Kevin Bennett

Kevin Bennett – Revelations by Susan Jarvis

When Kevin Bennett discovered a few years back that he had Indigenous heritage, he had no idea it would take him right back to his musical home of Tamworth. “It turned out that I’m from the Kamilaroi tribe of Northern New South Wales,” Kevin said. “It seemed right that there was such a strong connection to Tamworth in a different part of my life.” That connection was celebrated during last year’s festival, while Kevin was presenting an Indigenous songwriting and performance workshop at the PYCC, with ROGER KNOX. “Roger came up to me quietly, and said he wanted to do a smoking ceremony,” Kevin said. “He took me out the back, and had people arranged in a circle. He’d gathered sacred wood, and people walked around me with tree branches, chanting and waving smoke to keep the bad spirits away. I found the whole thing incredibly moving and very powerful.” Kevin’s been welcomed by Indigenous Australians in many ways since he unearthed his family history back in 2006.

The regional Aboriginal Council in Tamworth came to see THE FLOOD perform, and welcomed him to the local tribe, and recently he received his papers from the land council where he was born, in Baradine in Western NSW, to acknowledge that he is an Indigenous Australian. Kevin decided to dig deeper into his family history after fellow performers – including TROY CASSAR-DALEY, WARREN H WILLIAMS and GEOFF SIMPSON – kept telling him they thought he might have Indigenous blood. “There were always rumours in the family too, so my Dad’s sister decided to do some digging. We found we were related to an Aboriginal family from Tamworth – three generations back,” he said. “There was even a family history, laboriously written out by hand, detailing everyone in the family, and my brother and I were there on the last page.”

Although he never realised he had Aboriginal blood, Kevin says he always felt a strong affinity with Aboriginal people. “Even when I started writing songs in my early twenties, I wrote about the things we were doing to Indigenous people. Those songs never saw the light of day, and now I’m not such an angry young man any more, maybe they shouldn’t be released. However, I’m looking at a couple of them, and may do some rewriting.”

The reason for that is Kevin’s next project: an album for Indigenous record label Gadigal Music, managed by former 98.9 radio presenter ALEC DOOMADGEE. “Gadigal are very keen for me to do an album that explores my journey over the last few years,” Kevin said.  “I’ve written quite a few songs that I’ve been playing live, and there are other songs that I didn’t write that also relate to my story which I’d include as well. “One is the PAUL KELLY song Yil Lul, which I’ve combined with Don’t Look Back at my live shows.”

Another song is Walking Home, featured on Kevin’s recent Solo album – a wonderful collection of exquisite songs that he says were too personal or laid back for his regular band The Flood. Speaking of The Flood, there are also plans to record a new album later in the year – featuring the new “floating” lineup of Kevin, MICHAEL MUCHOW, GLENN HANNAH, MICK MCCARTIN, GARY CARUTHERS and WAYNE KELLETT. “The Flood’s live sound has never really been captured on an album, so that’s one option – to do all our best-loved tracks live.

But in any case, there are lots of songs and I’m determined to do another album,” Kevin said. While all the members of The Flood are involved in different projects, Kevin said the band is very much alive and kicking. “In a way it’s gone back to my original concept – I like to shoot for the edges of things, because that’s where it gets interesting,” he said.

Over the past few years, Kevin has embraced his Indigenous heritage and has been involved with Indigenous songwriting and mentoring projects with the Tamworth Regional Council, APRA (for whom he is an Indigenous Ambassador) and most recently with the Jimmy Little Foundation. He was also invited to appear at The Dreaming festival in 2008. Last year saw him take out his second Golden Guitar (the first was with The Flood in 2006), for Vocal Collaboration with KASEY CHAMBERS.