Sunday, October 27, 2013

Interview: Old Man Luedecke

Old Man Luedecke is the musical moniker of Canadian Chris Luedecke, who is currently touring Australia. Old Man Luedecke's latest album, Tender is the Night, is a collection of gently rambunctious folk/country tunes that draw on a rich musical heritage, as he and I discussed when we spoke recently.

There's a lot of awareness in Canada of the East Coast musical traditions obviously coming out of Irish and Scottish communities in the Maritime Provinces. These are really proud, well-established traditions and it sounds like you certainly have some influences from those, but I just wondered what your musical background is?
I grew up with an older dad who loved classical and opera music. I sort of discovered folk music - you know, when you’re young and all that stuff and followed it back to the stuff that I ended up loving.  In university I got into The Carter Family.  And then, of course, I loved Stan Rogers ... loved that, sort of, in the late-'90s, the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music that really kind of came out just as I was learning to play the banjo and that really kind of gave mesome way that I could find myself all this beautiful music from 1920s that’s recorded, hillbilly music, blues, gospel, cajun and all that stuff.  Do you know that anthology?

 It sounds, therefore, that your influences are very American or traditional country blues folk American more than Canadian.
Yeah, well the thing is I grew up in Toronto, [then] I moved to Nova Scotia. My wife went to Art College out here.  But I started playing music out here and that [traditional] music was huge in the '90s, it was a really big deal you know and actually not unlike your bush music. Kind of similar tradition, right.  And I knew so little about it, that it seemed like I could find myself in it without any of the sort of baggage of it. I mean ,well, a 30 or 40 year history. I didn’t grow up with folk music, so I never got tired of it; it just seemed like something that was special that not a lot of people that I knew where interested in.

What I observed in Canada, and still observe, is that because there’s such a really strong tradition of musicians and a lot of communities where it’s quite accepted to play music in families as recreation, that the standard is really high.  I guess it’s that thing about people being competitive with each other in a performance space.  With Canadian musicians, there’s definitely a very high calibre of performing, particularly on instruments like the fiddle and the banjo.  Moving to Nova Scotia - given that Halifax produced and probably continues to produce several good bands and great songwriters - is there a sense of vibrancy there?
You know, to be honest, I moved to the country about an hour from Halifax almost 10 years ago and I really have sort of done what I’ve done. There’s wonderful songwriters and stuff and I almost never see them in Halifax ... there’s a few sort of round-up conferences that we have every year when I get to hang out with people. And I used to see people more often but I’ve really been noting lately that most of the people I know, there’s my friends and stuff like that, I never get to see them at all anymore.  I’m constantly travelling, which is a great, beautiful thing.  It means that we’re all quite successful, I guess.  And I also have a young family. [So] I don’t tend to have much of a musical community.  So your imagination of my circumstances, may be a little disappointing.  The reality of it is disappointing [laughs].  

I’m always interested in cultures around creative work and I think the culture of Canadian music is strong and it certainly seems to me that the national culture around creative arts in Canada and the government are supportive of artists and for Canadian cultural consumers that has created an embarrassment of riches, almost.
Yeah, there’s just a lot of great people making all kinds of wonderful stuff in this country.  Of course it’s hard for me to say whether it’s better now than it was, or what have you, or if I get to look around, I feel pretty proud of a lot of the music that comes out of here.  It’s pretty great.

