Monday, July 30, 2012

Interview: Jed Rowe (part II)

This is the second part of an interview with the wonderful Victorian singer-songwriter Jed Rowe. The first part can be read here. The Jed Rowe Band's new album, The Ember and the Afterglow, is one of the best releases in recent memory (well, I think so). 

In this part of the interview Jed talks about how his band came together and also about the songwriting process, and what's great about Melbourne for musicians.

How did you three first start playing together as a band?
Well, gradually. The bass player and I have been together the longest. We met through a mutual friend and I gave Michael a ride to a festival and yeah, we just were both into music and yeah, met that way. And then I was going to do a solo EP and he was busy with other projects, so it wasn’t a matter of me saying, ‘Do you want to come and join my band?’ It was just, ‘Can you come and play some bass, or play some keyboards’, because he plays a lot of instruments. So I think I got him to play keyboard at first on that EP and then when it was time to release that and do some gigs I said, ‘We’ve got this gig, can you come and do the gig?’ and ‘Yeah, no worries’. So it was a gradual thing rather than setting out with a concept in mind. And then Michael the drummer has been with us for something like two years and we have sort of gone through several drummers – I lost count but [laughs]. But we’ve had a really stable thing with [bass player] Michael and I and then drummers have sort of lasted a year or two before they moved on. Drummers seem to have lots of projects on the go. If they’re good they are often in demand. They are able to fit in and hit things [laughs] with lots of different bands, whereas maybe if you play other instruments it’s harder to do that, I think. So [drummer] Michasel was just a friend of the bass player Michael, and they had known each other from studying together in Melbourne, studying music. 

Do you have different nicknames for them so you’re not just calling out ‘Michael, Michael, Michael’?
Yeah. Michael Arvanitakis is Arvo and he’s been Arvo for a long time, like to the point where people know him just know him as Arvo, and if they hear someone call him Michael they go, ‘Is your name Michael?’ So he’s very much Arvo. Michael on the drums is just Michael. 

Okay. [Laughs] You probably want the drummer to have a thug nickname though. Something about raw power.
We’ll have to think up a good drummer nickname[laughs].

So how do you find time to rehearse and gig with all the other things that go on in a life, I guess, with children and a job. I so admire the dedication musicians have to carving out that space and time to rehearse, let alone get on the road and I know you have some gigs coming up around the country so you’re carving out that time as well. Do you just have to make a commitment and do it?
Yes. I guess so. And whatever you do there’s going to be sacrifices and I guess mysacrifice has been sacrificing other paid work and just putting up with surviving on the smell of an oily rag [laughs]. I can have time to write songs and, particularly on the management side, because I do most of that – at the moment we have a couple of publicists helping out with the release, which is great, and we’ve had booking agents at various times and so sometimes there’s help with running it. But a lot of time goes into that and you try to find time to rehearse, of course, and tour so I think it kind of goes in phases. You can’t really fit everything in at once, particularly if you’re doing it independently and doing some of your management stuff as well. Like we had a stage last year when we were recording, we didn’t do a lot of gigging and so we were able to focus on the recording, and now I’ve spent a lot of this year on the management side actually, and not much performing or recording or songwriting. But then we’ll have a touring phase coming up and that will be the focus for a while, and then I guess at some point we’ll do some more songwriting and recording. So you just sort of have to focus on one thing at a time, I guess.

And in terms of your songwriting, do you find that you kind of need to create a bit of a vacuum in your life in terms of not much else to think about, in order to have that creativity come in. or does it happen around everything else?
That’s interesting. I’m sort of trying to remember because I haven’t been writing a lot of songs for a while. One thing I do find is that since I started making albums anyway, once it comes time – once the songs are sort of selected for an album, I tend to turn off the songwriting taps completely and just focus on finishing off this album, and the creative energy kind of goes into that, it goes into recording or arranging or that sort of thing, rather than chasing after every song idea that might come into your head. And then it takes a while to turn it back on after that because again, at the moment, I’m not really writing a lot and I don’t really expect to probably on the tour either. But what I found last time, for our last album, was that it just took a while, the songwriting just took a while to come back and I had to write a few songs that mightn’t have been keepers and then eventually the good ones come through. And sometimes it’s a matter of just having time to do it, but it’s always a mixture of some inspiration that just comes from who knows where — that’s the sort of backbone of the song usually —and then there’s the time to sit down and use whatever songwriting techniques you have to finish it off.  So it’s a combination of those two. 

And have you learned those songwriting techniques through experience or did you go and study somewhere when you were younger?
A bit of both. I’ve done different things, studying. I studied music for a year and singing was my kind of major, so there was some music theory and probably a bit for songwriting. I actually studied creative writing as well at uni for – again, I think for about 18 months, and that has helped with lyric writing definitely, because the assignments were sort of sit down and write short stories and develop characters and things like that, so that comes into it. 

