Kathie Renner has just released Inside My Head a release of nine originals and a Don McLean cut to round the album out. Late May 2019, radionotes had a chat with the Songwriter and Singer who for seventeen years was known for their time with Vincent’s Chair… now Renner is turning a new page, highlighted in part and woven by recent life-events with some discussed within this chat…
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(Transcript of Kathie Renner chat below, check to delivery in audio)
Part of radionotes is to talk to musicians about life, away from the usual flair of who did what on any said release of theirs. Chat, heads to ‘death’ not the lightest of topics but a pressing and present one.
Would urge – if have not already – to find time to listen to Inside My Head the record Renner has released. Apart from a great companion piece for this extended chat (40 plus minutes), it shows an artist giving their all and – as they say themselves in the chat – The One is quite the number in candidness and I’d add in heart. Lyrically strong and compositionally brilliance to be found in new music they’ve released.
IMAGE CREDIT: Supplied
SHOW NOTES: Kathie Renner episode
Where to find the show to subscribe/follow:
- PlayPodcast – this link directs you, to the Podcast app on your device (subscribe to not miss an episode)
….or you may prefer to Search “radionotes Podcast” in your favourite podcatcher.
The socials… Instagram – Facebook – Twitter
In The Box:
- Ten Years Time – Kalle Mattson [Bandcamp]
- Songs From The Start – Jackie Marshall (Album out September 11th, 2019) [Bandcamp]
- Mystify – A Musical Journey with Michael Hutchence [LinkTo]
- Stolen From The Audience of My Life – Jairay [Bandcamp]
Passing of The Ghost:
- Vale Stephen ‘The Ghost’ Walker (TripleR)
- The Ghost’s legacy lives on – Jeff Sparrow (The Guardian)
- Cult figure, guru, tastermaker – Mark Phillips (The Age)
- The Ghost’s Interview with Patti Smith on Skull Cave (TripleR)
FEATURE GUEST: Kathie Renner
- Official Site
- Facebook– Twitter – Instagram
- How to Draw a Horse by Emma Hunsinger [The New Yorker]
- Java Jive – The Manhattan Transfer LIVE [YouTube]
- Blue – Joni Mitchell (Album) [Spotify]
- On The Side of the Angels – Kathie Renner (Album)
- Macca Collection Box Set – Top 100 (ABC Music)
- Vincent’s Chair (Official Site)
- Ruby Frost Quartet
- Inside My Head (Album)
- Better On Drugs – Jim Bryson’s $30 Single [Bandcamp]
- Smoke and Mirrors – Emily Hatton (Official Music Video) [Youtube]
- Aesthetic Space – Keegan Bowen (4-Track) [Bandcamp]
- Thief – Harley Mavis (Single) [LinkTo] on Local Live [YouTube]
Next Episode: Batts
More details on playpodcast here, thanks to Matt from them.
[Radio Production – notes: Renner chat goes for just over 40 minutes, The One pick off the LP to go with it, or A Horse Called Pablo]
Theme/Music: Martin Kennedy and All India Radio
Web-design/tech: Steve Davis
Voice: Tammy Weller
You can make direct contact with the podcast – on the Contact Page
For direct quotes check to audio, first version of transcript by Paula M at REV
John Murch: Kathie Renner, welcome to radionotes.
Kathie Renner: Thank you.
John Murch: I want to start the conversation starting off with its title, Inside My Head. How much of a reflection was this on your own thinking?
Kathie Renner: It’s all a reflection of my thinking. I think my best life is lived inside my head. The reality’s nowhere near was exciting.
John Murch: We’re not going to talk too much about the album, but it’d be nice to get a feel of how long this album took. Today’s the anniversary of its conception.
Kathie Renner: It’s the anniversary of when we started recording it. So the songs are probably a bit older than that. The song like A Horse Called Pablo took at least a year to write.
John Murch: You mentioned Pablo there. I want to ask about the fascination with horses before we do the drawing of horses. When did you learn that you could draw them?
