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Paul Maurice Kelly (born 13 January 1955 in Adelaidemarker, South Australiamarker) is an Australian rock music singer-songwriter, guitarist and harmonica player. Kelly has performed solo and led numerous groups including Paul Kelly and the Dots, Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls and Paul Kelly and the Messengers; he has been a member of associated projects Professor Ratbaggy and Stardust Five and performed with other artists and groups. Kelly has been acknowledged as one of Australia's best singer-songwriters, his music style has ranged from bluegrass to studio-oriented dub reggae, but his core output comfortably straddles folk, rock, and country. His lyrics capture Australia's vastness both in culture and landscape, he has chronicled life about him for over 30 years and is described as the poet laureate of Australia. David Fricke from Rolling Stone magazine calls Kelly "one of the finest songwriters I have ever heard, Australian or otherwise." However, he has been quoted as saying "Songwriting is mysterious to me. I don’t feel like I have got it nailed yet."

Kelly's Top 40 singles on the National charts have been his 1980s releases "Billy Baxter", "Before Too Long", "Darling it Hurts", "To Her Door" and "Dumb Things", and his 2000 single "Roll on Summer". "To Her Door" was his best local hit peaking at #14 on the Australian singles charts in 1987, while "Dumb Things" peaked at #16 on the US Billboard Modern Rock chart in 1988. Albums success included Top Twenty hits on the National charts for Gossip, Under The Sun and So Much Water So Close To Home from the 1980s; Comedy, Wanted Man, Songs from the South and Words and Music from the 1990s; and Nothing But A Dream, Ways & Means and Stolen Apples from the 2000s. The compilation album Songs from the South peaked at #2 in 1997, while his highest charting studio album was Nothing But A Dream which peaked at #7 in 2001. Kelly's iconic status was recognised in 1997 when he was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame.

In 2001, the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) listed the Top 30 Australian songs of all time, including "To Her Door", solely written by Kelly, and "Treaty", written by Kelly and members of Indigenous Australian band Yothu Yindi. Aside from "Treaty", Kelly has written or co-written several songs on indigenous peoples' social issues and historical events, including "Maralinga (Rainy Day)" on British nuclear testingmarker, "From Little Things Big Things Grow" (with Kev Carmody) on the Gurindji strike for land rights and on reconciliation, and "Rally Around the Drum" (with Archie Roach) about a tent boxing man. Kelly has also provided songs for many other artists, tailoring them to their particular vocal range. Women at the Well from 2002 had 14 female artists record his songs in tribute.

After growing up in Adelaide, Kelly travelled around Australia before settling in Melbournemarker in 1976, he became involved in the pub rock scene and drug culture, he recorded two albums with Paul Kelly and the Dots. Kelly moved to Sydneymarker by 1985 where he formed Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls, which was renamed Paul Kelly and the Messengers, initially for international releases only, to avoid possible racist interpretations. At the end of the 1980s, Kelly returned to Melbourne, and in 1991 he disbanded the Messengers. Kelly has been married and divorced twice, he has three children and resides in St. Kildamarker a suburb of Melbourne with his girlfriend, Sian Prior. Dan Kelly, his nephew, is a singer and guitarist in his own right, Dan has performed with Kelly on Ways and Means and Stolen Apples, both are members of Stardust Five which released a self-titled album in 2006.

Early life

Paul Maurice Kelly was born on 13 January 1955 in Adelaidemarker, South Australiamarker to John Erwin Kelly, a lawyer, and Josephine Kelly née Filippini, as the sixth of nine children (including one still-born). According to legend, he was born outside North Adelaidemarker’s Calvary Hospitalmarker in a taxi, this story is re-enforced by the lyrics of his 1991 song "It's all Downhill from Here" from the album Comedy.

