Friday, February 1, 2013

Interview: Mollie McClymont

If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll already know that I'm a fan of The McClymonts. So I'm already excited about their Acoustic Harmony Tour, which starts today and treats fans in NSW, Victoria and Queensland to a different experience: not the full-band electric show but, instead, a more intimate presentation of the sisters' songs and their incomparable harmonies. It was my great pleasure to interview Samantha McClymont last year, and it was equally great pleasure to talk to Mollie McClymont (on the left in this photo) just ahead of the 2013 Tamworth Country Music Festival to find out a bit more about the tour, amongst other things. Dates for the Acoustic Harmony Tour appear at the bottom of this post. 

Hi, Mollie. The McClymonts are the only band I get very fan‑girly about so I’m slightly nervous.
No, don’t worry [laughs].

[Laughs] So what’s prompted this interview is your Acoustic Harmony Tour. I thought I’d start by asking you about where the idea for the tour came from, because it’s going to be a bit different from what fans have seen before.
Well, we talked about it in the end of last year when we finished a national tour of playing with the band.  And we just thought, what can we do different this year – because people have been coming out to the show for a good four years.  So we decided to strip it back to just acoustic, really focus on our harmonies and get up close and personal; you know, let the audience get a bit up close and personal and into our lives a bit more.  We’ll tell stories about the songs and where they come from, whose experience it was and what we’ve been up to.  And so we decided just to make it more of an intimate show and we think it’ll be totally different to what we’ve been doing and we think it’s going to work.

From what I understand, it won’t be just the three of you.  There will be some musicians from your touring band but they just won’t be playing fully electric.
Yeah.  We’re going to have just a guitar, another acoustic guitar, and acoustic fiddle.  So it’ll fill it in and make it sound really full but you’ll be able to hear all the harmonies and you won’t be overtaken by drums or anything loud.

Your harmonies are just so beautiful and I’ve seen you guys play so many times I’ve lost count, and the harmonies are one of the main reasons I keep coming back because they’re exquisite every time I hear them.
[Laughs] Thank you.

And they sound – well, they sound very natural and I suppose that’s something to do with the fact of you growing up together and singing together.  But is that how it works when you’re recording and playing – it just seems to happen without trying too hard to make it work?
Yeah, it is very natural.  I think because we’ve been doing it for so long and we are sisters, that helps tremendously.  But we do have to have rehearsals and we do work out parts together and work out if we want to do different harmonies, not just the normal everyday harmonies; you know, if we want it to sound cooler – we’ve really got to sit down and work on it.  But it does come a lot easier to us than people we know working on harmonies.  I think we’ve realised that it’s a bit natural for us.

It sounds almost otherworldly. I read a quote from someone who’d heard you in the US who referred to them as ‘blood harmonies’. I think that’s a really good phrase.  And it’s not just because you’re related by blood but they sound really instinctual in a way.  So, yes, that’s a comment more than a question.
[Laughs] Nice.  Well, I guess that’s right, it is pretty instinctual.

Given the focus is on harmonies, has that changed the sorts of songs you do in a set list, because, obviously, when you’re doing a full show, you’ve got a certain focus there.
Yes, we are changing it up. There are songs that we usually wouldn’t put in the set because they sound better acoustically and we didn’t have the time to put them in.  You know, we didn’t have the space for them.  So we will be bringing them into the acoustic set and really thinking about what songs will sound really cool acoustically, rather than just putting a set together and hoping it works. We have been working on the set list for a couple of months now and working on the show.  We want it to be really good and we want it to work.

Every time I see you play, it’s an incredibly professional show.  And by that I don’t mean slick, I just mean that the three of you really understand your contract with the audience, which is to entertain and also put on a really good show.  But I was wondering if that’s come from a family work ethic.  Have you observed anyone else doing this?
I think it just comes from doing it for so long.  At the beginning when we started, six years ago, I don’t think our show was as slick – it didn’t flow as well as it does now.  I think just doing it for so long, you realise what works and what doesn’t, and it’s a bit of trial and error as well to see what works.  And we do talk about it before we go on the tour, what we want to say, what we want to accomplish, and you do have to sit down and talk about those things.