Kathie Renner: My mother taught me actually. I always loved to draw as a child. Loved it. And then of course I worked out I liked horses and I needed to know how to draw a horse. My mum is an artist, was an artist herself, she taught me the rudiments of it. Bought me books that showed you how to draw horses and it just went from there.
John Murch: When was your first encounter with a horse face-to-face?
Kathie Renner: Well I learned to ride on a horse called Pablo in fact when I was in year eight or something like that, so that’s a long time ago. Cool excursion, we all went down. We all rode in single file. Got taught the basics of it all.
John Murch: Were you then encouraged to go and visit another horse or the same horse again?
Kathie Renner: Didn’t visit the same horse, but you know there’s a horse walking around or tied up in a field, I’ll stop and go have a chat and try and feed it something. I think they’re beautiful looking things and I like beautiful looking things. Very elegant and highly strung and spirited. I think I must like that. And they’re very intelligent too.
John Murch: Where do you start when you draw a horse?
Kathie Renner: The head. Then work my way down. It sometimes gets you in trouble because the head is bigger than the body, but you just jeep practicing and trying.
John Murch: That’s the sense of proportion, isn’t it?
Kathie Renner: Yeah.
John Murch: Did you ever think about starting with the legs and the body and getting a sense form there?
Kathie Renner: No never, it’s always been the head.
John Murch: But wild and free, but also servitude as well. Where do you think of horses firstly of the two?
Kathie Renner: That’s a tough one. I think somewhere down the middle really. Because I think humans and horses have always had a pretty close connection. We like to think we’re in control of them, but the end of the day, they could do whatever they feel like, couldn’t they? And at any given moment.
John Murch: Go back to Pablo and that first time that you sat upon a horse. What was the conversation you had with Pablo?
Kathie Renner: Well I don’t think I actually had an actual conversation. I was just thrilled to be on a horse for the first time. You dream about that moment and then there you are, and I was just a kid, so I don’t think I appreciated it fully but oh yeah. More than close to achieving that dream of sitting on a horse at least. I used to wish I could have one. The next best thing would be to sit on that thing.
John Murch: So the memory is being on.
Kathie Renner: The memory is being on and that it was called Pablo and I seem to recall I did a good job for my first ride, because the instructor would… we all ride single file and she was up on a rise looking down on us, and she called out something like well done on Pablo. So I knew that she was talking about me. Oh boy.
John Murch: Let’s keep you in high school, year eight, whilst you’re still there. What was high school like for Kathie?
Kathie Renner: Oh it was fine. Not a great scholar, not that I didn’t do my best and didn’t do well, but I liked the social aspect of it. I was quite a sporty kid so I got involved in lots of sporting things and then of course music. I socialized with lots of different groups. I had good friends. Good times with that.
John Murch: By the time you turned 18, so just entering adulthood, you were a bit of a songwriter.
Kathie Renner: Yes I was. In fact when I was in year five or six I saw a guitar for the first time and that was it. I’d been drawing and drawing up until then and suddenly everything changed. I decided I wanted to have a guitar. Was told I needed to learn the ukulele first, and while I was doing that, I was practicing the guitar. And those were the days before internet, so we had the little manuals. I used to teach myself the songs and the chords, and I ran out of songs in that book and there was no new book to go to, so I just made up my own. And have been doing it since then really.
John Murch: Where did you see that first guitar?
Kathie Renner: At school. We used to have religious instruction every Tuesday or Thursday. And the woman who took my class, we found out her husband took another class, and he had the guitar. And we begged her to swap with him one week, because he just seemed to play guitar, sing to his group, and we did all the serious stiff. So she swapped with him one week. That’s when I saw it.
John Murch: And as I mentioned when you turned 18 at the door of adulthood, you were there writing songs, performing with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
Kathie Renner: I did, yes, that’s right. In high school I had a little group, a little trio. Us three girls. And we used to sing my stuff and we entered a competition with 5AN at the time. The prize was to perform at the festival theatre with the ASO playing your song.