Having said all of that and me just gushing about Canada, you actually recorded this album in Nashville. Hearing your musical background that sounds like a more natural fit to go to Nashville to record.
Yeah.  I mean I’ve always written contemporary songs, but I’ve always played the banjo in an old time style.  It’s always been a source of a bit of tension and creativity in my music is that I’ve sort of largely drawn on pretty arcane, old sort of non-commercial folk music.  But then rather than delve into that and reproduce that kind of music, a lot of them do, sort of, revival of stuff.  I just use that music as a sort of key to unlocking my own ability to express my own sort of contemporary reality.  That’s kind of been where I’ve been coming from, from the beginning.  So, yeah, Nashville was the choice of place, not in any way for its city, but for the producer I worked with, Tim O’Brien, who’s a friend and an absolute hero.  More than he’s a friend, he’s a hero [laughs].  He’s just a brilliant bluegrass musician and folk musician and interpreter of songs old and new.  He’s a master of four or five instruments.  Any instrument he touched I guess he would be pretty capable at.  He’s an absolute ace on the fiddle and the mandolin and stuff like that.  So I just really wanted to make a record with him and it turns out he was in Nashville. And he has been for a long time.  I mean, I knew that and so if he wanted to make the record here, I would have said yes, and if he said where, that would have been great too.  But the Nashville dimension of things is timely, I guess, in a way because there’s a lot of attention on that city right now, but it’s also the place where a lot of – that has been the centre of maybe the peripheral type of American music that I love.  I

And reading about this album it seems like the musicians who play on it, it was the the first time you’ve recorded with them.  Is that right?
Yeah, that’s right.  One of the things about the band that I worked with in Nashville, it was really Tim, myself and a bass player for three days and then we had a percussionist for another day and we made the CD in four five days ... When you work with guys like that, I mean, they’re excellent.  They make you better; they make you play better than if you sit up straighter.  And Mike, the bass player, was incredible.  And just as important as the musicians was ... the engineer.

That kind of recording pace suggests that you came into that recording process with the songs pretty much fully formed in terms of your song riting process, so are you a songwriter who likes to polish, polish, polish until you have a draft that you think is pretty solid?
I think basically I’m looking for something that I can do with complete and utter conviction.  Something that will trump all of the doubts, and thank goodness I’ve been lucky. I’ve been able to make almost five records, but I’m always looking for every fun way to come at that.  And I think the reason is that I’ve played by myself for so long that I kind of assume that if a song makes people – you know if people enjoy the song in the kitchen and they enjoy it in the concert hall and they enjoy it in the studio the other day, you know, it might be good to go.  I’m not completely reliant on the band in the studio to make the songs live and breathe, you know what I mean?  If they’re good songs they exist under themselves in maybe a variety of contexts before they enter into the studio.  I’ve played them in front of people before or you could generally – I’ve been lucky.  Until quite recently, I always had a beautiful blend – I was quite lucky with being able to travel enough to make a living and if I ever got excited about a song, I could just go play it right away.  I could run down the street and just play it for people.  Now I travel quite a lot and I’ve got a family at home.  I’ve had fewer eureka momentsbut maybe I’ll get a bunch of them in Australia next month [laughs].

And the reason for our conversation that you’re coming out here on what is quite an extensive tour.  You’re going not just to capital cities, but you’re playing in some regional towns and also playing at the Mullum Folk Festival. Given that you have a young family, I guess it’s quite a proposition to leave for so long.
I try not to go away for that long, but of course you’re so far away - or I’m so far away from you - that that’s sort of the reality of touring there.  It probably makes sense for me to come a little longer, especially given the difficulty of getting there, it’s better to do more at once.  But I went to the UK a year ago in the summer and Northern Ireland but I was gone for five weeks.  I came back and we had another baby [laughs].  I shouldn’t try to stay away for too long.  You never know what’s going to happen.  I mean, it hasn’t made leaving for a month any easier, having a third child.  I’ve got twins that are two years old and then a four-month-old baby.  

I guess the disadvantages of their father being away for so long are possibly offset by the advantages of him being able to sing them really good bedtime songs.
You know, I’m lucky that they tolerate it and they ask for it when I’m gone.  You know what I mean? Those kids have nothing to prove.  Obviously they like me [laughs].  They don’t have to, I guess, but yeah it’s nice that they’re actually fans of the music too.  I guess it’s something about the banjo that connects with children.