And it shows, because if I look at your CD insert with the lyrics set out, it looks like poetry. It’s set out with that poetic rhythm, like you’ve studied your cadences and your meters and constructed it that way, so those 18 months definitely had an effect. 
Yeah. And I’ve always liked writing and I’ve always liked words so it’s not just the study, it’s just also partly the way my brain is wired. Whereas to some people music is much more about just the musical elements and the words are just the vehicle to give you something to think, which is fine too. And there’s music that’s great to listen to where that’s the case.

You’re a New South Welshman by upbringing and you’ve defected south of the border. Do you find Melbourne to be a more supportive creative environment, particularly if you’re an independent artist? I’ve noticed that your CD has got a bit of funding from Arts Victoria.
I’m not sure about in terms of government because I’ve never applied for sort of arts grants or anything. I never did that when I lived in New South Wales. I think Melbourne is definitely a much bigger scene probably than anywhere in Australia, I think, in terms of music. So whatever kind of music you’re into there’s probably a pretty good team going on in Melbourne. I think it just helps; it helps for the quality of it. You need be around people who are doing really good stuff and it can work, in terms of it being a supportive scene, it can kind of lurk the other way too; I think in Melbourne, to an extent, that there’s so much good stuff going on that it’s hard to kind of stand out from that crowd because it’s a big crowd [laughs] whereas when we first started touring we would kind of often have better responses interstate than some of our Melbourne gigs, just because you’d go to some country pub and they’re like, ‘Oh, wow, you guys are great. This is good.’ They don’t get as much good music going there, I guess. So in Melbourne audiences can be a bit spoilt for choice and it can be a bit hard to be impressive [laughs] maybe. 

And do you feel like you’re part of the country music community? One of the things I love about Australian country music is that it is quite a supportive community in terms of new artists in particular. People in country towns will turn out —if you say you’re a country music performer they’ll turn out for you. For me you fit completely within a sub-genre of country, so it sounds like country music to me. 
That’s interesting. Like I wouldn’t say I’ve set out to be a country artist or a blues artist or a folk artist or a rock artist or whatever, but I guess I just love good songs and I tend to like a wide variety of music, and that tends to show up in the songs that I write. And the country has kind of been more of a thing of the last few years, as far as listening goes, I just sort of come across some really great songwriters, stuff like Gillian Welch and I love the album that Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson did together, Rattlin’ Bones, and things like that — perhaps you would call them old country, I don’t even know. I know it’s necessary to categorise music but I always find it hard to put it into words or categories’.

I guess one of the main reasons why I think of your music as country is that country music, more than any other genre I’ve identified, is a storytelling genre.

And it’s what the audiences expect. In country shows you get a lot of talking between songs because the artist is setting up the song, in a way, because they understand they’re telling a story. This album is like reading a collection of short stories — it’s the most literate album I’ve heard in that sense —and you seem to really understand that role of being a storyteller, that cultural role of being a storyteller. 
Oh well, that’s a good – good compliment to get. I think that’s one of the things I would set out to do. When I first started actually listening to more country stuff that was kind of why, I guess, just because it’s where some of the great songwriting was going on.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A word on Beccy Cole

Beccy Cole appeared on Australian Story this week and revealed something that wouldn't have surprised many people who are involved in Australian country music circles, but would, no doubt, have surprised some of her fans. As this is a blog about Australian country music (mostly) I thought it would be remiss to not say something. And what I have to say is, 'Good on you, Beccy!' Beccy's revelation took courage, because she would have known that some of her audience would have trouble adjusting to her news. But it is them who need adjusting, not her. Beccy Cole is no different now than she was five years ago or five weeks or five days ago. All she's done is changed the information we have about her.

There are people asking why she felt the need to 'out' herself, and I would think there are some very good reasons, such as the many gay and lesbian teenagers who feel completely alone - often desperately so - and think there is no one who understands them. Many of them are in rural and regional communities where country music is very popular and Beccy is a person who is admired. If Beccy's 'outing' helps just one of those teenagers to realise they're not alone, she's done a good thing. But I bet there will be a lot more than one. And I certainly hope Beccy finds the love and happiness she richly deserves. She brings light and laughter to every venue she plays - may we all offer her the same in return.

As a final note: what really stood out for me in the program was the strength of Beccy's friendships with Kasey Chambers and Gina Jeffreys. In this country we are blessed to have such individuals of great talent and strength to be our cultural leaders (which is what they are, even if it's only for the country music culture), and their friendships are a reminder of how strong, too, the country music community is.

Interview: Jed Rowe (part I)

One of my favourite 'finds' of recent times has been The Jed Rowe Band's album The Ember and the Afterglow. Seeing the band play live in Sydney recently just made me love their sound all the more - it was truly a fantastic gig. With a catalogue of beautifully crafted songs and three gifted musicians, it would have been hard for it to be anything other than that.

