There are plenty of people ready to sing the praises of Kelly Joe Phelps, including Steve Earle and U2's The Edge. The renowned blues man recently released Brother Sinner & The Whale with distinctly gospel subject matter. He talks to CASSANDRA TOBIN.
Tell me about the change in your life leading up to your latest record...
Without getting overly personal - I was coming around to a perspective that made me realise I needed and wanted to pay more attention to various parts of my soul that I hadn't paid much attention to in the past. I was getting back to Christianity and trying to understand my life outside of my music.
You've said that you had to change something to bring your music back into favour with your fans and your record company ... what made you think religion would be the key?
The interview you read that made you ask that question is a little imbalanced. My previous record was an instrumental affair. It's something I knew I would make some day. Some people couldn't understand it, but some people loved it. I didn't expect everyone to love it though and this album, the change, was more down to personal things. It had nothing to do with grabbing people. It's all a matter of my own creativity.
It's a gospel record - has religion always been a big part of your life?
It's always been around me. It hasn't always been there but it's always been around me. This age that I'm at now it makes sense. I had to go through other things in my life before it was going to make sense.
Do you think your religion and having it so strongly in your music changes your audience?
I don't think so. I can't imagine it's not going to be positive. Just in talking to people, as soon as they spend time listening to the album they'll be able to enjoy it for the music. I'm not trying to tell people what to do - it's more about me wanting and being able to ask questions and finding an importance in looking. Even though it's all gospel it's still music.
Plays a solo show at Mullumbimby Civic Hall, November 10. Tickets $35 presale/ $40 at the door, mullumcivic.com