The banjo is obviously your primary instrument. Did it call to you from a young age? Because it’s a really difficult instrument, from what I understand. 
Well, it’s only difficult in that most of us don’t know what to do with it.  You know, because we don’t hear all that much banjo music anymore, but we do now.  I guess there’s a lot more banjo in the world, but when I took it up there was not much of a revival going on.  I always loved the tone and the texture of it.  I liked it and all the clich├ęd application.  I liked it in Bugs Bunny and I liked it in TV commercials.  I did truly; it just felt like an exciting thing.  I didn’t play the banjo until guess I was not quite 22.  I had been living up in the Yukon for summer, which is a northern territory in Canada, in Dawson City.  I was at a campfire and somebody had one of those things and they were playing it terribly – miserably playing and it was terribly out of tune, but I just found it so fascinating.  It occupied its own space, it cuts through everything else and it just seemed like it’s got so much rhythm; it seemed like a really good sort of storyteller’s instrument.  It seemed like a really magical place for poems and lyrics and, you know, it is.  It truly is.  It’s underused as a lyrical device.  And in the old-time folk music, there were often solo banjo players, so I recorded lots of solo banjo players who sang songs.  It’s a good instrument for a lone wolf to play.  You know, if you talk to me in person, wolf would be the last word you’d use to describe me.

Lone squirrel [laughs].

Well, on that note I hope you and your banjo have very safe travels when you’re here and I’m sure you will be very well received.
Thank you very much.  I appreciate it.  I look forward to it.

Old Man Luedecke is touring Australia - for tour dates please visit his website at Tender is the Night is out now.

Interview: Chanel Lucas from women in docs

Country music is a broad church, as anyone who has been to Tamworth knows. And thus the artists who get a guernsey on this website aren't always strictly 'country' - sometimes they have just a smattering of country, but if I like their music then I'll take that as enough of a qualification for inclusion! And so it is with women in docs, who are best known by the label 'indie' but who incorporate influences from country and folk in their beautifully harmonised songs. As women in docs are embarking on their first tour in a long time - in support of their new album, Carousel - it was a good opportunity to talk to Chanel Lucas, one half of the band (the other half is Roz Pappalardo). 

As I wasn't aware of how women in docs first formed, that seemed a good place to kick off. And it also led to Chanel telling me some fascinating stories.

'We started off in Townsville in North Queensland,' said Chanel. 'We were both at university. And we met through mutual friends.  We were kind of hanging out with the same people and we both realised that the other person played guitar and sang. [So] we started a rock band with another two friends of ours. And we used to play covers in the rock circuit around North Queensland, so Townsville, Cairns, out to the islands like Dunk Island and Hamilton Island, and we’d also go up to the mines to play.

'We did gigs out at Cannington mine and Osborne and all those kind of places. And it was good money, really good fun, playing in a rock band around North Queensland. Then we both kind of went off travelling with different groups of friends and went around Europe and did all that backpacking stuff that you do when you first finish uni. And I came back to Townsville for a job. Then a year or so later Roz appeared back in town and we started to put women in docs together. We decided to focus on the acoustic guitar and try and let our voices show through a bit more. And we also decided that we should write our own songs.'

Even though Chanel sounded matter of fact about playing on those islands and at mining sites, it did sound like an extraordinary experience - even more so because they'd made a real go of it as a covers band. And quite apart from that, I wondered about the logistics of getting around to all of those places.

'Well, we had some pretty curly moments,' she said, 'but I think the times we used to go to Dunk Island, they had a little ferry, like a little wooden ferry ... And so if the weather was rough, you’d have to take all your gear on a trolley out onto the end of the jetty, and then the boat would be kind of swaying up and down at the end of the jetty, if it was really rough, and you’d kind of have to time your loading onto the boat so that it lined up with the jetty, so that the boat was lined up with the jetty. So you have to wait for the wave and then kind of launch your gear onto the boat while it was lined up, otherwise you could miss and it would fall in the water [laughs]. To get out to mines, usually we flew with all the miners.'  

The band would arrive the night before, often too late to play a gig, so they would arise in the mornings and play a gig for the miners coming off the night shift.

