Years ago, right before a gig I was irrationally petrified to jump on stage when I heard Kim Churchill tell a story in between songs that shook me back to reality and got me back up for an awesome set. I’m honoured that he took the time in his current tour to be a part of my Q+A series and give insight into his struggles with anxiety and depression on tour and how he deals with it. He also goes into his beautiful and spiritual outlook on life – Yoga, Writing Music & Surfing. Is there anything else you need…!
Kim Churchill – Q+A
In an industry where expression collides with business, how do you keep the passion to play/write music alive?
That’s a damn good question. It’s hard. When the business side of me takes control I end up in this highly strung, terribly neat and on time mode of existence. It’s great for getting to all the gigs, and staying on top of all the ‘other’ skills a modern say artists must have. But it’s terrible for me creatively. Then I have to unwind and actively oppose all my ‘productive’ urges. I have to sit and wait. Soon enough I’m charged and writing lots and getting back to who I really want to be. I might be an hour late to everything and walk out the door with odd shoes on, but I’m in my natural mode. Finding balance between the two is really tricky. I like mid mornings for productive stuff. Early mornings and afternoons for creative stuff. And then evenings for normal life shit. This is the best balance I’ve found anyway.
Have you ever come close to leaving music? If so, what prompted it and what inspired you to stay?
No never. A complete lack of other skills has left my firmly gripping my tiny sailboat on the great music industry storms. I think I’ve been lucky to find many different roles for myself within the industry too. Touring is so different to recording and then the whole world of songwriting is different again. If I divide my time up nicely I get a good balance of different lifestyles.
How do you stay true to your creative vision, when “success” depends so heavily on how it’s received by the industry and public?
Yeah its tricky hey. I feel like I’m constantly riding a line of being charged and excited by little bits of ‘success’, and with finding my own personal motivations and values that I control. I think I’m getting better at it. If I can wander past a compliment or successful moment with a calm fleeting connection, then I stay on the right path and the all the negative stuff doesn’t have such a hold on me. As artists, we are faced with so much rejection and we need the right sense of self-esteem to consistently get back up and keep creating. If I can detach from most forms of positive or negative judgements, the songs and my general creative flow normally thrive.
From the moment you wake till the moment you sleep, what does the day of a gig look like for you?
I normally sleep right up until lobby call. I’m known to literally get up two minutes before leaving, throw my clothes on and make the van right on time. Then I like to find a really nice place for breakfast. It’s my main meal on tour. We search out a great place and leave a good hour to just relax and eat and get the engines going. Then there’s normally a period of travel. 2 to 10 hours depending on the routing, then sound check, maybe a shower and a little rest and some lunch/dinner (something a bit smaller). Then I’ll do a little yoga and start getting into the right mood for the show. The show is a big rush of emotions and excitement and all happens in a delightful blur of wildness. Then I’ll have a couple of drinks or find some fairly tame way to wind down and try get enough sleep to do it all again.
Life on the road can challenge us both mentally and physically. How do you stay anchored during times when you’re feeling emotionally or physically sub-par, or when your fundamental needs aren’t being met? E.g. sleep, food, schedule.
Yoga is great I find. The exertion gives a bit of energy whilst the meditative element of it is great to calm anxiety and those ferocious 5th gear modes we get ourselves into. I also really like this app called ‘Calm’. There’s a lot of daily meditation practices and beautiful sleep stories to help wind down. I have a gratitude journal as well that I write in everyday to help remind me of all the wonderful things that happen every day on tour. Sometimes it feels like your moving so fast you can’t make out all the beautiful things that are constantly sweeping you up. If I write down all the things I’m grateful for, it helps anchor me in it all a bit and I can have genuine moments of reflection.
How much of an influence does money have over the means in which you create and release? Do you choose to invest as if it’s your last creation? Or do you invest in a way that is sustainable long term?
Yeah I always invest as if it’s my last creation. Can’t help myself. All I can think about is creating whatever it is that is trying to come into existence. I’m lucky to have a good team around me to make sure the money goes the distance and I’ve become better at understanding when they need to do things differently to how I want them.
Have you ever experienced anxiety, depression or nervousness around a tour? If so, what were the triggers and how did you manage it?
Yeah always! Literally every tour for me involves anxiety and depression to a degree. In the same way every tour involves a lack of sleep, nutrition and down time. I just have to stay present and allow them to come and go without creating more by resisting them. My moods don’t bother me too much anymore. If I have an anxious day, I let it happen. If I feel depressed for a week or two, I roll with it and listen to some sad music, learn some sad music, write some sad music. I just get involved with it in a creative way and that seems to make the negative moods dissipate.
What is your philosophy on fear? How do you deal with it?
Allow it to be there. Have a little look at it and what might have caused it and remember to not make decisions based on it. If I feel I’m about to do something out of fear, I always try to rethink the situation and find a creative, positive and interesting ‘other’ way forward. Making decisions out of fear has never worked for me.
Can you trace your current successes back to any big risks or leaps? If so, what were they?
I think being brave enough to just be myself. That bravery comes and goes but whenever I start feeling myself really just getting into my own flow and rhythm, good things normally congregate and flow around me.
From a business point of view, today, what is the one thing that every independent artist needs in order to give their music the best chance of being heard? Assuming the artist and songs translate.
A manager. You can’t do it yourself. Get a manager. Trust them. Enjoy their friendship and company and let them come in and take all the pragmatic business elements away from you.
If you were to wave a magic wand, how would you like to spend your time in the future?
Well, funnily enough. Exactly as I am – writing and recording music. Playing gigs about 6 months of year and surfing and adventuring a great deal.
Are there any other wisdoms you’d like to share?
If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much room.
On a light note… Can you name one guilty pleasure?
Whiskey after a yin yoga session. A double. Oh, and Coldplay, I love ‘em!
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