Interview: KIAN (AUS) on writing songs at a young age, working with Baker Boy and his latest EP

Kian Brownfield had already begun making a name for himself before entering the Triple J Unearthed High competition in 2018. He’d featured on a track with Baker Boy, landing a spot in the Hottest 100 and appeared at his Splendour In The Grass set.

However, the sixteen-year-old is now a solo artist in his own right, with KIAN taking out the Unearthed High title and having his tunes on high rotation on the commercial airwaves. His new EP Bliss dropped on May 10th and he gave us an insight into his work in celebration.

How are you doing KIAN?

I’m pretty good. I’m a little bit tired, I had an early start today, but feeling good.

Yeah, I can imagine. Those press days are always a long day, hey.

Yeah. I just flew in from Melbourne, got up at like five, so it’s a bit of a mission but it’s good.

Oh man, I hope it’s worth it. I hope you get to see a bit of Sydney while you’re here.

Yeah, hopefully.

Let’s talk about you. You are the winner of the 2018 Triple J Unearthed High competition, but your career really started well before that. You started in music when you were two, I read. Tell me about that.

In a way, I kind of was involved in dance and music, and just being amongst the creative process in general. Just being surrounded by people constantly making new things, and writing songs, creating, choreographing dances and stuff. That’s the kind of stuff I grew up with, so it sort of helped me feel comfortable creating myself. I guess that in some ways you could say that I started that young. I feel like opportunities I have been given more recently have sort of opened up my career more.

Undoubtedly. Undoubtedly. Your family is pretty musical, and you accompanied your dad on trips up into the Northern Territory to work in remote communities, and spread music there. Is that where you met Baker Boy?

Yes, I met Baker Boy, when I think I was twelve or thirteen in a community called Beswick, at a festival called Walking With Spirits Festival, and he was working for my Dad doing dance stuff, so we kind of just made a little connection. I think he was 18 at the time or something, so it was cool that he was young as well, so we kind of just joked around the whole time while we were there.

Tell me about that blossoming collaboration at the very beginning, because Baker Boy wouldn’t have been the Baker Boy that he is now.

He was just Danzal Baker. He was just finding a good niche … At the time he was very skinny, very … He just looked young. It’s pretty crazy how much, even in the last like three or four years, both of us has changed so much as people.

He’s still a great person and really it all happened really naturally. The way that song, “Cloud 9”, came to be was, my Dad was in the studio with Baker Boy and Jerome Farah. Was it Jerome? I can’t remember if it was Jerome, or a different producer. The producer was with them there. I just ended up happening to come by the studio that day and just hanging out, and then eventually ended up singing the chorus of the song. It was kind of just a random thing, it was never planned or anything. It was fun to just be in that environment where there was no sort of expectation on the track at all. It was just kind of having some fun.

Yeah, sounds like such a casual sort of, fell in to singing the hook on a track, which made it into the Hottest 100, that’s insane.

Yeah. That was pretty crazy for me to be honest. The first time I ever really sang on something that was put out and so well received by Australia I guess. It was definitely cool as well to see one of my close friends really fly with his career, start making a career for himself.

And it goes to show that, you can do the same as well. If someone so close to you can do it, it’s almost like you can just touch the flame, and be like, “Oh”. Makes it seem more achievable.

Definitely lit a spark.

It sounds like you were pretty switched on from a young age. I remember when I was thirteen, fourteen, I was still like kicking mud in creeks, but you were busy writing songs, being in the studio. Where did that sort of discipline come from?

Honestly, I think it’s just my parents and the people I’ve been around. I have older sisters and everything, so I sort of just grew up around people who were older than me. I guess I just had to sort of develop myself to hold up in adult conversation and things like that.

I think also it’s just going through certain situations in my life, tough situations and things like that, with just myself and my family. It’s helped me grow as a person, and allowed me to be able to talk about my feelings and talk about my opinions a lot better than maybe some other people who’re my age.

And I imagine having the outlet of music is a form of therapy at that sort of age if you’re going through tough experiences in your personal life.

Definitely, definitely is. It’s crazy just how much young people rely on music to get their emotions out, not even writing music, even just listening to music is such a great escape from life itself. You get to hear emotions in your ears, you know what I mean? People just conveying what they have to say and how they’re feeling into music, which is like crazy that you can even do that.

Yeah, I agree. Also, it’s almost like someones writing about your shared experience. You’re like, “I’m not alone”. The amount of times I’ve cried in my car listening to someone else’s song that just relates, you know. Oh God damn.

Yeah, exactly. It’s kind of like, There’s nothing else like it in the way … I think it’s interesting how a song can mean so many things to so many people. Just one lyric could have sentimental value to someone. That’s kind of how feel when people ask me what’s my song about, so I kind of make up whatever it is about to you, do you know what I mean?

Nice. You wrote, “Waiting”, when you were fourteen, is that right?

Yeah when I was fourteen. I was just about to turn fifteen at the time, probably a week or so before my birthday. Maybe a few weeks before my birthday. But yeah, I was 14, just had my first opportunity to go in the studio and write a song as myself, a full song.

That was really cool. I sort of had the idea and got stuck on my guitar and stuff. I was working on some stuff. Went to the studio having never written the whole song beforehand. Just kind of going for it. So it ended up, got lucky, ended up one in a million thing, where your first song isn’t totally trash. Ended up doing pretty well.

Well must be an innate talent then, because people hone it but if you can smash out that song that’s incredible. Also, I read that “Childism” … Did you come up with that song before you even conceptualised, “Waiting”? Was that right?

Yeah so, “Childism”, I made some … A lot of my songs that are coming out and now they’re all stuff that before I even released anything, that I’d written them as like maybe songs. It’s kind of cool to see that progression with myself and my writing. As an artist, before anything even happens, before any demo, or anything influence me. It’s definitely cool I think. Hopefully people can receive it well. I think “Childism”, is a really important song for me, and I hope people can enjoy it as much as they enjoyed “Waiting”.

