I got to catch up with the Grammy award winner and jazz scat grand master himself, the world-renowned Kurt Elling of the Kurt Elling Quintet. With a career spanning over twenty years, he is still going just as strong as ever, having just released a masterful work of art in the form of a new mesmerising jazz album. We chatted about this new release titled ‘The Questions’ which was released in just March of this year, as well as his current tour which is currently in progress and for which he will be stopping by Australia later this week!
K: Hello, how are you?
J: Fantastic thank you Kurt, it’s great to have you on the line! How is everything going since the release of your new album “The Questions”?
K: We’re having a wonderful time touring. The reviews have been spectacular, it’s a little bit different to records that we’ve made in the past, its political, it’s a little darker, but I think it’s seeing a very good response.
J: What caused you (and the music) to wander down that darker route?
Well, I’m a citizen of the world, I’m a citizen of my nation. It’s my task to sing as well as I can, but it’s also my task to be a part of what’s happening. I’m persistent upon just rolling over what challenges and problems are currently affecting my country and the world now.
J: You’re currently in the middle of the world tour for the new album, are you looking forward to coming here to Australia?
Very much so, Australia is one of my favourite stops. I find the people very intelligent, receptive, and enthusiastic. The wines there are amazing, the women are gorgeous, the conversation is inspiring, what more could I ask for?
J: I’ve heard your vocal range spans over four octaves, is that correct?
I haven’t counted recently but I know I can sing real high and real low…
J: What sort of vocal training was involved and how persistently did you need to train to get to that point?
I’m sure it starts off genetically, I’m built to sing, and I’ve also been developing it since before I can remember in a very joyful way. I’ve taken very few private classes, been blessed with a handful of very intelligent progressive and insightful choral conductors in choirs I’ve been in. I’ve been asked to sing very loud and very soft and most of it I’ve done without a microphone. I used to sing to large rooms of people without any amplification. I came to the microphone relatively late in life which is something young singers don’t have the chance to do these days, but it makes all the difference.
J: Do you have a favourite song from your new album ‘The Questions’?
Nope, I like them all the same.
J: Are you going to be playing the album back to back during your performance here in Australia?
No, not back to back. My intention is to give the best possible experience to the people that show up, many of those people want to hear songs from this record, and many want to hear songs from past records. I like to include songs that people want to hear, and songs that they didn’t know they wanted to hear.
J: If you hadn’t become a musician, what job do you think you’d be doing now?
I’d be a half-drunk ferry captain… somewhere *laughs*.
J: You’ve been a professional musician for over twenty years, what changes have you seen in the music industry over that time?
Well, what hasn’t changed for musicians? I got into the music business so I could sing Jazz music, I got into it so I could play live shows and travel the world, connect with people night after night and give them the best that I could. That’s still what I get to do. In that way I am completely satisfied, in regards to the music industry, it’s a mess, it’s always been a mess, and it’s always going to be a mess.
J: Do you ever still find yourself feeling nervous before a performance?
Nope, I don’t get nervous. I feel enthusiastic, I feel focused, I’m happy to have a gig man. It’s such a messed up world and I am extremely fortunate, I get to sing, I get to support my family, and I get to live out my dream. It’s all great for me.
J: What advice would you give to young musicians starting out? How can they conquer nerves like you have?
The only real secret to any of it is to play every gig you are given the opportunity to. Play the wedding gigs, busk on the streets, play everything and that’s the way you learn. If you’re smart enough, talented enough and passionate enough, you’ll figure out your way.
J: Where do you draw inspiration from for the songwriting process? Is it different from album to album?
Well you never know where something is gonna come from. I didn’t write all of the music on the new album, but I did write many of the lyrics. Sometimes you go back to a book that you love, sometimes you just have an idea, sometimes it’s from an experience. It’s important to write all the time, so you do it. Whether it’s in a notepad or in a journal for no specific reason, or for somebody else’s project. There’s all kinds of stuff that influences songwriting.
J: It’s been lovely speaking with you, is there anything you would like to say to your fans here in Australia as a final message?
I’m happy to see everyone that comes out, I’ll be particularly happy to see fans from past years and the friends that they bring along. It’s been a pleasure every time I have been in Australia and I imagine this time will be no different!
With a new, emotive album which truly tackles some serious topics head on and headstrong. With bellowing vocal strains and a huge tour underway right now, don’t miss out on seeing Kurt Elling performing live while over here in Adelaide! He will be performing at the iconic Governor hindmarsh hotel on port road on Sunday 27th May in Adelaide! That’s this weekend, tickets are selling fast so get them while they’re hot!