Well established in their separate bands, The McClymonts and The Adam Eckersley Band, Brooke McClymont and her husband, Adam Eckersley, took a recent detour to create an album together, with spectacular results. It is was my great pleasure to talk to them both recently about the decision making behind the project and the experience of making it.
I’m a longtime fan of The McClymonts and, Adam, I love your band – I had a little bit of nervousness before listening to your album, wondering if it would be as good as both of those bands, but of course it was.
A: We certainly felt that a little bit too. Not that it worried us, but we didn’t know stylistically what to make – we [just] knew it had to be reasonable [laughs].
Because you both have fans. Part of your work as musicians, and country musicians, is having access to your fans and them having access to you. That does more pressure on a situation.
A: We’ve been stoked with how it’s been received. You never know when you release anything how it’s going to be received – you just hope that people like it. We just wanted to make sure we were proud of what we’d done.
B: We trusted each other too, didn’t we.
A: Yes. And we’ve been blown away with the response so far.
It’s because you put out something fantastic and if you do the work, people tend to recognise it. Given that you both have your separate schedules and separate bands, when did you first discuss the idea of creating an album together?
B: We’ve always spoken about wanting to do an album together eventually, but honestly we thought we would not get to it until ten years or more down the track. But then the opportunity just presented itself because the girls [sisters Sam and Molly] were having babies, and that was leaving me really … I wasn’t going to be doing much. The girls and I have been gigging but it hasn’t been a lot – which has been fine, but I get itchy feet. I wanted to do something. Adam was doing his third album with The Adam Eckersley Band and kind of put that on hold, because we thought, Why don’t we do our thing now? We’ve got this time, we might as well jump on it and go with it. And I’m so glad we did, because I feel like everyone’s really responding to this album. People are getting the lyrics and they’re really listening. This album has been a real game-changer for me. It’s been fun, too, and fresh but the lyrics and what we’re doing is really touching people, and that’s a great thing as a musician and singer-songwriter to have that happen.
Some of these songs are very personal and extremely honest – not all the songs are about you but some are. Did it feel like a hard decision to allow your audience in to that, or because you’re very experienced songwriters was that the only way to go?
A: I always prefer to write from the point of view of something that means something to me. I just find it easier to sell it, then, when you go on tour. It really wasn’t even a discussion with us. We’re both fairly honest people and we thought that if we’re experiencing things, whether positive or hard times or whatever, more than likely other people out there are experiencing the same things. We like the idea that we can sit in their lounge room with them, or in their kitchen, and come through the radio and maybe spark conversation between other couples or people who are experiencing the same thing and possibly be able to articulate the way they’re feeling or have felt. There weren’t any boundaries on subject matter on the album. We’ve dealt with the good, the bad and everything in between.
B: And as you can tell, we’re not shy of having a conversation [laughs].
One of the hallmarks of country music is that it comes from a very authentic place and the audience expects that and recognises when it’s there and not there – but it’s another thing to put it into art. Part of what I found wonderful about listening to this was that you had not just those lyrics of your own stories but this distinctive musical identity that was not either of your bands’. Given that you said this album came together fairly quickly, how long did it take to find that musical identity?
A: We’ve been together for almost ten years, so we’ve had plenty of time to discuss how we want things to sound – but in typical form, we didn’t do any of that and we basically left it until the moment we made the decision to take the project on. We really let the songs dictate the sound of the album. We didn’t want it to sound like The McClymonts and we didn’t want it to sound like The Adam Eckersley Band, but outside of that we didn’t have an aim. We just kind of threw the songs together and then we spoke about [how] we wanted it to sound live-ish, but that was also a matter of time – we didn’t have the luxury of sitting on stuff for a month and going back in and tweaking this and tweaking that. ‘Let’s get it, let’s get it feeing good and lay it down.’ And that’s what we did. We were lucky to have all the guys from The Adam Eckersley Band play on it and also Michele Rose, so it all came together pretty easily.
Brooke, given that it was Adam’s band playing on the album, was there any adjustment period? Because you’re used to having your own band, and being band leader.
B: [Laughs] When we made the decision, it was never going to be The McClymonts. But the boys have been coming to our house for the past five or six years and they’re like brothers to me. So that was a no-brainer, having the boys on this record, because they’re absolutely great musicians. But the sound of it – Adam and I did talk about ‘What the hell is this record going to sound like?’ Because it was like we were starting again, really, even though we weren’t – it was just a new project. We thought, We’ve got a lot of free space here and a lot of things and a lot of things we can make it sound like. We thought it’s going to be really raw, really live. I was nervous at the start but then I got really excited about it. I thought, This is going to be so different from what people are used to hearing me sing, with the music in the background. So I really got a great kick out of – there were seven or eight of us and we all laid the tracks down together, old school. And that’s something that you just don’t do any more, unless you go to Nashville, but a lot of people don’t make records that way any more. For us it was a really great way to get in the moment. We went away for five days and we just all lived in the songs for that whole week, and it was really exciting. There was something really special about that.
Part of why I find this project interesting is that you’re the exemplars of what it means to have a whole lot of work behind you, and consistent work – consistent performing, consistent songwriting – and then to bring it together you make this piece of excellence. This is more a comment, but I find the whole project fascinating – this is what can happen when two people with separate but parallel experiences decide to do something together. It’s really inspiring. I hope some other musicians might follow that example.
B: Thank you, that’s a really nice thing to say. Adam and I do really take pride in what we do and we want to make sure it’s great. I think for us it’s a really nice way to show who we are … It’s been so easy and such a great experience working with Adam, because we weren’t sure how it was going to work between us. At the same time we thought, No, no, this is awesome.
A: Brooke and I both have pretty high standards of ourselves and each other as well, but that was already established well and truly before we took this project on. Coupled with that is utmost respect for each other musically. So we tend to get into writing or whatever and we’re challenging each other. We’re well past having to be polite with each other or sensitive when we’re bearing our souls creatively. We could just shoot ideas down that each other have if they’re not good. We’re really, really productive because we don’t get caught up in, ‘Oh yeah, that’s good – we’ll leave it there and we’ll come back to it maybe.’ Instead [we’d say] , ‘You know what? That is shitty. You’ve got better in you and we’ve got better in us – let’s just get it done.’ I hope if there are any other musicians, younger musicians, entering into the industry and the songwriting world, I hope it does inspire them just as we’ve been inspired by zillions of artists before us. Basically it’s just that we didn’t accept –
A: Music’s so subjective that it’s hard to say ‘until we got it right’ – we worked on it until we felt we got it right and we were proud of it. And we were realistic too – you have to be realistic with songs that you write. You can’t just go, ‘Ah no, that’s all right.’
Some people do.
B: Some people do. A lot of people do.
A: They do.
B: It’s interesting – country music is certainly known for it’s stories but I’d almost say in recent times it’s not necessarily a common thing [laughs]. Particularly in mainstream. Brooke and I really wanted to make what we felt was a good, true, honest country record, inspired by the country that we loved from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s more so than now.
B: And I feel like we definitely achieved it. When you’re back playing your album – say you hear it on the radio, and we’ve heard our songs a couple of times on the radio coming on after a guy like Sam Hunt, I said to album, ‘Wow – we haven’t reinvented the wheel with our album by any means. If anything, our album sounds so different in terms of musically how it’s played, because it’s real instruments and, no, we don’t hear that any more because it’s all computerised – it’s all loops. A lot of tweaking and fixing. I said to Adam, ‘We’re sounding different on the radio purely because we’re using live instruments.’ We haven’t done anything different but that’s what’s missing, I guess, these days … I really love what we’ve done. [Our album] is ear-catching. It is live and it’s not full of all the bells and whistles to make it sound like a pretty record. It just is what it is and that’s one thing I was really proud of.
The live aspect of it also allows the emotion of the playing and the singing to come through. If you’re fiddling with tracks separately there’s that potential to get away from what was captured in the moment. But all of you there in the studio – Adam, it’s your band and they know both of you, I would imagine they had feelings invested in the process as well.
