Adelaide musician and stalwart of the scene, Sean Kemp and his folk-acoustic-pop trio (with Kirsten Glover and brother Drew Kemp) have a new EP and it’s already getting some love on national radio station triple j and local stations Three D and Radio Adelaide.
Flicka is a five-track collection of tunes featuring Sean’s signature rootsy-folk hooks and straight-from-the-heart lyrics and you can listen to it here.
Opening tracks ‘Breaking on Me’ and ‘Sign’, written by Sean in collaboration with Kirsten, are inspired by life, love and how it can pass us by sometimes.
“‘Breaking on Me’ came about after I’d met someone on New Year’s Eve and, via social media, she let me know at the party she had run into her ex-boyfriend and they were now back together,” Sean says.
“‘Sign’ was written after every time I looked at social media or watched television, someone, somewhere, was getting married! Kirsten Glover is my songwriting partner, so, I will always come up with the idea, melody, guitar-lines, and then Kirsten and I will work together to complete the song. She’s extremely talented and helps me finish the story I start, and puts everything into context so it flows and reads well.
“They’re always a hit when I’m playing live. The songs have great harmonies and I know audiences pick up on that and find it a unique aspect of the live performance, particularly by a trio. ‘Sign’ will be released as another single in 2018.”
The final track on the E.P., ‘RUOK’ is about mental health issues which are rife in our world today and is a track that reaches out and offers encouragement to talk about it.
“People always ask me about that song,” Sean says. “It’s about mental health struggles and overcoming it. Someone asked me if they could have that song as they were putting on a charity night raising money for suicide prevention. I happily gave the song away and they are using it as part of their campaign. I’m always willing to be open about mental health. If I can use music to save lives or help someone overcome their battles internally, then bring it on.”
Influenced by grunge bands of the nineties, multi-instrumentalist Sean brings this to his lyricism and songwriting.
“Before I started playing guitar (I am also a drummer), I used to really enjoy the MTV Unplugged Sessions back in the ’90s and I really think that aroused my interests in acoustic music,” he says. “Particularly how Kurt Cobain wrote such simple, powerful songs or how Pearl Jam made their music really emotive and this came to the surface during their unplugged performance. I love songwriters that can conjure up thoughts with simple lyrics and chords. The whole Seattle, Athens Georgia, Aberdeen music scene really appealed to me when I was first writing music. Bands like REM, Nirvana, The Screaming Trees, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains – I can’t deny that this is what excited me about songwriting. I also really admire artists like Josh Pyke, Pete Murray, Silverchair and Crowded House. They’re technically New Zealand but we’ve claimed them!”
While being a working musician in little old Adelaide can be challenging, Sean reckons he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else making his music.
“I feel any musician in Adelaide can achieve what they want. It’s just knowing what sort of message you want to project to the planet. It’s that simple,” he says. “A few years ago, I attended a keynote speech by John Watson who manages Silverchair, Missy Higgins and others. He said, ‘Every musician has their own definition for success’. It really struck a chord with me. What he said was extremely profound: know yourself back to front and the challenges will be exciting and fruitful.”
And while Flicka has been getting attention on the airwaves already, Sean is keen to keep getting his music to people’s eyes and ears and keep writing.
“More airplay on Triple J would be great!” he laughs. “I also want to do some more touring and more bigger supports. Kirsten and I are working on some newer songs, so I’ll most probably keep the ball rolling and record more music. I’ll also re-set up my home studio again, so I can demo all the time and keep evolving.”
But in the meantime, Sean is grateful for the awesome support gigs and headline shows he has played, especially when he got to sing to his brother with a full house at Thebby.
“I recently did some support shows with the Black Sorrows and have always been a big fan. At one of the shows, Joe Camilleri got me up on stage to sing ‘Chained to the Wheel’ which is one of their big hits. But if Lily Allen ever called me up to open for her, I’d say yes in a heartbeat! I’m a big fan of her brutal honesty and have always admired her singing voice. It’s also awesome to sing with some local songwriters like Emily Davis, Bec Stevens and Sasha March. I think they write incredible music so check ‘em out!” he says.
“I supported Dionne Warwick at Thebarton Theatre to a sold-out audience. My brother. who also plays in the band turned 40 that night, so I got 2000 people to sing happy birthday to Drew. It was a great moment. Playing for the second time at Thebarton Theatre, I was less nervous than the first time and that made for a really good show.”
Words by Jennifer Sando and Libby Parker
Photo by Kay Cann