Kelly is the great-great-grandson of Jeremiah Kelly who fled Ireland in 1852 and settled in Clare, South Australiamarker. His grandfather, Francis Kelly, established a law firm in 1917 which his father John joined in 1937. John died in 1968 at the age of 52, when Kelly was 13 years old, after being diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease some years earlier. In Kelly's semi-autobiographical song "Adelaide", from his 1985 album Post, he recalls these events.

Kelly's maternal grandfather was an Italian opera singer, Count Ercole Filippini, a leading baritone for the La Scalamarker Opera Company in Milanmarker, who was touring Australia with a Spanish Opera Company, when the first world war broke out, he stayed and married one of his singing students, Anne McPharland. As Countessa Anne Fillippini, she was Australia's first female symphony orchestra conductor. Kelly's grandparents started the Italo-Australian Opera Company, which toured the country in the 1920s.

Josephine raised the younger children on her own after John's death but found time to assist others in need. Kelly's oldest sister, Anne, became a nun and went on to write hymns while younger sister Mary-Jo plays in Latin bands and teaches music at the Victorian College of the Arts. Kelly's older brother, Martin, works for the Christian Brothers' volunteer organisation Edmund Rice International, with another brother, Tony, a drug and alcohol counsellor, who ran as an Australian Greens candidate in the 2001 and 2004 federal elections. Kelly's mother moved to Brisbanemarker, Queenslandmarker, where she died in 2000.

Kelly attended Rostrevor College, a Christian Brothers school, where he played trumpet and studied piano, was a cricket captain, and became dux of his senior year. Kelly studied arts at Flinders University in 1973, but left after a year, disillusioned with academic life. He began writing prose and started a magazine with some friends. Kelly spent several years working odd jobs, travelling around the country and learning guitar before he eventually moved to Melbournemarker in 1976.

1974–1984: Paul Kelly and the Dots

Kelly's first public performance was in 1974, when he sang the Australian folk song "Streets of Forbes" and Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country" to an audience in Hobartmarker. He wrote his first published song "It's the Falling Apart that Makes You" after listening to Van Morrison's Astral Weeks at the age of 19, although in an interview with Drum Media he recalls his first song that he wrote as: Kelly appeared on the Melbourne-based various artists' release Debutantes in 1976 and then joined pub-rockers The High Rise Bombers during 1977–1978. The High Rise Bombers included Kelly (vocals, guitar, songwriter), Martin Armiger (guitar, vocals, songwriter), Lee Cass (bass guitar), Chris Dyson (guitar), Sally Ford (saxophone, songwriter), John Lloyd (drums) and Keith Shadwick (saxophone). Dyson was replaced by Chris Langman (guitar, vocals) in early 1978 and in August, after Armiger left for The Sports and Ford for The Kevins, Kelly formed Paul Kelly and the Dots with Langman and Lloyd. The High Rise Bombers recorded two tracks "She's Got It" and "Domestic Criminal" which eventually appeared on the 1981 compilation The Melbourne Club by various artists on Missing Links Records. The Dots included various line-ups from 1978–1982 and released their debut single "Recognition" in 1979, which had no chart success. In 1980, Paul Kelly, at the age of 25 married Hilary Brown and their son Declan Kelly was born 1980 or 1981. Paul Kelly and the Dots signed to Mushroom Records and released "Billy Baxter" in November 1980, which peaked at #38 on the National singles charts. Their debut album Talk followed in 1981, which peaked at #44 on the albums charts.

