From busking to festival stages; how the DIY approach helped launch Kyle Lionhart

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From busking to festival stages; how the DIY approach helped launch Kyle Lionhart


His story of success speaks volumes about his methods – grassroots efforts to promote himself through streaming services, busking and live performances built on connection and emotion.

“I think the biggest thing for me was firstly Spotify where I’d hosted that one song that people dig, that one song people find out about and develop that connection with,” says Lionhart. “I think the other big connection is live performance and what you put into that. I generally try to put a certain positivity and vulnerability into the live performance, as that’s the thing that I get most about seeing people performing live. Those moments where they gave a little or a lot of themselves, that’s what I really enjoy.

“If I’m going to be a good performer, with the stuff I write about, I want to and have been able to connect with other people on a personal level. To an extent, obviously it’s not going to be 100% personal, you’re still on a stage talking to 300-400 people, but it’s about expressing the things that people don’t generally want to talk about. It’s all very human and isn’t beyond anyone. I think when someone talks about issues openly, it’s something that people can connect to.”

While Lionhart speaks of personality in his music, it’s taken a while for him to find his voice – yet in his eyes it’s time well spent. “I quit carpentry – the last time I picked up a tool was about four years ago,” says Lionhart. “Around that time, I played my first gig and kept going from there. I started with the whole cover gig scenario and watched my soul start to die that way, then pushed towards original music until I’ve reached the point where I’m at now where I’m touring and writing.

“I’m super lucky in that I get to do what I do, by no means did it happen overnight. After the cover gigs I was doing the backyard shows and touring off my own back, hoping that it works and that people will buy tickets to the shows, but regardless it’s about doing what you love and you can’t put money or a price on that.

“Not much happened until I released the debut EP which came out about a year and a half ago. I think the thing that really helped me was that the first thing that I released went semi-viral on Soundcloud, then the release of Sleep By Rivers was something people seemed quite taken by. It’s super bizarre, but a wonderful feeling.”

While Lionhart’s previous touring slots at Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay Blues Festival and others might paint an image of a carefree traveller, he’s surprisingly balancing touring life while raising two children.

“Balancing is a pretty strong word for it – crawling through that constant ‘trying to evaluate every week or so’ is closer to it,” he says. “In terms of my music – they get so used to me playing around the house and a few shows here and there that the novelty has worn off. They’ve heard the songs a million times either on the guitar or in the car and they’re just like ‘Oh yeah. Papa’s doing his thing.’ They don’t realise it now but they’ll understand when they get older that it isn’t that common of a thing.”

With the show just around the corner, Lionhart promises a few surprises for fans and newcomers, making the choice to release some freshly written tunes for Melbournian ears.

“It just worked timing wise,” he says. “I’d just finished recording new music and playing the release for it. I thought I hadn’t been down to Melbourne to play a show for a while and thought this would be a cool way to play some new songs and a couple of old ones. It’ll be a great opportunity to make the most of the beautiful venue.”

By Thomas Brand