Category: drew mcalister

Interview: Drew McAlister on Mount Hunter Country Music Stampede

2018 Stampede Logo UPDATED.jpgMount Hunter Country Music Stampede takes place from Friday 12 to Sunday 14 October 2018 in the picturesque Wollondilly area of south-west Sydney. It’s a unique event that features fantastic country music artists at night – including Adam Brand, Adam Harvey, Jasmine Rae and Christie Lamb – with plenty of other activities by day. But I’ll let performer co-organiser Drew McAlister tell us more – we spoke recently about the festival, as well as about the fundraising single ‘Shout the Land a Drink’ and the latest single release from his album, Coming Your Way.

The country music audience has been expanding to accommodate new festivals such as Dashville and the Clarence Valley Country Muster – and, of course, there is now the Mount Hunter Country Music Stampede, which you are co-organising. How did you come to be involved?

A friend of mine, Mick Kearney, is the gentleman who owns this enormous equestrian centre [K Ranch] out in Monks Lane in Wollondilly, which is near Camden [NSW]. We sat down a couple of years ago and he said, ‘I want to put on a festival.’ This equestrian centre puts on everything from cutting to roping to bull rides. He had a boxing match out there recently. It’s two acres undercover with 150 horse stalls. He’s been a horse enthusiast his whole life. He has other businesses but this is his love. He competed in Texas and the venue he competed in was this enormous arena with a Western store down one end and a saloon bar down the other. So he came home and replicated that on his property. Over three years he built the exact same thing. So he said he wanted to put on this festival. We did it last year – we only had twelve weeks to put it on which, in hindsight, wasn’t long enough, but it did run like clockwork. This year we’ve had ten months and we think we’ve dotted our Ts and crossed our Is.

Is there one stage or several?

One stage, which we’re bringing in. It will be a mobile truck stage. We’ll probably only use half the arena, it’s that big. That will still fit a lot of people.

So it’s in Camden, and a lot of people live in that area.

It’s in western Sydney. It’s about seven to ten minutes’ drive from Camden to K Ranch.

Continue reading “Interview: Drew McAlister on Mount Hunter Country Music Stampede”

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.

BUY SHOUT THE LAND A DRINK ON ITUNES NOW
AND HELP THE FARMERS

http://smarturl.it/ShoutTheLandADrink

 

www.buyabale.com.au

Drew McAlister is going his way

Drew McAlister is one of the busiest songwriters in Australian country music – when he’s not writing and releasing his own music. His latest album is Coming Your Way, which is distinctively McAlister’s sound yet also takes him in a new direction – and perhaps even towards One Direction …

