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Bringing the Music Back to Balmain

Village Voice Balmain Rozelle Edition. By Luke Jones.. September 2005.

TODAY he is the manager of a humble piano store on Darling St but don’t be fooled by Kevin Somerville’s unassuming demeanour.

It hides a long, illustrious career as one of Australia’s greatest piano players and performers.

Over his 36 year career, Kevin has performed over 7000 live shows and shared the stage with such luminaries as Billy Joel, Anthony Warlow and Sammy Davis Jr.

His love of piano began when he was only five years-old as a farm boy in the country town of Orange, where he found a piano in one of the farmhouses and thought “I can do that”.

“I taught myself. I don’t know where it came from as I’m the only musician in the family. It’s a gift,” Kevin says.

His big break came after a Channel Nine talent scout spotted him at a school eisteddfod. He was then asked to appear on variety shows including The Rolf Harris Show.

Kevin’s career was given an insurmountable boost when he performed as a support act for Sammy Davis Jr in Perth in 1979 and received acclaim from Mr Entertainment himself.

“He came out and said ‘With an opening act like that, who needs me?’ and gave me another 10 minutes! He then asked me to tour with him in the States, which made my career,” Kevin says.

Kevin remained a hot ticket, playing all around the world, headlining on Broadway and the most exclusive piano lounges.

He retired five years ago when he returned from headlining shows on Broadway only to find that “there was not a live piano bar left in Sydney.

“I came home and all the great places had changed. They had added poker machines and plasma TVs. There was nowhere to play anymore.

“We have slipped into a cultural wasteland, it’s an international embarrassment. We have become so mediocre and it is very sad.”

In an attempt to rekindle Australia’s love affair with great music, Kevin readily accepted an offer by the large American piano company QRS to become a member of the Australian subsidiary board of directors.

“It’s probably just as well I don’t play anymore, this takes up most of my time!”

QRS is located at 483 Darling Street Balmain. Phone 9555 8087.