Iain McKelvey on Family, Intimate Shows and Inspiration

This Friday night we will be hosting an intimate acoustic folk night at Nauti. This is being organised by musician Iain McKelvey, with proceeds going to Parkinson's research. I chatted to Iain to get some insight into him, his practice and his passions. 

Musician and event organiser Iain McKelvey.

Musician and event organiser Iain McKelvey.

Hi Iain! Welcome to Nauti! How long have you been making music? 
I've been making music on and off since I was 15. With incredibly varying levels of seriousness. I had an incredible knack for writing songs I would never complete when I was younger. I guess that was my 'instrumental' phase. I think it really related back to my confidence surrounding my voice. I didn't think I could sing. Once I started to focus on that it got easier tie the whole thing together and actually complete a song. It's only been in the last few years that I've begun to engage in it with a little bit more seriousness, thanks to the encouragement of friends and family.

How did you get into it? 
My parents aren't musical but they love music and have always been really encouraging with all the weird little paths I try to walk down. I took piano lessons when I was 9 (or thereabouts) and it's still my biggest musical regret, giving up the piano. I started Guitar lessons later on and that's when something started to resonate for me. What little kid doesn't want to rock out to Oasis's Wonderwall in their bedroom. It wasn't until I studied at JMC that I really began to explore possibilities within music. To be honest though, I struggle at a desk and music makes me feel good.

What inspires you to make music? 
The Blues and anyone and anything. Music, to me has been a consistent in my life at bringing people together and creating amazing experiences. I am really in to taking a notebook out with me, sitting in the park and just seeing what happens. It's really experiential for me, which probably explains why I go long periods without making anything (a good excuse eh?). I've been on a real introspective bent lately, diving in to music as catharsis. A medium in which to work through, explore and reveal some aspects of yourself that you might not otherwise want to face. That can be pretty depressing to listen to haha. For a long time it's been me, a guitar and a bedroom, so I think that's natural. Cabin fever has definitely set so I'm trying to right some more upbeat tunes, so people don't have to listen to me whinge all the time, more so I can dance. 

Some of the proceeds of the night at Nauti will be going to the 'Shake It Up Foundation'. What inspired you to donate, and why did you choose this organisation? 
Shake It Up is a really special foundation for me. Their focus is on Parkinson's Research and they are the largest NGO geared towards this. My Dad has Parkinson's and suggested them due to their donation structure being very well skewed towards research rather than admin and bloated salaries. My Dad really is a massive inspiration. Approaching everything with poise and a wickedly in tact sense of humour. He's helped open my eyes to what it really means to have and to be affected by Parkinson's. It's my way of combining what I know in a way that I can raise awareness and do my part for Dad and the millions of families out there.

You are setting up this night to be quite different to a lot of other live gigs in Sydney. How is it going to be different? 
I want these experiences to be special. Often there can feel like there's this wall between artists and punters. I don't want that. It's a small (50 person capacity), intimate show in a space that most people might not think of as a live music venue. The aim is to introduce and showcase the incredible talent that we have here in Sydney. There's a focus on singer-songwriters, as that's my background, but that doesn't always mean acoustic. It could be spoken word, a duo or electric. The artists get to sit in with the crowd and share stories behind their work and hopefully engage with each other in a lasting fashion and a way that wouldn't normally happen at a purpose built music venue like The Hordern.

Which musicians most influence your music? 
That's a near impossible question to answer! There's the standards like The Beatles. Delta Blues artists like Robert Johnson and Lead Belly. I think Sarah Blasko and Missy Higgins are incredible, I've recently enjoyed a tour through their back catalogue. Nick Cave is a huge one for me, especially on the words and stories front. He's incredible at painting a picture. Tom Waits, Jackson Browne. I love pop music too, I'm not ashamed to say it. Toxic by Britney Spears? One of the best ever written. Pretty much anyone that plays these experiences I put on is an inspires me in some way. That's why I want them to play, so I can share that. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's hard to pin down any one main influence but there's an anchor in the classics due to Dad not letting me change the radio from WSFM. Which I am now hugely thankful for. 

What's the best live gig you've ever been to? 
Again so hard! What are you doing?! (HAHA!) I remember seeing the Pixies at Splendour one year and that was pretty epic. The Lumineers at The Enmore Theatre was incredible. Their support act D.D. Dumbo had to cancel so their pianist Stelth Ulvang came out and from that point it was just a big ol' party. They commanded that room. One of the most raucous gigs I've been to was Swedish punk band The Refused, easily the wildest gig I've attended. Locally though I just recently saw a band called ARSE at Petersham Bowling Club. They were SO good.

And finally, if you had to choose one nautical creature to best describe yourself in metaphor, what would it be? Why? 
Oh man....I don't know. I'd like to say Sea Turtle. I resonated on such a deep level with Crush from Finding Nemo. He was just the ultimate dude, cruising round the ocean having a blast. He seems like he would never get mad and I can have a grouchy side. Maybe a sea lion? They seem pretty chill but then like to make an incesseant amount of noise occasionally. Yeah that works...For now.


Catch Iain this Friday night at Nauti Studios. Click here for more info and tickets.

Iain McKelvey probably deep in musical thought. 

Iain McKelvey probably deep in musical thought.