Bluesfest director Peter Noble is a big fan of Shaun Kirk and he’s not alone; blues and roots voices from across the globe all testify that this 20-something troubadour is something of a musical phenomenon.
Shaun, what first ignited your passion for blues?
My mother insisted that I go along with her to an Eric Clapton concert when I was about 21. Clapton was touring with Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall standing on each side of him in his band and the concert was amazing! Then shortly afterward she also took me to an Ash Grunwald gig and I was amazed at how many young people were at the show, as I was always convinced that blues was for old people only. This changed my perspective.
Can you tell me about the first song you ever wrote? What was it called? What do you think of it now?
It’s a bit too embarrassing to give it all away but I can tell you now that you will never find me playing the song nowadays!
You have received some pretty incredible accolades, including ‘best blues voice the country has ever heard’. How does a young musician take that sort of praise? Do you believe it?
I’m not sure if I believe it. Australia has been spoilt with so many amazing voices in blues – Chris Wilson, Ash Grunwald, Dutch Tilders to name just a few. I don’t go out looking for such compliments but I’m always grateful and humble when I do receive them.
I never started playing music with the expectation that people would like it, so I’m just happy that people are enjoying it.
As a young blues musician, what do you believe that you bring that is new to the genre?
Speaking of compliments, one that I have often received from people after they’ve seen me play for the first time is: ‘I wasn’t a big fan of blues, but I like what you do’. If I can introduce a contemporary style of blues to punters who have never indulged in the genre and they enjoy it then I can leave the gig knowing I’ve done my part.
I spent a lot of time watching Lloyd Speigel, Geoff Achison, Jimi Hocking and Dutch Tilders play in the earlier days and have been lucky enough to share the stage with them from time to time. Nowadays I am listening to a lot of Springsteen and the E Street Band, Allen Stone, Gary Clark Jr, Tony Joe White, Bill Withers and the list goes on…
If you could spend an hour with any artist of your choice who would they be?
Muddy Waters. Not sure I need say any more.
How was playing Bluesfest for you this year? Did you get to meet any of your blues heroes? What was your most memorable moment?
It was amazing! I was so extremely stoked to be invited back after I’d had a blast of a time there last year! I was lucky enough to witness a moment backstage this year when Buddy Guy, Charlie Musslewhite and Dr John were all in the green room catching up with each other and having a chat, asking where each other had been. I’m not sure if anyone else was taking too much notice but my jaw was on the floor in awe!
What should we expect for your show with Daniel Champagne at the Bangalow Bowlo?
A lot of fun I reckon. And probably two completely different sets. Daniel open plays a very intimate, quiet ‘listening’ gig whereas I like to play loudly and create a bit of a party vibe, so the show with have a great dynamic I suspect. I’ve never shared the bill with Daniel but we have been chasing each other’s tails around the country for the past few years as we are always playing the same venues often only days apart, which is why we thought it would be good to play some shows. I can’t wait!
Kirk joins Daniel Champagne in an upcoming show at the Bangalow Bowling Club on Sunday.