Mama Kin Spender lays it all on the table

Mama Kin Spender is a lightning bolt moment between two long-time friends, co-writers and mischief-makers: ARIA-nominated Danielle Caruana aka Mama Kin, and producer Tommy Spender. Keen to challenge others to raise their voices in defiance of the status quo, Mama Kin Spender are the perfect choice to host Pub Choir at this year’s Bleach* The Gold Coast Festival, where they’ll also be performing a live set with the HOTA Chamber Choir at Bleach* at Burleigh, and sitting down to talk all things women in performing arts at Table Talk. We caught up with the duo from their shared property in Western Australia.

Tell us a bit about your performances with local choirs.

Danielle: Basically we engage local choirs in most places we play. For us it’s a deeper engagement with community and also further bridges the gap between the performance and the audience. For Bleach* at Burleigh we’re performing with the HOTA Chamber Choir. Everywhere we go it’s a different sound and feel, and we leave not just with an experience that we’ve shared with the audience but we’ve also shared a performance space with people from the community.

Tommy: The choirs have all generally been really overwhelmed, very excited, very proud. I think they love the fact that they get to work directly with the songwriters because normally they work with material where they don’t have that connection and they just have to take it at face value, whereas we share our stories and can bring depth to the preparation.

And how is Pub Choir different?

Danielle: It’s different in that it all happens on the night, and it’s a song we teach on the spot to members of the public.

Tommy: We did something similar last year at WOMADelaide, a workshop teaching 600 people 4 part harmony. It was pretty wild.

Danielle: That was one of the most amazing experiences. They sang their hearts out. It was super goosey!

Danielle, you’re also involved in a Table Talk, about women in the performing arts. What are some of the perspectives you’re likely to bring?

Danielle: To be honest it’s constantly shifting as I grow into my own field and my own reality with it. Generally my own philosophy on it is that the empowerment starts with yourself, the way we speak to ourselves. It’s important to check out your own self-criticism and check how we are with the women around us. There are a lot of women who are doing a lot of incredible work to challenge that.

And have you conquered that negative self-talk yet?

Danielle: [Laughs] NO! No way. I’m in a process and just trying to be aware of it, and not allowing it to define any of my actions. I try to just stay on top of that in terms of what my agenda is and what my motives are.

You folks have been friends for a long time. Does it help or hinder your processes as a musical team?

Danielle: Actually, yesterday we were writing together and Tommy hit a carb coma after lunch and had a sluggish moment. We’re in Margaret River recording in this little wooden cottage and we’re writing a new song and whipping it into shape, and Tommy heard a crow –

Tommy: [Laughs] I can’t believe you’re telling this story! It was almost like the crow’s call had a note it, it was in key with the song we were working on. So I went ‘oh the crow is in the same key what does that mean?’

Danielle: And I said ‘It’s probably trying to tell us to get on with writing the fucking song.’

Tommy: She shot my shaman down. The crow’s saying get back to work. [Laughs]

Danielle: In answer to your question though, the benefits of collaborating with someone is that it can keep the momentum moving!

You can keep moving with Mama Kin Spender when they hit Bleach* for their three events on 26 April. Bleach* runs from 17 – 28 April and full program details can be found at bleachfestival.com.au.

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