Kathie Renner: It nearly didn’t happen because the other two were twins in the year below me, and the year that this concert opportunity happened was their final year at school, round about exam times. And their mum said I don’t think you can do it girls. And of course I said, well I’m going to do it. So as soon as I said I was going to do, oh well we’re going to do it too. So we all sang together.
John Murch: What kind of upbringing was it? You mentioned your mother was into drawing, into the arts?
Kathie Renner: Mum was very artistic actually. She was a singer too. Dad was the sporty one, mum was the artistic one. So I had a bit of both. Which I’m very grateful for actually, because I like them both.
John Murch: What’s one of the proudest moments that you had with your mum with your performance?
Kathie Renner: I did a classical degree, so I’m a classically trained singer, and we would do lunchtime concerts on a Friday. And she came down one day, because I’m from the Barossa, so she took the day off work, came down to hear me do- this was in my final year, we all had to do a lunchtime recital. My mum’s a classical singer, she was thrilled, but I think little bit surprised at what was coming out of my mouth. She said you could be a classical singer if you want to be. But of course I knew I wasn’t ever going to be a classical singer. I love the discipline of it, I love the repertoire, but it’s just my personality wouldn’t fit with that sort of strictness of… I would have had to do exactly as I’m told and I never do that.
John Murch: But there was this intersection where mum and daughter had the moment of classics.
Kathie Renner: Yeah. Mum was always proud of me, but there’s a lot about it that she didn’t quite understand. Because I wanted to do the contemporary stuff, she just… I remember she had to go into a record shop to buy me my first, and it was really hard for her to do it. But I wanted some pop record and she had to ask for it. She didn’t really know what she was asking for. But she did it because knew I wanted it.
John Murch: This was the first record you would have owned.
Kathie Renner: Yes.
John Murch: No necessarily bought with your own money because your mum did. This first record you bought, let’s ask the question.
Kathie Renner: What was my first record?
John Murch: What was that first record?
Kathie Renner: Oh I think it was ABBA. Best of. It had Bang a Boomerang and Hasta Manana and Ring Ring. I’m reading their book at the moment and that’s really interesting.
John Murch: When did that jazz then become a thing?
Kathie Renner: They used to play the Manhattan Transfer on the radios. One of many. Those were the days where they didn’t have formats. Everything was played on the one station. So you got to hear everything and I quite liked it. I must have bought a best of, another best of, Java Jive, that was the big hit of Chanson D’Amour, that was another one they used to play on the radio, and then of course when I got to uni, I joined the Adelaide Connection. And the whole world opened up to me. The whole world of jazz at least, and that was wonderful
John Murch: Do you still keep jazz in your back pocket considering the musicians that you work with these days?
Kathie Renner: I think so, because there are several songs on this new album that certainly lend themselves to that. I love harmony and you get a lot of that in jazz music. Interesting harmonic changes that always fascinate me.
John Murch: You mention that mum came from the Barossa, was that the family home in the Barossa?
Kathie Renner: I suppose it was really. Yeah.
John Murch: What did you learn whilst you were in the Barossa?
Kathie Renner: I think I learned that community is really important. Yeah, it’s like a big family really. Everybody seems to know everybody, and everybody’s business, which is not so good. The Barossa’s a beautiful looking place. That’s a hard question. I don’t go there much anymore because my mum passed away two years ago, so I’ve no need to go there. Although my dad’s still alive, but he’s in Tanunda, which is a bit past. I shouldn’t say I don’t get to the Barossa much. My sister lives in the Barossa. So I go up there and see her and then pop up and see dad as well while I’m there.
John Murch: As a fan of walking.
Kathie Renner: I do like a good walk.
John Murch: The Barossa would have given you a lot of chance through your younger years to do so. Were you a big walker in the younger years?
Kathie Renner: No well I did play a lot of sport.
John Murch: So the outdoors did play a part.
Kathie Renner: Yes, definitely. I played hockey and softball. Except for netball, I like everything. I don’t understand netball. It’s just a very strange game to me. But I do like sport a lot, follow the AFL and I love the tennis, Roger Federer. Greatest player that ever lived.
John Murch: But not netball.
