Paul Kelly On New Album ‘Life Is Fine,’ His First U.S. Tour In 13 Years With A Full Band, New York, And More

A chat with Paul Kelly, one of Australia's all-time top music artists

Known as Australia’s preeminent songwriter, Paul Kelly is both a member of the Australian Recording Industry Association’s Hall of Fame and an appointed Officer Of The Order Of Australia. Two of his songs — “To Her Door” and “Treaty” — made the Australasian Performing Rights Association’s 2001 list of the top 30 Australian songs of all time, while Kelly also has won six Country Music Awards from the Country Music Association Of Australia. Many notable artists have performed songs by Kelly, who has released 23 studio albums.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Paul Kelly is currently preparing to hit the road in support of his 23rd full-length studio effort, Life Is Fine. Released via Gawd Aggie and Cooking Vinyl — as distributed in North America by The Orchard — Life Is Fine received a 4/5 rating from Mojo and an 8/10 from Uncut. The video for first single “Firewood And Candles” was premiered by Yahoo! Music.

The tour in support of Life Is Fine will include Kelly’s first North American concert dates with a full band in 13 years. It kicks off on September 17 at The Hamilton in Washington D.C. and includes stops in Boston (September 22), New York (September 23), Atlanta (September 27), Minneapolis (October 11) and Portland (October 17) before wrapping at The Roxy in Los Angeles on October 22. To learn more about the album, the tour and the artist himself, I spoke to Kelly for the Inquisitr. More on Paul Kelly can be found at www.paulkelly.com.au.

What do you remember about the first time you ever played live in New York? Where was it?

Paul Kelly: It was at The Bottom Line in New York. I remember being impressed by its history, stepping on to the stage and thinking of all the wonderful performers who had preceded me there. I also remember being surprised that I had to do the whole show twice on the one night.

Aside from touring, have you ever been to New York for a vacation? Do you have a favorite restaurant here?

Paul Kelly: I had a short vacation just before Christmas in 1988 with my wife Kaarin and 8-year-old son, Declan, after driving across the country from L.A. We did all the tourist things, walked around looking at the sights. Rockefeller Center, Times Square, rambled through Central Park. Saw The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. There was snow, slush, and ice on the streets, which we weren’t used to. We were a-slipping and a-sliding. There were lights and Christmas decorations everywhere. New York seemed magical. We were cold but happy.

What should be expected from your Highline Ballroom show on September 23 in New York for someone who hasn’t seen you live before?

Paul Kelly: I’ll have the whole band that played on the record with me, including our featured singers Vika and Linda. We’re going to play Life Is Fine in its entirety then move onto a mix of older songs. Overall it will be an upbeat, playful show with lots of light and shade. Vika and Linda are mesmerizing to watch and hear.

What is your favorite song on Life Is Fine?

Paul Kelly: At the moment, “Letter In The Rain,” which was the last song written for the record. I’d been chasing it for a while and it only just made it on time. That song feels like a gift.

People often refer to you as Australia’s foremost singer-songwriter. Is that a description that you enjoy? Or does it come with a lot of pressure?

Paul Kelly: As Nick Cave says, “We’re not in a horse race.” Pressure comes more from the inside than outside.

Do you have a favorite Paul Kelly cover as done by another artist?

Paul Kelly: “Foggy Highway” by Renee Geyer. It was one of the first times someone else had done one of my songs. I hadn’t been sure if it worked because I’d been struggling to sing it but she revealed the song to me.

When not busy with your career, how do you like to spend your free time?

Paul Kelly: I live by the sea with a long bike path along the shore. I ride and swim. I play football with my friends. I visit my grandchildren or they come to visit me. I read books. I especially love reading in bed in the middle of the day. It feels luxurious. Loafing is important. Work is overrated. Albert Einstein and Walt Whitman were great loafers.

Is there something you wish more people knew about you?

Paul Kelly: No.

What has been your favorite album of 2017 so far?

Paul Kelly: Divas And Demons by Remi.

Finally, what was the last concert you attended for fun?

Paul Kelly: A friend put on a concert in Melbourne called Blackout Sessions last week. It was in an old seafaring mission. All the performers sang and played without electricity, surrounded by candles. Everyone who came was told to bring a torch. It was beautiful and thrilling.

[Featured Image by Wendy Brynford-Jones]