Barry O’Sullivan talks with the singer/songwriter
Originally from Sydney, Lucy Kiely has lived and worked on the breathtaking Amalfi Coast of Italy for almost a decade. She has experience as a singer and songwriter, including co-writing the official Platinum Jubilee song for Queen Elizabeth II, performed at Buckingham Palace in 2022 by Grammy Award-winning artist Gregory Porter, and writing, recording, and releasing four albums of her original work.
What were your earliest musical experiences, and how did they lead you to your current musical career?
I was fortunate enough to attend many wonderful concerts in my youth, including Roberta Flack, Burt Bacharach, Renée Geyer, Elton John, and Diana Krall. All these artists had an indelible influence on my musicality. Throughout school, I always sang in choirs including the Patricia Amphlett (aka Little Pattie) sixties-inspired vocal group The Musettes. I have her to thank for giving me the most valuable gift: teaching me all those gorgeous jazz standards, which are to this day, still at the very heart of my repertoire. She was the singing teacher at my local high school, and each week would introduce me to a different standard such as Summertime, My Funny Valentine, Misty, or Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, and copy them onto a cassette tape for me to learn ahead of the next lesson. I distinctly remember her imploring my thirteen-year-old self to sing the heartache of the lyric my life a wreck you’re making, something that still comes to mind at any time that I sing, Body and Soul.
You are also a composer and songwriter. What processes and influences do you utilise?
I have quite an unorthodox approach to songwriting. I don’t play the piano or guitar, so I write and record all my demos completely a cappella. I write all the music and lyrics myself in a combination of English and Italian, then one of my talented musical colleagues will take care of the arrangements and scores for me before heading into the studio. I am fascinated by the idea of ‘inspiration of place,’ so I think of an album concept and then write a soundscape to bring that world to life uniquely and beautifully. My two full-length albums, Mediterraneo and Un’Estate Italiana, are inspired by my life on the Amalfi Coast, the beauty of the sea, the summer rituals, the lemon groves, the olive trees, and the mystical surroundings of the Island of Capri. I would best describe my original music as ‘la dolce vita jazz’ and consider many of my songs love letters to my adoptive home.
You have relocated your life and career to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Name some of the challenges you have encountered in doing so.
I moved to the Amalfi Coast almost a decade ago and had to start anew, by learning a new language, making new friends, meeting new musical collaborators, and finding my place as a singer, songwriter, and a person. I have learnt that it takes time to garner and nourish meaningful musical relationships, but luckily, music is very much a universal language which transcends cultural divides. I feel very strongly that if I had not taken the risk to relocate my life, I would never have written the music I have, nor had the life experiences I have, and my life is richer for it.
Apart from your busy musical career, what are some of your other interests?
When I’m not singing, I can usually be found on the back of a scooter, by the seaside or in our vegetable garden. I’m passionate about growing and cooking organic vegetables according to their seasons, and the Mediterranean climate on the Amalfi Coast coupled with the fertile soil courtesy of Mount Vesuvius means that even a novice gardener such as myself can enjoy a beautiful crop year-round.
It’s five o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, and you want to relax and chill, listening to some of your favourite musical artists. Whom would you choose and why?
In Italy, five o’clock is considered aperitivo time which is an almost sacred ritual involving pouring yourself a pre-dinner refreshment and watching the sunset. To accompany my aperitivo, I listen to anything by João Gilberto such as Desafinado, Corcovado, Estate, Wave, Manhã de Carnaval or S’Wonderful. I adore bossa nova and particularly love the lush orchestration and exquisite arrangements of Gilberto’s recordings. I also love Miles Davis and his recording of Stella by Starlight, and even named my daughter after this particular tune.
Official Website: www.lucykiely.com
YouTube Channel: Lucy Kiely Music
This article originally appeared in the July issue of the 2MBS Fine Music Sydney Magazine