Kathie Renner: No.
John Murch: It’s weird where we draw lines, eh?
Kathie Renner: It is. I mean I appreciate it, don’t get me wrong, I think the problem was my first experience with netball was when I was year six or something and they put me on wing defense, and I was standing up against this giant, and there was no way I was ever going to get the ball, and I thought, what sort of game is this? It’s stupid. So I stopped that.
John Murch: We mentioned on the wireless there was various music, so let’s ask something else of you.
Kathie Renner: Okay.
John Murch: What’s the fascination with Elvis?
Kathie Renner: How do you know this about me John? How do you know this about me? Well first of all, I mean it’s very shallow of me to say it, but he is a beautiful looking man.
John Murch: Roger Federer, Elvis.
Kathie Renner: Yeah, same same. He is a very attractive man and he can move beautifully, but really at the end of the day, it’s that voice. It’s so fantastic. For an untrained person to make all those variations of sound. I mean, he’s a freak really isn’t he? He is the role model that I use for performing.
John Murch: Talk to us about that.
Kathie Renner: He just carried himself in my opinion, he carried himself well. The way he walks even, he looks like a somebody, a star. And then of course the way he felt the music when we sang it. And I know he got into a lot of trouble for that, but with hindsight, we look at that and we think, it’s so obvious that that’s how you do it.
John Murch: Can you have a conversation with us please regarding this, regarding the penmanship of the song and how the song is versed?
Kathie Renner: I think when I started, I just sang anything that came into my head, but when I was at uni I found a book on writing lyrics, and the general consensus of the book was you start with a title and you work back from that. So that’s my only rule really, because sometimes the song starts with the music, and sometimes it’s the idea, but before anything precedes from there, I work out the title first.
John Murch: So you’ll sit down with I assume still a pen, write down that title then dive in.
Kathie Renner: Yep. These days I’m enjoying playing guitar again, so I’m often sitting with the guitar in my lap, looking for new chord progressions to spark me off. But if I’m on the piano, it’s the same thing.
John Murch: Why was there a detour away from the guitar for you?
Kathie Renner: Think it’s because at uni, I was learning about a fairly high level harmony stuff, and I could get my hands around a keyboard more easily to understand it, because we had a class called keyboard studies it was called, but really it was a harmony class. But they taught harmony through the keyboard. So I did learn piano as a kid, but I didn’t enjoy it. So then I turned to the guitar. But come uni time, we had to do this keyboard lesson, harmony lesson, and that’s where my real appreciation of harmony and chords and things started.
John Murch: With the current batch of songs, did you then take the guitar and songwriting first approach and then build up the layers, because there are some gorgeous layers on this record.
Kathie Renner: I guess when you start some things you have a sense of how you think they’re going to sound in the end. So with a song like A Horse Called Pablo, once the song was written, I toyed with the idea of… because I quite like the dark colors of the horn section. The saxophones are a bit harsh for my style I think, so I’m drawn towards trombones and flugelhorns, which have a darker sound about them. I thought they would work on this record.
John Murch: Let’s talk about some issues and focusing on a track maybe like There Was A Time on the record, do you use the song Kathie as a vehicle of a soapbox?
Kathie Renner: Well I’m not sure about that, but I don’t want to write songs that don’t say anything much. Even if they’re a bit light and fluffy, it’s still got to have at the core of it something sensible. Something to hang on to.
John Murch: Then needs to be a message in there.
Kathie Renner: There needs to be. Even if it’s really loose. Like, Inside My Head’s just a groove really, but obviously it’s a bit more than that.
John Murch: There was a time a sense of reflection of other times or where things could be at.
Kathie Renner: This kind of an interesting one because it started off with that opening thing, which doesn’t ever really reappear in the rest of the song. And I liken it to a jazz tune song where you have the refrain, which starts off the song and then the chorus which isn’t a chorus but they call it chorus is the main body of the song. And when I was at uni, there was some graffiti on the back of the toilet door that said, you can say what you like, but I still believe that Jesus loves me more than the Rundle Mall preachers, and I like that because it was really unusual.
