Mama Kin explores and connects

Fremantle’s soulful raconteur, Mama Kin, releases her sophomore LP, The Magician’s Daughter, this month and will tour the record in March. Jess O’Callaghan has a conversation with her for Something You Said:

Your live shows are the stuff of legend – people who have seen you perform at Woodford Folk Festival in Australia leave the mountains practically evangelical Mama Kin fans. How do you go about translating the energy and intimacy you bring to a live show into an album?
I think it might be heat exhaustion! I love playing Woodford; it is one of the rare and magical festivals where the audience is really there for NEW musical experiences as well as their old favourites. The organisers do an incredible of job of programming an immensely diverse range of artists and this makes for a lot of happy punters! As for translating my live shows into an album, I approach live shows and albums very differently. I don’t try to make them the same. When I am in the studio I am having a long creative process, broad and fine paint strokes, exploring, defining, articulating, trying to create pathos. In a live setting you have the moment, you can pull on what is actually around you, play with the energy of the room, tell the story, delve in to the emotion in a different way.

The artwork for The Magician’s Daughter is brilliantly bold, with cactus and flowers and you looking all Frida Kahlo-esque. Where did the idea come from? Is it a theme we can hear in the album?
I think if I had to give the album a theme it would be exploration, alchemy and connection. I love the artwork. Clarie Foxton did an amazing job. The photo on the cover was actually from a shoot I did quite some time ago, and it kept on resurfacing as such a strong image to use. I had my concerns about the Frida-ness of the pic, but in the end couldn’t go past it. All the other pics of the piano and the cactuses and the cactus flowers were shots I have taken. Some that I took while on a 2 month desert trip in 2012.

There was almost three years between Beat and Holler and The Magician’s Daughter, was there a difference in recording them? How is your second album different from the debut?
The gap was something that just happened with life and timing and writing etc. I tried not to be in a rush. The recording process was entirely different. With Beat and Holler we did heaps of pre-production and so when it came to recording everything came down mostly to the sounds and the performances. With The Magician’s Daughter I took the majority of the songs in super raw, not even fleshed out with the band yet. Then we built them up sonically and crafted them from the recording space rather than from how we had rehearsed them as a band. I really enjoyed this approach, and I really enjoyed the Beat and Holler approach… they both reaped different pros and cons.

What’s your favourite song on the new album? Can you tell me a bit about it?
Today my favourite song is Cherokee Boy. It was one of those songs that just fell out of me. It is really sad and sometimes I don’t even feel like I can hold myself to sing it, but I think it is really beautiful too. I love the space in it and the feeling of it and the energy of the recording fits the story really well.

You’ve been very vocal as an activist as well as a musician – what drew you to campaigns like Save the Kimberly and Stand for Freedom?
My desire to live in a place and an environment where peace can exist. I have two children, I am committed to their wellbeing and I don’t think that begins and ends in our home. Their wellbeing is influenced by their family, their community, their planet. I also love being connected to a community. I see myself as being accountable not just for my children and for my wellbeing, but for the wellbeing of my friends and their children as well. So with this in mind activism is just a part of being invested in community and committed to peace and wellbeing.

You never seem to stop, albums and philanthropy and family and activism. February 22nd is the new album’s release, do you have plans for the rest of 2013?
2013 is such an exciting year. I am so excited. Last year felt hard. Recording, mixing, artwork etc… although I love it, it is a process that puts me on the edge because I have to dig deep to make the art I want to make. This year feels like I get to enjoy and celebrate all that hard work.



Interview by Jess O’Callaghan. Mama Kin is on tour in Australia throughout March. Dates here.