Paul Kelly and the Dots travelled to the Philippinesmarker' capitalmarker in late 1981 to record their second album Manila, which was released in August 1982 but had no chart success. Release was delayed by line-up changes and the fact that Kelly had his jaw broken when assaulted in Melbourne. Kelly was not happy with either of the two albums, he later stated "I wish I could grab the other two and put 'em in a big hole." 1982 also saw the release of the Gillian Armstrong film Starstruck which starred Jo Kennedy. Paul Kelly and the Dots supplied "Rocking Institution" for the soundtrack and Kelly added to the score. Kennedy released "Body and Soul", a revision of Split Enz' "She Got Body, She Got Soul", from the soundtrack as a shared single with "Rocking Institution" on the other side. Acting in a minor role in Starstruck was Kaarin Fairfax, who later became Kelly's second wife. After the Dots folded in 1982, Kelly was without a recording contract, Paul Kelly Band was formed in 1983 with Michael Armiger (bass), Chris Coyne (saxophone), Maurice Frawley (guitar) and Greg Martin (drums), by 1984 Michael Barclay replaced Martin on drums and Graham Lee (guitar, pedal steel guitar) joined. His involvement in the Melbourne drug culture and problems with his marriage disrupted his career, and by late 1984 the marriage had broken up, he disbanded his group and relocated to Sydneymarker.

1985–1991: Coloured Girls to Messengers

Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls,

Long Bay Gaol, Christmas Eve 1985
Kelly moved to Sydney by January 1985, where he recorded the self-funded (at a cost of $3,500) album, Post, with Michael Barclay (Weddings, Parties, Anything) on harmonies, guitarist Steve Connolly (The Zimmerman) and bass player Ian Rilen (Rose Tattoo, X). They spent two weeks recording at Clive Shakespeare's studio, Shakespeare engineered the album and co-produced with Kelly, it was released in May 1985 on the independent label White Records, and licensed to Mushroom Records. It is a stark, personal collection of acoustic songs that highlight Kelly's broadly based songwriting skill. Australian Rolling Stone hailed Post as the best record of 1985. "From St. Kilda to King's Cross" was released as a single from the album, but it did not chart.

After the recording of the album was completed, Kelly began to play and record with a full-time band, which included Armiger, Barclay and Connolly, bassist Jon Schofield, and keyboardist Peter Bull. Through a joke based on Lou Reed's song "Walk on the Wild Side", the band became known as Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls. Armiger soon left the fold, and the line-up of the Coloured Girls stabilized in late in 1985 as Barclay, Bull, Connolly and Schofield (see photo at right).

Stuart Coupe, Kelly's manager, advised him to sign with Regular Records due to difficulty re-signing with Mushroom's Michael Gudinski. Michelle Higgins, Mushroom's Public relations officer, was a Kelly supporter and locked herself into a Sebel Townhouse Hotel room for nearly a week in mid-1986, refusing to leave until Gudinski had signed Kelly to a two-album recording contract.

In 1986 Kelly performed with The Rock Party a charity project initiated by The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NCADA), which included many Australasian musicians such as Neil Finn (Crowded House), Reg Mombassa (Mental As Anything), Eddie Rayner, Tim Finn, Nick Seymour (Crowded House), Paul Hester (Crowded House), Geoff Stapleton (GANGgajang), Robbie James (GANGgajang), Mary Azzopardi (Rockmelons), Andrew Barnum (The Vitabeats), Lissa Barnum, Michael Barclay, Peter Blakely, Mark Callaghan (GANGAjang), Deborah Conway, Danny De Costa, Greg Herbert (The Promise), Spencer P Jones, Sean Kelly (Models), John Kennedy, Jenny Morris, Martin Plaza (Mental as Anything), Robert Susz (Dynamic Hepnotics) and Rick Swinn (The Venetians). The Rock Party released a 12" single "Everything To Live For", which was produced by Joe Wissert, Phil Rigger and Phil Beazley.

In September 1986 Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls released the 24-track double LP Gossip. The album included remakes of four songs from Post and also featured "Maralinga (Rainy Land)", a song about the effects of British atomic testingmarker on the Maralinga Tjarutjamarker (indigenous people) of Maralingamarker, South Australiamarker. Gossip peaked at #15 on the National albums charts, with singles chart success for "Before Too Long" which peaked at #15 and "Darling it Hurts" reaching #25. A single LP version of Gossip featuring 15 songs was released in the United States by A&M Records in July, 1987. Due to possible racist connotations the band changed its name, for international releases, to Paul Kelly and the Messengers. They made an American tour, initially supporting Crowded House and then head-lining, travelling across the United States by bus. "Darling it Hurts" peaked at #19 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in 1987. The New York Times rock critic, John Pareles wrote "Mr. Kelly sang one smart, catchy three-minute song after another - dozens of them - as the band played with no-frills directness." following the band's performance at the Bottom Line Club in New York.

Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls' second album, Under the Sun, was released in 1987 in both Australia and in the U.S. (as by Paul Kelly and the Messengers). On the Australian albums charts it peaked at #19 with the single "To Her Door" peaking at #14. A second single, "Dumb Things" was released in early 1989 and peaked at #36 on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) singles charts; it reached #16 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. The song was included in the soundtrack for the 1988 Yahoo Serious film Young Einstein. Also in 1988, "To Her Door" won an ARIA Award for 'Best Video' directed by Claudia Castle.

Their next album, So Much Water So Close To Home was released in 1989 by Paul Kelly and the Messengers in all markets, it peaked at #10 on the ARIA album charts, but none of its singles reached the ARIA Top 40 Singles charts. Kelly relocated back to Melbourne after living in Sydney for six years. Another US tour was undertaken but there was no further chart success for albums or singles releases in the US market. In 1991 they released Comedy which peaked at #12 on the ARIA Albums chart. "From Little Things Big Things Grow", a seven-minute track from the album was co-written by Kelly and Kev Carmody, is based on the story of The Gurindji Strike and Vincent Lingiari as part of the Indigenous Australian struggle for land rights and reconciliation. A cover version released in May 2008 by The GetUp Mob, part of the GetUp! advocacy group, peaked at #4 on the ARIA singles charts. This version included samples from speeches by Prime Ministers Paul Keating in 1992, and Kevin Rudd in 2008; it featured vocals by both Carmody and Kelly, as well as other Australian artists. Kelly also collaborated with members of Yothu Yindi to write "Treaty" which peaked at #11 in September 1991. Both "To Her Door" and "Treaty" were voted into the APRA Top 30 Australian songs of all time in 2001.

Paul Kelly and the Messengers gave their last performance in August 1991, with Kelly set to pursue a solo career. Paul Kelly and the Messengers' final album, Hidden Things, was actually a collection of previously released B-sides and stray non-LP tracks, along with a handful of radio sessions and other rarities. It was released in May 1992, and peaked at #29;.

1992–1999: Paul Kelly Band and others

Since 1992, Kelly has had a solo career, fronted the Paul Kelly Band and worked in occasional collaborations with other songwriters and performers. In 1992 Kelly was asked to compose songs for Funerals and Circuses, a Roger Bennett play about racial tensions in small town Australia. Kelly took the role of a petrol attendant when the play premiered at the Adelaide Fringe Festivalmarker that year. Kelly co-wrote "Hey Boys" with Mark Seymour (Hunters & Collectors) for the soundtrack of the 1992 Australian film, Garbo; released as a single it peaked at #62 on the Australian Singles chart. Kelly contributed songs and vocals to the soundtrack of the 1993 television series Seven Deadly Sins.

Kelly's first post-Messengers solo release was the live double CD Live, May 1992 released in November 1992. Kelly had already relocated to Los Angelesmarker by then and signed with Vanguard Records to tour the US as a solo artist. While in LA he produced fellow Australian Renée Geyer's album Difficult Woman released in 1994. Kelly returned to Australia in 1993 and wrote a collection of lyrics, aptly titled Lyrics, which opens with a quote from Anton Chekhov:
"I don't have what you would call a philosophy or coherent world view so I shall have to limit myself to describing how my heroes love, marry, give birth, die and speak."
His next album Wanted Man, released in 1994, peaked at #11 on the ARIA Albums charts. 1994 also saw Kelly compose music for Everynight ... Everynight, directed by Alkinos Tsilimidos, a feature film set in the notorious H division of Victoria's Pentridge Prisonmarker. Kelly's next solo releases were Deeper Water in 1995 and Live At The Continental And The Esplanade in 1996. Between March and May 1995 Kelly undertook a seven week tour of North America, appearing on several dates with Liz Phair and Joe Jackson. By 1996, Paul Kelly Band members were Stephen Hadley (bass, ex-Black Sorrows), Bruce Haymes (keyboards), Peter Luscombe (drums, ex-Black Sorrows) and Shane O'Mara (guitar). Spencer P. Jones (guitar, Beasts of Bourbon) guested on some performances. This line-up issued the CD-EP, How to Make Gravy with the title track earning Kelly a 'Song of the Year' nomination at the 1998 Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) Music Awards.