'We’d be playing in the canteen at 10 a.m., playing full-on rock covers,' explained Chanel, 'and everyone would be drinking beer and eating bacon and eggs, 'cause it was the end of their shift.  And then we’d go for the day and have a tour of the mine and go for a swim in the pool and all that sort of stuff. And then we come back that night and play to the day shifts, when the day shift was finishing.  Then you jump on your plane and head back home again.'

Playing so early in the morning sounded like a challenge for any singer, given that voices warm up over the course of a day. 

'Yeah, you had to get up early,' said Chanel. 'I always need a good couple of hours before I have to sing, to warm up. I actually do warm-ups and make sure I talk and drink like a nice hot cup of tea or something like that or some warm water with lemon or something. It takes a lot of warming up.  You know, it’s pretty hard to kind of really rock at 10 a.m.'

While the band may have focused more on rock music when they were doing covers, once they started writing their own material the music became focused on their voices - specifically, on their harmonies.

'When we kind of came back [after taking a break from performing], we’d given up playing in rock bands for a bit, we decided to really try and create music based around our harmonies because that was the one thing that people really enjoyed about our performances in the band ... So we thought, you know, maybe this is something from a business point of view that we can exploit. It was actually a conscious decision to kind of go, hey, we must be okay at this because people like it, people comment on it, so maybe we can take this further. So we purposely started writing songs with lots of harmony.  

'Our voices are very different, so whether [the harmonies] came naturally or not, I mean, we have been singing together for a very long time so we do fall into harmony singing quite easily now, and I think we were just lucky that we had two very different voices which seem to work together.  Sometimes when voices are too much the same, it doesn’t sound like anything. But Roz has a much stronger voice and a much louder voice than me. Mine is more mid-range, it’s a bit softer in tone, and they just seem to blend for some reason. You wouldn’t think they would, but they just do.'

It is clear from the band's songs, and they way they sing them, that there is a musical pedigree there. Chanel said she started learning acoustic guitar when she was five, 'and then I kind of just lost it for a few years.  I picked it up again when I was in high school, and I was hanging out with my friends and people just pick up the guitar and play and have sing-alongs and all that sort of stuff.'

She also used to perform in choirs and says she did a lot of musical theatre when she was a teenager and at university - shows like Fiddler on the Roof and Les Miserables - so her experience growing up was more about singing, and it wasn’t until she was in her late teens and early 20s that she picked up the guitar again. Now, she says, wielding an instrument is an integral part of her on-stage persona and she can't imagine not having it with her when she sings.

'For me it’s also about putting on the frock and putting on the lipstick,' she said of performing. 'It’s all part of who you are and part of your persona. No matter what you do or say on stage, I think if you are a performer, you do have a different persona you take out with you, depending on which act you’re in or what band you’re playing with. It’s not really you up there. It sounds weird, it is you, but there is also, if you are a good performer, there’s also a persona that’s part of that performance.

'There’s a fine line with song writing too about being able to tell a really honest and true story, but without kind of baring your soul ...  One of the things that makes a really good song is it needs to have universal appeal. So if you can tap into, you know, yes, we all write from our own experience, like we write from our break-ups and our accidents and the funny things that happen to us, but a good song then translates that experience. It’s something that’s universal and something that will appeal to a wide range of people.  And if you can do that, I think you’re a very successful songwriter.'

The upcoming tour will be the first time in four years that women in docs have taken their songs on the road as a band - they have continued to play solo - and Chanel said that, rather than feeling trepidation, she is pretty excited about it, actually.  

'I think we all really love travelling and we’ve always travelled a lot with women in docs. So it’s really fun and it’s really part of the whole experience. Although, we did have a little practice trip and we went up to Mackay to a festival. And that was our first kind of big trip together before this tour ... and it was a bit of a shambles. I’m not sure if we’re as ready as we think we are. We forgot to book our extra baggage on our flights. So we got to the airport and had to pay a big bill because we hadn’t booked our extra baggage. And then I didn’t pack any jumpers or jeans or anything because I was going to North Queensland, so I thought, well, I’ll just take shorts and T-shirts. But it was actually really cold, so I had to go and send one of the other bands out to buy me a jumper from the local op shop while they were in town. And then on the way home, Roz left her bag at the festival. 