John Murch: So that was graffiti.
Kathie Renner: That was graffiti. And then the job is to try and make the rest of the song tie in with that.
John Murch: Let’s talk about remorse. There’s a bit of that in this record.
Kathie Renner: You think?
John Murch: You reckon?
Kathie Renner: I think so. I’m loosely saying it’s about love, loss and longing, the whole album. But some more than others for sure about remorse.
John Murch: Does it help to put it on a record to have a documentation that’s public?
Kathie Renner: Yeah. The jury’s still out on that, and sometimes I think perhaps I shouldn’t have done that, but it’s also just a song. It’s not actually, I mean, there’s a lot of me in all of this stuff, but it’s not me. The song is separate to me. And the song like The One, which I think is one of my better works, I just thought, it’s too good a song to keep to myself.
John Murch: Yet it is deeply remorseful in its lyrics.
Kathie Renner: Yeah and I think about Joni Mitchell, that album Blue, everybody said don’t do it Joni, don’t lay heart on your sleeve quite so much, you’re just giving away too much, but how could she not do that? That’s one of the reasons we love her. I think because she taps into something that we all relate to. It’s quite healing a lot of the time because she’s prepared to lay it all on the line and say look, this is a big part of me.
John Murch: The cannon of modern music these days, there does seem to be a lack of honesty in comparison.
Kathie Renner: Yeah, well my thing is to try and be as authentic as I can be. If it is honest, well okay, but really I’m just aiming to be real. To be true to me. And also I’ve got all these giants who have set the standard so high that I would like to try and aspire to do something, like Paul Simon to me is just so far ahead of us all. Of course Joni and Sting and they’re the big three for me. Instrumentally, I like Pat Metheny too. That’s the standard that I’m aspiring to.
John Murch: Remorse to memories, very much related but different. How do you treat memory?
Kathie Renner: Well, I’m thinking about my mum right now because that’s all I’ve got now is memories. And I think you have to be respectful of memories, because mind you, everybody’s memory of the same thing can be different, can’t it?
John Murch: You have these skills to write about them.
Kathie Renner: I identify with the artist and the creative artist, and songwriting is my thing. I guess you just do it. You just put these memories in their spots and then you call on them when you need them.
Kathie Renner: I think a lot of memories for me are more visceral than actual event things. I try and remember the feelings of those memories as much as anything.
John Murch: Because the other thing I find on this record is the sense of not just the memory but also the resolve of the memory as well. Have you found comfort an outcome in that?
Kathie Renner: That’s a work in progress I think. Still working through all that. And death is such a big thing isn’t it, that’s just one of the things that I think I’ve dealt with, I’m dealing with.
John Murch: More than heartbreak?
Kathie Renner: Well they’re going hand in hand really aren’t they? One I can talk about more easily than the other perhaps at this point.
Kathie Renner: Oh wow. That’s a good question John, I have to think about that and get back to you.
John Murch: Because it’s throughout the album, that’s why I ask the question.
Kathie Renner: Yeah it’s a darkish sort of thing, this record. Isn’t it? It’s a bit hard for me. I’m still too close to all of these things to be objective enough.
John Murch: But we have a physical copy of those memories.
Kathie Renner: Yes. But even still, talking about them I find quite difficult for some reason. Perhaps it’s just, that’s just what I do. Once a song’s out there, it’s not up to me anymore to say what’s what.
John Murch: You’ve released a physical album, it comes with an album cover. It comes with photography. It comes with an artwork on the cover.
Kathie Renner: This record is different for me from previous ones because I outsourced a lot more. In the past I’ve tried to do everything myself, mostly because I thought I could and because I didn’t have the money to pay somebody else to do it all. So once I started asking for help with arrangements of horn sections for example, because I’m not a horn player. Then it came to thinking about the cover and the black and white photography on the record are done by a friend of mine who’s also a musician but is also a photographer. I like sharing the love.
John Murch: Front cover imagery.
