s something not to be taken lightly. I think if you’re going to get on stage, it better be amazing! A high standard with the show is something I really strive for. The banter thing too is something that comes out naturally. I haven’t planned what I’m going to say at all, and it’s something that sometimes does make me a tad nervous. You do think, “Oh shit! I have no idea what I’m going to say!” Or you don’t know how certain things are going to go, but it’s something I really love doing in the end.

Your sophomore album The Magician’s Daughter comes out in February. Did you change the way you go about recording your music this time around?

Yeah, well last time it was pretty planned. For The Magician’s Daughter I didn’t prepare any of the songs, they were very raw. We were very in touch with painting a landscape with the album, and letting the songs do that. In the last one (Beat & Hollar) we knew what each song was going to do, where this time we would record them and then see where they’d take us.

The first single off the new album was Was it Worth It? The music video was probably your most artistic endeavor yet. Who came up with the idea for that? Are there any hidden symbolism or metaphors in there?

I came up with the idea. It was about the range of questions and relationships it takes to do anything. Whether to do something in relation to your life or your family, and then when you DO, do it, that you should really be in the moment and enjoy it. The music video was about; I suppose, the ultimate confines, and restricting yourself so much that you can’t connect to anything.

Watch it here!

What’s in store for Mama Kin in the future?

Lots of writing and lots of playing… John’s (John Butler (husband)) got an album coming out late this year, and I’ve got one coming out in February, so we’re flat out and very busy. Whether it’s recording, playing shows, looking after the kids or promoting our albums, but big things!

And just like that I had to say “see you later” to Danielle Caruana, as she was off to another interview (which I’m sure wasn’t her last that day). It was a real high point in my musical journalism career and I’m eagerly awaiting her next move!

The Magician’s Daughter comes out on the 25th of February. Presales are available via her website. Mama Kin is on iTunes, Facebook, Youtube, Triple J Unearthed, Twitter and Soundcloud. Her previous album Beat & Hollar and her first EP Papoose are available now as well. Was It Worth It? Is available on iTunes and the music video is uploaded on Youtube.

Mama Kin are touring starting March, all around Australia. All details are on her website!



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1 Comment

  1. Hi Liam,
    We recently saw Mama Kin for the first time at the Fairbridge festival a couple of weeks ago and she was fantastic.
    As you mentioned, it was one of the best gigs we have seen and are going to see her in the Fly by Night in Fremantle at the end of May.
    She was a great entertainer and very down to earth.
    Her hubby (John) also did a workshop at Fairbridge and was also great – i would love to be a neighbour of theirs.
    Look forward to more “Mama gigs” in the future.

    Cheers – Gareth & Debra.

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