I caught up with Paul Kelly on the morning of his first full UK show where he is touring in support of his recently released 23rd studio album Life Is Fine (EMI). As Kelly stared out on the banks of the River Avon in Bristol, reminiscing on Shakespeare’s hay-day, I asked him if he experienced ‘culture shock’ when touring the US or UK. ‘It’s more like culture familiarity…the first time I went to America…everywhere we went reminded us of a song or a movie or a TV show…and of course, England, my favourite writer is Shakespeare…so England feels deeply familiar as well’.
Kelly was very pleased that the shows on the Australian leg of the tour have been selling well, ‘It was a fun record to make and we know it will be a fun record to play, we’re all pretty excited’. I asked Kelly if he was surprised by the response to the album given it has granted him his first #1 album in the ARIA charts. ‘I knew the record would be a bit more accessible than some of the recent records, a record of Shakespeare Sonnets, that’s not for everyone, I know that…they [EMI] said to me “Are you going to do a normal record?” and I said, yeah, this one is going to be more normal, my version of normal…I wanted it to be upbeat, a real band record, playful, lots of harmonies’.
This album was recorded with a ‘live’ feel where the musicians play at the same time in the same room giving it a natural vibe. ‘I’ve been making my records like that for awhile now…getting more confident about getting a good vocal take with the band and everyone playing together…I mean it is challenging, it takes a lot of concentration but much more fun…I’ve always tried to make records pretty quick, even in the 80s which was dominated by multi-tracking’.
Working with the same musicians over many years allows Kelly and his band to do most of the work in the studio. Vika and Linda Bull, who Kelly has been working with for 25 years both feature on lead vocals on the album. ‘I just love singing with them…they sing great harmonies and they can also step up and take the lead so I wanted to use the whole range of what they can offer…I realise I should’ve done this 30 years ago, have others sing on my record’.
The theme of water comes out strongly on Life Is Fine, with song titles like Rock Out On the Sea and Letter In the Rain, as well as the front cover adorned with Kelly almost completely submerged in the ocean. ‘I am aware water creeps into a lot of my songs…I don’t really know why…simply that I like water, I’ve always liked being by the sea, I live by the sea now, every time I go to a strange city or a new city I always look for the water…so I’m not surprised it’s always seeping into my songs’.
Kelly and band will play two shows in Adelaide on November 22 (sold out) and 23 (new show) at the Entertainment Centre. ‘I’ve never played the Entertainment Centre and I’m really pleased…I’m really looking forward to it, we’ve got a really good show with Steve Earle & Middle Kids’.
Tickets for the show available at ticketek.com.au.
by James Hickey