'So, you know, we just kind of got in the car on the way home and went, “Well that went well, didn’t it?”' she said, laughing.

Given that Roz lives in Cairns and Chanel lives in Brisbane - and the other band members are also scattered around the country - rehearsing for the tour is also something they need to plan.

'One of us will always arrive a bit earlier,' said Chanel, 'and we’ll have a day or two to rehearse beforehand. And that’s how we’ve written the album as well - we just get together backstage. Even though we haven’t been touring for the past four years, for the last two years we have been getting together for kind of one-off gigs or just small shows, like local shows. And so we have actually seen each other and, kind of, been getting together fairly regularly. Also we were getting together to record the album.'  

Something that is different for women in docs this time around is that the new album was created with the assistance of decidedly non-musical technology: Skype and Dropbox. This technology helped them bridge the physical distance between them and, said Chanel, rather than hindering the process, 'I think it’s really helped us produce quite a high-quality album with very well-written songs.  

'When we used to tour nine months of the year, and we were just go-go-go, and we self-managed that, so we were doing all the gig booking, all the driving and tour management, all that kind of stuff, we just never had brain space, really [to write],' Chanel explained. 'Towards the end we were so full of administration and working and gigging that there wasn’t that time to write. So what’s happened is we’ve had a little bit of time off, we’ve gone ahead with the project and it’s really brought us back with a new energy, and a new kind of respect for each other’s skills.  And it just means we don’t muck around. There’s no time for kind of umm-ing and aah-ing over stuff, so it’s like, "Yeah, that’s good, no, that’s no good". And we’re pretty kind to each other. It’s not harsh, but it means the creative process is quicker and much more efficient.'

As Carousel is the eighth album for women in docs, and they have toured extensively in the past, I asked Chanel how she and Roz find their inspiration to keep songwriting and performing.

'I don't know,' said Chanel, laughing. 'If there was some sort of magical answer, I would share it with you. I don’t know, I just love it. It’s what I’ve always done. I’ve always been a performer since I was a little girl, and I was on stage doing theatre shows, performed in choirs and if I don’t perform, I get sad and I get depressed. So I need to perform to keep myself going.'

Chanel will have plenty of opportunity to do just that as women in docs hit the road in November. The tour dates are below. Carousel is available now. For more information on the band, the tour and the album, visit

Friday 1st November 2013 
Joe’s Waterhole, EUMUNDI QLD |  

Saturday 2nd November 2013 
Grottofest, MARBURG QLD  

Thursday 7th November 2013 
Thornbury Theatre, MELBOURNE VIC |  

Saturday 9th November 2013 
Trinity Sessions, Church of Trinity, ADELAIDE SA |  

Sunday 10th November 2013 
Brookfield Margate Winery, MARGATE TAS |  

Saturday 16th November 2013 
Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre, BRISBANE QLD  

Thursday 21st November 2013 
The Newsagency, MARRICKVILLE NSW |  

Friday 22nd November 2013 
Clarendon Guesthouse, KATOOMBA NSW |  

Saturday 23rd November 2013 
The Street Theatre, CITY WEST ACT  


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Album review: False Idols by Max Savage and the False Idols

There is something distinctly swampy happening in Australian country (and country-related) music at the moment - although perhaps it would be more correct to say it's 'billabongy', as this is music that draws from American traditions but which has its own, Australian, identity. Hat Fitz and Cara, and Cash Savage have released recent albums that have the grit, grunt and heart that characterises music in this category. Let's now add Max Savage to it.

Savage's new EP, False Idols, opens with 'Undertaker', and he growls his way through this song and its meaty lyrics. The next song, 'Maple', with its echoes of Heartbreaker-era Ryan Adams, is almost sweet. The differing styles indicate that Savage will alter his singing to suit the song - that he will 'serve the story' - and that immediately makes him intriguing (as well as adaptable).

