It's the soothing sound of Kim Churchill who plays a guitar with the busiest of fingers and the rhythm of a master, and who sings lyrics too enigmatic to believe they came from someone so young.
He's a true blue Aussie who is just 21; a surfer with a connection to the sea that spills out in his performances, even when he's a long, long way from the beach. And he's a reminder to us all that choosing what's in your heart is better than choosing what's in your head.
During the midst of his Canadian tour and sitting curbside, shoeless and in the shade away from a piercing sun, he speaks openly as his feet rub the dirt and filth of the street. He first picked up a guitar at the age of 4. "Or so I'm told." He says. "I can't remember this, but I guess when I saw my mother play, inspiration just happened." His father couldn't ignore the potential he saw in his son and enrolled him in classical guitar lessons at age 6. Kim admits to hating classical instruction, often bargaining grades for new instruments. "My dad would say if you get an A in this next class, I'll get you a new Fender guitar, so I would put in two hours in the morning, grab my board, catch a few waves, and make the school bus by 8:30, then practice again after school. It took me a few tries, but I ended up getting an A, and I got the new Fender."
He sweeps blonde tangled hair from his eyes with hands that allude to his workmanlike approach to the craft; his right hand, the one that does the bulk of the strumming, has fingernails like a vampire and a thumb coated in duck tape, while his left is callused. Despite being so young, there is great depth within Kim. When the inside of a person is full, there is less need to dress the outside, which could be why he wears no logos on his attire, a rarity for any teenager. Instead, he dresses simply, more for what seems like function than to attach him to a mass-approved identity fashioned by clothing corporations.
That obvious work ethic and years of practice, together with an indescribable talent are displayed thanks to the wonders of YouTube in a clip of Kim sitting in a workshop. With guitar in lap, a surfboard and photo of his idol, Bob Dylan, behind him, the viewer can witness the magic in his hands as they literally dance all over the instrument. They bang, tap, flutter and pick at the strings with purpose and precision. It's easy to get hypnotized by his hands, and thus to become lost in the sound and the soul of the music.
The Australian accent is impossible to ignore as his soft and, sometimes, raspy voice sings lyrics that, unbelievably, he has written himself. When asked about a track titled The Early, his reply reveals his youthfulness; "Oh yeah, I wrote that a long time ago." Translation: 18 months is a long time when you're still just 19. But for the few innocent and endearing comments, you could be forgiven in forgetting his age, because the stuff on the inside is anything but young. He's an old soul in a young body, a perfect combination when you consider the benefits of youth in performance.
Kim doesn't just show up and play his music. He takes the time to explain his songs, he takes the time to thank the crowd and he pauses to inhale the manifestation of his dream. In an age full of self-centered performers who consider fanfare a right and not a privilege, Kim is a breath of fresh air. Will he grow cold from the gig and start to play his songs just for the money? Who knows, but the greatest reason for hope that Kim won't follow a long list of burnt out performers is his connection to the sea, which he can use like an ace up the sleeve. It's that union with nature that will ground him, it's a bond that may protect him from the vultures, prevent him from following and instead give him the confidence to lead.
- Johnny Glanville