INTERVIEW: Kieran Wicks on sticking to his guns

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Music

Sticking to my Guns is the debut release for local artist and touring musician, Kieran Wicks. He’s spent the couple of years touring Australia with Australian comedian, Chris Franklin, as part of The Court Jesters Music and Comedy Roadshow. In our interview, amongst other things,  he tells us how that influenced the music you can hear on his album. 

You’ve been in the music industry for a long time.  Where did your musical journey start?

The Music Business courses through the TAFE have been invaluable to me. I enrolled in Certificate 2 at 16 and haven’t looked back. But a bloke by the name of Steven Pickett gave me my first actual “job” in the industry working at the infamous Igloo Recording and Rehearsal Studio back in the day.

This is where I met the who’s who of the Newcastle Music industry and forged many an everlasting friendship.

I went on to be part of several teams who conceived and established local music publications U-Turn, Volume and Reverb Street-presses, as well as producing and hosting 2NUR’s local music program Wet Cement (Where local music can leave an impression…) as well as student radio for a number of years in the early Noughties. This progressed into moving into and working in the corporate media, and entertainment world with large events companies and record labels.

All of it was a steep learning curve for what was to come….

Who do you regard as your main musical influences?

Bill Hicks.

The Evening Son, Cotton Sidewalk, The Screaming Jets

Eric Clapton, Tool, Porcupine Tree, Big Wreck, Faith No More, Cog, Dead Letter Circus, Karnivool, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Live, Led Zeppelin, Creedence, Neil Young, Rage Against The Machine, RHCP, Bob Segar, System of a Down, The Tea Party, The Badloves, Chocolate Starfish, Incubus, Opeth, Pantera, The Cruel Sea… ok I will stop now.    

You seem to have now developed an individual musical persona – how would you define it?

Ahhhh, the Outlaw persona…. Yes, well… ahhh, no nonsense, mysterious and secretive, a dark depth of character, perseverance, rough and true, all meant to provoke sensations of a dangerous and romantic new frontier in music and song-writing.

Who are some of the artist’s you’ve performed with?

I’ve been incredibly lucky to share the stage with Cotton, Keyes & Morris, Chocolate Starfish, Dave Evans (AC/DC), Bruno Lucia, Zackari “King of Singing” Watt, Daniel March, Mark Wells, Adam Miller and Marissa Saroca to name but a few.

I also spent the last couple of years touring Australia with iconic Australian comedian, Number 1 recording artist and all round ‘bloke’ Chris Franklin, as part of The Court Jesters Music and Comedy Roadshow. This show took me all over the country playing my music to sold-out audiences nationwide.

You’ve been doing a lot of travelling over recent years. Where have you been and why did you undertake these journeys?

I’ve played shows all around Australia, From Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth, to Hobart in the South, Mt Isa in Outback Queensland and everywhere in between. 2 horse town gigs with a couple of hundred in attendance, to Capital city shows with 2 horses in attendance.

I was fortunate enough in 2014 to be selected as the patron entertainer for an initiative that took entertainment (music and comedy) out to rural drought affected communities that couldn’t otherwise afford entertainment. Spending 18 months criss-crossing the nation, showcasing my debut E.P Hunter & King, alongside some of Australia’s most iconic comedians, bringing social and mental respite to drought affected communities, whilst simultaneously raising awareness throughout our broader community of the plights that many on the land face day to day. This resulted in the formation of a charity (The Five Generations Association) in an effort to address the mental health issues and legal aid needs of those affected by predatory banking practices. There are a LOT of people concerned about the future of our country and the implications of unconscionable corporate conduct, manufactured foreclosures and predatory banking practices etc, who want to engage in the conversation and find solutions.

What would you say was the biggest highlight of your recent travels?

Outrunning Cyclone Debbie.

Back in March, for my birthday I decided to treat myself on a ‘holiday’ tour up to the Whitsundays to finally see the wonders of the Reef before it’s too late. I arrived for my show at KC’s Bar in Airlie Beach 3 days before the eye of the storm decimated the heart of this tourist village.

That morning, perched high upon a mountainside, I thankfully awoke in my trusty rooftop camper, after taking refuge in its feeble if not illusionary shelter for the night, in a cloud, in the middle of a lightning storm. 