There are further echoes of Ryan Adams (and Ryan Bingham) in this eight-song EP, and that's not a bad thing. I'm surprised that Adams doesn't turn up more often in the songwriting and performance of other artists, given how seminal his work has been and how accomplished a musician, singer and songwriter he is. Perhaps he's not more emulated because he is so pre-eminent - he's a hard act to follow. Perhaps, then, only the brave or foolhardy attempt it. Max Savage doesn't seem foolhardy, and he certainly doesn't take all his cues from Adams - he takes just enough to establish a style - so let's put him in the brave camp. And he's certainly not copying Adams's songs - a lot of the lyrical content of the EP is embedded in religion and Australian folklore. Adams wouldn't know an altar if he fell over one and, for obvious reasons, he doesn't write about Australia.

This collection of songs - and at eight songs it's really almost an album (for the very reasonable price of $7) - will appeal to country music fans as well as those who like to pretend they only listen to 'rock' but who secretly gravitate towards anything with a country-esque chord progression. From the look of the cover art, Savage is positioning himself as the wild young rebel of Australian music - and gods, don't we need one? Give me someone a bit untamed and spirited any day. It'll be very interesting to see what he does next.

False Idols is available to buy and download on Bandcamp. The EP will be launched on Monday 4 November at The Workers Club, 51-55 Gertrude Street in Fitzroy (Melbourne) at 8.30 p.m.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Album review: Black Coffee by Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes

Lachlan Bryan's debut solo album, Shadow of the Gun, was always going to be a hard act to follow. Bryan had previously released Ballad of a Young Married Man with his band, The Wildes, and branched into darker, more complex lyrical territory on his brilliant solo release. He was clearly maturing as a songwriter and as a singer. Sometimes that is where artists stop - they get out one great album and then find the creative well is empty. Happily - very happily for listeners - that has not been the case for Mr Bryan.

Black Coffee is an eclectic collection of songs and stories that all work together to show an artist who is continuing to develop his skills, interests and tastes. There are differences: it is gritty where Shadow of the Gun was elegant; it showcases several individual stories where the songs on Shadow of the Gun often seemed to reveal aspects of its creator, whether that was his intention or not. 

Bryan has deployed The Wildes to play on this album, so it is legitimate now to bring in comparisons to Ballad of a Young Married Man, and there is a progression there too. Ballad had some rough edges, whereas Black Coffee has a seamlessness that suggests that the band came back together fairly effortlessly. The sound is enhanced by the addition of Melody Pool on backing vocals on several songs. 

On paper some of Bryan's lyrics may not seem like much - but that is so often the case with lyrics. They require the singer to bring them to life and shade in the nuances, to tell the listener what is really going on. Bryan's voice is of equal power and value as his songwriting; it reveals - or betrays - pain; it howls and grunts and heckles. It is a rich instrument and he uses it well.

Black Coffee has been released just over a year and a half after Shadow of the Gun. Bryan has set himself quite a pace if he intends to release so regularly, but he seems more than up to the task. In ten albums' time we will, no doubt, be able to trace his creative arc and point to these early albums as the start of a glorious curve. For right now, though, Black Coffee is a fantastic release in and of itself.

Black Coffee is out now.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Interview: Troy Kemp/McAlister Kemp

Along with Drew McAlister, Troy Kemp is one half of McAlister Kemp, the Australian country rock duo who have climbed to the top of the Australian country music industry in just four years. McAlister Kemp will release their next album, Harder to Tame, during the 2014 Tamworth Country Music Festival but they are whetting their fans' appetites with the title track now released as a single. The track makes reference to a particular animal that can't be tamed, so when I interviewed Troy recently I started by asking him whether it's he or Drew who is the untamed horse ...

