Music / Features
Track by Track:
Cahill Kelly - Classical and Cool Jazz
Words by Mark Ireland
Friday 6th August, 2021
On his debut album Classical and Cool Jazz, Melbourne songwriter Cahill Kelly invites listeners into his evocative world of psychedelic blues blended with a tinge of avant-pop, that easily has us charmed by the inventive folk rocker. To help us get to know the album a little better, Cahill kindly walked us through each track on the record.
Despite it being his debut album, Classical and Cool Jazz is incredibly self-assured, bringing the listener right inside Cahill’s head and allowing them to peer around his mind. Particularly so on standout track ‘Milania’, which features the amazing harmonies of Grace Cummings; when both their vocals come together, it’s literally impossible to escape the beautiful storm of voices. 

The album opens with the plaintive ‘Turner Reserve’, with its mournful keyboard pinching the listener at every verse, before Cahill’s screamed vocals at the end of the song brings the emotion closer to the surface. Next up, ‘World Upon a Shelf’ is full of nonsensical lyrics, but that doesn’t deter the listener from taking a seat on the journey - the more it doesn’t make sense, the more you’re intrigued to see where it ends up. 

‘Beyond the Weathered Pale’s dream-like melodies keep the song floating along, with harmonies from Harmony Byrne giving the song extra strength and weight, and similarly, ‘Maybe I’ evokes so much passion, and with the throaty back up vocals of Grace Cummings, you can’t help but be sucked into the tide. Moments later, ‘Salt of the Sea’ bends and weaves its way along with a beautiful acoustic thread, like a lighthouse in the distance it shines a light brightly waving the listener in. 

As Classical and Cool Jazz rounds out, the album’s most evocative moments give way to something a little more playful. ‘Rooftop Ramblings’ is exactly that, something that makes little sense but keeps the motion of the album buoyant, and although ‘Bluesday Chews’ was written about 2020 (or “the time that we shall not speak about” as Cahill puts it), it’s deceivingly upbeat. Finally, ‘Mountainous Gaze’ strips thing back to Cahill and his guitar to finish the album off on a high, but there’s just as much the sense that the journey has only just begun - it has peaks and when you’re at the top, the view you get is blinding like a burning sunset.

With so many personal stories on the album, it’s hard not to become attached to Cahill Kelly as a person, not just a singer. To dig in a little deeper, Cahill has walked us through each moment on Classical and Cool Jazz and broken down how each track came about.
Turner Reserve

I wrote these lyrics halfway up a tree in a local park during a midnight stroll on LSD. Trying to listen to some music through headphones and enjoy the scenery at the park, I had this nagging paranoia that someone was going to sneak up behind me, so after trying out a few different vantage points on various park benches I ended up climbing a tree as this seemed like a good idea at the time. I listened to Randy Newman’s ‘I Think It’s Going to Rain Today’ while the wind whipped me and tree around together, it was a genuinely magical experience, I managed to write a few verses on my phone before I inevitably dropped it. When I woke up in bed the next day, I re-read what I had written down and enjoyed the absurdity of some of it, particularly referencing the American-born Swedish pole vaulter Duplantis.

This was the first track we recorded for the album and because we were recording from home, I was little worried about the fidelity of the recordings, particularly the drums. In order to combat this, we decided to try and avoid using cymbals as much as possible as they tend to be one of the harsher qualities of home recordings, using some of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band as a reference. Funnily enough I unintentionally played the guitar solo on a plastic guitar, through a plastic amp.

World Upon a Shelf

This actually began as a writing exercise, I was trying to see if I could write about even the most mundane of subjects while still evoking some kind of narrative and emotion. At the time I had a number of sentimental trinkets from various countries on a mantlepiece above my desk which kicked off the initial inspiration. In a weird way I ended up finding deeper meaning in the song, reflecting on the idea that everything we come across in life, be it places, people, objects, ideas; once you take a deeper look there’s always so much more to the story.