In 1997, Kelly released his compilation album, Songs from the South: Paul Kelly's Greatest Hits on Mushroom Records, the 20-track album peaked at #2 on the ARIA albums charts, and has achieved quadruple platinum certification indicating sales of over 280,000. Kelly won the 1997 ARIA Award for 'Best Male Artist', having been previously nominated in 1993, 1995 and 1996. At the 20 September 1997 ceremony he was also inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Kelly won the 'Best Male Artist' award again in 1998 and has been nominated for the same award a further seven times. Next album Words and Music in 1998, which peaked at #17 on the ARIA albums chart, it included three singles that did not reach the Top 40 singles chart. 1998 also saw Kelly undertaking a three week tour of Canada and the United States to promote Words and Music.

Smoke was released by Paul Kelly with Uncle Bill; the latter is a Melbourne bluegrass band composed of Gerry Hale on guitar, dobro, mandolin, fiddle and vocals, Adam Gare on fiddle, mandolin and vocals, Peter Somerville on banjo and vocals and Stuart Speed on double bass. "Our Sunshine" was one of the new songs on the album and was written as a tribute to Ned Kelly, a famous Australian outlaw (not related). The album featured a mix of old and new Kelly songs treated in classic bluegrass fashion, Kelly had previously recorded a track with Uncle Bill, "Thanks a Lot", for the 1997 compilation, Where Joy Kills Sorrow, on the W. Minc label, and in 1998 for the Not So Dusty Slim Dusty tribute album. Smoke was released on Kelly's new label, Gawdaggie, through EMI Records in Australia in October 1999 and peaked at #36 on the ARIA albums chart. Smoke won three awards from the Victorian Country Music Association 'Best Group (Open)', 'Best Group (Victorian)', and 'Album of the Year' in 2000. In September 1999 Kelly performed at the Spiegeltent at the Edinburgh Festival, as well as shows in Londonmarker and Dublinmarker.

Professor Ratbaggy was formed in 1999 by Paul Kelly Band members Stephen Hadley (bass guitar, backing vocals), Bruce Haymes (keyboards, organ, backing vocals), Kelly (vocals, guitar) and Peter Luscombe (drums); they released Professor Ratbaggy in 1999 on EMI Records. Songwriting was shared around the group members and the album had a more groove-oriented style compared to his usual folk or rock formula, using samples, synth and percussion.

Kelly's second anthology of lyrics entitled Don't Start Me Talking was first published in 1999, with subsequent songs appended in the 2004 edition; the book has been added to the Victorian Certificate of Education English reading list for Year 12 (final year of secondary schooling) since 2006.


During the 2000s Kelly has also worked as a composer for film and TV scores/soundtracks including Lantana (also as a member of Professor Ratbaggy), Silent Partner and One Night The Moon in 2001, Fireflies in 2004 and Jindabyne in 2006. These works have resulted in five award wins: ARIA 'Best Original Soundtrack' for Lantana (with Stephen Hadley, Bruce Haymes and Shane O'Mara); Australian Film Institute (AFI) 'Open Craft Award', Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards 'Best Music Score' and Screen Music Award 'Best Soundtrack Album' for One Night The Moon (with Mairead Hannan, Kev Carmody, John Remeril, Deirdre Hannan and Alice Garner); Valladolid International Film Festival 'Best Music' award for Jindabyne and six further nominations. Kelly also acted in One Night The Moon alongside his then wife Kaarin Fairfax, who is known for her lead role in two TV miniseries The Harp in the South and Poor Man's Orange, and with their younger daughter Memphis Kelly. A video clip from the movie, provided by the National Film and Sound Archivemarker, is available at Australian Screen, it shows Memphis, Fairfax and Kelly singing a lullaby (see screenshot at left). Kelly and Fairfax separated not long after the film's release.