'That's a great question,' Troy said, laughing. 'You know what, I think we’d both say me. Mind you, Drew can be wild, don’t you worry, but yeah, I’m generally the one that’s just a little bit more off the hook. He keeps me a bit more level headed.'

When asked if he's always been wild or if his mum would say he was a good kid, Troy confessed with a laugh, 'My mum would say I’m a good kid 'cause I totally had her fooled. I think every kid has their crazy streak and I definitely had mine. I got around surfing and playing guitar. I was always around crazy guys and doing crazy things.  But that’s huge and even getting older, just being in music and then doing what we do, I think it just keeps you young and young minded and I just think it’s a lot of fun.  I love my life, my career and everything and everything I d.  Outside of my life I still love to surf. I love to get outdoors and do all sorts of stuff, so, yeah, I’m not really a couch potato and let’s just say it’s good fun. [A] wild and untamed existence.'

Being a musician playing live on a regular basis seems like a great job for someone who’s a bit on the wild side, but Troy and Drew also have the structure of having to turn up to record and write and rehearse  so there must be a part of Troy that likes a little bit of order.

'Yeah, there’s definitely a discipline there that needs to be sort of adhered to as well,' Troy said. 'For every crazy horse, it’s got to have a calm side as well, and we’ve got that.  We’re very serious about what we do.  We always lock in together and we write these songs together and we talk business, and it’s really a business at the end of the day.

'So we can be out there presenting as the crazy wild country music stars, but at the end of the day, behind the scenes, there’s a lot of thought and effort that goes into it that sort of makes it what it is, and a great management team and an agency and a record company and everyone getting together and banging their heads together to make McAlister Kemp, keep it staying afloat. But, again, you balance it all.  You have fun with it and for all the hard work you put in behind the scenes, you then get to go out on stage and rock out and pretend you’re a rock star in front of a bunch of people who sing all your words back and they throw their hands in the air and drink Bundy and party with you. So it’s good fun. How could you not want to do that?'

When I put it to Troy that we should hope there are no teenage boys reading this interview, lest their parents think he's encouraging them into the life of a touring muso, Troy responded by saying, 'Well you know what, my parents gave up trying to make me a banker years ago. My dad would say to me constantly, “When are you going to get a real job?” But I said, “Dad, this is my real job now, like it lump it.” So I think he’s quietly happy that I finally have sort of gone on and started to have a career 20 years later, so he’s finally getting some sleep, I think. He’s getting sleep at night and I think his hair’s not turning as grey as fast as it could have, so that’s good.'

Listening to Troy talk about the business of McAlister Kemp, it strikes me that that’s something that very valuable for up and coming musicians to hear because – or even musicians who are kind of mid-career and wondering why things haven’t taken off the way they wanted them to. Although it doesn't sound very 'arty', when a career in music is approached as a business, the musicians understand that they're there in a large part to serve their audience, because they're thinking, What’s the best way I can set this up so that my audience gets what they came for?  

Troy agreed with this impression, saying, 'We're always sitting back and analysing [our] core audience, so to speak ... With our style of song, people between 18 and 35/40 are probably going to be the ones that really dig our stuff. We know we’re not doing Slim Dusty, John Williamson-type songs. We’re not as laid back as Troy Cassar-Daley. We’re putting on a pretty energetic country rock show. We love bands like Big and Rich so we wanted to be the Big and Rich of Australia type of thing – a bit more rowdy and fun.  So we have to really sit back as a business and go, “How are we going to appeal to these people? Not only visually, what we sound like, but how are we going to market our merchandise to those people who might want to buy it?”All these different things you have to think about all the time.

'And constantly trying to stay ahead of the game so that you stay at the forefront of the industry and you’re always being talked about. What are we going [to do] on our next video clip to keep them cool and cooler than the next person’s video clip?  Unfortunately, sometimes in Australia we work within budgets that don’t allow us to sort of have these big fully blown American-style video clips which we’d all love to do. In America the record companies control million dollars of a video clip, but in Australia we’re lucky if we get ten grand, so how are you meant to compete? So you do what you can and you keep your head down. I think the harder you work the more chance you’ve got of luck finding you.  So that’s pretty much how I look at it.'

