Photo credit Jarrad Seng | Words Kirsten Macdonald
It’s hard not to pull the lever on the floodgate and release a stream of adjectives to label and describe the flow, ebb and tide that is Danielle Caruana- or Mama Kin as she is affectionately and professionally known.
There doesn’t appear to be a spectral envelope, no single point or sentence to adequately describe her. There’s no denying the lady is a muse, and so I found myself stumped. There was only one remedy; I pressed play on our sound system in the garden, got my hands deep and dirty in the soil and planted seeds, tending to our veggie patch.
On the last day of Summer listening to her soulful music, I stopped to sip a well-earned gin and tonic and smiled, remembering exactly who Mama Kin reminds me of! Polyhymnia.
Yup, I’m on the money. No waxing lyrical here, listen to Mama Kin’s song Rescue (loud) and then indulge in her TED talk or refreshing live performances on Youtube; you will nod and maybe shout me the next round. Yes, I know, I resorted to the Goddess trope, but if you are into ancient mythology- you hear me.
There’s an intimacy and directness to Mama Kin’s music, poetry and storytelling. Her coppery voice, combined with blues + roots music climbs right into your heart like a bloody ladder.
She’s an impressive person. Nominated for ARIA Award for Best Blues and Roots Album, she’s a WAM Award-winning TED Talking, and Philanthropic Musician.
We ponder with Mama Kin.
Often, online performances from artists from their home feel very intimate and connective as an audience, but as the musician, is it difficult to get immediate biofeedback?
I’m not sure I’ve adapted yet, to be honest. I dip my toes in here and there, but I mostly find that what calls me most right now is very up close and immediate. I am more interested in who I am in my own community, with my immediate family and friends. My sense of pace has changed considerably.
I have lost all romantic notions about travelling around endlessly chasing gigs, and I’m looking for something I can do from home. I have always wanted to write a book! So now I am dabbling, with huge encouragement from my kids and partner.
I still want to connect with audiences and people in general, so that is the question I am asking myself- How can I connect with the wider world in a meaningful and viable way, while staying connected to home?
“They are completely different platforms. I don’t expect the same from one as the other. One is quick and has very little attachment to it. I like their differences. They compliment each other.”
What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
In my fantasy land I wake and then meditate, maybe some pranayama, chanting, stretch and then go for a walk and a swim before coming home, making a juice and feeding the chickens, all before the rest of the house has woken. At this stage, I would then sit myself at the spotless kitchen table and do creative writing for 30 – 60 minutes.
In reality, it is a bit of a rolling thunder. Most mornings, I wake and scan my body for where it is at and what I might need to do to kick start it into shape to meet the demands of the day. I then shuffle out to the kitchen and check my phone, I wish I didn’t do that first, but to be honest, I generally do.
I love not having the phone in my bedroom through the night (except if my kids are out), but I still haven’t broken the habit of waking up and checking it first. Recently I have been trying to get straight out of the house for a walk and a swim in the Woodtichup Bilya (The Margaret River). I then come home and make my juice. I am usually mustering my 14-year-old son into whichever activity he needs to be up and happening for that day while simultaneously checking in with my email world. I am homeschooling my son at the moment, so our lives are fairly tethered to each other. It is kind of like being grounded; it is super grounding.
I squeeze in work in between the cracks of what he needs from me, I squeeze in writing and singing, walks with my dogs, catch up with friends and visits with my horse; I squeeze it all in around him. Right now, he is my key focus, and it feels like a rare and fleeting gift, and I am so pleased I have the perspective to see it for the incredible opportunity that it is.
If you had one question you could ask a sage ancient mother what would it be?
I think I would like to know how to realise my ultimate potential while still holding space for the people I love, being fully present to them, and helping them realise their own potential.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
“My mum told me never to stop trying. I understand that she means to keep the drive alive in your mind, body and spirit. Embrace life fully with curiosity and wonder. I see that in her, and she is 87 and spritely as a teenager!”
Your contribution to the Music Industry is astounding! Can you tell our readers in a sentence the vibe of the The Seed Fund?
