Mama Kin (musician)

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Mama Kin
Mama Kin (2012).jpg
Mama Kin in 2012
Background information
Birth nameDanielle Caruana
Years active2006–present
Associated actsJohn Butler

Danielle Caruana, known professionally as Mama Kin, is an Australian singer-songwriter. She has released two albums, Beat and Holler and The Magician's Daughter. She lives with her family in Fremantle.

Early life[edit]

Caruana grew up in the Melbourne suburb of Newport, the youngest, by some years, of six siblings by parents of Maltese extraction. The family was musical and she studied classical piano from the age of five to 16.[1][2][3][4] Every child in the family was expected to play an instrument and to play in the family band in church and for members of the Maltese community who visited their house.[5][6] Her strongest musical influence was her sister Carmen, 14 years older, with whom she sang and who taught her to harmonise, and who introduced her to lasting musical influences: blues and gospel, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, the Pretenders and Joan Armatrading.[1][3] Other family influences were country, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, the crooners, Stevie Wonder, Dr John, The Cure, The Police, Prince and Michael Jackson.[7] Caruana says, "I loved all of it, because my brothers and sisters were into it. I couldn't imagine a life without music",[7] but also that the musicality of her family inhibited her own career: "I was completely petrified. After having grown up under two really incredibly, incredibly diverse musical brothers and a really musical family, I think I just made a decision really early on that I wasn't good enough, that I wasn't as good as them."[1]


Caruana first started writing songs in 2006.[8] Prior to her solo career, she provided vocals on albums by her husband, John Butler.[9][10] The Mama Kin band came about through playing with her brothers Nicky Bomba and Michael Caruana.[8] The name Mama Kin was given her by Bomba, a former member of the John Butler Trio.[1] Caruana says, "we were toying with the idea of doing a creative project together called Kin. A couple of days into the process I found out I was pregnant with my second child and he called me the Mama Kin."[3] When it stuck as her band name she had not heard of the Aerosmith song.[8] Caruana, her brother Michael on keyboards and drummer George Servanis are the principal members of the Mama Kin ensemble.[6]

Her first released recording was an EP, Papoose, followed by a single, "Tore My Heart Out",[1] released in early 2010 and named iTunes Single of the Week.[2] Her debut album, Beat and Holler, written almost entirely on an old Wurlitzer organ[1] and recorded at The Compound, Fremantle, was distributed by MGM in July 2010.[2][6] Prior to its release Mama Kin had become a popular act at Australian music festivals[2] supporting notably Butler, Gurrumul and The Cat Empire, and the band launched a first headline national tour in October 2010 to promote Beat and Holler.[6] Of the album Caruana has said, "In almost every song, although it might sound like I'm talking about a partner, I'm generally talking about a part of myself."[4] Beat and Holler was nominated for an AIR Award for Best Blues and Roots Album 2010.[11]

Caruana's second album, The Magician's Daughter, was released in early 2013.[12] It is named after her mother, an actual magician's daughter. Caruana's grandfather worked as a professional magician in post-World War II Malta, and her mother, Iris, was one of his assistants.[12] The album was written mostly from home and recorded at The Compound.[3] It was produced by Jan Skubiszewski.[13] The Magician's Daughter was nominated for a 2013 ARIA Award for Best Blues & Roots Album.[14]

Caruna joined with Tommy Spender from Offcutts to form Mama Kin Spender. They released their debut album Golden Magnetic in 2018[15] and it was nominated for the 2018 ARIA Award for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album.[16]


Caruana contributes to philanthropic activities in the fields of indigenous and environmental rights.[3]

In February 2011 John Butler and Caruana performed as Brave and the Bird at the annual Gimme Shelter fundraising event for the homeless at the Fremantle Arts Centre,[17][18] their set introduced by Kevin Rudd.

The Seed Fund, originally the JB Seed Fund, was set up in 2005[19] by Butler,[20] Caruana and others with an initial donation of A$80,000,[21] to help artists and musicians become self-sustained. Its flagship project is the Management Workshop, in which 25 emerging managers have three days of workshops with experienced industry managers of internationally known Australian bands. Caruana says the main motivation behind creating the organisation is to create community within the music industry.[4][5]

Personal life[edit]

Caruana met John Butler in Fremantle, Western Australia[3] and they were married in Broome in 1999.[2] Their home is in Fremantle.[3] They have a daughter, Banjo, and a son, Jahli. Both children play music and Caruana credits having them, along with the Seed Fund, with starting her musical career.[4][5] Of her musical relationship with her husband, she has said, "I love and respect his opinion, but we definitely have different tastes in music."[2] Prior to beginning her solo musical career Caruana suffered from depression, an experience that has informed her songwriting[12] and which she ascribes to her suppression of her musicality.[5] She reports that one of her biggest discoveries was Transcendental Meditation and that, "When I first started this practice I remember thinking 'Oh, this is what sanity must feel like.'"[12]

The John Butler Trio song "Daniella" is about Caruana.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Collins, Simon. "Mama Kin born into music". The West Australian. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Bible, Georgina. "Mama Kin: motherhood led me back". The Northern Star. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Christie, Alexandra. "Mama Kin Speaks". Yen. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d Barron, Zoe. "Mama Kin has found her voice". Dumbo Feather. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d Barron, Zoe. "Mothering Music". Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d Shedden, Iain. "Mama Kin's got a brand-new bag". The Australian. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  7. ^ a b Kennedy, Sharon. "Mama Kin on music and motherhood". ABC South West. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Carew, Anthony. "Finally, the 'other Butler' did it". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  9. ^ "Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  10. ^ "Danielle Caruana". Discogs. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
  11. ^ "About". Retrieved 30 August 2014.
  12. ^ a b c d "Mama Kin: Where the magic happens". Archived from the original on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  13. ^ "About". Retrieved 25 August 2014.
  14. ^ "Flume dominates today's ARIA Awards nominations with Tame Impala hot on his heels",, 15 October 2013
  15. ^ Dwyer, Michael (6 March 2018), "The strength of numbers", Sydney Morning Herald
  16. ^ Moran, Robert; Nathanael, Cooper (11 October 2018), "Amy Shark leads the 2018 ARIA nominations in another big year for women", The Age
  17. ^ Pettitt, Brad. "Gimme Shelter-Sat 19th Feb Freo Arts centre". City of Fremantle. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  18. ^ "Danielle Caruana and her husband John (Butler's) Sweet Treat for the Homeless". Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  19. ^ Donovan, Patrick. "Musician sows seeds for others". The Age. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  20. ^ Adams, Cameron. "How John Butler got a haircut and shed his hippy image". Herald Sun. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  21. ^ "Danielle Caruana and John Butler". The AFR Magazine. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  22. ^ "John Butler 11-30-07 Daniella". YouTube. Retrieved 18 March 2016. This is way too much information, my wife says, for most people.

External links[edit]