Kathie Renner: Finally decided on a title, and then looking for an image that matched that from Derek’s work, that seemed to be the obvious one. Derek McClure is the photographer. He’s a bass player. He’s an artist and a photographer. A wonderful artist. I’m just really proud of what he does, I wanted to share that.
John Murch: There’s a, as you’ve touched on that, an impressive collaboration you’ve had on this record as well.
Kathie Renner: Steve Todd plays all the percussion and Shaun Duncan to me are like my brothers. I rate them so highly as people and as musicians. And then for everybody else, it’s just a matter of asking and they all said yes.
John Murch: Produced locally as well in Wizardtone studios.
Kathie Renner: Yes, Wizardtone, very good space and Jarrad Payne who was the sound engineer on the jobs, very good. I found him very good to work with. And because he’s a musician first, I think that helps enormously.
John Murch: You wanted to be a fireman.
Kathie Renner: That was a bit of a joke really.
John Murch: I thought it might be.
Kathie Renner: A bit of fun. I think it would be fun. Secret dream job would be to be a sports commentator.
John Murch: Have you told anyone that?
Kathie Renner: No. I’d love to do it. I reckon it would be great fun.
John Murch: And that’s the thing, like with the memories on this record, you need to put those dreams out there sometimes. And that’s the same with some of the darker things as well.
Kathie Renner: Yes well this is the thing that I’ve discovered about since my mother’s passing is that we don’t talk about death much. Or enough. And I think we should because we’re all going to experience it if we haven’t already. And it’s not pleasant, but it’s a reality, and I think the more we talk about it, the easier it will be. Not better, but easier.
John Murch: With your mother’s passing, did your view change of death?
Kathie Renner: I think so but I’m not sure how. I think I’m still processing that to be honest. But it’s heavy. It’s such heavy thing. And I was fortunate enough to be with her when she passed, which I see as a huge privilege. It was awful, but got to be there and I think that’s got to be really precious and special.
John Murch: And tangible.
Kathie Renner: Yeah. It was not a dream. I saw her go. I saw her go.
John Murch: So when we have that conversation regarding that moment.
Kathie Renner: Tears are part of it, aren’t they. Can’t avoid it. It’s just a whole thing. If you show weakness, then you must be less than.
John Murch: How do you acknowledge that moment in time then if you don’t?
Kathie Renner: Exactly.
John Murch: As we’ve said, we need to have the conversation so we have the understanding of- what was that experience like talking to your mother in her final days?
Kathie Renner: Really hard. I didn’t like it.
John Murch: Was she trying to get you to accept or understand what was going on?
Kathie Renner: No I think I knew. She had cancer and right near the end, she just I think we all knew she wasn’t going to make it, so we all knew it was just a matter of when. But I remember a conversation about the funeral, she wanted me to sing at the funeral, because I asked her what would you like played at, special hymn or song? She said I’ll leave that up to you, but if you could sing at it, that would be lovely. And I said, oh I don’t think I can do it mum. That’s too hard. It’s really hard to sing when you’re upset.
John Murch: Did you give it a go?
Kathie Renner: I had to in the end, because the person that we had organized to do it pulled out on us, and I thought well, I think I’d rather do it and stuff it up than somebody else.
John Murch: That was surely a sign.
Kathie Renner: I think so. In the morning I went into the church to practice and just broke down. I thought, how on earth. But come this actual service, I did it. I don’t know how except she must have helped me. That’s what I think anyway.
John Murch: Do we need to talk more with people about their beliefs of what happens from the moment of death onwards?
Kathie Renner: Yeah.
John Murch: As an everyday occurrence more.
Kathie Renner: Yeah, I think so. Just I think we just need to talk about anything related about it. It’s the way we humans deal with stuff is to talk about it. Or at least one of the big ways that we do.
John Murch: Your album’s called Inside My Head, the conversation one can have in their head is that of their own demise, passing. Is that a conversation you yourself have?
Kathie Renner: Oh yeah, especially since mum’s passing, because it’s so real. It’s shockingly close, it’s like you- I think it’s an age thing and the experience of somebody passing away or dying makes you start thinking about all that stuff.
