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Byron Shire
May 23, 2024

Beautiful Mama

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Mandy Nolan

The articulate, insightful, and dynamic Mama Kin was one of the big hits of last year’s Mullum Music Festival. She takes her boots and all approach gearing up for a performance at the Mullum Civic Hall on Friday 19 April as part of her The Magician’s Daughter album tour.

If you were to articulate what it is or who you become once you step on stage… what would it be?

A much bigger version of who I am in life: vulnerable dickhead who is always chasing depth or a good laugh!

What do you think happens to a person, or to yourself, when you tried to silence the creative voice?

I think it transforms into poison. I think it becomes stagnant energy and that becomes resentment. For me I expressed that most deeply with those I loved most, which made for a very toxic environment, and the stagnant energy made me depressed and anxious.

Do you think the creative voice and the intuitive self are linked? Do you work intuitively do you think?

I think when I am being creative it is an intuitive process because I am feeling into something and working from a space of developing something from my gut. It is like going through a maze: sometimes you are flowing through it, and you reach the end goal easily, but then other times you might hit a dead end and have to back track. And sometimes you have to go in there with a chainsaw and reshape the lay of the land!



What was the programming that said that you couldn’t have what you wanted?

Fear of risk and an idea that motherhood was sacrifice; actually womanhood was sacrifice. That men could have things that women couldn’t. God, it all sounds so archaic now, but I had built a paradigm and I couldn’t see anything beyond it… and it served me. It served by my staying safe and being risk averse. I look back on my life before being creative and wonder what the hell I was doing with my time and energy? I hardly recognise myself.

How hard was that to move or change? In the end how did you get on top of what was holding you back?

Well, at first it felt completely impossible. I had a good case for it and I am very convincing and had managed to convince everyone around me of that paradigm I had built. But I knew I was in pain. I knew there was a building energy and as much as I tried to point my resentment down to those around me, I knew I had to own it. It really frightened me so much. I had so much grief around it all. It was a series of things that shifted it, including my mum’s getting cancer (and recovering), becoming a mother myself, having a daughter, but most of all I just got so sick and tired of it. I was so fatigued by how much work it took to keep that paradigm alive, and how much it was sucking everything vital from my life. So, with the help of guidance, I made a simple commitment to start saying Yes. Yes to being a creative person. Yes in response to being invited to doing anything creative. Yes to sharing my music. From that place everything flowed, and really quickly!

As a mother, a wife and a musician you’re an inspiration for many women – how do you manage to keep all those balls in the air?

Today it feels easy; last week I felt like a failure; god only knows how I will feel tomorrow. It is really challenging sometimes and sometimes it feels like the most blessed life ever. But it is a walk in the park compared to living in a state of suppression and resentment. The challenges are real, and we can meet them and respond to them. From that other place we were dealing with invisible toxic gas and there was no real way of addressing it. On a logistical level we are part of a community that supports us. Friends and family support us… but this all comes from daring to ask for help. I also set clear guidelines and communicate with my kids and partner a lot about what works and what doesn’t and we try to all respond to each other honestly and appreciate the perks of such a life. My kids see that their parents are both musicians, we are always either writing, recording, touring, or just singing a song because we love to, so they see our ‘work’ as intrinsic to who we are as people.

Do you think things will change once the kids are older? 

I am sure they will but I am not sure how. I try to stay as present as possible. I have a penchant for over worrying the finer details of every little thing and I know from experience that it isn’t worth it. So when I start worrying about the future in any way I try to assure myself that when and if I am met with the actual challenge that I am worrying about, I will be equipped with all that I need to face it then, and respond to it accordingly, or drop into the lesson that it holds and come out the other side of it!

What inspires you with songwriting? How do you like to construct a song?

Everything inspires my songwriting. Right now I am most inspired as a writer by the subtleties we share as humans. Small touches, my son’s hand on my shoulder while he is telling me a story, a face turning into the sunlight, small and often invisible gestures of kindness and humanness. It kills me sometimes. Sometimes I have to switch it off. It is all so beautiful I could fall to pieces at seeing a daughter lean her head into her father’s side. Too sensitive sometimes, I reckon. Anyway… as far as constructing a song goes I have a few different techniques. The last song I wrote was a co-write with Emily Lubitz from Tin Pan Orange, and we did a whole lot of creative writing first to get a flow happening, and then a song started emerging so we picked up the uke and started creating and negotiating, and getting excited and changing direction. A great crafternoon while our kids were loud around us and we were trying to pull dinner together.

What song are you proudest of? Why?

I am proud of the songs that I feel hold a spirit. Whatever that spirit is. It is almost like the song becomes an animate thing. Or a character in a song that was created from thin air becomes someone that you have a feeling of, a sense of. Over a year ago I wrote a song with Ross Irwin from The Cat Empire, and we were just talking about it today, and I was telling him that when I showed the song to someone else and explained the character that was in the song it bought tears to my eyes, like he was an old friend. I love that.

What was the hardest song for you to write?

Red Wood River. It is a song on my new album about a mother that loses her daughter in a river and decides to end her own life in the same river rather than live with the grief. We go camping a lot and we often camp by rivers and I have to be really disciplined not to fret that the song was prophetic in some way. I know it sounds crazy. But I feel like I need to do something with that song to take it out of my life. The flip side is that I love the song. It really moves me, and it addresses a fear that feels very real for me.

What is do you think your strongest personal attribute? What do you have to watch?

Strongest attribute: I love to laugh and be cheeky but I can still go deep. I have to watch being too in control and across every fine detail and disempowering other people in the process. Letting go!

What would be the perfect day for you?

Morning cuddles with my kids, time alone to meditate and stretch, swimming in a cool river with John and the kids, hanging out on the shady banks, great food throughout the day, writing a song in the afternoon, a beautiful song that comes effortlessly while I am lying in the hammock, yummy intimacy with my man, a roaring fire in the night that lights up the faces of those I love, friends and family as we laugh and sing harmonies together.

What should we expect for your Mullum show?

New songs, connection, openness, fun, love and a good boogie!

Catch the irrepressible Mama Kin when she appears on Friday 19 April. Her support act is up and coming singer songwriter, 15 year old Matilda Dods. 8pm.

For further ticketing info go to www.mullummusic.com.



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