LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Press Release) — Over the course of a remarkable musical journey that stretches back to the 1970s, Australian singer-songwriter-guitaristPaul Kelly has consistently embraced musical risks and creative challenges. In the process, he’s emerged as one of his country’s most beloved and influential artists, with a devoted fan base that spans the world.
Kelly’s latest release, Seven Sonnets & A Song, features an audacious concept inspired by the artist’s longstanding love for the classic works ofWilliam Shakespeare. Recorded in various studios over the course of 18 months, the seven-track mini-album finds Kelly singing six Shakespeare sonnets as well as a song from Twelfth Night. The collection’s only non-Shakespearean piece is “My True Love Hath My Heart,” written by Shakespeare’s contemporary Sir Philip Sidney and sung by noted Australian vocalist Vika Bull.
As one of music’s preeminent wordsmiths as well as a lifelong Shakespeare devotee, Kelly is the proud owner of the 20-pound, three-volume Collected Works of William Shakespeare. So it’s no surprise that the works within those pages have served as a deep influence throughout Kelly’s lengthy career, and now find more direct expression in Seven Sonnets & A Song.
As Kelly notes, “Just about anything you want to say, Shakespeare’s said it already.”
Seven Sonnets & A Song will be released in North America via Gawd Aggie/Cooking Vinyl America (RED) on April 22, 2016—the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and will be available digitally, as well as on CD and 10" vinyl. In Australia, the album’s release will coincide with Kelly’s live appearances at the State Library of New South Wales (in conjunction with the Sydney Writers’ Festival and Bell Shakespeare) and at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. Paul will also be speaking about Shakespeare and performing several sonnets at Sydney Writers’ Festival on May 16.
Rolling Stone’s David Fricke has called Kelly “one of the finest songwriters I have ever heard, Australian or otherwise,” while Neil Finn of Crowded House has said, “There is something unique and powerful about the way Kelly mixes up everyday detail with the big issues of life, death, love and struggle — not a trace of pretense or fakery in there.” Australian alt-country diva Kasey Chambers notes, “If I was only allowed to listen to one artist for the rest of my life, I would choose Paul Kelly.”
Seven Sonnets & A Song is Kelly’s 21st studio album; he’s also recorded three live albums and several film soundtracks. His recordings have won Kelly a far-reaching reputation for emotionally vivid lyrics and an uncanny ability to distill a novel’s worth of narrative and character detail into concise, effortlessly catchy tunes. Seven Sonnets & A Song follows Goin’ Your Way, a live collaboration between the artist and kindred musical spirit Neil Finn, and Kelly’s adventurous studio albums Paul Kelly presents The Merri Soul Sessions and Spring And Fall.
2012 saw Kelly celebrate his extensive body of work with the release of the career-spanning 40-song compilation Paul Kelly’s Greatest Hits: Songs From the South (Volumes 1 & 2) and the eight-CD, 105-song live box set The A-Z Recordings, along with expanded reissues of many of his original albums, most of which had long been out of print, or never released, in America. He also wrote a book, a well-received “mongrel memoir” titled How to Make Gravy, which was accompanied by an audio book with readings from Kelly and some of Australia’s greatest actors, including Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe, Judy Davis and Hugh Jackman.
In the years since the release of his 1981 debut album Talk, Kelly has maintained a prolific pace that’s helped to win him a permanent place in the hearts of fans around the world. The Adelaide native first picked up a guitar and began to write songs in his late teens. He traveled extensively around Australia during his youth, before settling in Melbourne, where he quickly established himself as a force in that city’s diverse musical community. After stints as a solo folkie and a member of the R&B-influenced pub-rock combo the High Rise Bombers, he won a contract with the Mushroom label, for which he recorded the seminal albums Talk, Manila, Post and Gossip.
Gossip became Kelly’s first U.S. release, on A&M Records, which also issued his Under the Sunand So Much Water So Close to Home. Those albums won him reams of stateside critical acclaim, while expanding his loyal U.S. fan base. Kelly continued to stake out new territory on such subsequent releases as Comedy, Wanted Man, Deeper Water, Live at the Continental and the Esplanade, How to Make Gravy, Words and Music, Nothing But a Dream, Ways & Means,Foggy Highway, Dirt and Stolen Apples. He also branched out stylistically with Smoke, a rootsy collaboration with the Australian bluegrass combo Uncle Bill, as well as an eponymous experimental dub-reggae album recorded as part of the techno-groove ensemble Professor Ratbaggy, and most recently a self-titled album as a member of the studio supergroup Stardust Five.
Kelly’s interest in aboriginal issues has led him to collaborate with aboriginal songwriter Archie Roach and the multicultural group Yothu Yindi. He provided award-winning musical scores for the films Lantana, One Night the Moon and Jindabyne; and wrote songs for, and acted in, the Australian stage play Funerals and Circuses. He’s written songs for several other Australian artists, and was the inspiration for the tribute album Women at the Well, on which 14 female performers interpreted Kelly compositions. He’s published four volumes of his song lyrics, and written pieces for the prestigious Australian magazine The Monthly. An all-star tribute concert in Melbourne honored his 30th anniversary as a recording artist, and in 2011 he was the subject of the feature-length documentary Paul Kelly: Stories of Me.
In recent years, Kelly has showcased both the depth of his songbook and his skills as a solo performer with his long-running series of Paul Kelly A-Z shows, in which the artist works his way through an alphabetical list of more than 100 songs during a four-night stand of unplugged concerts. His numerous honors include eight Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Music Awards; he was inducted into that organization’s Hall of Fame in 1997.
Listen now! American Songwriter premiered a track from Paul Kelly's Seven Sonnets & A Song: http://bit.ly/1pLkFbT