Aussie musician Kirin J Callinan returns to what he loves

Australian musician Kirin J Callinan is used to public scrutiny, but for his new album he's put all the pressure on himself - having to make it in just 14 days.

While deadlines are often set by record labels, his was set by a music store. The album is called Return to Center - as in Guitar Center, the US's biggest music retailer. 

"I knew the name the moment I thought of the idea," he told Newshub.

Using his US$8888.88 budget, he bought all his gear, made the album, and returned it within the two-week refund window, essentially incurring zero costs making the album.

"I wouldn't say they were ok with it. But they wrote the rules, not me. I told them what I was doing," he says.

But he explains the album's not just a return to the Guitar Center.

"[It's] a return to what I love about music, less about myself and my ego and character, and more about painting a self-portrait through other people's songs."

That's because Return to Center is a covers album, and that 14-day deadline meant Callinan had to be flexible and spontaneous. Some songs he had planned to include didn't make it, while others that weren't on the list did.

"I didn't have time to feel the pressure, didn't have time to think really, I just had to do it," he says.

His last album Bravado took three-and-a-half years to make, and brought him a new level of attention after one of his songs became a meme.

Callinan reached viral fame when Aussie legend Jimmy Barnes appeared in his song 'Big Enough' as a screaming sky-cowboy.

"I'm smiling now thinking about it, I still find it quite funny," he laughs.

He intended for 1 million views - it's now at 43 million and counting.

"If I never have any more commercial success, then it was a genuine moment and no-one can take that away," he says.

Callinan says he's heard the song pop up at baseball games, Russian TV commercials, even as a mod in the video game Halo, but it's nothing compared to the attention Barnes now gets.

"Some kids went up to him and started screaming. He's now being recognised as the screaming cowboy. I'm sorry Jim, I'm really sorry" he jokes.

Callinan often gets labelled as controversial. He urinated on himself for the Bravado artwork and in 2017 exposed himself at Australia's ARIA awards. As a result, he was dropped from the Laneway Festival and given a 12-month good behaviour bond.

"I just had to shut up, listen and take it all in and then forget about it. And come back to it as well."

Which he has done on Return to Center, incorporating re-recorded news snippets of the incident into a cover of Public Image Limited's 'Rise.'

"Telling the story emotionally through covers definitely felt like the most honest way to approach it, as opposed to penning a song about the ARIA's" he says.

The Sydney-born singer now lives in Los Angeles, and is in New Zealand for his new tour, which he's doing without a band. With just him onstage, he says it's surreal but also liberating.

"You'd think cos I've got a backing track that maybe the shows would be more repetitive, that night after night would be the same because it's literally the same backing track. But I've found the opposite. They get weirder!"

Weird enough for Callinan to tell Kiwi audiences to be prepared to bring their best Jimmy Barnes impressions to his shows. They may be invited onstage.



Contact Newshub with your story tips: