Interview: Kora Naughton

unnamed-4.jpgKora Naughton is a singer-songwriter new to country music – yet she’s already released her first album, Ride or Die, at the age of 16. She’s a passionate, inspiring young woman and that energy can be heard in each song. I spoke to her recently.


Congratulations on the album, you must be thrilled to have your debut album out.

It’s pretty awesome. Thank you very much. I recorded this album with songs that I’d written having no intention of releasing – I love writing music and they were just songs that came from wherever when I was bored. I picked 10 that I really liked and I made them into an album and due for release on Friday, so I’m really excited.


You said you had no intention of releasing them but it doesn’t sound to me like they were things you were dabbling in, these are really well-constructed songs. So at what point did you start thinking about releasing them?

I released my first single last year in June, and it had nothing to do with this album and it was recorded with an entirely different studio. I recorded it actually as a part of an application process for something and I thought, well, I’ve got it recorded, I may as well release it. It’s called ‘Wrong’. And it ended up winning me the Southern Star Independent Rising Female Star last year. Which was kind of crazy because I never intended to release the song … it just kind of all happened, and that was awesome. So then I wrote another song, ‘I Don’t Want To Grow Up’, with David Carter [of Carter and Carter] at the [CMAA] Junior Academy last year. I released that song through Country Rocks Records, who were doing a spotlight artist thing for me at the time, which was exciting. I didn’t intend to have [the song] on an album but I guess I had these other songs sitting there and we just thought, why not? I put everything into it, I gigged, I worked hard to pay it off and I’m still paying it off, but I gig every weekend and all the money goes back into producing more and selling more albums. But it’s been the best thing I’ve done, I’m thrilled to be where I am, and these 10 songs mean the absolute world to me. So releasing them is scary but it’s also really, really exciting.


And you should be thrilled to be where you are. I think it’s amazing at any stage of life to be able to produce an album, but I also need to point out you are 16 and you’ve already graduated from that CMAA Junior Academy. When did your musical journey start?

I never grew up surrounded by music or anything like that. I did cheerleading for eight years and I decided that when I was probably seven. So it was kind of all that I knew. [Then] I had two spinal surgeries and couldn’t do cheerleading any more, so I had to put my energy into something else, and that was about two years ago. Songwriting came along and music, and I don’t even remember how it happened but I ended up here and I went to some country music festival last year and that got me into country. I guess things just kept rolling on, opportunities kept coming and one thing led to the next and to the next and I ended up releasing this album, right now with Country Rocks, sponsored by Jayco Nowra, and it’s kind of been a crazy ride.


When you couldn’t cheerlead anymore, instead of thinking, Well, I’m just going to sit on the couch, you actually consciously thought, I’m looking for something new to do, so do you think you’ve always had a drive to, first of all, be creative and, second of all, perform?

I think as a kid, I was every other six-year-old dreamed of being a pop star one day, but that dream kind of took a back seat and it was never a thing that I would be a reality and it was never really something I strived to achieve. But when I couldn’t do cheerleading anymore, I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself, and I don’t think I was so much looking for something else to do but it was right there and I needed an outlet, I guess, and it just happened to be that. I didn’t even realise that music was my outlet and my thing to do instead of cheerleading until I was halfway through making an album. And I thought, hang on, this all started because of spinal surgeries and it seemed like the worst thing in the world to happen to me at the time, but it’s this blessing in disguise. And truly I am so glad that I had those spinal surgeries because I’m not sure where I’d be right now without them … It’s funny how one thing that seems so terrible can actually be the best thing that’s ever happened to you. I don’t really understand still how that led me to here but I am forever grateful.


That is an incredible perspective to have. And it’s one thing also to start writing songs at that point but you’re also a singer and you have a great voice, so I’m interested when the singing started, or did you start singing because you were writing songs and you wanted to sing them or have you been singing for a while?

As a kid I always liked singing. I went to my yearly talent quest in primary school. I never won, I never did that great. I always loved it, and then when I started writing songs, I look back now and I wasn’t that great of a singer but I taught myself how to. And my voice evolved and I evolved as a person, and my songwriting evolved. Over time I became this person that we have today. It’s weird because I was just a kid who was okay at singing, I was never anything special but I was okay at it, and now I’m releasing songs, releasing my album, playing to a packed crowd sometimes and it’s crazy.


It might seem crazy, but you’ve created it and, as you said, you’re doing gigs on the weekends, you’re obviously at school, that requires a lot of focus and determination to keep that up at an age when it would be really tempting to think, I’ve been working all week– because school is work – I’m doing nothing on the weekends.

I think there’s almost the temptation the opposite way: I’ve been gigging all weekend, let’s just not worry about school. And my homework and everything else is the stuff that’s going to suffer, but when I love what I do as much as I do, then I make it fit in, I make it all work. It’s stressful sometimes, I’m not going to lie, but I do my best and I’m doing all right at school. I’m going to finish Year 12. So I’m happy with where I am.


Given that you’re technically under age, are there any problems with venues, are there some venues you can’t play in?

There are particular rules in some venues that I think are more not so much a rule but they just don’t like having under 18s playing and things like that. But generally I play at pubs and you’re allowed in there if you’re with a parent. And usually even night-times – they say, ‘You’re working, it’s entirely different to just coming in and sit and having a drink.’ So most places are pretty okay about it.


Also the logistics of you getting around, because you wouldn’t necessarily have a car, for example. So do you tend to stick quite close to home or have you been able to get to some further flung places?

I am very lucky to have two parents who support me like nothing else, so I have been kind of everywhere. So we have a Jayco caravan and I recently got sponsored by Jayco so they support me as well, which is awesome. And I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Dunedoo, out in the middle of nowhere. I’ve been to Cobar, I’m heading up to the Gold Coast really soon. Tamworth just last week, and I do a lot down in Canberra, so I’ve been to a lot of places to perform and I’m really, really lucky that I have so much support behind me because I could not do it by myself.


I’m sure your parents are incredibly impressed by you. Whatever age you’re at, to do this is amazing but also you clearly have a fantastic work ethic, so if I were your parents I’d be really proud of you and want to support you.

I’m really lucky to have them but it’s really been a big team effort, because when I said I wanted to do music, they said, ‘All right, what do we do now?’ Going to the Junior Academy last year, I learnt so much, but they also do a parent course and Dad went and he learnt so much, so now he’s my roadie, he’s my manager, he’s my PR person, he’s everything, and then my mum’s my biggest supporter and she’s my self-proclaimed visual director. We’re all learning as we go, all three of us, and I’ve been really lucky to have them behind me and we’re all a big team doing what we can.


So when you went to the Junior Academy, did you have any expectations as to what it would be or you just thought, Right, I’m here to learn?

I was really, really, really nervous to go to the Junior Academy. Before then I wasn’t super confident in myself and I didn’t really believe I could do it, and I was really shy, so I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I think for the first three days it was literal hell because I didn’t talk to anybody and I was nervous, and I didn’t want to talk. I think by the third or fourth day, I made some of the best friends that I will ever have and I hope they’re around forever, and I also learnt so much about myself and I learnt how to be confident in myself, and it definitely changed my tune on music and on life because I’m not that shy little girl who doesn’t want to talk to people anymore, I have much more confidence.


That’s something that can take years to develop so it’s wonderful that you’ve been able to do that.

I did that in 10 days because I had some seriously amazing people around me and tutors. Ashleigh Dallas was a big one. She was my group leader and I swear she is incredible. She taught me so much and I genuinely would not be here without her because I would probably be crying in my bedroom.


She is terrific. I remember a few years ago when Kasey Chambers started having Ashleigh in her shows. I think in country music there is very much this understanding of generations. The artists who have come through before want to help artists who are coming through after them, even if there’s not a big age gap, as there is not between you and Ashleigh, she’s still young. But I believe they also think,Someone helped me, I’ll help the next generation, and in that way you end up with these great relationships within the industry and also great work. As you said, you did a co-write with David Carter, you would have made other connections at the academy that I’m sure will influence and affect your work for years to come.

Definitely, and I think the connections that you make with people are essentially vital because you can be the best singer in the world but if you don’t have people to guide you, sometimes you’ll end up singing in your bedroom, and I think I would be singing in my bedroom if I didn’t have those people surrounding me and that support network and people teaching and mentoring me on how to be the best person and the best performer that I can be.


I think also as a performer and a writer, you have to be open to that, you have to be curious about the world because all those things that are coming to you, you’ve got to be prepared to accept them instead of thinking you know everything. As a child and leading into your teens, were you a curious person? I know you said in the notes for ‘Ravenswood Lane’ that you wrote lots of stories when you were in primary school, so it sounds like you’ve often been interested in the world around you.

I think so. I’ve always been a very, very curious person. I’ve wanted to know the answer to every question and dug really deep to get answers sometimes. I am a serious nerd. If I want to know the answer to something I’ll do hours of research to find out. I have this natural curiosity and I think when it came to music I had that as well, but I was so much more scared to find out about it because it was more on the line, you know. Finding something out about science is not the same as finding out how the music industry works, because it’s something I seriously care about, and I was really scared be a part of that. But now I just want to know everything and I want to learn from people, because I know that you can never learn enough and I think it’s naïve for me to think that, for anyone to think that they know everything about music because nobody ever does.


I saw in your bio you busked for 10 days in Tamworth last year – which, of course, is the whole festival, because it’s 10 days long. What was that like and were there ever any days when you thought, I don’t want to do this?

What was that like? It was very hot and sweaty and gross. Busking anywhere, honestly, is really hard work and it seems like the easiest thing in the world to do because it’s so relaxed, it’s not a gig, but gigs are 10 times easier than busking, standing out on the street and just hoping people walk past, hoping that they stop for two seconds and drop a coin in there, because you don’t get paid for it or anything. But it’s an incredible opportunity, especially in Tamworth, because you never know who’s walking those streets. It was really awesome for me to busk and to get my name out there a little bit, and I had so many people come up to me and say really nice things and drop a couple of dollars in the guitar case. I think that started it all for me last year when I was busking.


Was that before you went to the academy?

My first time in Tamworth was before the academy, during the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January I did a talent quest, in 2017. It was the very start of my country music journey, I’d never done country music before and I stuffed up the talent quest very badly and I wasn’t happy with myself or my performance. I was really upset and it was Ashleigh Dallas who came up to me and said, ‘Don’t give up just because you had a stumble.’ And she suggested that I go to the junior academy, and I did and I had her as a tutor. It all panned out really, really well. So I’m also very glad that I stuffed up that talent quest. Again, I have no idea where I’d be.


When I interviewed Adam Brand recently I asked if there was anything he’d change about 20 years in music and he said no, because all his mistakes were valuable.

It’s true. Everything that’s gone bad for me has turned out into something good and I’m releasing my debut album, so I wouldn’t change anything for the world.


You say that it turns out into something good, and I’d say back to you that you’ve turned it into something good, because it seems like you take those experiences or those opportunities and make the most of them.

I’ve always tried to focus on the positives in life, there’s a lot of things I could sit here and be sad about and I could let myself drown in the sadness. But I think if you look for it, there’s a little bit of good in everything and I always try and find that, because it’s that little bit of hope you cling on to and sometimes it makes the world of difference and you end up so much better off than you were before.


 Ride or Die is out now through Country Rocks Records. 

Apple Music | iTunes

Single release: ‘Shout the Land a Drink’ by The Hay Balers

unnamed (13).jpgAs the saying goes, you’d have to be living under a rock to not know about the devastating drought currently affecting large parts of Australia, with 100 per cent of New South Wales drought declared and other states also in desperate need of a drink. Now you can ‘Shout the Land a Drink’ with the new single by that time to be released on 27 August, from The Hay Balers.

The Hay Balers are the creation of Golden Guitar winner Matt Scullion, who wrote the song and has joined forces with Charles Alder from Rural Aid/Buy A Bale. The other Balers are his good friends Tania Kernaghan, Drew McAlister, Simply Bushed and James Blundell.

Produced by Shane Nicholson at Sound Hole studios, ‘Shout the Land a Drink’ was written by Scullion on a recent trip to Tamworth, where he was overwhelmed by the effects the drought was having on the community.

All profits from the sale of the song online will be donated back to the people who need it most: our farmers, who are an integral part of Australian life and the primary producers we depend on for wheat, beef, wool and a whole lot of other things.


Interview: Adam Brand reaches a Milestone

244056-L-LOEarlier this year Australian country music star Adam Brand marked his 20 years in the music industry with the album Milestones20 Years, a collection of hits and fan favourites from those two decades, as well as two new songs. Adam has taken those milestones on the road, and is currently touring the country. I spoke to him in between shows.

Your tour’s only just started.

Well, it’s kind of started. The album just came out but I actually started doing these Milestones shows back in May because I figured it’s not just about the album this year, it’s about the year, the whole year of just the anniversary year, so I started earlier.


Speaking of your anniversary, now 20 years as a performer, I am wondering how that’s possible when you still look 25.

You’re too kind. It might be called Photoshop, it might be called bad eyesight on your part, it might be called, I don’t know [laughs].


But it really seems not possible because obviously you’ve had a long career but 20 years sounds like a very long time when you still are a young man actually.

Sometimes I sort of think about it myself and I go, Wow, where did that go?or Can that really be true?Can it be that long?It’s been an amazing ride and not only that, I started late, I was a late starter.


I don’t believe that.

My first album didn’t come out until I was 28 – [for] a lot of people [it’s] in the early 20s or even teens.


Do you think that was an advantage starting later, because you knew you really wanted it by that age, it wasn’t just a laugh or anything like that?

Yeah, I’d already done an apprenticeship. We had a couple of little business things and worked with different people and travelled a bit, so when I made that decision and thought, Now I want to try this, I went into it without just stars in my eyes, I went into there thinking, Okay, I’m going to have a go at this, I’m going to really, really put everything I’ve got into it, rather than just spinning the lottery wheel.


Out of the 20 years, what are you most proud of?

I’m most proud that I’m still here talking to you after 20 years. I didn’t think I was going to last 20 months let alone 20 years, so it’s certainly way more than I expected. The loyalty of the fans, the experience that I’ve been able to have, those things are just way more than I could ever have imagined so.


The loyalty of the fans is definitely there but it’s a relationship and the relationship has to be cultivated on both sides. I think you’ve put a lot of care and work into that relationship.

I have and the reason why is because that’s the way I’m built, that’s the way I’m wired, I’m a relationship type of person, I want to be build relationships and, I guess. I want people to know how appreciative I am of the fact that they come home from work and get ready, and bustle the kids into the car, all to come to see me sing and things like that. So there’s definitely a lot of communication, I’m a big communicator – as you can tell, it’s hard to shut me up, I love talking to people and finding out their stories. So it certainly is a two-way street on the relationship and communication front.


I see it in country music in particular, there’s a lot of emotion in the relationship between audience and performer, and I think it’s on both sides. But are you conscious that for a lot of your fans, it’s a really big deal to see you and to hear your music and to meet you perhaps, and that’s quite a responsibility to have, I think, towards your fans.

I guess you could look at it that way. I see a lot of them as friends. So many people have been coming to see me and I see them at the show or they line up for an autograph or photo or something and I say, Hey, how you going? So it’s almost so many of them are like mates, and I feel that because I’ve been seeing them for so many years, because I see their profile pic, you know, every second day on Facebook and stuff like that, there’s this recognition factor. They’re all part of this thing together, you know. Sometimes I to myself, You’ve seen me a bunch of times and that phases me, why would they want to do it again?Sometimes it blows me away, the fact that they want another photo with me – okay, well that’s fine, absolutely, no problems. But, geez, really, it’s just me, you know me well enough now [laughs].


But it’s that relationship – so it’s like if they would want a photo with a family member every time they saw them.

Totally. And so many stories. So many people I’ve known for so long, in that time they’ve met someone, they’ve got married and they’ve had kids and they’re bringing their kids to see me at shows. And we would sit there and talk about it and I say, ‘I remember when you were in your mum’s tummy, we had a photo and I was pointing to it and I said, “It wasn’t me!”’ [laughs] You know, all these funny little stories and things. Twenty years is a long time to be knowing someone and some of these people, I went and played at their primary school in my first year and now they’re adults and we talk about, ‘I was in Grade 6 when you came to my school’. So it is relationship based and it’s real. Before social media, in the media everything was glossed, everything was edited, everything was homogenised and you only got to see what the artist, the management, the record company and the journalists chose for you to see – do you know what I mean?



Now you get it all unfiltered, you know, you get to see me in my trackie dacks in my lounge room going through old photos or cooking something up for dinner or whatever it is, you get to see all of that now and that’s pretty hard to stage so, you know, it’s pretty real.


It’s hard to stage but it requires you being willing to invite them in, invite your audience into that extent. So that’s a big decision for you, I think?

It is, and because that’s the way I’m wired, I’m a pretty open-book sort of person and it’s no problem for me. Now, someone else may not be comfortable with that so they’ll have a different relationship with their fans or a different way of communicating and that’s fine. Everyone’s different. But for me, that’s the way I do it because there’s not much difference between the me you see on stage and the me you see off stage.


I think that’s a big key to why people have loved you for so long, because they know they’re getting the authentic Adam. It’s not a showman’s persona.

Yeah, yeah, I’m a cheeky bugger I suppose, what you see is what you get.


So over the 20 years – I asked you what you’re most proud of. What have you learnt in 20 years?

Well, I don’t know if I’ve learnt it 100 per cent but I’ve learnt to be patient. I’ve learnt to let things go at the pace they’re supposed to, don’t push it, that once you start pushing it you push it off the track and into the garden fence and over the cliff. It doesn’t mean you’re not motivated and work hard to push but just don’t push them too hard, just relax, it will be all right, you know.


That kind of lesson is usually a very hard one, so I think it sticks once you learn it.

Yes, yes, it certainly is a hard-fought lesson and, I guess, it’s also the point of saying, ‘Well, it will happen or it won’t and that’s okay.’


What inspires you and what has inspired you for 20 years?

People, stories. It’s the human element, it’s the emotional element, it’s the underdog battling [and] I felt I was one, you know, and I am one a lot of times. That maybe sounds strange because you think, Oh, well, you’ve done all of this stuff and that stuff, but it hasn’t been easy and it’s not easy for anyone. Anyone who says, It’s all easy, if they’ve had it on a silver platter, fair enough, but I think anything really good and anything that’s really supposed to be what you’re doing, it doesn’t come easy and it’s worth fighting for. So I love the fact that I fight tooth and nail – not in a bad way but I fight tooth and nail for what I believe in.


I think it’s also about making a commitment to what you’re doing and a commitment to your work, and a commitment to your fans. That’s like a mindfulness practice almost. You get up every day, you make that commitment and you’ve got to keep making it but sometimes it’s difficult and I would imagine some days it’s tiring too.

Yes, and it’s like anything, we’re all experiencing that in no matter what industry you’re in, whether you’re selling cars or you’re building fences or you’re cooking cakes – some days are a grind and you’ve just got believe that what you’re doing is right and keep doing it. I’m lucky, I’m so lucky that I get to spread joy and love, and happiness when I’m on stage, and that part of it just fills me up, it burns this hole in me at the pit of my stomach. It fires me up. But there’s a lot of things behind the scenes that you’ve got to press through to get to that point and that’s what makes you appreciate it more when you’ve really got to fight for it.


It must feed into your work – I mean it feeds into how you sing your songs and how you appear on stage. Because you’re authentic and you want to be authentic for your audience, you bring all of that with you.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. And I suppose there’s pros and cons, whether you should or shouldn’t, but that’s how I am and I’m going to share it. I get on stage and if I get emotional about something, I’ll just stop and talk about it, or if I lose my spot and forget my words – which is pretty much a daily occurrence – I’ll just have a laugh about it and half the people know that I do it all the time so they’re pointing at me and laughing at me as well, and we’re all laughing at the same things, like, well, all right, can someone Google the words for me? [laughs]


Given how many albums you’ve had out and how many songs you’d have to go through to put in a set list, it doesn’t surprise me that you forget lyrics.

I look at other people, other artists out there who just seem to have this photographic memory and I think, I hate you[laughs].


I remember seeing Frank Sinatra many years ago and he had a teleprompter, so there you go.

There you go. That would have been awesome.


Is there anything you would change about your first 20 years?

No, because I think all the mistakes I made they were my best lessons, they were the things that taught me. I think without crashing hard I probably wouldn’t have the insight into how to be now, you know. It doesn’t mean I’ve arrived where I want to end up but I find myself now in a position where I’m okay with how things go. Whether we win or we lose, I’m okay with things not turning out the way that I planned it or I foresaw it because I just think, well, this is the way it’s supposed to go and I’m where I’m supposed to be and that will be okay. I couldn’t handle that back in the day – No, it’s supposed to be like this, we’ve planned it like that– so finding yourself comfortable in my own skin to let things happen the way they’re supposed to happen, give it the best shot you’ve got but, you know, be more accepting, accepting of life and things around.


But, again, these are definitely hard-won lessons but I do really think when you are a performer who wears your heart on your sleeve, to get up on stage as you have all around the country in front of so many different people … I’m trying to think of the right way to express it, but you do make yourself very vulnerable to your audience and you’re taking a chance, I guess, of what comes back to you so there’s always the element of risk in doing what you do.

And getting to this point, it’s also that you put yourself out there and then you’re not sure what’s going to come back, but being okay with what comes back. Now what comes back, a lot of times it’s positive, it’s wonderful, but sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s negative, sometimes it’s, ‘Well, gee, I didn’t like that mate, geez your earlier stuff was better. What are you thinking?’ And to be in a position where I go, ‘I’m okay with that’, that is empowering, because I’m not letting that crush my spirit, not letting that take the rug from under my feet. Actually, it’s all right if someone doesn’t like it, it’s totally fine, because you’re not going to please everybody, everyone’s got individual tastes, so the fact that they’re actually talking to me still is a good thing, and maybe the next time I do something they might like that and they’ll be back.


I think it must always be very difficult for artists who are interested in moving and changing. Yes, you have fans who are saying, ‘I like your old stuff better than your new stuff’, but, of course, for you as an artist to keep your career progressing and to keep yourself interested in a lot of ways, musically, lyrically, you want to progress.

Yes, of course, and so you push the boundaries and take chances and say, ‘I want to try this sound or that’. I’ve had plenty of comments: ‘I like your earlier stuff, not so much this, mate’, and my answer to that is, ‘Well, hey, mate, I’m glad you liked the earlier stuff. I’m glad you liked something.’


Given that you said when you first started 20 years ago you never thought you’d have 20 years, I think it’s safe to say you’re probably going to have another 20 years at least. So if you look ahead now that you’ve got 20 years behind you and you can feel a bit sure about what’s ahead at least for a while, what do you want to achieve for the next 20 years?

There’s no end goal or finish line. For me, it’s just to be able to keep doing this with the support and with people supporting me still, if they still want to support me and they give you this platform of opportunity to continue doing this so, I want to continue doing it because I love it. I’m a never-say-never type of guy. I don’t know how long I’m going to last. I don’t know whether I’ll be relevant for how long or another two months or another two years, who knows, but I’m loving life at the moment and just feeling grateful, and this tour in particular I feel like a big Labrador pup, you know, I’m fumbling around the whole countryside because I feel like it’s my first tour again. So it’s nice, it’s got this reinvigorated energy again. I’m the 20-year guy who’s running around like he’s on his first tour if you see me out on the road.


After 20 years, to approach a tour like it’s the first time with that same enthusiasm, that’s amazing.

And it feels amazing too. The first line in the ‘Milestones’ song is ‘Still green twenty-something’ and the last line is ‘Still green forty something, so get it right’.


Now, speaking of that song you have two new songs on this album, both co-written with Drew McAlister and Mike Carr, and I would think that they’re both quite rowdy to have in a songwriting room with you.

Mike and I have written so many songs together over the years and it’s the first time we brought Drew in on the partnership, because Drew and I are such good mates. It was a really good experience having those guys. It had been quite a while since I’d written, actually I went through quite a large dry patch and I just said, ‘Guys, I want to write a song that is brutally honest about a 20-year journey. It doesn’t stop exactly with just mine, I want this to be indicative of all of our journey with what happens in 20 years. You win some, you lose some, you know.’ Memories and milestones, that’s what makes us up, that’s who we are. So it was nice being able to do it with those guys.


And you’re all very accomplished performers and writers so it’s no surprise that the songs are fantastic. I’ll ask you one last question, which is actually to do with your tour: given that you have played at a lot of places in Australia, how did you possibly choose where you would play this time?

I wanted to do it different this year, I didn’t want to go back to all exactly the same things, so I started chatting about it on Facebook and I put a call out and I said, ‘Right, are there any people that own a country pub, manage a pub or a venue that you know someone whose the manager or owner or what, and they don’t get many shows and they’d like to have one of my 20-year shows?’ Over two and a half thousand responses, so it then started the whole process of sifting through to see which ones we could do and which we couldn’t do, because sometimes we’d get four or five within 30 or 40 ks so you can’t do them all, obviously. So [there’s a whole branch of places this year that are new, new for them, new for us and, I think, a part of that is this excitement and this re-found energy.


 Milestones … 20 Years is out now through ABC Music.

Apple Music | iTunes

For tour dates, go to:


Single release: ‘Blackwater’ by Blake O’Connor

unnamed (12).jpg‘Blackwater’ is the new single from New South Wales singer-songwriter Blake O’Connor’s debut EP, which was released in June. It’s a dark, bluesy country song and when you hear it you will probably think you’re listening to quite a grown-up fella who has lived a bit of life. Well, you are not: O’Connor is in his late teens, even if his voice sounds like it has been spending years developing its depth and timbre.

However, O’Connor has already graduated from the CMAA Academy of Country Music and toured in support of Brooke McClymont and Adam Eckersley on their Queensland run, so while he’s young he has earned the experience that is so evident in this song. It’s his voice that will get you first, though, and if you like it on this track you may wish to see him play live – tour dates below, right after you’ve watched the video.


Blake O’Connor tour dates:

August 18 Brisbane Ekka
August 19 Brisbane Ekka
August 24 Crowbar Gympie Music Muster
August 31 Leadbelly Newtown *Guest of Brad Cox
October 20 Wingham Acoustic Festival
October 27 River Country Howdown Clarence Town
September 14 Gaol Break Old Dubbo Gaol
September 22 Panthers Tap Bar Port Macquarie
September 29 Bago Tavern Port Macquarie
Saturday November 3 Ballina CMF *Guest of Adam Brand
November 10 Tunes on the Turf Dunedoo

Apple Music | iTunes


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Interview: The McClymonts on tour, with plus ones

268x0wThis post begins with my usual disclaimer: I am heavily pro-McClymonts. The trio of sisters originally from Grafton in New South Wales have been lighting up country music for the past twelve years, and I have been a fan for every one of those years. So, with that out of the way, let’s move on to my recent interview with lead singer and guitarist Brooke McClymont. After touring recently with her husband, Adam Eckersley, for the release of their joint album, Brooke is now on the road with sisters Sam and Mollie – and some plus ones in the form of their babies. While touring needs different logistics now than it did 12 years ago, it’s clear that Brooke is just as excited about it as ever. We spoke while the band was waiting to appear on a morning TV show.


It’s wonderful to see you all out on tour again but of course touring.

We’re so excited.


Touring now requires more logistical planning than it used to because you all have children. How long did it take to plan?

Oh, a good eight months. We like to be organised, because with the kids and we’ve only got one mum that we’ve got to share between us. And our partners all work. So it’s just being organised but it’s something that we love doing and we’re pretty good at it, so we’ve gotten used to it now anyway. We’re just really pumped to get back out on the road.


I saw that you and [husband] Adam [Eckersley] took Tiggy on tour with you, so she’s obviously used to the touring lifestyle.

Oh, she’s amazing. We thought, you know, pulling her out of school, we’re going to be those parents … but the teacher said, ‘We encourage you, it’s so good for the kids to get out there and learn on the road’, and she really did, she had such a great time and she got to see what we do for a living. Which is really good.



Looking at your schedule for your McClymonts tour, you’re obviously going to quite a few places, but are there any places you’re playing that you haven’t been to for a while, so you’re returning to them after absence?

We are doing 22 shows on this one, and there are quite a few that we haven’t done for a while. The Melbourne Palms Crown Casino, which is amazing, that’s such a massive room, the girls and I haven’t done that for a couple of years. We’ve never done Aussie World, which is on the Sunshine Coast. We haven’t done Mackay for a while, and it will be good to get back. And we’re also going to Lightning Ridge, never played at Lightning Ridge ever. We said, you know what, [there are] a lot of places we really haven’t been, and especially being on the road with my hubby and we thought, wow, out west a lot of people can’t get away, and it’s a long way from everywhere. and we thought, Let’s go to them. So we’re really, really looking forward to getting into all these new places that we haven’t been before.


The three of you started playing together as children, and on the song ‘Blood is Thicker than Water’ there’s reference made to you all playing guitars. But, of course, only you play guitar in the band now, so who decided who got what instrument?

Well, actually, me, I told everyone because I was the boss back when we were little, so I told Sam and Mollie, I said ‘Sam, you need to play bass, and Mollie, you’re playing mandolin.’ I was a bit of a dictator back then. But they kind of thanked me for it as they got older, because look, they play those instruments now in our band, so it’s paid off. [But] I’m not the dictator anymore. None of us are. We know what needs get done, so it’s a really good balance and I think the older we get – we’ve been touring for 12 years now – we feel like we’re such old veterans, even though that’s not a long time, but, you know, we’ve worked with each other all our life, especially being sisters and working together, we’ve definitely found a work–life balance with each other.


I can proudly say that I went to your very first band show at Blazes in Tamworth.

Oh really?


Yes. I was at the festival and you’d released your EP and I loved it.

Oh god love you, that’s great.


I remember saying to everyone, ‘I’m so excited I’m going to The McClymonts.’

That’s so good. You know what, that EP did really well for us and it kind of set us up in the Australian country music industry, and everyone just seemed to have loved it. We’ve been so lucky and grateful that we’ve been able to continue to do what we’re doing. When we had kids we continued to keep going and make records, and we do pinch ourselves and go, jeez, we’ve got a good job, got a good life.


And you’ve created it, I think. It’s consistency and hard work.

I hate saying it’s luck because it’s not. You create your own luck. But it’s definitely been something that the three of us have really worked out, we’ve always been focused on it, we’ve taken pride and cared for our career, and we still are like that today.


I concur, as someone who observes your career. Do you need much rehearsal time these days?

Yes. We like to give ourselves a few days, two full days, and usually by the end of it our heads are really sore. But that’s how we like to operate – we like to know that we’re going out putting on a good show for the fans, and I think that’s why people keep coming back because we do take care in the show, especially our songs and making sure that everything’s right because we are bit of perfectionists, the three of us. I think I love about us as well. So yes, definitely every tour we also rehearse with the band. It’s full-on, intense but it’s still fun and that’s the main thing.


And for me as a fan a crucial question is always what’s in the set list. Now I know ‘Shotgun’ I think has fairly permanent place on it.

No it hasn’t, we’re not doing it this one either.


Oh no!

I know, isn’t that crazy. That’s not making a comeback at all because we feel like we’re going to put ‘Endless’ [there] because of the new album – we kind of replaced ‘Shotgun’ with ‘Endless’. The set for this tour is a pretty up, rocking style, so I’ve got to get fit again because I’ve literally thought, How the hell am I going to last nearly two hours on stage doing what we’re doing? Literally I’m going to have to be like an athlete.


And also you all tend to play in heels.

See, that’s another thing that I’m really not good at anymore. I’m getting old now, I hear my knees cracking, but, you know, what I’ll do what I have to do.


I don’t think anyone would mind if you wore flats.

Oh good, I pretty much do comfort now, I’m more sensible as I’m getting older.


Highly reasonable. Now, are your parents proud of you all or do they take it for granted that they have such accomplished children?

I have no idea. I’m pretty sure they’re proud, but – and you know these days, they want to see the grandkids more than anything and I don’t think they ever talk about us any more, they’re just so excited because they’ve got really young little babies in the family, like Mollie had Elky and Sam’s little man, Wilder, he’s only one, and my daughter’s five, so we’re at that age, at that time in our lives the kids are so awesome to be around. There’s a lot of young kids and it’s just really cool.


And, as mentioned, Tiggy’s been on the road with you, but do you think there’s any chance of a McClymonts children opening act? Band?

I have no doubt that there will be, probably at some stage. When you have kids and they turn five it’s amazing. They can do things for you. And my daughter’s such a goody two-shoes too, which is fantastic. I don’t know where she gets that from, Adam or me, but she’s amazing and she’s such a joy to be around and I love it. So I’m sure there will be plenty more times when they’ll be hitting the road with us, for sure.


