Graham Reid | | 3 min read
With two well-received singles – the broodingly aching and atmospheric The Clock Tower and country-rock of Valentine Street, both about growing up in South Auckland's Papakura – singer-songwriter Kendall Elise has announced herself as someone who reflects on memory, childhood and growing up.
Her debut album Red Earth confirms this with songs entitled Kirk's Bush (“a section of forest in Papakura with a dark reputation”), Slippery Creek and Great South Road among the 10 originals.
But despite these songs which address gender issues, child poverty and mental illness, Elise is no melancholy bedroom singer. As witnessed by the dark, bass-driven Kingseat, the country-rock jangle hoe-down feel of the title track and country-pop with touches of Western Swing on The Best of Town and Country.
Recorded at Roundhead and mastered by Chris Chetland at KOG, Red Earth is the work of a singer as at home in country as country-rock, and she has confirmed that by opening for Gin and recently Larkin Poe.
She has a tour primed and ready to go so it is timely to introduce Kendall Elise and ask her some questions . . .
The first song which made you think, 'Now that's a well crafted piece of work' was . . .
I think it might have been on an album of my parents that I heard as a youngster - Carole King’s Tapestry, the song ‘Beautiful’. An amazing uplifting song lyrically and instrumentally, with stunning piano instrumentation.
Complete this sentence: The first song I wrote was . . .
when I was 15 years old, it was a song called “You”.
The one songwriter you will always listen to, even if they disappointed you previously, is?
As songwriters: Lennon-McCartney or Jagger-Richards; kd lang or Katy Perry; Madonna or Michael Jackson; Johnny Cash or Kris Kristofferson, Beyonce or Janelle Monae?
Lennon-McCartney, kd lang, Madonna, Johnny Cash, Janelle Monae
The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they are well crafted are . . .
Melody first? Words or phrase first? Simultaneous?
It usually starts with an idea for a song topic, but the method of creating is always different. I might create a chord progression and start singing a melody over the top, and see what kind of words I can come up with on the spot. Sometimes I will come up with a melody independent of a lyric, and then they come together at a later time.
The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .
Jewel – Chasing Down The Dawn
If you could co-write with anyone it would be . . .
Mark Oliver Everett or ‘E’ from Eels
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)
Most recent vinyl was Elliot Smith, Either / Or, and the last downloads are Angel Olsen Burn Your Fire For No Witness and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds The Boatman’s Call
One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you would be . . .
Bruce Springsteen – Dancing In The Dark
One line (or couplet) from a song -- yours or someone else's -- which you think is just a stone cold winner is . . .
Pretty much every line from Joni Mitchell’s Blue – But if I had to pick a couplet I’d say
Everybody's saying that hell's the hippest way to go
Well I don't think so But I'm gonna take a look around it though
Songwriting: what's the ratio of inspiration/perspiration?
I reckon 30% inspiration to 70% perspiration... But I find that ratio becomes more even the more you do it, as you begin to see inspiration more readily if you’re attuned to it.
Ever had a song come to you fully-formed like it dropped into your lap?
Yes! My very first song “You”. I wrote it about an hour, and there it was, a whole song from beginning to end.
And finally, finish this couplet in any way you like: “Standing at the airport with an empty suitcase at my feet . . .” (You are NOT allowed to rhyme that with “meet” however)
Standing at the airport
With an empty suitcase at my feet
Customs looking at me sideways
Looks like I'm in the hot seat
KENDALL ELISE RED EARTH TOUR
4th May - Kumeu Live
18th May - Ministry of Folk - Auckland
8th June - Old School Arts Centre, Raglan
9th June - The Hawkins Theatre, Papakura -
12th July - Dunedin (TBC)
13th July - Wanaka - Gin and Raspberry
26th July - The Jam Factory - Tauranga