I spoke to Jed Rowe before he embarked on the tour and found out that there's a reason why his songs are so great: he's a thoughtful, diligent songwriter who has been developing his skills for quite a while now, and he understands the role storytellers play in a culture, regardless of the medium in which those stories are delivered.

This is the first part of a two-part interview.

I’m going to start off the conversation by saying I think the album is just fantastic. 
Cool.  Thank you.

One of the things I found really amazing and noteworthy was that the first song, ‘Castlemaine’, has a female narrator and then I worked out that four of the songs on the album have female narrators, and that’s really unusual for a male songwriter, let alone a singer-songwriter, to do. So I was wondering if you could talk about why you had chosen that song to start with and also how these female characters developed for you.
I think that choice of that song as the opener was Jeff’s – as in, Jeff Lang, the producer – and I think he just went for it because it was a kind of a strong musical statement. So it certainly wasn’t a conscious choice to, you know, let’s open with one of the female perspective ones. And nor was it a conscious choice, like we had sort of 30 or so songs to choose from that we could have recorded, so it wasn’t really a conscious choice, either, to pick four that had that female perspective. I think it’s just that ... I read a lot and I’m kind of just interested in stories, good stories, and so it didn’t seem weird to me to write songs about female main characters, and having it in first person with a female actually – the main character – narrating it, I think just gives it a bit more immediacy, it makes it a bit more real. So yeah, that’s kind of why that approach, but it’s just a kind of an accident that it works out that way [chuckle].

Because you have, I think why the first song is such a surprise and it was a surprise to me more than once, actually is because you have a really masculine voice and quite a deep voice and so it’s just that almost kind of mental shift of, ‘Oh, this is a woman’s story’ and then it completely goes to show that stories can be told by anyone, if the intent is there. 
Yeah. I haven’t really thought of that but, yeah, that song particularly is kind of, I guess low – low-ish – in my register, so it is very much a male voice telling the story of a woman. 

Well, a woman giving birth and laying in the ground. It’s just really almost a visceral story.
I think that side of it comes from my own experience with having kids, because my kids are pretty young and that’s sort of been one of the main themes of my last seven years, having kids, and lots of my friends are having kids. And I just know my wife’s had her struggles with sort of pregnancy and childbirth and depression and stuff, and also I’ve just had lots of friends who – it’s the same. So I took something of that – that kind of sacrifice that goes with carrying a child, for a mother, and it sort of found its way into the song. The stories are just sort of the way its told but yeah, I think as far as the themes go that’s where it comes from. 

It sounds like an historical song as well and I get the sense with your songwriting that it’s kind of like a fabric of Australian history in a way – not Australian history but Australian stories, there are all these perspectives of country towns and travel, like travelling through the countryside. You said you read a lot do you read a lot of Australian novels or Australian history?
Yes. I do. I read sort of a lot of whatever, I guess. Something that comes to mind is Peter Carey’s book The True History of the Kelly Gang, which is the alternative story of Ned Kelly and that one is told through Ned Kelly’s perspective, so it just really recreates a feeling of being in that time. And I’m just interested in history so I kind of read bits of history when I come across it.

And are audiences quite respectful, in terms of they’ll sit and listen to you? Because these are songs that don’t really go on in the background.
Look, it varies. No matter what songs I was playing some venues and some settings are about people sitting dead quiet and attentive and listening, and other venues are about background for something social that’s going on and it doesn’t matter what song I could be playing in some venue, they’re not a listening venue. I think actually the recorded form is often kind of where the songs get really soaked up, too, because if people can listen to it again and again and listen to it in a quiet setting or however they like, as far as the stories and lyrics go sometimes, yeah, recording is good for – for that getting that across – more so than live sometimes.

That’s true. And I found with the musical setting of each story it was – it seemed like it was – there wasn’t a single song on that album that I thought, ‘Oh well, that doesn’t really work, that musical setting for that story’. So having those 30 songs demo’ed, had you pretty much set the tone musically for the songs then or did Jeff Lang actually contribute quite a bit at the production stage?
I’d say a bit of both. I think the very choice to work with Geoff is kind of a choice anyway that affected that, because I know of his music and I knew that it would really suit what we do, his sort of style aesthetic. And it’s his approach to do everything as live as possible and just to sort of have the core of the song being what the three of us do, the three of us being the band [Michael Arvanitakis on bass and Michael DiCecco on drums], what we do when we go and play it live and then to add some things in a kind of a subtle way to just support that. As far as instrumentation goes, there were a couple of songs where I had the two of the string section – I’d already written those string parts before we got together with Jeff, and they would have been part of the demos that I sent him, those string arrangements, so they were set. But other than that I think a lot of it was just choices. But, again, I kind of knew – I had a good idea of what we would be getting in working with Jeff, in terms of it would be pretty live, he would focus on just the real instruments, mostly.