Congratulations on the album, I hope you are feeling justifiably proud.
Yes, absolutely – I’m stoked. I put everything into it. It feels really good.
The first single is ‘Coming Your Way’ and I detect a bit of a Highlands rock vibe in there. I know your family is Scottish in origin, so I thought I’d ask you if there is any Scottish music you love?
No, there’s not. But I love the pipes. I was trying to find a way to get pipes onto this album but it didn’t eventuate. I had a guy lined up and everything but it didn’t quite come to fruition. That song has definitely got [that vibe] and I don’t even know where it came from. I don’t really listen to Celtic stuff. But that song I wrote on my own over a couple of months and it just kind of came out. It’s not like I was listening to anything in particular at the time. I don’t know – maybe over the years it’s something that filtered in.
As you mentioned, you wrote that song on your own – and that isn’t something you do very often because you’re a very frequent collaborator with other Australian country music artists in particular. What do you love about collaboration?
I guess it’s what I’ve always done. I started out many, many years ago when I was 18, going around Sydney to every studio you could think of, writing with people, and it’s the way I started out. It seems to be the way that I get great songs. But having said that, writing this song on my own has taught me something. I think it’s going to be something that I do more often. Because I kind of surprised myself, to be honest. You can sit in a co-write and sometimes one person can put in more than the other, but generally speaking, across the board, you split it three ways because if those people weren’t in the room you wouldn’t have come up with the idea. But I think about how much I’ve contributed to songs and co-writes in the past, and in some cases it’s been a significant amount. So writing that song [‘Coming Your Way’] taught me that I might just sit down and write a few more on my own, see what I can come up with.
Given that collaboration is how you started, it’s almost as if you’ve never had a chance to explore this on your own before.
No, I’ve never really just sat and written on my own … It’s made me realise that maybe I have a bit more to say on my own than I thought.
Your name comes up so often when other artists talk about co-writes – I sometimes wonder if there’s any artist you haven’t collaborated with!
[Laughs] I’ve been signed as a writer with different publishing companies for years, so I’ve always gone out of my way to try to justify the fact that I was even signed as a writer. Getting a publishing deal back in the day was not so hard to do – a lot harder to do now because print and copyright and all that stuff, the market’s pretty much died because there’s no way to make any money out of it any more, really. It’s something I’ve always tried to justify so I’ve always worked hard writing for people. I’ve slowed down a little bit now, especially on this last album I just wrote with the people I wanted to write with and had a good track record with – guys I felt comfortable with – so I slowed down collaborating with a lot of people. But we’ll see what the future holds. The album is out now. I’ve got some more tunes in my brain and I’m sure they’ll come out at some point.
Over the years you’ve done a lot of your own stuff, whether it was with McAlister Kemp or solo. Writing songs with other people – is that almost like the day job? And then your own stuff feels different? Or is it all part of a continuum?
It’s interesting you ask that question – a day job is the way that I’ve tried to treat it. I’ve made sure in the past that I’ve locked away co-writes during the week – that way you’ve got to show up, you’ve got to write a song. Much how they do it in Nashville: guys there write five days a week, that’s their job. I’ve become good at showing up with not one idea and coming out with something [laughs] just because I had to. Just showing up and doing it, trying to treat it like a job. You’re a writer, you know that you can sit for hours and write stuff and it doesn’t mean you’re going to get paid for it but at the end of the day you do it because you love it and you hope that it transcribes into financial stuff down the track. So I have tried to treat it like a job but it does go up and down. I’ve tried to maintain that regularity – it doesn’t mean you come up with stuff all the time … But getting that album out, coming to that point, is a massive brain thing for me. So we’ve got to that point and now that’s out, there’s other stuff that goes with that that I’ve now got to work on – gigs and all that stuff. But I’ll start to get an itch back and I’ll start to write again definitely.
Someone who’s on the outside of the writing process – who perhaps wants to be a songwriter – that idea of showing up five days a week and being able to summon that creativity might seem odd. Some people might say you should wait for the muse to turn up. But are you a believer in that idea that it’s showing up that can trigger the creativity?
