If James Brown and Joni Mitchell shared one night of passion, they would have conceived Lionheir. The soul-rock artist is a free-spirited live performer who captures imaginations with his cutting-edge songwriting. Lionheir was formerly known as Paul Appelkamp and toured the nation many times over as a solo artist. FOCUS chats to him about his upcoming tour, where he will be performing his debut single ‘Waterfall’.
Tell us a bit about your background. When did you start to become interested in music?
I started playing guitar when I was living in New Zealand at about the age of 10 or 11. I started learning at that young age a lot of Rock – Rage Against The Machine, Nirvana, old classics like Jimi Hendrix and stuff like that. So it all started with the guitar, and then I just started singing as time went on and writing some pretty bad songs in my teens – and still the odd bad one. Then I moved to Sydney and started getting involved with some bands in my teens.
I read that you studied politics in university. What career path were you hoping that would take you on?
I was always socially conscious, and I wanted to get involved in policy research and really trying to make people in my position informed about decisions they make – and also human rights. I was thinking about joining up with the UN but music sort of just took over, so I’ve been following that. I’ve gone back and done journalism as well, which has given me a way to fund my zany music.
Do you find that those studies have also helped with your songwriting?
Definitely. It gives you a whole new form of issues and feelings to be inspired by. When you know things, you can write about them. If you sit at home every day and you don’t know anything, it’s sort of hard to write about something interesting.
You were formerly known as Paul Appelkamp. You toured the nation many times, winning multiple awards. Why did you decide to change your name to Lionheir?
I just felt it was time for a change. You’ve got to evolve with the times in music, and artistically as you get older … it’s a never ending process. You’re always evolving. I thought it was time for a change, so I went in a new direction. I’ve always loved Soul and Rock music. Before, I was playing more acoustic based stuff and there’s still elements of that in this, but this is more of a zany, artistic, out-there sort of project that I’ve always wanted to do.
That partially answers the next question… which is how has your music changed from your previous album as Paul Appelkamp to your current album as Lionheir?
Well, it definitely has changed. When I moved up to the North Coast from Sydney, I really focused on songwriting. That was the major reason I moved up here … I wanted to get away from fast paced life and really concentrate on my songwriting. So I’ve just refined my craft. That, in turn, made the songs and my music in general a lot stronger. I could tap into the feelings that I wanted to get across much more easily.
I’ve incorporated a lot of the horns and brass feel from classic Soul, but there’s also more psychedelic Rock elements as well. It’s a bit like watching a Quentin Tarantino film with your ears. I just wanted to make a CD that I could put on with friends over or at a party and just let it roll from start to finish – you don’t notice it’s there, but it creates a really nice vibe … and if you want to listen to it, it can take you to really interesting places. So that was my goal.
You wrote most of the songs from your upcoming album in Byron Bay ‘up, behind the hills’. What was it about this location that inspired you to write?
It was the surrounding hinterland. It’s such a naturally beautiful part of the world. I know that’s a bit cliché, but out of all my travels as a solo artist around Australia, this place and Tasmania were probably the two most beautiful places. I just felt really grounded here. You just get up here and you almost feel at home, even though it’s not your home … that’s why I made it my home! There’s a lot of waterfalls and hidden treasures that you wouldn’t know are here, but you can explore … and I’m still exploring. I’ve been here for 2 years, and it’s a constant inspiration. There’s a lot of wildlife … we had a snake living in our roof … just weird natural treasures. And having that constant flow of inspiration helps you with your songwriting.
Who has inspired you throughout your music career?
I’d have to say a lot of the classic artists. Definitely Bob Dylan, because my dad was playing his records from before I was born! So definitely that warm sort of songwriting has impacted upon me personally. The other major artists would be Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and The Wailers. All the timeless artists, I suppose.
Anthony Lycenko is an award winning producer. What was it like working with him on your album?
It was really mind opening, because he works purely off the vibe. He’s technically a really experienced engineer; he spent a lot of time in the UK and has worked with some pretty big artists. He’s been in the game for over 20 years now, so he just knows so much about vibe. As I was saying before, I wanted a CD I could put on and just create a nice atmosphere while there are people over, and that’s what we’ve managed to do.
It’s been invaluable really; I’ve learnt a lot, and we really got along well together. It’s not often you work with someone who is on exactly the same level. He’s a bit older than me but we were just on exactly the same level, so the project really came to life.
You’re about to go on tour … what do you look forward to the most before stepping on stage?
That’s a tough one. What I hope for is that I’ll play the songs to the pinnacle of my ability and that people will not leave (laughs)! I hope that people will enjoy the show and feel what I’m trying to get across.
If that happens, then the vibe just lifts and by the end of the set, hopefully we’re in a higher and much better place.
What do you feel has been the biggest accomplishment of your career to date?
Managing to stay in the music game has been my biggest accomplishment, seriously. I’ve been through many ups and downs, not just financially, but artistically. It’s like getting writers’ block … as a musician, when that inspiration dies, it’s really hard to switch back on, and I’m just afraid that if that goes off again … you never know what’s going to happen. At the moment it’s on, and I’m feeling really, really good.
Now that you have completed your album, what is next for you? Have you got any plans for the future?
We’re going to release a single on this tour, then we’ll release another single and we’ll smash out the album. Then we’ll do a much bigger tour. Hopefully in about another 2 – 3 years, I’d like to have another album out, if all goes to plan, and I want to refine my sound even more and my songwriting even more. That’s just what I’m working towards at the moment.
Lionheir will be performing at The Hoey Moey on Sunday 20 May.
For more information on the show, visit www.hoeymoey.com.au
This story was published in issue 20 of Coffs Coast Focus