So the songs that didn’t make it on, are they like your orphan children now? They’re just sitting there going, ‘Will we ever find a home?’
Probably not all of them. There’s at least one song on this new album that I wrote – oh, I don’t know, somewhere eight years ago or something like that. The last song, ‘When the House Shakes’, the last song on the album, I wrote that about eight years ago and it was one of the ones that Jeff picked out of those 30, and we did a little bit of rewriting of sort of a bridge section and cut a few lyrics out, but other than that that the bulk of that song was around eight years ago. So you never know when it’s going to turn up, and also there’s those two that we did record as well and left off the album, so who knows where they will end up too. Particularly one of them, I actually really like it, but we didn’t leave it off because we thought it was bad – we were just going for the right sort of mix of the up-tempo songs and the more down-tempo acoustic ones. So that was just a choice based on what we thought would work for the flow of the album overall rather than sort of leaving off some that we thought sucked. 

But it must be hard knowing they’re kind of sitting out there just all recorded ready to go.
Kind of – but it’s kind of handy to have extra songs, like they might turn up as bonus tracks for something or something like that, who knows. 

Part II will be published soon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Interview: Samantha McClymont (part II)

This is the second part of my interview with Samantha McClymont. The first part can be read here.

The McClymonts' new album, When Worlds Collide, is out now. The McClymonts are touring Australia from August to November - dates appear at the end of this post. Do yourself a favour and get along to a show - they are amazing live performers. 

I think the band’s played the RSL circuit, for lack of a better term, in Australia since the start and I notice that you often don’t go to the same clubs, at least not twice on the hop, like you might circle back a couple of years later. But that’s a big circuit and it’s a lot of small gigs. A lot of artists who are reaching your stage would probably be tempted to play one big show in each capital city and maybe in large regional cities. But it’s obviously important to you all to keep that RSL circuit up.
Yes. Probably the last year and a half we have moved out of clubs a bit, though; we’ve been doing a lot more theatres. This next tour from August, I’d probably say it’s 80 per cent theatres now and 20 per cent clubs. But probably because we are seeking new areas as well. We are going up the north coast and making sure we do Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Forster, and they all will be clubs because we haven’t been there for a couple of years, as you said, but because it’s a shorter tour, we obviously can’t do all of the Sydney clubs, so we’re doing the Enmore Theatre and making it one big show. We can’t do a lot up in Queensland, so we’re doing one big show in the Surfers Paradise club, which has a theatre in there, and then going back to Brisbane and doing a theatre show. So this tour is probably a lot different to usual because we’re only doing two to three shows a week, where usually we were doing like five shows a week. 

That’s a large number of shows each week.
Yeah, we were doing a lot, so this tour is going to be very different for the three of us. It’s going to be quite strange not doing as many, but we have been touring for six years, we want to do something different, and maybe by going into theatres we can put on a bigger show and that kind of thing. And, as you say, I’m glad you’ve come along and seen a different show each time, and this is just adding a different element this time to a different space that you can hear us in. But we try and fit to, also, the areas we’re going to. We try and travel as much as possible, and you kind of work with what’s there in that town, if you need to go to a certain area – if it’s a club or if it’s a theatre or if it’s an outdoor place or something like that. So we kind of like to mix it up each time.

What’s your favourite venue been to play in – not necessarily your favourite town – but have you walked into any venue – I suppose the Grand Ole Opry will count high on the list.
Yeah, that’s true, that’s true.

As performers, what’s a great venue to play in?
There are so many, I’m just trying to think of a few that I just absolutely adored. I do like going up to Lizotte’s on the Central Coast, it’s a very intimate feel. And people have dinner and they sit down and you can only fit a certain amount of people in there – it’s very small, very intimate, and I guess we can kind of let our hair down a bit more and chat a bit more and get to know the audience. Sometimes having it a bit more intimate is just different and nice.

Often when I’ve seen you play, I always think your parents must be so proud of you all. They’d have to be, because it’s their three children working together and creating something amazing together.  So do they often come to shows?
Rarely! They do come every now and then, maybe one or two a year. But Dad always says he enjoys it more when he’s sitting down the back, having a beer, and we’re singing with our guitars at home. So he’d rather hear us then than up on stage with a band. Mum comes along every now and then. But they were so involved with our music growing up that I think they kind of enjoy taking the back seat now and just enjoying it from an outsider’s perspective and just watching every now and then – us calling in and updating them, and they’re not kind of running around after us anymore and I think they enjoy it a lot more now.