Of course, the best publicity is word of mouth, so if McAlister Kemp put on a great show and people have a good time and leave feeling upbeat and positive and that the band has been professional, that’s the best possible advertisement they're probably going to get. 

'That’s exactly right,' said Troy.  'We’ve worked really hard over the last four years to make our live shows as entertaining as possible. We don’t want to be a band that gets on stage and looks at our feet all night and doesn’t interact with the crowd. We want everyone involved.  We want them throwing their hands in the air. We want them singing the words back at us. We want to give them a rock 'n' roll show that gives them their money’s worth, because concerts aren’t cheap these days, so you want people to leave going, “Wow, I definitely got my money’s worth out of McAlister Kemp. I do want to see those guys again.” They wait in these merchandise lines to line up and meet us and have photos and get things signed. Even right there, you have to give them as much love as you can in the minute that you get with them ... Whatever we can do we do it, because everyone is so important to us. We don’t take that for granted.'  

Troy revealed that, early on, he and Drew had a bit of help from an industry stalwart and that this help has inspired them to do the same for other artists coming through.

'[W]e had a lot of guidance from Adam Brand,' he said. 'Adam really gave us a start and got us out there on tour with him and helped us with lots of ideas around building a career, not only live shows, but how to deal with fans, how to do this, how to do that. Not to say that we didn’t have any idea and we were totally dumb to it, but anything you can pick up along the way from anybody is obviously very valuable information and Adam is a master of it and he got a good career out of it. He probably watching someone before him doing it, you know what I mean?

'Hopefully we’re setting a good example for somebody else coming through, and if we can pay it forward and give other people advice as we move forward and help them out, then I sure as hell am going to be doing that myself and helping someone else because I just think it’s fair. I want to see everybody do well in this business because it’s really tough, and I think everybody deserves a shot.  If they’re prepared to pick up a pen and paper and a guitar and try their guts out to do a good song to make people feel something, then I think everyone deserves a shot.  So as we move forward, hopefully we can be Adam Brand to somebody else.'

McAlister Kemp are unapologetically 'country rock' as opposed to traditional country - which is not always an easy thing in a genre that is known for having some rules - and they take their roles as entertainers very seriously, ramping it up a notch in their shows, which feature four backing dancers and four backing singers in addition to the band members.  

'Essentially we’ve sometimes got 14 people onstage and it looks like a circus, but that’s how we want it to look,' said Troy. 'Sure, we’re shaking it up a little bit and we probably get frowned upon by some of the people in the industry or the older country music fans, but you know what?  Country is changing and moving forward and you can see that coming straight out of America ... Luke Bryan and Jake Owen and Blake Shelton and all these guys who are doing their shows, and Miranda Lambert – whoever you are, you can‘t deny that this style of modern country is coming through and we love that. That’s what Drew and I listen to ourselves, and not to say we don’t love Slim Dusty and John Williamson and all those guys. These guys are our history in country music here and thank God for them, but people have to accept that country music is moving forward. 

'I personally think it’s getting a lot cooler and tougher and I think the more people can hear it, particularly the younger generation, and even half of Australia doesn’t even know McAlister Kemp exists or that country rocks like it does. And then you say "country" and people say, “Oh, you play country and western.”  I say, “No, we’re not western.” It’s country rock. We don’t do the western thing ... It’s just trying to get that awareness out there right across Australia so that we might have a John Farnham career rather than a smaller thing. Who knows? I think anybody who loves Cold Chisel and 1927 and Noiseworks and all those people are going to love McAlister Kemp.' 

Troy was very generous with his time during this interview so I ended up with enough material to make a very long interview. So I'm going to keep it in reserve for when the album comes out ... McAlister Kemp fans, you'll just have to wait! In the meantime, there's the single to keep you happy.

The new McAlister Kemp album will be released on 17 January 2014.