AS incredible as it sounds Kate Ceberano had never met The Church's Steve Kilbey, despite the pair being among Australia's most popular recording artists to emerge from the '80s.
But little did both know, they were co-writing together. Ceberano taking Kilbey's lyrics and creating her own melodies and arrangements.
The middle man is this intriguing songwriting partnership was writer and musician, Sean Sennett, best known as the former editor and owner of Brisbane's defunct street press Time Off.
Sennett and Ceberano, who are old friends, had long discussed the idea of writing an album together that "captured the spirit of [French pop artist] Serge Gainsbourg and [his partner] Jane Birkin with an antipodean back drop."
Sennett would email the Melbourne-based Ceberano lyrics from the Queensland capital, and meanwhile, he met Kilbey at the Brisbane Writers Festival and became fast friends.
The Sydney-based Kilbey soon started sending Sennett lyrical ideas which he then passed on to Ceberano to write music to, without telling her they were written by The Church frontman.
"The reason I didn't tell her about Steve was nothing to do with gauging personalities, it was that Kate has such as great groove for writing melodies and chords I didn't want her to think this is a Steve Kilbey song," Sennett said.
"I think I wanted her to think this is Kate Ceberano interpreting my lyrics, so there were no preconceptions there."
The results were so impressive three songs into the project that Sennett finally told Ceberano and Kilbey his little secret.
From then the trio continued working together, with Sennett and Kilbey sending their lyrics to Ceberano, who then recorded the songs in Melbourne with her co-producer Rod Bustos.
Never once did the three occupy the same room during the writing process.
"Why spoil a good thing," Sennett said.
"Once we got past the halfway mark and they've never been in the room together, I thought let's keep it like that.
"They respected it as well and it might have changed the mojo of the record if they'd met."
The end result four years later is Kate Ceberano, Steve Kilbey & Sean Sennett's 12-track album The Dangerous Age.
The Dangerous Age will surprise. It's Ceberano like fans have never heard her before.
Her usual soul and jazz-pop sounds have been replaced by an expansive indie and art rock palette, ranging from the atmospheric All Tied Up to the playful romp of My Restless Heart to The Beatles-esque Not The Loving Kind.
"It's funny because she's such a chameleon," Sennett said. "I look to her jazz and pop stuff, but this is really a representation of where she is now. It's far more earthy than anything she's done."
Despite Ceberano and Kilbey having written various Australian classics like Pash and Under The Milky Way respectively, Sennett wasn't overawed working with the two legends.
Rather, he found it a thrilling experience to see the two masters at work up close and personal.
"Kate is very upbeat and positive," he said. "She's the kind of person that if she was stuck in a room with pen and paper she'd draw all day.
"Steve's the same as he does a lot of painting. They're just very creative people.
"The highlight of working with Steve for me was when we were writing the lyrics together for Monument City Lights, 1973.
"Just being in a room with him and kicking it back and forth like playing tennis with lyrics over a net. It was fascinating.
"He'd indicate to me that he sees lyrics in everything. He's creative process up close was really interesting. He'd see a sign on a passing truck and get a lyric out of it."
What made the experience even more interesting was that Kilbey was initially writing lyrics during the project as if he were the late Go-Betweens songwriter Grant McLennan.
During the '90s McLennan and Kilbey released two albums together under the name Jack Frost.
"Something like All Tied Up and 'he has a surfboard and lives far from the sea' he said, 'That's Grant putting people in places and giving a context'," Sennett said.
"It was only after three songs in and he asked, 'Am I still doing my bits as Grant?' I said, 'No, just be Steve Kilbey', so then he gave us more stuff like Steve Kilbey."
The Dangerous Age by Kate Ceberano, Steve Kilbey and Sean Sennett is out on Friday.