That’s everything. That’s everything. Showing up is everything. You just have to be in the room. You don’t know what will come. I write with Allan Caswell a lot, over the years we’ve had days where we’ll sit there for three hours and nothing comes out but at least we were there trying [laughs]. And then other days we’ve written some beautiful songs and neither of us came with an idea but on that particular day something aligned and brains were functioning a certain way and you come up with something awesome. I’m just a big believer in the idea that you can create something that didn’t exist four hours ago which could potentially move people – that is just the coolest thing ever. That never gets old to me. These little acoustic demos you do and then seeing them become full-blown songs that you then get to play in front of thousands of people – that whole little trip, it never gets old. It’s pretty cool [laughs].
And I’m guessing that the fact you think it never gets old is the reason it continues to happen for you. I can hear it in your voice- that positive energy you associate with your work keeps it flowing.
Absolutely. Even when you’re writing depressing songs where you’re laying your heart out in a room of people you don’t know that well, it’s still souls getting together creating something. That’s the most organically real part of this industry, the creation of the music. Then the performing of it, for that hour and a half on stage. They’re the two things that should never be tarnished, I don’t reckon. Those two bits are, I guess, why we keep coming back, really.
I suppose it is mysterious that you need to go through all that bit in the middle to get there, because what you’ve just described, the song creation, is you beginning to create something that will ultimately connect with an audience live or recorded, but there is that machinery in the middle that you have to go through to connect, and it does seem a little bit unwieldy.
Well, yes, it is, but this has been going on for many, many years. The music industry, that ever-changing monster. But I guess the cool thing is that whether you get paid or not, people will still create music because that is the most awesome thing ever, to be able to write songs – and write books, write, create. That’s just the most cool thing ever and there’s a whole bunch of other people out there who know that we’ll always create so they’ll money off us in some way. But if you get savvy and you work it out – and I’m starting to, in my forties – you can make money out of it and be a bit smarter about how you then deliver your creation to the world.
And it must be good, particularly for a country music artist, to have a great audience on the other side. That audience stays with artists and also stays with the genre.
Oh man, ain’t that the truth. We’re one of the only genres I know of where you still go out after a gig and meet the audience and sign stuff and talk to them. I love doing that. And country music fans, they don’t like bullshit. They are just straight to the point. If you’re going to try to piss in their pocket they know straightaway. Because they’re blue collar – they are down-to-earth humans doing their best. And I’m one of them. They are a unique genre and I love that about them. I’ve been on both sides – I was signed as a pop solo artist, years ago now, with EMI and all the crap that that entailed, there was nothing real about it. So I do love the fact that this genre gives that back to you and we try to give them that as well.
It is a relationship. And, as a I like to say, country music is our national storytelling in song, and I think the artists and the audience really know their roles in that.
Absolutely. If I look at the songs I’ve written over the years touching on certain subjects, there is the blue-collar thing in its many facets. Down-to-earth Australians who are struggling. You look at the facets that could entail, what you could write about, and there are many, many things. I try to touch on it in this new album. The more you can look into it, hardship and hope, those two words, there’s so many things that you could write about because everyone’s story is different. So I’ve got plenty more albums in me – whether I get to record them or not, we’ll see.
You mentioned that you were signed as a pop artist, and your musical abilities have tended towards the rock and pop end of country. I’m interested in which artists have been influential on you as a country music artist.
There’s a lot. Tim McGraw and Zac Brown – they’re very different. Tim McGraw doesn’t write but he picks songs for his audience that are contemporary and still saying something. You’ll always find one or two songs on a Tim McGraw album that are so beautifully crafted because he’s got the handpick o the best songwriters in Nashville. I always listen to his albums because you’ll always find a gem there. He may never play it live but you’ll be able to sit in the car and go, ‘My god – listen to this song’, and tear up or whatever. Zac Brown, for different reasons. He’s organic – he writes songs that move me. But also the way he carries himself, the way he conducts himself in this industry, he’s not doing what everybody else is doing. He’s always trying to push the boundaries. And from a Tim McGraw point of view, the production on all his albums is awesome. It’s new. It’s always fresh. There’s always something that he’s doing that’s completely fresh, because the guys who are producing his album are cutting edge. Whereas Zac Brown can have a really dry production, and a lot of money spent on it, but the lyric and the song do the job.
