This week we were given the opportunity to speak to award winning singer and song-writer Kevin Sullivan. Kevin gave great insight into his work and his latest upcoming album.
What is your upcoming album about?
My new album is about trying to stay in my own lane and I think that’s where this new collection of work is coming from. It’s a reflection of my own personal growth and soul in the last 5 years. Chapters have closed and new ones opened. This album is about being true to who I really am. Not being afraid to literally swim, ‘Against the Tide’ to get there.
The album explores my unique sound and songwriting style. It introduces my signature brass influence in several songs, something I picked up from my Dad who is 90 and played dixie land jazz. The songs produced by Australian legend Matt Fell both in Nashville and Sydney take my story telling and music to another dynamic level. Producer Matt Fell commented on loving the diversity of my music and sound, each song and arrangement is a true reflection of the story I’m telling. Matt and all amazing team of artists worked on the album across continents being the very talented Michael Webb on keys, Wil Kimbrough on lead guitar, Josh Schuberth on Drums and Percussion and Matt played a mix of Bass and Acoustic, giving very cool and guitar riff groove and whatever else was needed to get the right sound. The album will also include two co-writes, one with Bill Chambers, Kasey Chambers Dad, about the High Country Horseman and one I wrote with Matt Scullion about my Mum who sadly passed away a few years back.
What can your audience expect from your upcoming album?
They can expect to be taken on a musical journey, with musical arrangements that have a different sound and vibe than my first album Belonging. This new album, to be called, ‘Against the Tide’ and due out late 2021 was recorded in both Nashville and Sydney and has big punchy vibrant musical arrangements, very cool and groovy. Audiences, will be singing along to catchy hooks as well as laughing along with me on other songs and even thinking about their own lives, families and experiences. That seems to be the common feedback I receive from my songwriting, that audiences truly relate to my lyrics and songs. Unknown People a song from my first album Belonging, written about the Waterfall Train Disaste, and touches on those affected by PTSD, depression and dealing with sadness and the loss of loved ones, has resonated with people all over the globe. I still receive messages about this song. I hope to connect on many levels with my new Album ‘Against the Tide’ but with a more uplifting melodic level.
Was there a specific event/ experience in your life that prompted you to swim ‘against the tide’?
I had been in the NSW Police for nearly 27 years and I was an Inspector at Redfern. I was riding home from work and had an accident on my pushbike that broke my right humerus in 7 places. I was off work for 2 years with surgery and then was pensioned out of the Police. It took me 7 years to recover from this event. In 2018 I attended the Country Music Association of Australia (CMAA) Senior Academy of Country Music Course. This was a turning point for my music career.
I remember when I broke my arm, my wife Belinda remarked, “ You should have always been a musician, God has thrown you off that bike because you weren’t listening to him”. I believe, my bike accident did give me a new perspective on life, particularly after having been a Forensic Crime Scene Investigator, Bomb Technician and dealing with major crime and incidents. I have always played music with bands and solo even during my Police career. You’re never too late to chase your dream. I’m doing that now.
During your employment as a police officer were you involved in music or has music been something you found later in life?
As I mentioned above, I have always played and performed music, This continued during my police career and I it opened a few opportunities for me to play in the outback for over a decade where I played and raised money for The Flying Doctors on community outback treks. I know I had this burning drive, to be a full time musician/performer. The funny thing was, that during those Police years, I would be performing and entertaining people and many Police would say to me, you should have done music full time. Whisch is why this new Album is so important for me because it is about stepping out of ‘The Safe’ zone.
Do you ever sing about your experiences as a police officer?
Yes. Unknown People from my Belonging album is about my experience as a Forensic Crime Scene Investigator when I worked on the Waterfall Train Disaster. I attended hundreds of Murders, serious and unusual deaths major crimes and incidents and the Waterfall Train Disaster was one of may jobs that always haunted me following my role doing disaster victim identification on the 7 victims at the Glebe Morgue in Sydney. I found a letter from one of the victims children on his property and Unknown People is a song I wrote dealing with how in many instances, Police, Emergency Services Personnel, the medical staff and even every day people sometimes experience scenes of death or trauma, even if they don’t know the victims, you sometimes are affected and in many cases develop PTSD, which is what happened to me. Unknown People is a song I wrote in a way, to deal with my fealings that I was the UnKnown People who had been involved in this terrible incident and even though I did not know the victims or families, the feelings stayed with me for many years and to some extent are still with me.