And I always notice as well at your shows, there’s a big age range. I’m coming to one of your shows with my father because I took him to see you in Castle Hill about a year ago and he loved it. 
Oh, that’s lovely.

I often look around the room at your shows and see people in their 70s, sometimes their 80s, but also kids who are seven and eight.  Do you think there’s a reason why there’s such a big spread?
I think it’s country music.  I mean, it’s a generational thing. Your grandparents hand it down to their kids who hand it down to their kids and it’s really family-orientated, country music.  So I think if you go to any other country show, you’ll notice the same thing.  It’s a very wide-ranging audience. I think we’re really lucky in that aspect, that we can cater to all age groups and it’s not limited to anyone.

Are you ever mindful of your language or anything like that [laughs]?
No, no.  I think – I mean, especially with the kids shows, then, yes, and we don’t swear on stage.  Well, we might say ‘shit’ or something but by accident – but, I mean, we don’t censor ourselves for the people.  We’re just pretty much ourselves and then, if they don’t like it, unfortunately, they don’t like it.  You can’t please everyone.

That’s absolutely true. I’m curious, also, about you in the band because obviously you started off as the little sister. I have a copy of the first EP where you look about 15 – and I’m not sure if you were – but obviously Samantha and Brooke have had more time to develop their musicality and their careers and then you were in the band with them. I guess what I’m trying to ask is: are you going to be singing lead anytime soon?
Well, at the moment I do a song in the show and sing lead. They finally got me to do a song.

More than one, Mollie, more than one.
No, no, they’ve got me to sing a song but it’s just not my thing.  Do you know how you have – you like to do things and you don’t?  That’s just not one of my things I enjoy doing.

Well, that’s good because I thought maybe they’d ganged up on you and they weren’t letting you sing lead.
Well, I didn’t want to do the one song but once I sang it, I quite enjoy that one song. It is a nice little add-in.

And how did you end up choosing the mandolin as your instrument?
I was a child who played every instrument when I was growing up and I just would always quit. Then when I was 14, I saw this guy playing the mandolin and Mum bought me one.  And I went to lessons and I really enjoyed it.  It was just one of those things – it’s quite an easy instrument to play.  If anything’s too difficult, I just don’t do it.  So I found mandolin pretty easy and different sounding and I really loved the sound of it.  So it kind of just stuck.

I said to your publicist, “I’ll try not to ask Mollie about her changing hair colour”, and he said, “No, you can.”  So I will ask you, Mollie: are you planning a hair colour change any time soon?
Well, I’ve now gone from blonde to pink to brown.  So we’re all brown at the moment.  It might look at bit strange on stage.  We haven’t seen us all together with the crowd so I don’t know how that’s going to go.

Well, you might have to go back to blonde.
Oh my hair was falling out on the blonde so I can’t go back blonde for a while.

This is a completely frivolous question but I also think if people have seen you play a lot, it’s something that we’d all think of, which is how many outfits do you all have and how do you choose them?
I wish someone would just give us clothes, that would be really lovely, but that doesn’t happen so we wear the same thing a lot because we’re the ones who have to go out and buy it.  So I’ll be doing a shopping trip before Tamworth and so hopefully I’ll have about six outfits that will get me through the tour.  It’s not as glamorous as it sounds.

Well, no, especially if you are doing it for yourself, that is a lot of work because the three of you also seem to co-ordinate what you’re wearing, in that there’s a theme or that’s certainly how it looks.
Well, we don’t – I think, recently, we’ve just started to, but we used to turn up and sometimes we’d be wearing pretty much the same thing and we’d just laugh about it, or we wouldn’t be matching at all.  So from now on we just say, “What are you wearing?  Cool”, and we kind of go round those colours.

When I saw you play last year, it was before Brooke had announced she was pregnant and the three of you came out in leggings and tank tops.
Yeah.  See, we did not mean to do that.  We were just like, oh my goodness, we’re all in leggings, how embarrassing.