John Murch: Doing so Kathie, does it give one a sense that the time here sounds very dramatic, but it is the case that the time here is more precious to fit more in?
Kathie Renner: Yeah. I’m trying really hard to live in the moment now from now on. Because things like cancer just, they’re just indiscriminate, aren’t they? We have no idea how we’re going to go, and my mum was so shocked when she found out she had cancer, she said, what did I do wrong? Well you actually didn’t do anything wrong, mum. That’s how it is with cancer. It’s now or never.
Kathie Renner: It’s very hard to do though because you know when you’re of a certain age, you think you’ve got loads of time ahead of you, and I’m not going to worry about that now, why should I worry about? But actually, I think for me anyway, thinking about the end is important. I mean we all know people who’ve lost loved ones too soon. I don’t know how people do that, I don’t know how they deal with that. That one is tough.
Kathie Renner: Actually I made another CD of songs, sounds really morbid. Songs to die to. Because I had a music teacher who had cancer in the end, and people would send him music to listen to, but in the end he was in such pain he couldn’t even listen to music because it was too jarring on his senses or something. And I just thought it was cruel that you spend your whole life dedicated to this music thing, then in the end you can’t enjoy it. So I made a CD of music that would be very gentle. A lot of it’s Christian based. It’s all Christian based actually, that people can listen to. And my mum listened to that over and over and over again, and one of the songs was my own which is called On The Side Of The Angels, and I was performing it at a performance in Tailem Bend for Ian McNamara, Australia all over, when he pop in through.
John Murch: As he does.
Kathie Renner: Do a couple of concerts here and there, and he asked me to sing because he played something I did when I was just out of uni a lot. And I sang this particular song, it was called On The Side Of The Angels, and a man died in the middle of it at this concert. Gosh, such a shock. I watched him die, because I [inaudible 00:34:12] that I keep playing because he didn’t die straight away, he sort of collapsed. Right in the front row, you couldn’t miss him. And he collapsed and they called the ambulance, and the audience just sat really still and patiently and quietly and respectfully while they attended to this man. It was incredible.
John Murch: On the side of the Angels was a full length album as you said. It had two originals on there from memory.
Kathie Renner: Oh yes, that’s right.
John Murch: What were the covers I guess on the record? What were you drawing on for that? You said it was quite a religious album?
Kathie Renner: Yeah. There’s an Adelaide singer songwriter who writes predominantly community based songs of a Christian nature, and he’s put together a bunch of books, compilation books of all these songs from people. Mostly Australian songwriters that they use in church services. Essentially they’re like hymns, modern day hymns, but I took them and made them more performance type songs. And put them in different keys and just slowed them down. Just made them a bit more reflective I think.
John Murch: We’re talking about having a conversation with Kathie Renner, this comes after her mother’s passing very recently, who grew up with you in the Barossa or lived in the Barossa area. I’m wondering whether or not you have a sense that it’s easier or harder when someone has a religious faith when having a conversation about death. Does that make it easier or harder?
Kathie Renner: You’d like to think it makes it easier, because they’re not so afraid. Or they think they know what’s to come. Or something. The afterlife. You go to live in heaven, if you’re a believer. And that’s painted as this lovely place. Who wouldn’t want to go there? So that’s something Christians look forward to I think?
John Murch: Where those who are not of faith might just think it’s a lights out scenario, nothing to be scared of, it’s just lights out.
Kathie Renner: Well that’s true too, yeah. I’ve never actually, oh maybe I have, no even with my mum, we didn’t talk about what was going to happen or anything like that. We didn’t actually talk about the actual death and then what happens next. It was too hard I think.
John Murch: How do you as a singer songwriter look over that landscape when talking about death and get a sense of perspective?
Kathie Renner: I think you take a bit from everything. Because it’s just a bit weird, whole dying thing. I don’t like the idea of it myself.
John Murch: Does it make sense to you?
Kathie Renner: No, it doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t get it. What’s the point then of living? If there’s nothing else afterwards, why then? Is reincarnation a thing then? Do we actually come back? I’ve have no idea. I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. It’s probably good that this is all happened because it’s forcing me to talk about something that I don’t get and I don’t like, we all have to face it eventually I suppose.