The Seed is a philanthropic fund set up to support emerging Australian artists and arts workers. In its 15th year now (wow), we have distributed well over 1 million dollars in funding and initiatives. Our cornerstone initiative is the annual Future Makers: Management Workshop, where we bring together 30 self-managed and managed musicians for a four day live in deep-dive intensive.
Your music, events, The Seed, Ted x talk etc., the list seems both inspiring and endless. What is next for you?
My biggest love is the power of storytelling. I’m fascinated by narratives and the power they have to shape the banks of the rivers that they flow through. I love fiction. I love the power of prose. I’ve enjoyed playing with storytelling through songwriting, and now I think I am ready to dabble in longer form!
Sometimes I would like to create a multidisciplinary theatre piece. I would really like to create a conversation series around obstacles and narratives, but I feel under-qualified. It is just what I am naturally drawn to. So, in summary, I think I’d next like to write a work of fiction that explores narratives within narratives. Hmmm sounding a bit like I have no idea what I am doing, but I am pondering over scraps of clues.
What is your favourite song to perform? What does it mean to you?
Oh, you’re asking me to pick my favourite child! It depends on my mood. The one that springs to mind right now is a song I co-wrote with an artist from America, Aaron Embry, which I recorded on my We Two Thieves project with Emily Lubitz and Dave Mann. The song is called Only For You, and I LOVE the sentiment and the harmonies in it. There is a section that builds and builds, and I can’t sing it without my heart swelling and a huge smile erupting across my face.
The song is about being loved and embraced by the natural world around you, and when the harmonies kick in, I feel that universal hug resonate, vibrating love in my whole being.
We love your TedX talk about taming “David”, your inner Tyrant. Sharing your story and inner workings, your “David” was vulnerable, empowering, insightful, and so bloody relevant! (not to mention the perfect balance of raw and funny!) We applaud your “surrender muscles” and honest account. (readers scroll to the bottom for the TedTalk)
How is David now?
David is a wonderful passenger and a terrible driver. He is a brilliant navigator and can pack the car within an inch of its life. He sometimes tries to convince me to let him drive, sometimes he even tries to execute radical coups to have me forcibly removed, but I know better, and I remind him that I’ve got this, and I need him to stay right where he is, and could he please pass me a drink.
What would you be doing right now if not playing music?
Well, I am not playing that much music, so what am I doing? I am homeschooling my son, writing small works of fiction, doing some local creative collaborations, preparing my 18-year-old daughter to leave home, trying to learn more raw plant-based meals. I’m in a creative lull of sorts, and I like it.
If COVID19 had a theme song, what would it be?
Strange Girl by Laura Marling. The album dropped soon into the first lockdown in WA, and that song became a love song to this time and each other. Once the regional borders opened my daughter, and I went on a month-long road trip and that song, and album, was the soundtrack to that trip. I will forever remember her golden hair flicking in and out of the window as we sang along to I love you my Strange Girl, my Lonely Girl, My Angry Girl, My Strange…”, as we rode the white speckled black ribbon through the red dirt country. Heaven.
Treehouse or cubby house?
Teepee… so I suppose cubby!
Check out more of Mama Kin and her latest release on Spender, called Are You Listening available on all streaming platforms. Additionally, this collection of story vignettes which accompanied the release: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuYCFpzEE4M&t=10s diving deeper into the Listening journey.
PS- her song -Rescue- can someone in the Netflix series industry please use this song as a theme? Waiting patiently….
Note for the non mythology geeks- (unlike yours truly): Polyhymnia was an ancient goddess, a muse often depicted as pensive, eloquent, wise and meditative-Polyhymnia, the goddess of lyric poetry, sacred music, song, and study the stars, geometry and meditation.
On behalf of Mama Kin: In acknowledgement of the Wadandi / Pipelmum traditional custodians of the country upon which I live, love, learn and create. I pay my respect to their elders – past, present and future – and thank them daily for their age-old custodianship of boodjara, and their ongoing generosity and trust in sharing their culture, kinship and language with us all. Always was, always will be.
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