2000 saw the release of Roll on Summer as a four-track EP, which peaked at #40 on the ARIA singles charts. Kelly released Nothing But A Dream in 2001, returning to his core singer-songwriter style, it peaked at #7 on the ARIA albums chart, and achieved gold record status. The North American release of Nothing But A Dream added all 4 tracks from the Roll On Summer EP as bonus tracks.

In March 2001 Kelly was the supporting act for Bob Dylan's tour of Australia the between August and November 2001 Kelly performed a series of acoustic shows in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain and France (the later supporting Ani DiFranco) In 2002 Kelly undertook a six week tour of North America, which was followed by a tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland later that year. In 2002 and 2003, two albums of Kelly's songs were released: Women At The Well featured songs performed by female artists, including Bic Runga, Jenny Morris, Renée Geyer, Magic Dirt, Rebecca Barnard (Rebecca's Empire), Christine Anu, and Kasey Chambers; and Stories Of Me featured fellow songwriters including James Reyne, Mia Dyson and Jeff Lang. In 2003 Kelly undertook a tour of North America, the UK and Ireland, performing at the Edmonton Music Festival and again at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Ways & Means was released by Paul Kelly in 2004, and peaked at #13. Though identified as a solo record, it was more of a group effort, with a backing band later dubbed "The Boon Companions" co-writing most of the tracks. The Boon Companions consisted of Kelly's nephew Dan Kelly on guitar, Peter Luscombe on drums and his brother Dan Luscombe on guitar and keyboards, and Bill McDonald on bass guitar. On 7 February 2004, the Australian Broadcasting Corporationmarker started broadcasting the television series Fireflies which featured a score by Kelly and Stephen Rae. The associated soundtrack CD Fireflies: Songs of Paul Kelly included tracks by Kelly, Paul Kelly and the Boon Companions, Professor Ratbaggy, Paul Kelly with Uncle Bill, and "Los Cucumbros" by the Boon Companions featuring Sian Prior, which was later a track on Stardust Five. In March, Kelly played a number of performances across North America, including New Yorkmarker, Bostonmarker, Chicagomarker, Seattlemarker and Los Angelesmarker, this was followed by a more extensive series of performances between July and September that year throughout North America and Europe. In December 2004, in Melbourne, Kelly performed 100 of his songs in alphabetical order over two nights. A similar show was performed at the studio at Sydney Opera Housemarker in December 2006.

Foggy Highway was a second bluegass-oriented album for Kelly, credited to Paul Kelly and the Stormwater Boys and released in 2005. It peaked at #23 on the ARIA albums charts. The line-up for the majority of the album was Kelly, Mick Albeck (fiddle), James Gillard (bass), Rod McCormack (guitar), Ian Simpson (banjo) and Trev Warner (mandolin). As with Smoke (his previous bluegrass release), Foggy Highway consisted of a mix of new compositions and re-arranged Kelly classics. The Canadian edition of the release included a 4-song bonus EP of outtakes.

In June 2005 Paul Kelly put together Timor leste – Freedom Rising, a collaboration of Australian artists donating new recordings, unreleased tracks or b-sides to make connections between a wide range of music to raise money for environmental, health and education projects in East Timormarker. All funds raised from the album went to Life, Love and Health and The Alola Foundation.