What I really like about this track is everything you hear on the recording is just me and my long-time collaborator/bandmate Lain Pocock who plays bass on pretty much everything I do musically, this was the first time we had recorded a song with just the two of us. It started off as a wordy, Dylan-inspired acoustic piece but once Lain had laid down the bass and drums it turned into a very different beast.
Beyond the Weathered Pale

Originally spurring from a confronting dream I had which sent me into an unhealthy spiral of ‘what if’s?’. I stumbled across this progression while messing around with stacking piano chords on top of each other to give them unique colours - not having any formal music training, it was one of those ‘ah-ha!’ moments where I’d unlocked something new on the piano. Once I had the verse feel down, I wrote a sort of ‘anti- chorus’ to juxtapose the rhythm and dynamic of the verse.

When we originally demoed this track, my friend Harmony Byrne happened to stop by to visit the house and our engineer spontaneously asked her to jump in on the session, and having her sing in unison with me really amped up the melody as it was an unusual register for me to sing in. I think my Radiohead obsession definitely came out in the production of this track.


For a period of time, I tried to escape the vicious cycle of hospitality by getting myself a day job. Though being rather unqualified, I started working in a shoe warehouse which ended up being a depressing environment and was definitely one of the worst job I’ve ever had. Finding myself to be an outcast and disliked heavily amongst a lot of my younger co-workers, the best part of my day was the long walk home which happened to take me past a school that employed this tiny, elderly, lollipop lady named Milania. Overtime we became quite close, and we would talk almost every day. When I inevitably quit the job, I missed our interactions and wrote this song to remind me of our short but sweet friendship. My good friend and musical sister Grace Cummings sung some beautiful harmonies in the chorus.

Maybe I

This song was written after I had a bad falling out with some close friends that never really got resolved, this led to a depression that stayed with me for years and in the early stages of this unravelling I felt extremely isolated and alone. I don’t remember writing the initial melody or chords for the song, but the lyrics came from a place of pure sadness and for some reason, hilarious quotes from my friend Cal during a game of Pictionary. The chorus was originally written as “Maybe I shouldn’t worry about, friends who’ve got no love to give” until my friend Kev Walsh suggested I change to line to ‘Those’ instead of ‘Friends’ which made the chorus way more accessible and gave it a deeper meaning, thanks Kev!

We recorded this live as a three piece and then enlisted help from Oskar Herbig who tracked both the guitar solos and Grace Cummings who sung all the harmonies, Grace and I sort of jokingly ad-libbed the last two choruses together in the same mic and it turned out to be one of the better takes, so we kept it in.

Salt of the Sea

On a family trip to New Zealand, my Grandma and I got caught inside a greenhouse at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth when a massive storm rolled in as we were walking around the botanical gardens together. Hiding from the sudden torrential rainfall that lasted for nearly up to an hour, I penned out a lot of these lyrics in the greenhouse itself. Having recorded a version of this song with my old band Willow Darling and it being one of the oldest tracks of mine that I still play today, I thought it would be cool to have a stripped back version on this record. I’ve always liked hearing other bands alternate studio recordings/arrangements of the same song.

Goldfish Bowlin’

Conjured out of frustration with myself for slipping back into the loop of bad drug habits, I wrote this song after I felt like I was just going around in circles every day in some sort of zombie-like state. I think musically I was listening to a lot of Crowded House and Tom Petty at the time and was obsessed with writing very short punctual songs.

Bluesday Chews

This was written deep amidst the time that shall not be named over 2020, the lyrics aren’t exactly poetic in any sense, I was just so sick of being locked up at home and was missing my friends and all the mischief we’d get up to after playing gigs. I wrote this while we were actually recording the album so there’s a nice level of spontaneity and improvisation in the production that comes with only ever playing a song through once or twice before recording it live. I think we all enjoyed playing something a little upbeat and had a good time with it.

Rooftop Rambling

There’s not much to say about ‘Rooftop Rambling’ as it’s pretty self-explanatory, I was heavily inebriated and fell off someone’s roof, not my finest moment.

Mountainous Gaze

Dedicated to a friend of mine who was incredibly talented but who always let their emotions get the better of them, they would self-sabotage or push those who loved them away. At the time I looked up to this particular person and recognised the potential that they had so it was hard to watch. I hadn’t planned on putting this song on the record, but the band convinced me it would be a good way for the record to finish, just a voice and a guitar.
Classical and Cool Jazz is out now through Cheersquad Records - head to to grab the album on limited translucent 12" vinyl.