Whereas I actually looked at you all and thought, ‘Brooke’s pregnant, she’s covering up’.
Really? Yeah, she was.  I think we got to a point last year where we were like – we were always wearing the skirts and the dresses, and we still do, but we got to a point where, oh, let’s just dress comfortable and nice [laughs].

I have no idea how you all play standing in heels for two hours.
We’re so used to it.

So you’re kicking off this tour in Tamworth next week, with a big show at the TRECC. Do you kind of feel, when you play the TRECC, this is it at Tamworth, we’ve made it, we can’t go any higher?
Well, pretty much because we started busking – I mean, we’ve been going to Tamworth for 21 years, so we started busking on the streets and we started doing talent quests, and then we went into singing at people’s shows and singing at the pubs and then, you know, playing our own shows at a really small venue – then we went out to Wests and then now the TRECC.  So it’s a big deal to us and you look back going, oh my goodness, we really did start at the bottom and now this is the top.  So it is exciting for us and we really appreciate it and love that we can perform there.

You won your second ARIA at the end of last year – and deservedly so and congratulations.
Thank you.

Do you find that that increases awareness of you outside of the traditional country audience?
Yeah, for sure.  I mean, every award that you do get increases that and it can only help your career.

I don’t listen to radio stations, like Triple M or anything like that, so I don’t know if winning an ARIA would increase your radio airplay.
No.  With radio, not really.  It’s really hard to get country music on anything other than country radio here.  But, I mean, it gets you out in more newspapers and magazines and stuff like that.  But radio’s a tough one to crack.

I remember when I interviewed Samantha last year and I asked about you guys and the United States, and I said, “I can’t understand why you’re not huge there.”  And she said, “Well, you know, it’s hard to get those radio slots because there are really established artists who have them.”
Yeah, definitely.  Slowly but surely in the States.  I mean, you’ve just got to really do your time over there and just work really hard.

It sounds like you’ve already been working really hard.
We have, we have, but it’ll take probably another couple of years.  I mean, we’re doing amazing over there and we’re singing at all the big festivals and we’re on those big stages.  So it’s just staying over there and putting in the effort.

Now I was told I could ask you about Brooke’s baby, because the baby is obviously the fourth McClymont – although possibly not with the last name McClymont.

So how is this fourth McClymont going to affect what you do – or maybe it won’t, maybe Brooke will just carry on ...
We don’t know at the moment because we haven’t taken her out on the road, but, well, she’s a baby.  She doesn’t do much at home – she just eats and sleeps so she’s really easy.  And I think it’s going to be fine.  We’ve got time to look after Tiggy while we’re on stage so she’ll be looked after.  And I don’t think it’s going to affect us much at all.

Your touring schedule's pretty heavy and it looks just like a normal touring schedule.
No, it’s only every weekend, so it’s not as hectic as what we usually do, but I think it’ll give Brooke a nice break during the week and then we’ll take her out on weekends just to do the two gigs at the weekend.

When you are doing things like that just on the weekend, does it get slightly difficult to maintain that momentum to do shows or have you just been doing it for so long that you can get on stage and summon it up?
I’m not sure yet because usually we are playing four times a week, five times a week, but usually if it’s been two weeks then we get a bit rusty, but it’s only going to be every four days, we’ll have a break.  So we should be fine.

I do chuckle at the idea of you getting rusty though.  You’ve got how many 
[Laughs] Yeah, we are rusty.  No one would notice but it’s just not as tight, probably, as we could be.

When I interviewed Samantha, she said you were probably going to have about two weeks off over Christmas.  It seems like the last few years have just been – have been not relentless, because that makes it sound like it’s exhausting, but it’s just been really steady, constant, doing a whole lot of things.

Are you going to carry on through this touring now and then go into a new album maybe?  This is me saying it hopefully, a new album.
Well, we’re not sure about an album yet because we’ve got this tour up until May and then we’ll head to the States for the summer tour.  And then we don’t know whether we’re going to be doing some recording yet at the end of the year or early next year but, of course, we’re always working towards that and that’s the next goal, for sure.