I’ve got to say, if I were them, I’d actually feel quite relieved that the three of you were on the road together, it wasn’t one child off on her own.  It’s like, oh well, there’s three of them together, they can take care of each other.
Yeah, well there’s also the downside – if it doesn’t work out, we’re all going home. So that could probably worry them as well.

It seems to be working out okay at the moment. 
Yeah, so far – so far, so good.

The harmonising of your voices is obviously one of the most distinctive parts of your sound, and it always seems like a really natural thing for you to harmonise together that way, but it’s probably not. Did you all grow up singing like that or is it something you’ve worked at?
Most of it is just natural. We obviously have been singing from such a young age that harmonies just came naturally, picking a high part, picking a low part. But we play so much that you obviously are working on it without it being a conscious effort. There are certain songs that you do need to work at harder than others and you actually need to sit down and sing acapella together and work out the harmonies – but then other songs just come really easy. So it’s a bit of both, but I think when it comes to harmonies, you kind of either have them or you don’t, because that makes a nicer blend and creates a warmer sound, I think, than learning a harmony. We’ve been lucky that we can all do it together.

One last question, and this is about Brooke’s pregnancy. Are you and Mollie are going to have a break for a little while when Brooke has a baby?
Well, kind of, hence only two shows a week at the end of the year – it’s kind of played a big part in that. I think we’ll get Christmas off, which is nice; we’ll have about four weeks off around Christmas time and then we’ll probably start getting back into rehearsals again for the Tamworth Country Music Festival, because as artists you can’t miss that one. I think we’re just going to take it as it comes and see what happens – we all kind of know that the baby is going to be a bit of a gypsy and just be passed around everyone and come out on the road and be a in a travelling band. It’ll be pretty cool.

Well, that sounds good and you can breed a new generation of McClymonts.
Absolutely.  One of us might be over it in a few years and need a replacement, so it’s perfect.

Well, I can’t imagine that but Samantha, thank you so much for your time.
Thank you. We appreciate the support.

AUGUST 2012 

Thursday 23rd August 2012 
Gympie Muster, Gympie QLD 

Friday 24th August 2012 
Twin Towns Services Club, Tweed Heads NSW | 1800 014 014 

Friday 31st August 2012 
Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre, Nowra NSW | 1300 788 503 |  


Saturday 1st September 2012 
Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW | (02) 9550 3666 |  

Thursday 6th September 2012 
Panthers, Port Macquarie NSW | (02) 6580 2300 

Friday 7th September 2012 
C-ex Services Club, Coffs Harbour NSW | (02) 6652 3888 

Saturday 8th September 2012 
Club Forster, Forster NSW | (02) 6591 6591 

Friday 14th September 2012 
Lismore Workers Club, Lismore NSW | (02) 6621 7401 

Saturday 15th September 2012 
Toowoomba Empire Theatre, Toowoomba QLD | 1300 655 299 

Friday 21st September 2012 
Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane QLD | (07) 3852 1711 |  

Saturday 22nd September 2012 
Vikings, Erindale ACT | (02) 6121 2131 

Friday 28th September 2012 
Deniliquin Ute Muster, Deniliquin VIC 

Saturday 29th September 2012 
Evan Theatre, Penrith Panthers, Penrith NSW | (02) 4720 5555 


Friday 5th October 2012 
Newcastle Civic Theatre, Newcastle NSW 
(02) 4929 1977 | 

Friday 12th October 2012 
The Palms at Crown, Melbourne VIC | 1300 795 012 

Saturday 13th October 2012 
The Palms at Crown, Melbourne VIC | 1300 795 012 


Saturday 3rd November 2012 
Mud, Bulls & Music, Jimna QLD  

Sunday 4th – Sunday 11th November 2012 
Cruisin’ Country – South Pacific Cruise  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Interview: Samantha McClymont (part I)

My affection for the McClymonts has been documented elsewhere on this blog, so I was thrilled when I recently had the chance to interview Samantha McClymont about the band's upcoming Australian tour in support of their new album, When Worlds Collide. The band was in Nashville at the time and at the time of writing they're still in the United States of America.

I'm happy to report that Samantha was just as delightful as I thought she would be. The interview is split into two parts - this is the first - and tour dates appear at the end. I cannot recommend highly or strongly enough that you go to a McClymonts show - they are the great entertainers, seemingly incapable of putting on a show when they are not giving their audience an experience they won't forget. 

How’s Nashville going?
It’s been amazing.  We had the big CMA [Country Music Association] week last week, so that was kind of really busy with all of that. We had a big booth in the Convention Centre and would do signings every day and then we also had a big show out the front of the Bridgestone Arena, so everyone who was downtown would stop and watch, and so many Aussies were there, which was pretty fun and pretty cool.  But – yeah, really crazy, big week and now we’re just settling into the touring, we’re going out on the road now and just doing a big tour.