I had been camped out for a couple of days and planned on making the final few hours of my journey the morning of the show, but mother-nature had other plans, flooding the road I had gained access through. I had only seen two cars pass me in the two days that I had been camped out. I had no choice but to take the dirt road in the opposite direction with no real indication other than dodgy Google maps of what may lay ahead of me. After successfully negotiating a few sketchy water passes and 60kms of thick clay mud in the middle of god knows where, I left the red sludge and headed north along the bitumen for about 20 kms before coming across a town (servo / caravan park), to be told the road ahead was covered in water and that I would have to make a 100km detour south to get back to the main highway.

Longer story short, I got to the ball on time before bolting south the following morning to avoid Debbie’s wrath.

I’m going back this August to launch my new album, and finally see the reef and survey the recovery process of the towns left in her wake.

You’ve just released your new album, ‘Sticking To My Guns’ – does the album’s title reflect something about you and your musical journey?

100%

Strength, resolve, patience.

I’ve wanted to give up so many times, but I’ve got to stay true to who and what I am.

“Deeper and deeper

I’ll dig my hole

Deeper and deeper

Till I strike gold”

Sticking to My Guns

You can stream and download it here www.KieranWicks.com/music

How would you describe the music you write and perform?

Honest

“It’s all here; the elements of raw emotion, poetic observation, exceptional musicianship, driving, tribal, caveman rhythms, soaring lead guitar, impassioned melody, thick grooving basslines, rich wistful harmonies, and a heartbreaking palette of strings, keys and horns and didgeridoo, animating perennial tales served up on tasty, tasty hooks. A psychoacoustic production masterpiece incorporating 20 different instruments, Sticking to My Guns is an epicurean melting pot. Engaging a kaleidoscope of senses in its experience”.

Who are the musicians that play with you on the album?

Producing everyone separately over 3 years, I handpicked each muso who appears on the album, all musical luminaries in their own rights. I’m eternally grateful to each one of them for their support and inspirational contributions. I couldn’t have done it without any one of them, especially my engineer and co-producer Steven “the Ear” Dawson at Dawson Audio.

  • Luke Price (The Evening Son, Light Noise, Cotton Sidewalk, The Romeo Knights) – Bass / Drums
  • Jason Tyler (Helena Kitley, Steely Divas, Zoe K) – Keyboard / Piano / Organ
  • Peter Bird (Aroldytes Revenge, Renaissance Bird) – Backing Vocals / Saxophone / Tuba / Trumpet / Clarinet / Kazoo
  • Reuben Andrew (Viper Creek Band, Auriel Andrew) – Didgeridoo
  • Nick Munro – Violin / Mandolin
  • Carmen Corser – Cello
  • Kieran Wicks – Vocals / 6 string, 12 string, electric and slide guitars / percussion.
  • Mastered by Brian ‘Big Bass’ Gardner (Big Wreck, QOTSA,  Alice in Chains, Foo Fighters, Bowie, Creedence, Queen, Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, The Band, Ozzy Osbourne, Sinatra)

‘Things Start Speeding Up’ is the lead single – tell us about that song . . .

The album closer, this is a song about heartbreak, reflection, desperation, and loss of control, but with an overwhelming sense of resolve and purpose. It has a distinct darkness, passion, and smoky atmosphere to it, that sets a defiant tone for Sticking to My Guns.

In the context of the wider album, there is a tender heartfelt love song (Forever and a Day) earlier on, which was written about the same woman at the height of our fated romance.

Things Start Speeding Up was penned at the demise of our bond and is one of a dozen failed attempts at rekindling our love through song.

“Running In Slow Motion” is incredibly evocative – what did you set out to achieve with this song and how did you do it?

Firstly thankyou

I wanted to evoke a certain depth of field to the soundscape. This song is multi layered in its meaning and as such the music and production therein had to reflect this.

It’s about waiting on the world to get its shit together so that I can move onto the next task / level / thing. It’s about the dress rehearsal for this reality that “Ground-Hog Day” scenarios and lucid dreaming states present as key tools of manifestation in this dimensional plain of consciousness.

