In 1956, when he was ten, Carmody was sent to a “Christian school” which he has described as “little more than an orphanage”. After school Kev returned to his rural roots working for seventeen years as a back country labourer doing everything from bag lumping, cane cutting to wool pressing. He told one newspaper that his musical career was “a far cry from the 15 year old who thought he’d spent the rest of his life pressing wool. Mind you, I had a job then, I was actually making bloody money. Not with this music caper….”
When he was 33 he got the opportunity to go to University where he studied history, geography and music eventually progressing to work on a PhD. His thesis topic, not surprisingly, was the history of the Darling Downs between 1830 – 1860. His career in music started while he was at University. He explains: “They accepted me in there on probation, and it was a bit of a funny one really because I could hardly read or write. I had no mastery of the written language… But I was lucky. I had good lecturers and they let me bring the guitar in for the first six months as a means of implementing oral history and my background and what I wanted to say into the tutorial. And it worked really bloody well.”
Music had always been around him. As a child he listened to old records on the family’s wind-up 78 gramophone and, absorbed everything from country music to classical from an old valve wireless, and spent many nights singing folk and popular songs around the campfire. He did not, and still does not see himself as “a musician” in the way that most musicians see themselves. Still the influences upon him were powerful and profound.
Carmody’s initial inspiration came from a truly rural, oral tradition. Both his second generation Irish father and Murri mother came from powerful oral traditions. Carmody still talks about the stories and songs he was told and taught by his first generation Irish Grandmother, Murri grandparents and his extended Murri family.
Kev Carmody has lived out the life of a modern troubadour. He was a travelling singer/songwriter with a base in southern Queensland and an itinerary which found him touring the world. He has played concerts in Australian gaols for all inmates. He has worked with marginalised children as part of a community education program at Logan City “to encourage the kids to come up with artistic ideas, find their spirit, and, most importantly, their self-esteem.” You could often find him at a Greenpeace rally or fund-raiser, a world music celebration, an Aboriginal musical festival, on a university campus, or playing at regular concert venues.