Touring with Lee Kernaghan’s band has been the ultimate career turning point for Liam Kennedy-Clark.
For the past few months, the young New Zealand musician has joined the Australian country legend’s 25th anniversary tour, playing to sold-out audiences from state to state.
But, in between producing, teaching and performing, Kennedy-Clark has also been working on his own project, a soon-to-be-released EP, TRAVELLING LINES.
He spoke with Script & Sound Magazine’s Megan Gnad about what fans can expect from the upcoming project, what he’s learnt from touring with Kernaghan, and why we must create opportunities for the next generation of young musicians.
Congratulations on the new EP, TRAVELLING LINES! What can you tell us about it so far?
Thanks! I’m so excited to have this one under way. Currently, it’s not officially released, but it is up for pre-order on my website, and available at my gigs.
What did you set out to achieve in the process and what message did you want to get across to your audience?
With every new recording I do, I want to challenge myself with the writing, and production to cement who I am as an artist, but to still grow with everything I do. I believe so far, that with every new record that comes out, I’ve grown as an artist, and pushed my music further, and that’s what I want to get across to my audiences.
This is your second official EP, how was the process different this time around?
The process changes every time because you learn so much from the previous experiences, and build on that each time. In particular, you learn so much more about who you are as an artist from all that has happened between the last recording, and now. I always go into a new recording with a stronger idea of what I want to portray, and how I want to do it.
Who did you work with on the recording and what did they bring to the project?
This record is fully self-produced, but I was fortunate to work with some amazing musicians and songwriters to bring my ideas to life. Some of the writers on this EP include Morgan Evans, Sarah Conlan, Allan Caswell, and Phil Doublet, along with musicians like Pete Denahy, Michel Rose, Luke Davis, and Simon Johnson. To have such professional writers, and musicians join me on my music just brings so many more ideas, and life, into what I’m doing.
What did you try to achieve both musically and in terms of your song writing?
I really like to push myself with what I write. One song in particular I wrote in the time signature of 5/4, which as far as I’m aware, is the only country song in this particular signature. It made it a fun one to try record, but it really made me think in a different way when it came to writing, both lyrics and music. I grew up on classic country music, as well as being surrounded by many other genres, including jazz, rock, and blues. I think a lot of that comes out in my writing, as well as my playing on this record.
I know you draw a lot of inspiration from classic male country artists; did anyone in particular serve as a focal point while putting this EP together?
I don’t think there was any one particular artist that I drew my inspiration from for this record. I like to draw a lot from many artists all the time, both with my live shows and recordings. My heroes include the likes of the Eagles, George Jones, and Glen Campbell. I think, over time, I’ve absorbed so much from them all.
You recently returned to Ashburton, New Zealand, for a hometown show. What does that support mean to you and was it encouraging to see how well your music was received?
It’s a pretty incredible feeling to have left your hometown at the age of 17, to then return home to perform, and almost sell out a theatre. Music is an extremely tough game, despite what the general public might see on the outside. What really goes on behind the scenes is manic, and to then realise you can put on a show, and have all these people come out and enjoy the experience with you, it’s overwhelming.
Tell us what you've been up to in Australia and the experience of joining Lee Kernaghan’s band on his current anniversary tour?
Put simply, it has been the most amazing experience. Touring with such an amazing artist is a real honour. The whole set up is extremely professional, and I’m learning a lot.
We’re playing sell-out shows all over the country, which is a pretty cool thing to be doing. Lee Kernaghan is currently one of the very few people selling out all over the country, which is a massive feat.
What do we need to be doing to support and foster young country talent in New Zealand?
Music is one of the hardest career paths in the world to make a living from, and it’s even harder when you’re young to have the drive and determination to be able to keep working at it.
It’s really hard to sell music now, with the likes of YouTube and streaming services not really doing us a favour, so the only way we can keep on doing what we’re doing, is through performing live. So, if there are local artists performing in your area, at a pub, café, services club, or anything like that, go along to watch them play, tell them you like their music, support them from the beginning, not just when you can see they’re doing well, especially young musicians. We need to create opportunities for them, because these opportunities are dwindling. And, the way we can create them, is by supporting them, and showing them, and venue owners, that they are worth being there.
What have you got planned next for summer festivals, gigs and the upcoming EP?
I don’t have too many gigs of my own coming up this year. A few local gigs here and there, but mostly I’m tied up working as a session player for plenty of artists. Tamworth Country Music Festival in January is going to be another big one, as well with plenty of gigs there.
There may be a tour in the pipeline for next year though, around Australia and New Zealand.
*Liam’s upcoming EP, TRAVELLING LINES, is available for pre-order on his website, and for purchase at live gigs. Check out the official video to the EP’s lead single, Smile Like That over in our video section.