To come back to songwriting: it’s really hard to write a catchy song and you’re really, really good at it. I often think pop music can be underrated because the presumption is that it’s easy to write a catchy song but I reckon it’s super hard.
I’m a huge One Direction fan. I wasn’t until my girls were born but now they’re both right into One Direction. My eldest has a locket with Harry [Styles] in it – she’s eight years old. I started listening to their stuff. That pop sensibility I’ve always been big on because I’ve listened to a lot of that stuff over the years, but you listen to a One Direction song, it’s awesome. Listen to the hooks – you can’t help but sing along to that stuff. I’m not just talking vocal hooks. It’s guitar hooks, it’s the structure of the song, it’s coming back to things. I’ve tried to implement that in what I write – I’ve always tried to do that – even if it’s a lyric that’s a very moving lyric, that’s very real and honest and someone’s probably going to cry listening to it, you can still implement that stuff into a song so there are hooks in it. You’ve got to have hooks. It’s like ABC for kids – that’s why they’re written that way, so that when someone listens to it, you’ve got to be able to hum it before you can sing it, because not everyone’s going to know the lyric, so you’ve got to have that hook, and I’m always conscious of that when I’m trying to write a song.
But I do think it’s hard – it’s that musical sweet spot, and to not do it the same way over and over again is probably the hardest bit.
Well, for example, in a bunch of my songs I’ve got the ‘whoa whoa whoas’, right? Caswell hates it – he says, ‘Are we going to put another whoa-whoa in?’ But listen to a lot of country, there’s whoas in every frickin’ song – it’s just how you implement them and how you say them. When you’re singing in front of thousands of people, that’s the one thing they can always sing back. But you’ve got to make sure there’s some meat and potatoes in the rest of the song because you can’t just do a whoa-whoa-whoa song all the way through – there has to be something else under the hood.
Speaking of songs – on this album, do you have any favourites or are they all your favourites?
Oh, they all are. And if you listen to the album there’s not one that’s remotely the same as the next. I’ve definitely tried to make it an interesting album for anyone to listen to. I love them all. ‘Coming Your Way’ inspires me. ‘Kissing a Girl Goodnight’ – I didn’t write that song but I picked it because it’s beautiful and it’s also about me and about a lot of people. ‘Better Buzz’ – just for the pure fact it’s got a Stones feel to it. It’s cheeky and quite silly. ‘Time’, because I’m living that with my wife – there’s just no time left any more. You’re raising these babies. They’ve all got reasons that I love them. They’ve got their own postcode and they’re all on there for a reason.
And as you said, they are all different. While it’s definitely your sound, it’s a diverse album.
And I’ve definitely tried to do that. One song, ‘Foolin’ Around in the Summertime’, we wrote that three years ago and it just sat there. I loved it but I couldn’t figure how it was going to end up on an album, so I went back and rewrote it and tried to make it the feel that it is now, which is almost like a 60s feel in places. But I don’t know … it’s a bloody science, all this [laughs].
Of course, a crucial part of the process is your producer, and you chose Andy Mac. How did you come to select him?
I heard the McClymonts album [Endless] and he produced that. So I was listening to the production, and I knew it had to be a step up from [my] last album. I produced the last album with a friend of mind, Ben Robinson, and I knew that this had to be a step up, otherwise pack up and go home. And I needed a pop approach to my songs. So I found Andy and I called him and we chatted, and I said, ‘Here’s the budget, here’s the songs. This is all we’ve got. I’d love you to do this.’ And he definitely does more pop stuff. He said yes to it, and I was stoked. From then on we traded demos, all the demos I was doing at the time, and trying to relay the way I thought they might sound, all the structures and stops and starts, and I sent that to him and he just improved on it – he really did. Some of the songs, if you heard the original demos to what they became, they got exponentially better, so I’m so glad that he could do it.
Given that you’ve achieved a lot in your career so far – very successful years in McAlister Kemp and now solo, and you’ve won Golden Guitars and other words – is there anything you still have your sights set on?