On 26 March 2006, Paul Kelly performed at the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, singing "Leaps and Bounds" and "Rally around the Drum". On 8 October, Paul Kelly and the Boon Companions, Hoodoo Gurus and Sime Nugent performed together at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne to again raise funds for Life, Love and Health to help support their ongoing programs in Timor-Leste in response to the needs of the people during the humanitarian crisis.

Kelly formed Stardust Five in 2006, with the same line-up as Paul Kelly and the Boon Companions from Ways & Means, they released their self-titled debut album in March, each member contributed in composing the music with Kelly providing lyrics. The album also has backing vocals, on two tracks including "Los Cucumbros", supplied by Kelly's current girlfriend, Sian Prior. 2006 saw Kelly undertake another tour of North America, appearing together with The Waifs at clubs and festivals in several US states and the Canadian province of Albertamarker.

Kelly has written songs with and for numerous artists, including Mick Thomas, Renée Geyer, Kate Ceberano, Vika and Linda Bull, Nick Cave, Marilyn Manson, Nick Barker, Kasey Chambers, Yothu Yindi, Archie Roach, Gyan, Monique Brumby, Kelly Willis, Missy Higgins and Troy Cassar-Daley. He described how some songs he writes are suited to other vocal ranges:

Kelly has realised that co-writing with other songwriters lends power to his songs:

Kelly described his songwriting as "a scavenging art, a desperate act. For me it's a bit from here, a bit from there, fumbling around, never quite knowing what you're doing. I might have a melody or a scrap of words and I'm just trying to get them to fit. If I knew how to write a song, I'd write one every day. You can't really pull out the manual and follow steps A, B and C and make a song, it just doesn't work like that. You just have to get a bit lucky. Songwriting is like a way of feeling connected to mystery."In 2007, Kelly released Stolen Apples containing songs based on religious themes, it peaked at #8 on the ARIA albums charts, and achieved gold record status. Following the recording of the album guitartist and keyboard player, Dan Luscombe, left to join The Drones, he was replaced by Ashley Naylor (Even) and Cameron Bruce (The Polaroids) on guitar and keyboards respectively. A tour in support of the album saw Kelly perform the entire album plus selected hits from his catalogue, one of the last performances of the tour, on 20 September 2007 in Toowoomba, Queenslandmarker, was filmed and released on DVD as Live Apples, or more fully as Live Apples: Stolen Apples Performed Live in its Entirety Plus 16 More Songs, on 26 April 2008.

2008 saw Kelly making his first appearance at the Big Day Out concerts across Australia and in March he performed at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texasmarker. Kelly released Stolen Apples in Ireland and UK in July 2008 and followed with a tour there in August.

Kelly has resisted the label of 'storyteller' and insists that his songs are not strictly autobiographical:

In June, 2008 The Age newspaper commemorated 50 years of Australian rock n' roll (the anniversary of the release of Johnny O'Keefe's "Wild One") by selecting the Top 50 Australian Albums, with two of Kelly's albums, Gossip and Post coming in at #7 and #30 on the list.

Kelly has been nominated as 'Best Male Artist' for "To Her Door (Live)" and 'Best Music DVD' for Live Apples in the 2008 ARIA Awards, the ceremony is due to be held on 19 October 2008.

In September 2008 Kelly announced that he had reacquired all of the rights to his old albums, with the bulk of the Kelly catalogue released through Warner, after his old label Mushroom was acquired by Warner.

As a result of the acquisition, EMI, in November 2008, released Songs from the South - Volume 2, a collection of Kelly's songs from the last decade following on from Songs from the South - Volume 1. The new compilation also featured the first physical relase of Kelly's YouTube favourite, ""Shane Warne". Volume 1 and Volume 2 are available separately but also as a combined double album. EMI also released a DVD, Paul Kelly – The Video Collection 1985-2008, a collection of Kelly's videos made over the past 23 years together with several live performances. Songs from the South - Volume 2 included one new song, "Thoughts in the Middle of the Night"

