Mama Kin
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Mama Kin

Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia | Established. Jan 01, 2009 | INDIE

Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Folk Soul




"Mama Kin's Got a Brand New Bag"

DANIELLE Caruana's musical family cast a shadow over her own ambitions, until now.

HIDDEN away in the heart of Fremantle is the recording studio that changed Danielle Caruana's life. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but indoors is a fully equipped space where Caruana, known professionally as Mama Kin, realised the dream she had been nursing for most of her life.

The result of those recording sessions was Mama Kin's debut album Beat and Holler, which was released in July. That was the final hurdle for a performer who for years was too scared to sing in public; not because she wasn't good at it but because she felt intimidated by the wealth of musical talent in her family.

Caruana, the youngest of six siblings, grew up in a musical, Maltese-Australian family in the Melbourne suburb of Newport.

"I was born into this loving, dynamic, community house," she says. "The core of everything we did was around music. There was a family band, church sessions and the Maltese community came around to our house. It was really joyous. The more people who were around the house the more joyous it became."

Growing up, Caruana absorbed the musical tastes of her elder siblings but always lacked the confidence to perform. She started to have an interest in music "when I was comparing myself all the time to my older brothers and sisters, even though they had so much more experience than me".

Her elder sister Carmen introduced her to the music of Aretha Franklin and Joan Armatrading, and even now you can hear traces of those powerful female singers on Beat and Holler.

Her brothers Michael and Nicky - on keyboards and drums respectively - had skills she felt were impossible to match. "I was so intimidated by the talent around me that I was convinced that I was no good," she says.

It didn't help her ambitions that in 1999 she met and fell in love with roots troubadour John Butler. Just when she was beginning to think she could break out of her shell, along came another muso with talent to spare.

"I thought, 'There it is, more proof that I should not do anything with my music.' So I spent more years gripped by anxiety and fear around it."

Caruana and Butler married and have two children, daughter Banjo and son Jahli. Butler, she says, was always encouraging about her musical ability, but that was not enough to convince her.

"It got to the point where the anxiety was so rampant for me that I made a rule that he wasn't allowed to talk to me about my music any more," she says.

"It was a really deep emotional state for me. If someone asked me to play something I really had to stop myself from crying. It was such a personal space. The reason it was so charged for me was that ultimately I did want to share my music. I had this great desire to share my songs, but I was completely scared of anybody's feedback or response."

What a relief it must be for her, now she has earned acclaim for her album and live performances.

While she is a relative novice in terms of songwriting and stagecraft, Caruana's voice and her facility with several genres, from jazz through to soul, blues and pop, on her album suggest an artist of considerable experience.

"I'm surprised by how much I love it," she says of performing. "I come off stage thinking: 'I had no idea I would love it as much as this.' To make a human connection through something that you created yourself is a great thing. That's an amazing feeling."

Helping her are her brother Michael on keyboards and drummer George Servanis, the mainstays of the Mama Kin ensemble. Just to add to the family tree, brother Nicky Bomba is drummer in the John Butler Trio.

Michael Caruana and Servanis will play with Mama Kin when she begins her first national tour as a headline act this Thursday, at the Vanguard in Sydney. She has toured previously, supporting Butler, Gurrumul and the Cat Empire, among others.

The songs on Beat and Holler are among the first she has written, but once again that is not the impression one gets from the refined grooves and often personal lyrics that accompany them. These are songs of experience, personally and musically.

If her husband was an influence in any way, it wasn't because Caruana wanted his advice.

In fact she deliberately avoided asking him.

"It didn't feel like a natural thing to do," she says.

"These were intimate and personal songs that were coming through. There were a couple of points where I asked his opinion, but more on technical things. He has been so enthusiastic about what I'm doing that I didn't feel that I could get totally constructive criticism from him. He's generally biased. I had trouble believing his enthusiasm because I thought that it was because he loved me and not because he loved the music. I didn't think I could get the criticism I needed from him."