 

I just want to keep improving, for a start. It’d be nice to win a Golden Guitar on my own [laughs] – I’ve won it with collaboration a lot. Having said that, I’m not going to write songs to win awards. The whole ARIA thing is something I’d like to achieve on my own too. You know what I want to achieve? I want to make a living. I want to make a living where I can support my family. Back in the day I wanted to be rich and famous, but that’s not something I think about any more. I just want to have a career. As humble as that may or may not be, that’s what I’m trying to do now.
Coming Your Way is out now through ABC Music/Universal.
 

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Interview: Drew McAlister

Drew McAlister had a successful solo career before becoming one half of the even more successful McAlister Kemp, with Troy Kemp. The duo’s latest album, Country Proud, has been nominated for an ARIA award and the lads are hitting the road for some gigs, including 16 November at Kedron Wavell Services Club in Queensland (with Tamara Stewart) and 24 November at the Heritage Hotel in Bulli, NSW (with Baylou). For full details, visit their website.

Recently I had the pleasure of talking to Drew about the upcoming tour, amongst other things.

I’m going to start off by saying congratulations on your ARIA nomination.
Thank you very much, we’re stoked, man, we’re so happy.
Are you going to put bets on yourself?
[Laughs] No, look, I know it’s cliché but we’re just so happy to be in the race.  We’ve got pretty stiff competition in there and we’re the new kids on the block but it’s good to be in there, and we’re just going to go and enjoy the night and – yeah, it should be fun.
It’s great to have a country music category in the ARIAs but it makes me think, yeah, there are so many fantastic albums that have been out this year and – we really do need the Golden Guitars so that everyone gets a go in more than one category.
Yeah, exactly.  The country category in the ARIAs is like the fine arts  it’s not as popular, I suppose, as the pop rock stuff but, yeah, the Golden Guitars serve that purpose, they give everyone a chance to really be recognised and for all the hard work that people have done all year.  And it’s great, it’s our awards night, it’s been going for forty years, so it’s really cool.
You guys have at least one, don’t you?
We’ve got one – I actually won one a couple of years before that with Allan Caswell but together as an act, we’ve got one.  So we’re hoping that we get a few nominations and that we might get another one, we’ll see how we go.
I think you’re a very good shot to get nominations in the Golden Guitars, so you could bet on yourself for that one.  Have you just played the Deni Ute Muster?
Yeah, we just did Deni – yeah, last week, yep.
And how did that go?
Oh, it was fantastic. It’s one of those things that you fly in and fly out, but the weather was perfect, [we had] really good crowds.  They’ve just built this brand new stage, so the stage which was originally there, that’s now moved somewhere else and then they’ve built this massive stage. It’s probably not as big as CMC in the Hunter but it’s close – it’s really big.  So that was really cool to play on and the numbers were really good and by all accounts it went fantastically well.
That would obviously have been a full band gig?
That was the whole circus, yep.  Well, we don’t take our keyboard player on every gig but those bigger ones he comes along as well, so that was all of us, yeah.
Because this year, you’ve been doing a couple – well, more than a couple, a few gigs as a duo and then a few on the road – so the ones you’re about to embark on, are they full band or duo?
Troy and I have got some acoustic things and then we’ve got this cruise thing, which is just Troy and I, using the in-house band with lots of other country acts. So it’s bits and pieces, but as much as we can we prefer to do the full band gigs.  But, I guess, the beauty of doing the acoustic thing is it’s completely different to the big band live show and it’s more personal and we get to play songs that we don’t normally play and mix it up a bit.
For the songs that you do normally play with your full band, when you’re playing them as a duo, is there quite a bit of adjustment required or do you find that the two of you have been playing together for so long, that you have it worked out already?
No, it’s fine because – I mean, all these songs were written on acoustic guitar, so we’re just playing it in the natural format that they were written on.  And we’re also figuring out the idea of getting maybe a drummer.  Just using some sort of percussion instrument with this as well, maybe a kick drum or something like that, just to get that back beat a bit of a push. Through the right sound system, it actually sounds pretty big – not as big as a band, but pretty big.
That doesn’t surprise me, because you’ve both got big strong voices, so I would think that, if anything, it’s probably that mix of getting the guitar with the voice right, because your voices are confident and experienced, so your poor little guitars might struggle to keep up.
Troy and I played in pubs solo for years, so we’ve done that grind where you’ve got to get up in front of a whole bunch of people and – and they’re pretty honest, if they don’t like you, you don’t come back. So the two of us having done that, when we get together, it’s a pretty formidable sound. Troy plays great lead guitar, I’m a bit more of a rhythm strummer, so between the two of us, it belts out a pretty good sound.
Now you’ve had an interesting career path, in that you were a solo artist and, no doubt, still do a lot of solo stuff.  But you chose to be in a duo and some solo artists would go into a band or they’d front a band, but it’s quite unusual to go into a duo.  So I was just wondering what being in the duo does for you as a songwriter and a performer that you didn’t have when you were on your own?
I think the major difference is from a live point of view, because when you’re doing solos, it’s a very different dynamic; there’s a lot more pressure to carry the show and trying to go out there on your own.  But with the duo, you’re both having fun and if one guy forgets the lyrics and the other guy – well, you hope remembers. So together, I think, it’s definitely stronger. As far as songwriting and all that goes, it’s not a huge transition because Troy and I write together and we write for other different people and it’s something – we meet in the middle.  You know, in any working relationship there’s compromise, but we’ve been doing it for four years now together and we’re still keeping it afloat. The transition I found to be, probably, an enjoyable one, from solo to a duo.  And I would certainly say that my live performances has got better since – since we’ve been doing this, a lot better, I was never that animated on stage, so I think it’s been really good.
