Shaun Kirk has come a long way since his debut release in 2010, rapidly rising to the forefront of Australia’s modern blues movement. His first record scored Best Debut Album at the 2010 Victorian/Tasmanian Blues Music Awards, whilst his second, Thank You For Giving Me The Blues, shot to number one on the Australian Blues and Roots Airplay Charts. New crowdfunded album Steer The Wheel is a marked departure for Kirk, bringing in some big-name collaborators from the Australian music industry to add a new dimension to the material and to present the best record possible for existing and prospective fans, all with the aim of using his music to help as many people as he can through the support of charity. The album debuted at number one on the Australian iTunes Blues chart, and is currently in an arm wrestle with Russell Morris’ Sharkmouth.
“The whole idea behind this album was not just to put out another album and hopefully propel myself to the next level, but it was very much personally about going in a direction that I’ve been interested in since I began playing music, and that was to use my music to raise money for charity,” Kirk explains.
“I’m not earning bazillions of dollars or anything, I’m still just an underground musician, but I thought that if I could get some kind of assistance, that would take some of the financial pressure off myself which meant that I could donate a higher percentage of the album profits to this little charity that I’ve hooked up with called OrphFund.”
OrphFund is a volunteer-based organisation working within remote communities in some of the world’s poorest countries, with projects reaching out to vulnerable children who have been abandoned or orphaned and helping provide them with shelter, education, care and support. “OrphFund operates on a 100 per cent donor promise, meaning that every cent donated is effectively handed straight to a child in need,” Kirk says. “I am so glad I came across this amazing charity and I am not only excited but honoured to begin working with them.”
This is Kirk’s first album to be driven by artistic collaboration rather than being more of a solo endeavour. ARIA Award-winning rhythm section Grant Cummerford (bass) and Danny McKenna (drums) join in, along with some of Kirk’s heroes in Mia Dyson and Jeff Lang.
“I didn’t want this album to be all about me,” he says. “If I was going to get crowdfunding involved and I wanted the whole vibe of the album to be especially creative it was going to require that ‘working together’ kind of vibe. So I gave it everything and ignored budget – almost! – and went over budget, but I think it was well worth it with the calibre of players on this record. We’ve got keys, we’ve got Hammond organ, we’ve got drums and bass, which I’ve never recorded before. It’s previously just been solo stuff with maybe a little something here and there. There are back-up singers and percussionists and all kinds of stuff on the record, so I definitely tried to create that ‘working together’ kind of idea.
“As for Grant and Danny, it was such a cool experience. I’ve never played with a band before until they came into the studio and started jamming with me. And it made me realise as a solo artist just how bad my timing was. I was so used to creating the timing by myself with my feet that when you get into the studio with ridiculously talented musicians like that, it puts things into perspective.”