Steve Kilbey: Writing, lyrics & songs about place

Steve Kilbey

We’re rounding out the year with a conversation that’s different from everything else you’ve heard on Personal Landscapes. 

Until now, I’ve spoken with or about writers of travel literature. But this time, I’m talking to a songwriter. It’s also an excursion into one of my own personal landscapes.

Getting some backstage writing advice (Buffalo, 2009)

Steve Kilbey is the singer, songwriter and bass guitarist of the legendary Australian rock band The Church

If you grew up in the 1980s, like I did, you’ll know them for the song ‘Under the Milky Way’. It was everywhere back then, from top 40 radio to an episode of Miami Vice.

But it represents just the smallest fraction of this remarkably prolific artist’s work. 

The Church have released some 25 studio albums, depending on how you count them. Steve has also made at least 19 solo albums, and has collaborated on over 20 albums with a wide range of artists, as well as more one-off songs than I can count.

He’s had his visual art exhibited in both Australia and America. And he’s published several volumes of poetry, and a wonderful memoir called Something Quite Peculiar that paints a picture of life in Australia in the 1960s and 70s, and tells the story of what it’s like to master a craft, to play in bands, and to ride the roller coaster of fame.

I wanted to talk with him here on the podcast because Steve’s work was the single biggest influence on my own development as a writer. He also gave me a dose of encouragement in those early days of magazine features when I was struggling to break through.

Skimming house listings before I moved to Malta (Seattle, 2011)

We reference a lot of songs, albums and books in our conversation. I can’t include them here for fear of being flagged for copyright issues. But I put a pile of links below. 

I highly recommend giving some of them a listen, especially if you’re not familiar with Steve’s work.

Catching up after a phenomenal weekend of shows (Bush Hall, London, 2018)

We discuss writing and lyrics, songs about place, mastering a craft, and how music can recall our most intense experiences with vividness and immediacy.

I hope you enjoy sitting in on our discussion.

You can read more about Steve on his website. Follow him on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And buy music direct from the artist.

For more on The Church, visit the band’s website and follow them on Facebook and YouTube.

These are the books we mentioned in the podcast:

And here are some of the songs:

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About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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