A: A hundred per cent. And that was a conscious thing too – to not work this album until it was ‘perfect’.
B: I think it’s imperfect in the most perfect way.
A: Talking about what you’re saying there with the emotions – emotions aren’t perfect, so the album has those little moments where something doesn’t quite match up. But that was how it happened and it felt right to us, so we left it.
Just to hark back to what you were saying before about ideas not being up to scratch, for every creator there needs to be an editor – someone to refine those ideas – and it’s amazing that you two can be that for each other but also for your own joint creations.
B: Absolutely. It’s a responsibility, I feel, in the position that we’re in, to write really good stuff – because there are really great songwriters out there, there are great musicians out there, and we need to be up to standard with all that. People deserve it.
A: If you’re an artist and you aspire to be a songwriter as well, don’t be lazy. Either make the decision to work really hard at the songs or go and get a straight song off a great songwriter.
B: I agree.
A: So the world doesn’t have to live with crappy music, because nobody wants that.
I think ‘don’t be lazy’ is great advice.
B: [Laughs] And that’s in every job, whatever you’re doing. That’s how we are. I think, too, Adam and I really trust each other. I know if Adam’s onto something and I’m not understanding it at the time or what he’s trying to get at, I go, ‘He’s got this’, because I just trust him, and I think vice versa [is true]. We’re always pushing each other to be better.
And it extends to your life performance. I’ve seen The McClymonts play so many times I’ve lost count, and it’s always a great show. And, Adam, I saw your band once playing in a shopping centre in Tamworth and you would have thought you were on a stadium stage because of the amount of energy that went into it – so not being lazy extends to that.
A: If you’re going to do something, get stuck into it!
Speaking of gigs, you have some tour dates coming up – and this looks like a long process, as some of these dates are a while off. As you have a school-aged child I guess you have to plan this sort of thing well in advance.
A: We’re just kind of taking it week by week with a little bit of preparation. We’ve had to get an au pair involved. And we’re lucky we’ve got family helping us out because we are touring far and wide – up to Cairns and across to Western Australia and South Australia, everywhere in between.
Did you two find out anything surprising about each other or about yourselves during this whole process?
B: I think I’ve always known that I’m an impatient person and I like things done pretty quickly. We thought we might have bumped heads a few times, but surprisingly we didn’t. But I know we kept that at the forefront of our minds, doing this record. I know everything about him.
A: I didn’t feel like there were any surprises.
B: I thought you were going to say, ‘Honey, you’re still a pain in the arse.’
A: Well, that’s not a surprise.
Given how wonderful the album is, and there’s touring going on, do you think you’ll do it again – although I suppose your other bands will require your attention at some stage.
B: We will get to this again. We just thought we’d set something up now when The McClymonts and AEB are having a [break], because you can’t tour all the time. And this is just something we can sink our teeth into. And it’s so easy because it’s just two of us getting into a car and going to a gig. It’s really enjoyable. It’s really exciting. What’s the saying? A change is as good as a holiday. We’re both in really good bands. We pinch ourselves and say, ‘Far out, we’re lucky – people struggle to get in one and we’re in two.’
A: It is pretty cool. But as soon as this tour is finished Brooke hits the road with her sisters again and I’ll go back in the studio and finish the the AEB record. And we’ll tour those two bands, and this thing will just be sitting there waiting for a bit of window of time when neither band’s doing much.
Brooke, you said you’re lucky but one does make one’s own luck.
B: I agree. I’ve seen that the other day on Facebook – someone said you shouldn’t call it luck, you should call it bloody hard work. And I do know that. But it’s such an easy word – I need to find a new one. But you’re right – it is a lot of hard work, and everyone has the idea of wanting to become a musician, and they love the idea of it but reality is that once you get into it, it’s not for everybody – it’s really hard work. It’s a lot travelling. You miss a lot of birthdays. A lot of weddings. A lot of family events.
A: You miss a lot of money.
B: But that’s like any job when you’re starting out. If you’re good at it and work really hard, you’re all right.
Tour dates can be found on www.adamandbrookemusic.com
Adam & Brooke is out now through Lost Highway/Universal Music Australia.