Because I pre-ordered your new album it came with a DVD, on your road to Nashville, and it highlighted the hard slog, I guess, of trying to get noticed in a market as big as the US. But I would have thought you guys were a natural fit for that market.  So are you finding more and more larger audiences and more and more people knowing about you?
Yeah. It just takes time. America is so big and there are so many markets to hit over here and people do sometimes change, whether it’s from north to south, and where you travel. So we haven’t had as much radio support as we would have liked; it’s a bit slower than what we would have liked. So it’s just slow and steady and we’re kind of creating, I guess, an underground following at the moment, by going out and touring and getting people’s attention that way, doing all the live work.

It does surprise me that radio doesn’t love you – but anyway, that’s their business.
I think it just takes a while, really. I think they play, generally, 25 songs in rotation.  So as a new artist, [you’re] just trying to break through the Tim McGraws and the Faith Hills and the Kenny Chesneys and get them to play your songs.

Right, of course. I’m now going to ask you a question about your bass playing because, having seen you play live, I know you play with your fingers rather than with a pick, so I’m wondering if you’ve always been a finger-playing bass player?
I have.  I haven’t moved on to the pick, the plectrum. I think with country, the sound is nicer with your fingers. It’s just the sound, it’s just completely different with a pick, and I think what we do, it just sounds a bit nicer. I know on a few of our records we’ve had double bass come in and be played, but I haven’t taken the risk and gone out and tried to to play that yet.

I think that would be quite hard to tour with.
I already get enough excess baggages as it is, with my bass.  So the double bass would be a lot more.

With the three of you playing different instruments, was that a conscious choice?  Like Brooke takes guitar, you take bass, Mollie takes mandolin - or it just kind of fell that way as you were growing up?
It just fell that way because Brooke had always just played acoustic guitar, so that was what she was always naturally going to play and wanted to play. Mollie and I had always dabbled in a few instruments, like acoustic, and she’d play kind of a few instruments and I’d picked up bass for a little bit. And then we got the Lee Kernaghan tour back in 2006 and we realised that we had to be our own band. So we kind of just dusted off those instruments and started playing them again, and now I wish I did play the mandolin because Mollie can just throw that on her back and go anywhere and it’s so easy, and I’m trying to cart this bass guitar around which doesn’t fit in any rent-a-cars and it’s quite painful.  So, yeah, if I had my time again, maybe the mandolin.

Or even a ukulele, maybe.
Maybe.  Something small.

I’m really interested in your songwriting process as a band, because I think on the first album, Brooke wrote most of the material, and then the second one, there were a few co-writers introduced, and with this one, it seems – even though there’s some co-writers, it seems more evenly spread between the three McClymonts. Is it a fairly organic process for each song or do you divvy up the duties?
Well, we never really sit down and go, okay, we want to write all the songs or we want to do this or we want to do that. A year or so out from making a record, we just start writing and whether that’s with someone or with the three of us or just setting up a point where it’s kind of natural just to go write, and then it happens that the songs we liked were with certain writers or just the three of us – all that kind of thing. Obviously there was a connection to certain people when we wrote, because that comes out, that’s what songs we like the most. So we wrote with certain people who got what we were about, maybe a bit more than others, and that’s why we kind of went towards those songs, I guess. But we write a lot and with a lot of different people, because you never know what’s going to end up on the record at the end of the day.

And I always think it must be such a challenge when you’re at a point, like you guys are, where you’re touring a huge amount, to have even the mental space to write, let alone the physical time to write.  So do you tend to just fit it in wherever you can?
We do and we make sure it’s so we aren’t going too crazy. If we’re out touring, we probably won’t write because we’ve got so much to focus on with gigs, and we always do meet-and-greets and rehearsals and soundchecks, so the day is kind of gone before you know it.  So it’s generally when we come home and we know we’ve got a few days off or there’s a week off or some kind of gap, that’s when we all kind of sit down and do it.

And one thing I find interesting about your live shows – and I have seen a few of them, because, as I always tell friends it’s a guaranteed good time, seeing the McClymonts.
Thank you.

Well, I’ve never seen you do a dud show. But what really interests me about the live show is that, touring clubs and with the set-up you have, with the three of you at the front and you perform every night, you don’t ever come out with a frown or anything. So it would take a lot of energy. And it would be tempting to have a set show, I would think, like, ‘Here is the set list, we do the same thing every night’, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you play the same set list twice.
Really?  Well, then you come probably once a year or something then, because we generally do kind of do a tour show. I’m glad that you haven’t been catching the same show. That’s kind of perfect, that’s how we like it. We were just sitting down today even, working out our next tour for August, when we go back on the road. So we were all sitting down today kind of throwing in – and the show will be completely different again and if you come along, you will see a different show because we’ll be playing, obviously, a lot of new songs off the record.  So probably every six months we change up the show.