Well, I personally love it. It’s such a good tune. Do you think listening back to it now, because obviously you would have had a younger point of view for that age, do you still feel like it’s validated? Because for me I’m like, “Wow that’s insane.” If I was writing stuff at that age it would just be about absolute rubbish, you know what I mean? But it sounds like it’s still relevant a couple of years on.

Yeah. Yeah definitely. For me, I feel like as long as it can just relate to one person it’s worth it. For me all my songs have different meanings to me. A lot of the times sometimes I wrote a song about something and then in a few weeks it might have a whole new meaning because something else might have happened, you know what I mean?

It’s cool though, “Childism” for me is definitely a way of … First time I thought it was saying exactly how I was feeling at the time, just trying to find a way to put that out there. It was all about trying to say something that has been said before, just saying it in a different way. I know there’s a lot of like teenage songs out there, but I was just trying to do it my way.

Yeah, it’s a lot more sort of calm angst. I like it. You entered the Unearthed High competition with “Waiting” and then you took out the competition ahead of 11,000 other entries I think it was, or something crazy like that, but your foot was already sort of in the door with “Cloud 9”. How has your life changed since taking out the competition? What was that moment like when you found out you won? Talk me through that.

Definitely a lot of change and I was already really busy with Baker Boy doing shows like every weekend for almost two years. I had that experience already, performing in front of crowds and having to put on a show. I sort of had that under my belt.

I guess I was entering the competition, but like not really … I almost like, I really wanted to win but if I didn’t win, I kind of felt like I already had my name in that scene, so I could understand why I mightn’t have got chosen. I already had an opportunity, so that was just one thing.

I think it’s definitely a surprise when I ended up even being in the top three, that was definitely cool, I was like, “Damn this could actually really happen and be like life changing from here on out”. As it was, it ended up being pretty life changing and just so much other stuff has unfolded that I’ve been traveling everywhere since, and making songs, meeting new people. It’s definitely hard to keep the same relationships and stuff because I’m busy, and a lot of my friends are busy with school and things like that, so I’m just trying to keep up with everything all at once, which can be difficult at times.

Yeah, I can imagine the lifestyle change would be pretty drastic, and just being on the road is tough for anyone let alone someone who’s meant to be doing school and at the age of sixteen it’s insane. Are you still doing school?

Currently, I haven’t really been at school. I’ve been super, super busy. But yeah, I’m definitely trying to … I really, really want to try to get at least some form of education, so I can keep that brain flowing. I don’t want to get stuck.

I want to say you need a back up, but I don’t think you do with the career you’ve already started to be honest.


Hopefully. Knock on wood. Has there been a big ‘pinch me’ moment since the competition?

It’s like it’s all just one big ‘pinch me’ moment. Sometimes you have to sit back. Sometimes you take things for granted and one day you’ll sit back and be like, “Damn, so much stuff happened that I’d never thought could happen.”

I think that, nearly every day, I almost have to pinch myself every day, every second just to sort of bring myself back and like, “Damn, this all happened so fast.” Things are continuing to happen and moving forward. I’m always looking ahead really and trying to see where I can go from where I am.

Yeah, that’s a good mindset to be in, and looking ahead you have a full length album coming out this year. What can you tease?

Well, I’m still working on it. I’m really, really hoping to get it out by the end of this year, but with that sort of stuff I don’t like putting timelines on it, because I’d rather take the time and make a really good album, than have to rush it out to meet a deadline.

Particularly your debut album as well, you want it to be ready.

Exactly, exactly. Yeah.

What else is on the horizon for you? Anything else we should know about?

Yeah. Well I’ve got an EP coming out on May 10th, so I’m excited to get that out there. Full of all the songs, I don’t think that they’re not crazy big songs, but they’re songs that mean a lot to me. I really hope people can see the meaning behind them and relate to them as well.

Like a lot of my music it has messages behind it, different things, different scenarios, talking about different points in my life. It’s kind of funny I always want to stay honest and true to myself, and to the people around me. I never want to have to live up to some expectation.

Yeah, that’s important not to be boxed in to one genre and the likes.

Yeah, exactly.

That’s very exciting. I can’t wait for May 10th then, I’m going to get a little body of music.

Yeah I’m excited to get that out.

Will you back it up with a little tour or anything?

Yeah. I’ve got an Australian tour, doing some shows later this year around the time of Splendour. I’m doing Splendour and Spin Off Festival, of which is going to heaps of fun. So many amazing artists in that line up. I’m just honoured even to be able to go. I performed there with Baker Boy last year, and at that point I wasn’t really thinking I was going to be able to perform there myself, but here I am today staring at that line up with my name on it, so it’s definitely crazy.

Yeah, that solo set will be a ‘pinch me’ moment for sure, I can imagine.

Oh for sure, yeah.

Well thank you so much for talking to me today KIAN. I really appreciate you taking the time. Hopefully we can catch up when you’re touring, that’d be sweet.

Yeah, awesome. That’d be sick.

Yeah. Good luck with the rest of the day and I hope you get a rest at some point.

Thanks. You have a good day too.

KIAN’s Bliss EP is out now! To find out where you can download and listen, head to KIAN’s website.

You can catch KIAN around Australia at the following dates:

July 19 | Spin Off Festival | Adelaide, SA
July 21 | Splendour In The Grass | Byron Bay, NSW
July 27 | Oxford Art Factory | Sydney, NSW
July 31 | university of Canberra | Canberra, ACT
August 3 | Northcote Social Club | Melbourne, VIC
August 4 | Northcote Social Club | Melbourne, VIC

Tait McGregor


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