Lyrically it attempts to step through the stages of realisation and discovery, philosophy and theory, helplessness and futility. It conveys the urgency and panic of all the data and shadows coming at us in our dream-state, whilst remaining in a clear, calm and concise voice.

It’s like, “I’ve got all this shit worked out, so why aren’t things happening as fast as I would like them to?”

As far as how we achieved this, it all comes down to the arrangement. Selecting the specific instrumental shade to illustrate and invoke a certain emotional response and engagement.

Arranging 20 instruments, there is a lot going on…

Having each instrument speak to the others in a sort of call and response manner, telling the story, without speaking over one another. Everything has its place.

Lots of doorways are opened, commanding multiple listens just to get your head around everything that is going on. Strap yourself in, pick a melody or an instrument and get lost between the notes.

The album’s cover is an interesting piece of artwork – who did it and how did the concept come about?

My old friend Zackari “King of Singing” Watt came up with the concept when we were spit-balling ideas. He is the most creative mind I’ve ever known. His imagination is on steroids and I asked him to sprinkle some of his magic on my project.   

Trying to come up with visuals that match the music was a challenge personally as it has always been so hard to be objective about something that I am the subject of. Describing my own music is like being asked to describe my own face…..

Eventually we settled on imagery similar to the Eagles Desperado and Bon Jovi’s Young Guns archetypes. The elements of the wild-west and colonial Australia without the country music connotations.

My friend and photographer Stuart Moncrieff created the album cover artwork, after a fun-filled photo shoot he shaped the finished work using some of my images that I captured whilst on a musical pilgrimage through the ancient landscape of South Australia’s Flinders Ranges.

As a musician, what does having your debut album out in the world mean to you?

That it was all worth it. I proved to myself (and the world) that I could do it. That I could produce such a body of work. A true sense of personal growth and accomplishment in manifesting my mind’s eye.

Oh, and relief… and now the dread, self-doubt and anxiety of how it will be received by the wider world, if at all…

Ahh, the neurosis of being an artist

You are embarking on a tour to support the album – where are you heading?

I thought the Sunshine State would be a great place to spend winter so I’m launching Sticking to My Guns with a month long jaunt through QLD beginning in Yamba (NSW) Thursday 3rd of August and taking in another dozen shows up to Townsville and back throughout August.

You can check out the tour dates on my website.

You’re an independent musician – did you fund the album and book the tour yourself? If so, what pieces of advice do you have for other musicians trying to make their way in the world?

Yes, I’m a true independent musician wearing all of De-Bono’s hats. I’m also fortunate that I am a soloist and have built a sustainable business model taking my music all over the country, with my live shows being a mixture of covers and originals on a 2 – 1 ratio (2 for them, 1 for me).

Live life, love hard, feel deep, read, listen to the greats, consume high “rock” culture, play with muso’s who are better than you, that inspire you, challenge and develop your skills and craft. Network baby!!! Write songs with as many people as you can. Write a heap of shit songs to learn the craft. Fail 100 times to succeed once. Keep getting up!

Persevere, your time will come and if it doesn’t “fuck what they think!”

Be patient.

Remain humble.

Keep making art

Is the album available both physically and digitally? Where can people get a copy?

It certainly is. Available July 30 from all of your favourite digital music retailers, but I would encourage you all to visit my website to stream and download the album as more money ends up in my pocket that way

www.kieranwicks.com/music

Any Final Words?

So I am hoping that some of you will take the time to check out my Patreon account www.Patreon.com/KieranWicks and maybe even become a Patron to help support me in my art, producing more beautiful music, and the creation of the One Town at a Time documentary series. Over the last few years I have built a catalogue of hundreds of videos and thousands of photos, and a swag full of stories all ripe to transform into a fun and informative documentary series.

I am hoping that the support of my Patrons will allow my content creation to become sustainable in the long term as well as allow me to produce content more frequently, as well as to pay my colleagues properly for their professional services.

Given the nature of free entertainment in the modern world I will be rewarding my Patrons with exclusive merchandise and extended content, as well as the ability to suggest video destinations or even be part of one of our videos. Behind the scenes content and live Q&A sessions are also on offer, as well as private House Concerts.

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