So you do get some hard-core fans who will come to maybe five shows or six shows during that time, so they might see the same sort of show. But the good thing about playing live is that every night is going to be different, no matter what – we kind of go with the flow and it might be that the conversation is different or we do throw in a random song every now and then because it’s been requested – which sometimes happens – and we go off the crowd as well. Sometimes it’s more energetic because the crowd want to dance and have fun, and sometimes it’s more mellow because they’re a listening crowd and we might throw in different songs there. So every show is going to be different, depending on how we feel, how the audience feel, just even if it’s a theatre, if it’s a club.  So I think even if you do hear the same show, the feel is going to be different.

I tell people that I always see you guys smiling and I think you’re the only act, solo or band, that I’ve ever seen who consistently come out and just keep smiling and put on a show. And there must be some times when you’re just really tired. But do you find that having that upbeat attitude kind of lifts you for the show?
Absolutely.  Well, people have been waiting to come to your show, sometimes for a really long time, and you want to give them a good show and show that you’re into it, and that’s what our show is about. All of our songs are very – I don’t know, I guess a lot of them are probably even very women-empowerment songs, I guess you could say, and strong songs, and that’s kind of the vibe we like to give off. And no one wants to come along and see a miserable artist up on stage – I mean, I don’t. I know some artists are all about that. But we’re not about that.  So it’s really important to be energetic and fun and the thing is I guess we do go out there every night and are enjoying it and having a good time.

Therefore, it must be important for you to select your touring band so that they can fit in with that ethos, really. So do you have a hard time finding musicians who – not a hard time, but it must be hard to put a touring band together exactly the way you want it. Do you tend to just see people and keep them in mind for future reference, or do you deliberately audition musicians for the band?
Well, we’ve been pretty consistent the last couple of years now, we have the same band. Because once you find musicians that click with you, you don’t want them to go anywhere, because it is hard to come by in Australia. We’ve had the same drummer for probably four years and our keys, guitar and fiddle probably the last two years.  So it generally only changes if they get other gigs that might be bigger and better. Or they’re working on solo projects a lot of the time, because a lot of these artists who play with us might want to do their own thing as well. But we’ve been really lucky to have a good, solid band stick by us for the last couple of years and it’s a lot of fun because then they know all your stuff, and you can progress to new stuff and you don’t have to go backwards. You can keep going forwards and building on your repertoire and your set, so it makes it a lot easier on all of us.

Part II of this interview will appear shortly.

Australian tour dates for the McClymonts

AUGUST 2012 

Thursday 23rd August 2012 
Gympie Muster, Gympie QLD 

Friday 24th August 2012 
Twin Towns Services Club, Tweed Heads NSW | 1800 014 014 

Friday 31st August 2012 
Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre, Nowra NSW | 1300 788 503 |  


Saturday 1st September 2012 
Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW | (02) 9550 3666 |  

Thursday 6th September 2012 
Panthers, Port Macquarie NSW | (02) 6580 2300 

Friday 7th September 2012 
C-ex Services Club, Coffs Harbour NSW | (02) 6652 3888 

Saturday 8th September 2012 
Club Forster, Forster NSW | (02) 6591 6591 

Friday 14th September 2012 
Lismore Workers Club, Lismore NSW | (02) 6621 7401 

Saturday 15th September 2012 
Toowoomba Empire Theatre, Toowoomba QLD | 1300 655 299 

Friday 21st September 2012 
Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane QLD | (07) 3852 1711 |  

Saturday 22nd September 2012 
Vikings, Erindale ACT | (02) 6121 2131 

Friday 28th September 2012 
Deniliquin Ute Muster, Deniliquin VIC 

Saturday 29th September 2012 
Evan Theatre, Penrith Panthers, Penrith NSW | (02) 4720 5555 


Friday 5th October 2012 
Newcastle Civic Theatre, Newcastle NSW 
(02) 4929 1977 | 

Friday 12th October 2012 
The Palms at Crown, Melbourne VIC | 1300 795 012 

Saturday 13th October 2012 
The Palms at Crown, Melbourne VIC | 1300 795 012 


Saturday 3rd November 2012 
Mud, Bulls & Music, Jimna QLD  

Sunday 4th – Sunday 11th November 2012 
Cruisin’ Country – South Pacific Cruise  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Interview: Al Scorch (part II)

Al Scorch is a singer-songwriter from Chicago with some great bluesy, swampy, country songs and a new album:Tired Ghostly Town. Recently I spoke to Al just as he was about to embark on a tour. Part I of this interview can be read here.