Kathie Renner: Wow this conversation’s really turned dark, hasn’t it? It’s good.
John Murch: Has your mother spoken to you since her passing?
Kathie Renner: No I don’t think, well I mean I see her a lot in lots of things. And I sort of talk to her, say you would have loved that mum, or watching a show on the television, because she had a great sense of humor, and we would laugh our heads off at stuff, because she always got that. I remember things like that. Sometimes when I’m looking for a carpark, I say all right mum, keep your eye out. And sometimes it works. I would like actually a real sign from her to say, well I don’t know what she would say.
Kathie Renner: But my sister had a dream, though, which I thought was quite interesting. She was in the hospital, because that’s where my mum ended up. And in the hospital bed and the nurses said, oh there’s some people here to see you. The next thing the door is flung open and mum appeared and just seemed to sweep into the room, and my sister said, oh mum, oh! You’re here. And mum hovered over her head and then just broke up into pieces all over Jane.
John Murch: Oh wow.
Kathie Renner: That’s cool. I would like to have that. I don’t know what that means or anything.
John Murch: Do you get the idea that she’s hanging out with some real rockers?
Kathie Renner: Oh yeah, she’d be in good company. She’d be making them laugh, setting them straight. My mum liked to do things well and correctly. She didn’t suffer fools.
John Murch: You started recording this album post her death, how much of a conversation about Inside My Head, the record that’s now out, did you have with her about your plans to release another solo record?
Kathie Renner: I don’t think I did actually because she died in 2017, and we retired Vincent’s Chair at the beginning of last year.
John Murch: This was the band you were in for 17 years.
Kathie Renner: The band, yes, 17 years. So I mean I had no idea that any of that was going to happen, so I didn’t talk to her about it.
John Murch: Is there a record in you that’s purely dedicated to her memory, or more importantly, her life?
Kathie Renner: Possibly, who knows. Could be. I think there’s a bit of mum in everything I do now, certainly everything I see. It’s interesting, really. How that trickles down into your everyday life. I know I’m biased, but people loved her. They really… when they got to know her, because she never had loads of friends, she wasn’t that sociable, but when she touched your life, she really touched your life. People cherished that I think. She had a good sense of people. And how they ticked.
John Murch: Why cover Don McLean?
Kathie Renner: Well, it’s a beautiful song. I was in a band called Vincent’s Chair for 17 years, it seemed like a good idea to link that to this new phase somehow. But gosh, it’s a good song.
John Murch: I should ask, we weren’t going to talk about Vincent’s Chair, which you were a part of for 17 years, but we’re at the back end of the chat, so if people are still listening they deserve to hear that nugget, and it is this. Who decided to end the Chair?
Kathie Renner: It was a collective decision by Karen De Nardi and myself.
John Murch: Who’s worked on this album as well.
Kathie Renner: Yes. Played on it as well in the string section called the Ruby Frost Quartet. Karen and I ran Vincent’s Chair all that time, and we gave it our best shot, we did everything ourselves, which is I think quite an achievement really seeing as how we’re really just musicians, and there are real skills in marketing and managing things, and we went overseas lots of times touring with it, and made all those CDs by ourselves, so I think you get tired after a while, and other members of the group were moving in different directions, so it just seemed like the right time. And look, we never say never. You never know.
John Murch: Completely different sound as well.
Kathie Renner: I think I hope so. I mean, Vincent’s Chair had a set line up, set colors, this new one I got a broader pallet to draw on. So hopefully it sounds different, but obviously my voice is the glue that holds it all together and is the common thing.
John Murch: And for the record, you’re excited about the adventures the other members are now going on themselves.
Kathie Renner: Oh yeah, definitely. They don’t need Vincent’s Chair for excitement. There’s so much stuff out there to be done.
John Murch: Kathie Renner, thank you very much for your time and opening up your heart during this conversation.
Kathie Renner: My pleasure, thank you very much.