Caruana spent a lot of time refining the songs, partly to get them just right and because Butler's professional commitments mean the family is often on the road, when writing songs isn't the easiest task.

"We joke that our kids were born into a carnival and that's just their fault," she says. "They were born into the freak show so they have to spend some time every year on the road. That's just part of their life story."

The next chapter of Caruana's story is her tour, but beyond that she is looking forward to a long and fruitful career as a singer-songwriter, making up for lost time.

"Music is a language to me," she says. "It's my doctor, my family and my friend."

The name Mama Kin is also the title of a song by rock giants Aerosmith, although Caruana was unaware of that when she decided on the name. Nevertheless the message of that song, about keeping in touch with family, fits Caruana's use of it.

"That's why I called it Mama Kin . . . because I was inspired to do it by my kids," she says. "Having children gave me the guts to do it. You want them to be brave and strong. I was being a coward. I couldn't want them to be brave and not act like that myself." Mama Kin's tour begins in Sydney on Thursday and continues until December 11. - The Australian

"Next for Kin"

"Caruana is a musician in her own right; a stand-up rock solid musician...Honesty is the power that drives Caruana's music. It's the reason she's sharing this part of herself with the world..." - Rhythms Magazine

"M Magazine"

"Beat and Holler is strongly individual...Varied in feel and tempo, with heart-baringly honest lyrics, this is a piano lover' dream." - The Sunday Age

"Mama Kin born into music"

"a soulful outing channeling the Maltese-Australian singer and pianist's Latin passion and feminine power...proves nobody puts Mama in the corner...excellent, soulful and feisty." - The West Australian

"This Mama Kin sure set your soul on fire"

"a kind of swampy, foot-stomping, blues-tinged soul...really special, totally smouldering." - The Sun-Herald

"Red-hot Mama stands up"

"Beat and Holler is a fantastic record, a delicious hotpot of soulful grooves, seductive melodies, stomping percussive beats and classic old world instrumentation" - Sunday Mail


Still working on that hot first release.



As mischievous as she is charming, Fremantles Mama Kin is part raconteur and all-out entertainer. With a widespread reputation for her unique blend of foot-stomping soul, heart-wrenching ballads and stirring live shows, Mama Kin is back with a swag of new songs and a shift in sonic direction.

Her new album, The Magicians Daughter, signals an expansion in Mama Kins musical palette. It ushers in a depth and potency underpinned by Mama Kins vocals that so spectacularly hover between vulnerability and power.

Cinematic at times, with lush arrangements and bold production by Jan Skubiszewski (Way of the Eagle, Owl Eyes, The Cat Empire), The Magicians Daughter pushes Mama Kins own boundaries, challenging her trademark sound. Where her debut album Beat and Holler was a soulstress war cry, traversing the riotous and the raw, her sophomore album takes us deeper into the human condition, where the magic lives.


It exists in the soulful place where art meets the world The Sydney Morning Herald

excellent, soulful and feisty The West Australian

complex and variedexciting and intricate Tone Deaf

Feisty and full of heart and melody, Mama Kins smoky vocals are both seductive and tender ABC Radio

The resut is hypnotic Stack Magazine

definitely my favourite and most inspiring album of the year so far Triple J Magazine

It doesnt ever really let go, musically, sonically and emotionally The Sydney Morning Herald

a delicious hotpot of soulful grooves, seductive melodies, stomping percussive beats and classic old-world instrumentation The Sunday Mail

lashings of pop nous Rolling Stone

a remarkable piece of songwriting, so tender and real The Melbourne Magazine, The Age

really special, totally smouldering The Sun-Herald

a giddy joy to watch FasterLouder

really special, totally smouldering The Sun-Herald

a delicious hotpot of soulful grooves, seductive melodies, stomping percussive beats and classic old-world instrumentation The Sunday Mail

excellent, soulful and feisty The West Australian

heartache and melodypulling you along for a beautiful journey. Triple J

There is something primal and infectious about soul delivered this way. AIR Independent Reviews

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