I first met Kim David Smith in 2011 when he was premiering his show Misfit at The Laurie Beechman Theatre. That show made me an instant fan! In 2013, Kim David Smith and I caught up with the release of his debut album Nova. I'm so thrilled to sit down with Kim David Smith yet again to discuss his brand new cabaret show Morphium Kabarett, which have a month long residency at Pangea in NYC from May 2-23 (178 Second Avenue, between 11th & 12th Street).
Each week, Kim David Smith will be joined by a special guest. May 2 Kim David Smith will welcome Joey Arias and Ali McGregor. Other confirmed guests during the run are KT Sullivan, Jordan Hall/Boy Radio, Karen Kohler, Jenny Rivera, Gay Marshall, and Lina Tetruashvilli. Music direction is by Tracy Stark, on piano. Click here for tickets!
1. This May you are presenting a brand new show Morphium Kabarett, in a month long residency at Pangea, featuring your signature style of neo-Weimar cabaret. You have performed at Pangea many times before, what made now the right time to do this residency? All of us involved decided the spring was an appropriate time to launch something with more of a party atmosphere, incorporating guests and a generally convivial nature, immersed, of course, in my usual dark, cheeky and investigative cabaret stylings.
2. What is about this residency that you are most excited about and what is rattling your nerves? I don’t really get my nerves rattled by a project like this. I’m working with incredibly talented people, including long-time collaborator Tracy Stark as music director, and I’m beside myself with excitement over the calibre or artists who are appearing. Everyone appearing through the season is an exquisite example of what cabaret can be, be they from the worlds of opera, pop, cabaret or beyond.
3. During this residency, you are not only performing/hosting it, but you will be joined by some very special guests including Joey Arias, KT Sullivan, and Gay Marshall. Why did you want these talented singers to join you as opposed to doing the shows by yourself? I perform by myself all the time, and am not intimidated by sharing the stage with people I admire and respect. I curated a cabaret festival in Hobart, Tasmania two years ago, and it was such a thrill presenting artists like Joey Arias, Erin Markey, and others to an audience they otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to seduce. I’m approaching Morphium Kabarett in the same way as I did with Voicebox in Hobart, and am excited to share and showcase the work of artists who inspire fandom in me. Given that so much of my work is centered around me, I get a lot of pleasure in making it about someone else for a change!
4. What should make fans excited about this month long residency and why should they come to more than one evening of it? All my guest artists are thoroughly awesome, and I have a different line up each week, and I’m beside myself with excitement, which I think is reason enough! Tracy Stark is a phenomenal musician, and the detail work we’re putting into songs for like "Pirate Jenny," and "Jonny, Wenn Du Geburtstag Hast" is really tickling me.
5. Anytime I've seen you in concert, I'm just as eager to see what you will be wearing as what songs you'll be singing. How far in advance do you decide your concert clothing? Do you design them yourself or do you work with a designer? I’ve been working with the amazing Miodrag Guberinic on costumes, and also with the talented Justin Farnham. I connect with both of these men very strongly, and have a great time working with them — I’m a very lucky boy to be able to wear their designs!
6. During this residency you will be morphing Holländer, Spoliansky, Weill and Eisler with The Supremes, Kylie Minogue and William Bolcom (among others). I know you are a huge Kylie Minogue fan and that your favorite album of hers is Light Years. On that album is a song called "Bittersweet Goodbye." When have you had to say a "Bittersweet Goodbye" to someone? It’s always bittersweet saying goodbye to my amazing and very loving family after spending time with them, as we often endure stretches of two years between seeing one another — I love seeing them, but love coming home to the US when I’m done with a tour of Australia, and so it’s bittersweet, for sure. It’s tough, sometimes, when your heart is stretched over two hemispheres.
7. One of my favorite Kylie Minogue songs is "Can't Get You Out of My Head." What is something that has happened to you (good or bad) that you have not been able to get out of your head? This is a magical song, and it really speaks to the human condition; when one person reacts chemically to another, but the other is withholding — it’s an exquisite and agonizing feeling, and I think all of us approaching 33 (as indeed I am) have experienced it at least once in their lives. So, there’s a list of people I haven’t been able to get out of my head, for sure, but it grows smaller as I learn to focus on what’s important in life. Back to the structure of the song, it continues to surprise me with its layers, even after thousands of listens over 15 years since its release. The seemingly mindless repetition of "la, la, la" speaks to how the rest of the world turns into Charlie-Brown-adult honking sounds when you’re focused on someone who can’t give you what you need. Devastating!
8. If you could duet with Kylie on any song of hers, which one would you want to sing with her? Which Kylie song would you want to record your own version of? If you could star in any Kylie video, which one would you choose? I love my Kylie undiluted, and so I’m always a little hesitant when she offers duets. Having said that, I loved seeing her and Rufus Wainright perform "If I Loved You" from Carousel in the Hamptons in 2012, so I think I’d follow suit and suggest we perform "If Mama Was Married" from Gypsy. I sing my own versions of Kylie songs as it is, and I think the most fun for me is my German language version of "I Should Be So Lucky." It was the first Kylie song I ever heard, and I think the lyrics are beautiful. The topic of Kylie videos is an enormous one! I couldn’t imagine removing her from any of her videos, but my dream is to be her understudy for live tours and to disappoint tens of thousands of people in one fell swoop: "Ladies and gentlemen, in tonight’s performance of Kylie X 2008, the role of Kylie Minogue will be played by Kim David Smith. No refunds."
9. In addition to singing, you have also spent the past year or two, modeling with various photographers, showing off your very muscled body. What has modeling done for you that music does not? How do you stay so fit? Posing for artist friends is something I really enjoy, be they photographers, painters, or sculptors, and it provides a practical goal for my work at the gym. I’m a certified personal trainer, and I am constantly experimenting on my own body. I also find a lot of joy in being at the gym and challenging myself, physically. I definitely have days when I don’t feel like throwing a ViPR around, but I really do love working out, and I think it’s important to explore the little pockets of joy I find in my normal day to day routine. And, it’s been a wonderful journey to feeling relaxed and comfortable naked — which comes from time at the gym, sure, but also from deciding to not care what anyone thinks about my body. Dismissing dysmorphia is a huge challenge, but it’s nice when you can stop caring.
10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent everyday. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent every day? I love setting goals. At the gym, I’ll set goals depending on where I think I’ve been slacking; sometimes it’s about diminishing rest time between sets, sometimes it’s about adding a set, or supersetting complimentary exercises — I don’t think it’s always a responsible idea to just throw weight at something to make it challenging. In music, I push myself to learn scarier songs, and I try to do something terrifying and new in each new year.
Australian Kim David Smith is a Helpmann Award nominated singer and cabaret performer, known for his Weimar-era inspired works that juxtapose authentic musical material with stylistic takes on current popular tunes. His electro-pop albums Nova, Supernova, and cabaret EP, The Tease, are available worldwide on iTunes and Amazon.
His cabaret programmes, Stargazing (directed by Michael Rader), Nova Noir, Misfit and Morphium have performed regularly in New York City at Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie, Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre, the Laurie Beechman Theatre, the Due Theatre at DMAC, and Bard Spiegeltent at Bard College, while also touring Australia — presented at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, The Festival of Voices, The Brisbane Cabaret Festival, Slide Cabaret Festival, The Ballarat Cabaret Festival, Chapel Off Chapel, the National Gallery of Victoria, and Smith’s cabaret birthplace, the Butterfly Club.
Past cabaret programmes include Johnny Come Lately (directed by Karen Kohler), Kim Smith’s Jungle Parade (directed by Martin Croft), Kim Smith is Madly Adored, and Quietly Kim Smith. 2009 saw Kim David Smith presented with the Back Stage Magazine Bistro Award for Special Achievement as an Outstanding Performer (honoured alongside Liza Minnelli and Charles Aznavour). He was also nominated for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 Manhattan Association of Cabaret (MAC) Awards in the Outstanding Male Vocalist category. Kim David Smith is a recipient of the American Australian Association’s Dame Joan Sutherland Award for aspiring artists (2008), and is a member of the Kabarett Kollektif, a troupe of New York-based artists dedicated to preserving the European cabaret tradition. Kim David Smith studied music theatre at the Ballarat Arts Academy in Australia (BA, Music Theatre), and resides in New York City.