Listening to your voice, there was a line in your bio that was talking about you being an old soul and I can certainly hear that in your voice, but there’s something else there. It’s almost coming from another place, and I was just wondering if you’ve worked on your voice or if the way you sing is really instinctual?
It’s pretty instinctual, I would say.  I just kind of – I just sing the way I sing. I hurt my voice about a year and a half ago maybe, maybe two years ago now – two years ago and it was really traumatic. I could barely even sing a note in any register at any volume. It was really terrible. I could speak but I just couldn’t – my voice was cracked and breaking up and so I kind of spent the last year and a half – two years – kind of recovering from that. And luckily my older sister is a really talented singer; she’s an opera singer and a voice coach and a voice therapist. So I luckily had someone in the family that could help me, kind of, give me some tips and stuff on how to sing – keep singing the way that I sing and not hurt myself again. Sometimes I feel completely out of myself when I’m playing and singing. I feel like I’m not there and I’m someone else – you’re someone else or something. I don’t know; I don’t quite know but it – I guess it comes through in the music.

It does. There is that sense of you channelling a little bit. In my day job I work a lot with writers, and the best storytellers are always the ones who acknowledge that they’re taking stories from the ether, essentially. That they are just the channel for a story to come through to an audience, and it seems like you have that same awareness?
Oh, yeah, absolutely.  Because there’s things that – like it kind of goes back to what I’m saying before about taking things that are kind of inside of yourself and connecting them to more broad kind of humanity, I guess. And maybe the stories inside of an individual have an element of that. And you kind of put it all together and you grab it out of the ether and you make it real and you think of something that people can relate to and it affects people and makes them think and makes them feel.

You’re about to head out on the road and I was wondering about that – that process of development of a song when you’re performing a lot. Do you find that some songs or all songs change character, in a way, as you take them out on the road and have different audiences listening to them and you’re having different experiences?  In short, what I’m wondering is, are the songs the same at the end of a lot of gigs as they are at the start?
The songs definitely do develop and change.  Some of the songs on the record I wrote almost 10 years ago and some of them I wrote just months before we recorded. And I would say that the major change in them as they develop and become what they are, when we finally sit down and record them, is changes that come naturally from playing in the group and the different voices that everyone brings to them; be it their singing voice or be it the guitar or violin or drums. Like Chris Castellan, who’s the drummer and he’s just like my brother.  He has a big influence on the structure of the songs and the feel of the songs and me and him together really – I’ll bring the song in and then me and Chris will kind of figure out how to lock it all in place and what to do where and then everyone else kind of fills in and brings their own voice to the song. So that’s kind of how they develop and change and become what they are in finality. And given, even songs that we record, they become different as we play them live more and more and we give them more time and they become more powerful, all of that they just kind of keep developing.

And so sometimes after that process do you think, gee, I really wish I could go back and record that song now and now that it’s changed?
Actually, I do. And there’s a couple of songs that we’ve recorded before on some of our singles that – on our next album, which we haven’t really talked to anyone about except amongst ourselves, that we are going to re-record. And songs have changed. I don’t want to say so much that we need to record them again but they just kind of come into their own even more. And we want to reach into them and kind of bring it back out in a slightly different light, you know, how they’ve changed with playing them live over the years.

You’re not strictly country music in the way we would see American country music, which is that big commercial production that it can seem to be now. But I guess that country music as a genre is so broad that there’s room for all sorts of career paths within it. So I was wondering if you see yourself sort of in the country music genre and touring traditional venues for country music, or if you just see yourself belonging everywhere?
Well, we certainly are a little more broad and, I don’t know, less definable. I wouldn’t say that we’re undefinable – that’s just fucking pretentious, ‘undefinable’ – but … we fit in at more places than strictly country and folk kind of minded venues. We play in rock clubs and punk clubs and basements and houses, places like that as well as this kind of country and folk venues. I will say, though, that people who are accustomed to and like to come out and hear acoustic music and country music and all that kind of stuff, they definitely have an appreciation for it that in – they sometimes – I don’t know, it’s a different kind of thing. The country and folk people like different aspects of our music that when the rock, energy, and punk people who just have their clubs, you know. So I don’t know if it’s a broad appeal or if it’s just a bunch of different specific appeals or something, I don’t know.

[Laughs] Well, it sounds like different people are responding in different ways, which probably means you’re doing your job really well. I think if you’ve only got one type of audience responding to you, then you’re fairly narrowly defined. But if you’re doing your job as a storyteller and as a musician then it should be able to attract a lot of different people.
It certainly does and I love seeing that.  I really like noticing what young people take away from our music and what old people take away from our music. It’s really cool to see that. We just went out for a weekend and went up, kind of to the north woods, to Minneapolis and to Duluth and Milwaukee and we played all punk things with hard-core bands and the younger people there they responded to our music in a different way than the older folk, who just kind of happen to be there. But both of them really enjoyed it. People take away different things and I’m really excited that there’s a lot of different things for people to take away from what we do.