Every time I go to a McClymonts show I see a lot of big smiles around the room, so I tend to think of your job as giving joy to people, but I’m wondering what you think your job is?

It is [that]. I really feel that. I really think that’s such a great way of seeing what we do. You know, whatever people are going through, the fact that they want to come and spend their couple of hours, three hours with us, on the weekend after they’ve had a whatever kind of week they’ve had, either at work or home life, they can escape for three hours and we give joy. Our job is, hopefully, to give people a really fun night out. And that’s the great thing. That’s what I love about it. It’s nice to know that people take the time out to come and see you and give their time. It’s amazing.


I think you honour the audience. Every time I’ve seen you play there is a lot of joy in the room and I’ve taken people who don’t actually know your music and they all walk out saying it was fantastic.

Oh good. See, in life that’s all you have to do. If only one person walks away feeling that, you’ve done your job. I mean, actually, if only one person walks away you’ didn’t really do your job, did you? You’ve just played on a whole room! But you know what I mean.


I do.

But that’s the aim. We’ve never taken it for granted.


I’ll ask you one more question so you can go on TV in good time. Are you working on new material?

Not at this stage. The album came out at the beginning of last year but it’s kind of new for us girls, because the girls all went and had babies. We have to pencil in it in when we need to write together, which won’t be too far off but there will definitely be new music in the works sometime soon. But right now Sam and Mollie have to be mamas and we’re just giving them time to enjoy their babies because they’re not babies for long. And we’re going to be around forever, so we’re making sure we get our priorities right, especially now that the kids are here.

Tour dates:





















Single release: ‘Villains’ by Ben Leece

unnamed (11).jpgIf you’re taking the time to read about music, you’re probably a person a bit like me: music infuses most of your waking hours, and one song can take over your day to the point that it can make you feel happy, sad, or whatever it’s meant to do. You feel like there’s not enough time in the day, month, year, lifetime to listen to all the music you want to, and you worry that you’re going to miss a great song. You will also, from time to time, get a shiver up your spine (in a good way) when you listen to a song for the first time – and when that same song keeps causing the same response, you know that it’s not only a great song but it has another dimension to what’s going on – not a dimension you can name or even visit, but it’s just there, and you know you will keep going back to that song for years to come, not necessarily trying to figure out what it is but just to keep experiencing that magic.

That was my reaction to ‘Villains’ by New South Wales singer-songwriter Ben Leece. Now based in Newcastle, originally from Quirindi, Leece recorded the song during sessions with Shane Nicholson for an upcoming album. Leece’s voice is an instrument of mystery and wonder, leading the listener into a story and holding them there. It cracks and bends its way through the song, and never lets you off the hook. But it’s such a compelling place to be that you won’t mind – and, like me, you’ll probably keep going back for more.

Listen to ‘Villains’ on:

Soundcloud | Spotify | Apple Music


Album review: Back to Broken Hill by Libby O’Donovan

libbyThose who have seen South Australian artist Libby O’Donovan perform live know that they’ve been in the presence of something special. O’Donovan has one of the great voices: rich and versatile, springing from a well of willingness to connect with audiences and an obvious and effervescent love of entertaining.

Some of those audiences will have been introduced to O’Donovan – as I was – when she’s performed with her partner, Australian country music star Beccy Cole. Prior to this O’Donovan was not a country music artist, but that has changed with her new album, Back to Broken Hill. Not that this is a country album, but there are certainly country elements on it. That is evident right from the first, and title, track, which is about O’Donovan’s upbringing in Broken Hill and written by Cole. It is an exceptionally good song – Cole’s renowned storytelling ability mixed with O’Donovan’s incredible delivery – and it’s not the only one on the album.

Back to Broken Hill ranges across musical styles that encompass O’Donovan’s lineage, which includes jazz and cabaret; what’s constant is her voice, of course, and her heart. This is a collection of songs for people who want to engage fully in music, who are prepared to pay attention to lyrics, knowing they’ll be rewarded with a great story and songs that will keep them going for a long time to come. It’s for those who are not afraid to shed a tear knowing that they’re in safe hands with an artist who is being honest with them, whether the story is hers (‘From This Mother to My Mother’) or someone else’s (such as in the touching ‘Songs Remember Me’, which O’Donovan has played live for several years). It’s for dreamers of all ages who love to let a song carry them away so much they forget where they are.

On a technical level this is an album that showcases an extraordinary singer and writer. On an emotional level it’s an album that simply makes you want to listen to it over and over. Regardless of what sort of music you love, Libby O’Donovan’s talent, skill and ability demand attention – so give your attention to Back to Broken Hill.

Back to Broken Hill is out now from ABC Music.

Apple Music | iTunes