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Kirin J Callinan on bravado, humanity and working with Jimmy Barnes

While pacing the cold ground of New York, Sydney artist Kirin J Callinan describes himself as he does his second album, Bravado: a big, dumb, ugly beast. He laughs as he passes off this double-edged self-deprecation, noting “that’s where the humanity is – the truth”.

“I can’t care if people like it or think it’s cool or uncool, as long as it’s real and true.”

It is this philosophy that has shaped the album, with collaboration at its heart. Callinan has rubbed elbows with a variety of artists for this release, including the inimitable Jimmy Barnes.

Reaching out to Australia’s king of scream, Callinan didn’t think much of his chances.

But one fateful day, as Callinan landed at LAX, he received a blank email from Barnes. No words, simply a few attachments. His wail alone was enough for Callinan.

“I don’t even know if he screamed to the song. I think he might’ve just grabbed the mic and screamed,” Callinan says with a laugh.

Callinan pauses briefly, before explaining the conception of the album artwork, borne of urine-soaked masculinity.

“Initially the idea wasn’t to piss all over myself, it was to replicate that using ice tea or whatever, but in the quest for authenticity, you sometimes cross lines you didn’t think you’d cross. It married really well with the overarching idea of the record, which was this show of boldness, bravado: this big, swaggering, maybe vacuous statement, and it just felt right.”

Whether you have any knowledge of my prior music or me at all, whether you’re a music person or not, it plays out like a film, and it’s really fun.

Callinan’s scathing drive is evident in his opinion of title track Bravado, that sowed the seeds of distaste within him – and thus became the lead single.

“You made it, stick by it,” he says flatly.

Despite a passion for music, a career in the field has not always been in his mind.

“I wanted to play football or cricket for Australia, but I realised that wasn’t going to happen pretty early on,” he says dryly.

If not that, then perhaps acting is his second calling.

Callinan has a role in the upcoming second season of drama series Top of the Lake. Making both a solid plug and glum observation, he recounts how he went into the task as he does his music; with bravado.

The result? He felt totally out of his depth.

“I went into it without thinking about it too much, and all of a sudden I’m cast opposite very studied and experienced actors, and I felt like a total idiot. I felt like I was butchering their show, but I have to trust that [the directors] wouldn’t let it be bad.”

Music is undoubtedly Callinan’s coy mistress, and Big Enough is a track of which he’s very proud.

“Whether you have any knowledge of my prior music or me at all, whether you’re a music person or not, it plays out like a film, and it’s really fun.”

Ultimately, Bravado serves as a love-letter to the everyman.

“It’s less about me personally and more about whoever’s tuning in. That’s the intention.”

Callinan is touring nationally in June. Check out his Facebook page for details.

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