The Kiwi Nick Cave may be a stonemason, but his music is just as hauntingly beautiful

The Kiwi Nick Cave may be a stonemason, but his music is just as hauntingly beautiful

Michael James Keane

Michael James Keane will release the dark and reflective video & single ‘Inside’ on Friday October 1 via Meow. It’s the lead single to the new album Wandering Bull, which is due for release early 2022.

A deeply personal track about being trapped in yourself and your ways, ‘Inside’ is the first single from an album written whilst Keane worked as a trainee stonemason in the Wairarapa.

The songs reflect on memories of Wellington City and the challenges of interpersonal relationships when engrossed in depression and a reckless lifestyle.

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“The words in the songs came mostly from short pieces of writing I had compiled over a year or so,” Keane says.

“It was a rough year by my standards; getting into trouble with my mental health and drinking, living a bit recklessly. When the songs themselves were written, I was out of the city and in a much better space, training as a stonemason and working with mostly riverstone around Te Ika-a-Maui.

“There was a process of reflection, and it felt that I was writing about a different person’s adventures happening in a different universe; I know the Wandering Bull is me, and I forgive him.”

The Pōneke-based singer-songwriter, guitarist and stonemason has earned critical acclaim and a growing cult following from the personal nature of his rich, brooding and emotionally engaging music, with Keane’s truly remarkable deep baritone vocal resulting in media drawing favourable comparisons to Nick Cave, Stuart Staples and Ian Curtis.

Through playing in previous group So Laid Back Country China and touring as a solo artist, he’s shared stages with like-minded artists Aldous Harding, Kirin J Callinan, Steve Gunn and Jack Ladder, but it’s the quality and maturity of Keane’s latest material that truly puts him on course for a long, distinguished and celebrated career.

“There are many songs by other artists that have inspired the way I have hoped this record to come out as,” he says. “When I thought about these songs, I wanted something orange, yellow and sky blue, as The Cascade was dark purple, white and dark blue.

“When I think of those colours, country folk artists like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and certainly Bob Dylan come to mind most prominently. As well as them, certain Bill Callahan, William Tyler, Steve Gunn and other contemporary canyon rockers are often artists that I turn to.

The Wandering Bull album was recorded, mixed and produced by James Goldsmith in sessions at The Surgery in Wellington, New Zealand. Arrangements were developed by James Goldsmith and Keane.

Notable contributors on the album include Harriet Ferry (So Laid Back Country China) and Julia Catherine-Parr (Black City Lights) performing vocals, Callum Gay (Spook the Horses) on drums, and Daniel Cuzens (Spook the Horses) playing lap steel. Wandering Bull is Keane’s sophomore album release, following up on the critically acclaimed debut album The Cascade in 2018.

“There is a crisp and clear element, along with a darkness underneath,” Keane describes. “Steel string guitars, twelve string guitars, Daniel playing the atmospheric lap steel, the female backing vocals and Callum’s drumming were all part of the pallet. James Goldsmith and I often come at the songs from very different angles. He drives my conservative canyon rock tendencies into a unique place.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to arrange the songs for live performances. I have stepped away from live performance, as I guess many artists have in the current climate.

“Damian and the team at Meow Records have given me a lot of fire to expose this record and the songs to a new audience. Touring Aotearoa and Australia is going to be a real buzz when it happens. Maybe get into the desert cities of the US.

“This album is very special to James and I, we had a really inspired time at The Surgery during the sessions and we can’t wait to share it.”

Listen to Michael James Keane’s ‘Inside’ here.