I have a song from my new Album, Journey that also has a back story of my Policing career.
What Australian artist do you gain your inspiration from or has left an impression on you?
Probably Paul Kelly, I’ve seen him perform many times, I love his songs, his style and how he engages his audience through his stories.
What inspires you to keep making music?
Music is in my DNA and soul. From aged 4, I was playing drums, singing and harmonising around my Dads piano and later self-taught myself guitar. Music has always been my leveller, my outlet, even during the Police, on annual leave and days off I would be off with band members doing gigs around Australia. As a singer/songwriter, I have a strong and constant drive to write about what I see, people I meet, experiences I have had or are having. In some way, being unshackled from the semi-military career I enjoyed in the Police allows me to focus on music. Obviously family, children and life in general is all thrown in to that mix, but I have this feeling of liberation, of living a life that maybe I should have been doing all along. As much as I loved the Police, my current life as a professional musician puts me in a headspace daily just thinking, living breathing my true passion – music.
What prompted you to pack up and hit the road for 7 months with your family?
As a musician, you need to be on the road and performing. I did many on-line gigs (All free of course) during the Covid lockdown period. Two of my younger children aged 11 and 9 sing a couple of songs with me sometimes at the end of my gig and I saw during Covid how much joy and relief people received during those challenging times. My career as a musician also pretty much came to a complete stop with no gigs, no live performances. Covid opened up my eyes to how well our kids took to home schooling and whilst my wife is still recovering from spinal surgery which had prevented me from hitting the road earlier, we have just decided to take our music to all of the wonderful towns and communities that we gave so much joy to during our online concerts and have requested that we visit. The new two year partnership with Sunland Caravans and our new Sunland Sullli-Van has just been a dream come true and has enabled us to tour.
Are there any specific places in Australia you are excited to see and share with your family?
We are looking forward to heading to Queensland firstly to collect our SUNLAND ‘Sulli-Van’ and then just want to be playing music to live crowds. When I was in the Police I would take leave and travel throughout Outback Australia and I saw many fantastic and unique parts of this great country. I even played the Birdsville Races in 2013. I am keen to share these places with my wife Belinda and our three younger children, KJ, Cha Cha and Jet. Places like Uluru where I have played music, Karumba in the gulf, I even did a gig one year for the detainees in the Woomera Detention centre. So I am keen for our ‘Sulli-Van’ music tour to be both a performance experience in getting Kevin Sullivan Music songs out there but also an education for our young children and my wife and I too.
In my song ‘Against the Tide’ when I talk about the ‘Wonders in our world’, our Sulli-Van tour will explore one of the best wonders and that is as many states in the best country Australia. Having said that, I’d love to get to Tasmania and Western Australia, I haven’t done much music work in those states, so hopefully the borders can ease and we can take our music around this great big country of ours.
Will there be any song writing on the road?
Yes, song writing is an important part of who I am. I feel whilst we are on the road there will be allot of inspiration and maybe some opportunities for cowrites. My young children and I have already started writing a song we can sing whilst on our ‘Sulli’Van’ tour.
What has life during a pandemic (COVID-19) been like for you as a family man and musician?
I think I have struggled and managed just like everyone else. Obviously having your career come to a complete stop has been very confronting. I coped by on-line gigs and songwriting, family time and then re-evaluating what was important. It was pretty much during the end of lockdown in NSW that my wife and I started contemplating going on the road at the end of this. Not many nother musicians are planning to get on the road and with the closures in some states I can understand why. However, like my song Against the Tide, we are putting it all on the road. During the pandemic we decided we would do some major life changes. We have now rented our home at Gerringong south coast of NSW, we have moved in with my 90 year old Dad and in the next 2-3 weeks we are hitting the road.
So, whereas Covid has been devastating for the music industry and artists like myself, we have decided we will not let this break us, we are going to take it head on and take our music to the country. We plan on travelling until my next Festivals in April 2021 and May. The Man from Snowy River Festival in Corryong in Vic and the Big Country Festival in Berry NSW and then see where the road leads us.
Life has been very different, but the aussie way is to have a go and that’s what we are doing on our ‘Sulli-Van’ tour.