I noticed on Two Worlds Collide, you actually had a few more songwriting credits than in previous times.  So are you getting more involved in the songwriting process?
We always – all of us write.  We write tonnes months and months and months before, you know, we go into record the album.  It’s just we pick whatever songs are best for the album, regardless of who wrote it.  So you’ll just notice that I’m on more of the songs because it just happens that we like those songs this time.  But we’ve always – we’ve always written, all of us, a lot for the albums - it’s just whether it gets chosen or not.

And, given that you have played probably every RSL in the country by now 
[Laughs] Yes.

I was wondering if you have any favourites – you may not want to say if you have any favourites but maybe favourite towns – just because they’re pretty or something like that.
The Newcastle crowd is always a big one and we always have a lot of fun at Newcastle.  Oh my goodness, there are so many.  I mean, out west, even Campbelltown – up Queensland way, it’s beautiful.  I really enjoy all the towns we go to.  There’s always something different to do in the day and see so they’re all pretty nice.

And, of course, your home town is Grafton, so when you go back there, I’ve noticed you seem to play the showground.  Is that your usual venue now?
We did our album launch at the racetrack  but that was like a one-off thing.  That was just special because it was the album launch.  But usually we play at all different places in Grafton and the new venue there, it’s the Saraton Theatre, which is a beautiful venue where most people go and play now.

Does it feel like most of the town’s turning out for you when you’re there?
Yeah.  They’re always so supportive.

Friday 1st February 2013
Belmont 16s, Belmont NSW
(02) 4945 0888 |

Saturday 2nd February 2013
The Cube, Campbelltown NSW
(02) 4625 0000 |

Friday 8th February 2013
Club Central, Menai NSW
(02) 9532 1800 |

Saturday 9th February 2013
North Sydney Leagues Club, North Sydney NSW
(02) 9245 3000 |

Friday 15th February 2013
Lonestar Tavern, Mermaid Waters QLD
(07) 5572 2000 |

Friday 22nd February 2013
South Sydney Juniors Club, Kingsford NSW
(02) 9349 7555 |

Saturday 23rd February 2013
Castle Hill RSL Club, Castle Hill NSW
(02) 8858 4800 |

MARCH 2013

Saturday 2nd March 2013
Rooty Hill RSL Club, Rooty Hill NSW
(02) 9625 5500 |

Friday 22nd March 2013
Bankstown Sports Club, Bankstown NSW
(02) 9722 9888 |

APRIL 2013

Friday 12th April 2013
Mathew Flinders Hotel, Chadstone VIC
(03) 9568 8004 |

Saturday 13th April 2013
York on Lilydale, Mount Evelyn VIC
(03) 9736 4000 |

Thursday 18th April 2013
Hallam Hotel, Hallam VIC
(03) 8786 0200 |

Friday 19th April 2013
Shoppingtown Hotel, Doncaster VIC
(03) 9848 6811 |

Saturday 20th April 2013
Gateway Hotel, Corio VIC
(03) 5275 1091 |

Friday 26th April 2013
Dapto Leagues Club, Dapto NSW
(02) 4261 6908 |

MAY 2013

Friday 3rd May 2013
Dee Why RSL Club, Dee Why NSW
(02) 9454 4000 |

Saturday 4th May 2013
Wenty Leagues Club, Wentworthville NSW
(02) 8868 9200 |

Friday 10th May 2013
Hamilton Hotel, Hamilton QLD
(07) 3268 7500 |

Saturday 11th May 2013 | 4:45pm
Redland Bay Hotel, Redland Bay QLD
(07) 3206 7231 |

Saturday 11th May 2013 | 9:00pm
Racehorse Hotel, Booval QLD
(07) 3282 1222 |

Friday 17th May 2013
Wests Leagues Club, Newcastle NSW
(02) 4935 1300 |

Saturday 18th May 2013
Hornsby RSL Club, Hornsby NSW
(02) 9477 7777 |

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