Kelly performed at the Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker on 14 March 2009 for Sound Relief, which was a multi-venue rock music concert in support of relief for the Victorian Bushfire Crisis. The event was held simultaneously with a concert at the Sydney Cricket Groundmarker. All proceeds from the Melbourne Concert went to the Red Crossmarker Victorian Bushfire relief. Appearing with Kelly in Melbourne were Augie March, Bliss N Eso with Paris Wells, Gabriella Cilmi, Hunters & Collectors, Jack Johnson, Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson with Troy Cassar-Daley, Kings Of Leon, Jet, Midnight Oil, Liam Finn, Split Enz and Wolfmother.

On the 13 and 14 November 2009 Triple J are presenting a Tribute Concert to Kelly (marking his 30th anniversary as a solo artist) at The Forum Theatre in Melbourne, acknowledging and highlighting Kelly's contribution to Australian music. The lineup will includes Missy Higgins, John Butler, Paul Dempsey (Something for Kate), Katy Steele (Little Birdy), Bob Evans, Ozi Batla (The Herd), Dan Kelly, Clare Bowditch, Jae Laffer (The Panics), Adalita Srsen (Magic Dirt), Dan Sultan, Megan Washington interpreting the songs of Paul Kelly together with members of Augie March as the backing band and Ashley Naylor (Even) as Musical Director.

Personal life

Paul Kelly's first marriage, 1980–1984, was to Hilary Brown, which provided a son Declan Kelly. As of 2007, Declan presented a radio show on Triple R, was a DJ around Melbournemarker and plays the drums.

Kelly's second marriage, 1988–2001, was to Australian actress, Kaarin Fairfax, with whom he has two daughters, Madeleine, born in 1991 and Memphis, born in 1993. Memphis, starred alongside her parents in Rachel Perkins's 2001 short film One Night the Moon, for which Kelly also composed the score.

Kelly lives in St. Kilda with Sian Prior, his girlfriend (2002–current), a journalist, university lecturer and opera singer, they met when Kelly was interviewed on her Sunday Arts ABC radio program. Kelly wrote "You're 39, You're Beautiful and You're Mine" for Prior who was already 40 by the time he finished.

Dan Kelly is Kelly's nephew and is a singer/guitarist in his own right. Dan has performed with his uncle on several of Kelly's albums, including Ways and Means as a member of Paul Kelly and the Boon Companions, on Stolen Apples and both Dan and Paul are members of Stardust Five which released Stardust Five. Dan has released two albums of his own, both of which received ARIA Award nominations.


Kelly has written, co-written or edited the following:

Paul Kelly's bands and their members

Since starting his professional career in 1974, Kelly has been a member or leader of numerous Australian bands. Some of his backing bands have recorded and released their own material under alternate names. As of June 2008, Paul Kelly's band members are Peter Luscombe on drums, Bill McDonald on bass guitar/backing vocals, his nephew Dan Kelly on lead guitar/backing vocals, Ashley Naylor on guitar and Cameron Bruce on keyboards.


Studio albums


Paul Kelly has won several awards, including eight ARIA Awards from the Australian Recording Industry Association, and three APRA Awards/AGSC from either the Australasian Performing Right Association alone or together with the Australian Guild of Screen Composers. APRA also named "To Her Door", solely written by Kelly, and "Treaty", written by Kelly and members of Yothu Yindi, in the Top 30 best Australian songs of all time in 2001. Kelly was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1997 alongside The Bee Gees and Graeme Bell. He has also won five Country Music Association of Australia (CMAA) Awards and four Mo Awards (Australian entertainment industry).

See also


  • Note: limited preview for on-line version.
  • "Paul Kelly - Picking Up Music and Passing It On" [radio transcript]. 2008. In Talking to Kinky and Karlheinz - 170 musicians get vocal on The Music Show ed. Anni Heino, 245-251. Sydney: ABC Books. ISBN 9780733320088.


  1. Note: requires user to input song title e.g. TO HER DOOR

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