Are you one of those performers who gets really nervous before a gig?
 I used to get really nervous – sickeningly nervous and I’d get a rash all up my neck and my face and then I’d have to go on stage looking like a beetroot. But not so much now. It’s funny, we went on at Deni and we were playing in front of 10 000-plus people. I guess because we’ve done so many gigs now, we know exactly what we’re doing, [so] most of the time, I think I don’t get as nervous.  There’s certainly a few butterflies but not sickeningly nervous, where it can actually destroy your performance [laughs].
And when you say 10 000 people, I mean, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to walk out on a stage with that many people. Is there a point where you just think, I’m just going to look at the first few rows and pretend it’s not 10 000 people?
No, actually, for me – and I think Troy’s a bit the same – when more people are in the room, the better it is and the easier it is to play. If there’s two people in a room, that’s nervewracking for me and I don’t know why that is, I guess because it’s so intimate, but with a lot of people in the one room, all that energy and people screaming and having a good time – it’s a lot easier to do, I think.
 I think that is – and you said it, energy – I think it’s the amount of energy you get back as performers.  Because it takes a lot out of a person to perform, whether it’s for five songs or fifteen, and the more people who are there giving it back to you in a positive way, the less to depleting to yourself.
Exactly, I mean, there’s nothing better on the planet, besides the birth of my children, than all these people singing the words back to a song that you wrote – it doesn’t get any better than that, it’s incredible.
Well – and it must be, as songwriters. And my next question was going to be about song writing, so I’ll go with it. Because you write most of your most songs, either with Troy or on your own, with other people but when you have someone else’s song altogether, like the John Walker song that’s on your album, I was just wondering, do they still feel like yours when you perform them or is there a different process to make them feel like yours?
No, I think they still feel like ours. Even with the first album we released, ‘Blue Collar Nigh’t is the very first single while we were writing the rest of the album.  That was recorded by a guy named Brad Cotter and in Nashville, Jeffrey Steele and another guy, so it’s a quality song – same with the John Walker song, and because you do your vocal on it, you kind of make it your own anyway, so it doesn’t feel to me like we didn’t write it, even though we didn’t.  It just feels natural and it’s our song now.
You had Matt Fell producing this album and he’s produced a lot of albums.  So you would obviously trust his taste. But I’m just wondering whether you bring a whole lot of songs into the room and if you and Troy are arguing over something, does Matt decide? What’s that song selection process like for an album?
Well, the song selection – we decided on the second album that when we were over in Nashville and here, that we would only send songs we were prepared to record and we felt would represent our career in the best way. So then you basically hand it over to A&R and management and the producer, and all four or five of us sit down and go, okay, let’s try and strike out a list. And I think by Troy and I saying, well, we love all the songs that we’ve given you, it makes it a lot easier for us to go and record the end result.
In recording the end result, do you have a little thumb wrestle over who sings what?
We work that out as we go. Some of it is established in the writing process. I predominantly sing a little bit more on the first album than Troy did, I think, even on the second album.  But it just depends on – when you’re writing the song, who’s got to write in the melody, I guess.  But we both agreed that on this third album, we both want to be singing more constantly, I suppose, on all the songs.  I generally tend to take the chorus, Troy will generally tend to take the verse because he’s got a lower voice and I’ve got a bit higher voice.  But we just mix it up, try and sing more – I mean, if you’ve ever listened to Big & Rich, if you hear how they sing a song, most of the time they’re pretty well singing in harmony to each other and they’re mixed very evenly.  So this is what we’re going to be shooting for on the third album, I think.
And that’s also how you perform, right –f rom what I’ve seen, just of the odd clip, it sounds like your mic levels are identical, regardless of who’s singing harmonies and who’s singing lead.
Yeah, yeah.  I mean, in a live situation, if it’s blatantly obvious on the album track, when I’m singing lead, I try and sit back a little bit, but Troy’s got the lead and he does the same – but in the choruses we’re both belting it out as much as possible and as I said, if we could take a leaf out of Big & Rich’s book, we’d like to be mixed more evenly the next time around.
So you’re talking about this third album, when are you planning to record that?
We had a meeting yesterday, actually and we’re expecting we’ll be going to Nashville two or three months into next year and that will coincide with another tour, so until that tour is confirmed then we don’t really know when we’re going, but we’d like to get it in the can by halfway through next year. That’s the plan, anyway.
I’m sure some people are curious as to why Australian country music artists – they know why they want to go to Nashville, but why they would record in Nashville as opposed to here. Is that  because of who your producer is, that the situation’s better there?
We had the choice on the second album about whether we wanted to go to Nashville and record and we both chose to stay here and do it with Matt.  But the third time around, we are going to go to the States, just because, one, we’ve never done it – recorded an album there – and two, our sound is developing in a way that we want it to be much bigger – much bigger than either album  so that will enable us to be able to go up there and record it relatively quickly with state-of-the-art stuff and with the best players on the planet.  It will be interesting because we’ve never done it before, I think Troy’s recorded a few songs over there but I’ve never been over to record songs.  
By ‘bigger’ do you mean going for that big – well, you said Big & Rich, but the Brad Paisley, Keith Urban sound – that robustly commercial sound? And I say ‘commercial’ without that being a bad thing.
Yeah, yeah – definitely that – sounding a bit more like, let’s say, Rascal Flatts and Jason Aldean and Keith Urban, I guess.  So that’s kind of where we’re headed, in that genre, and that’s the stuff that we listen to, so it seems like a normal progression to try and get that kind of sound with the producer over there.  You know, bottom line is we’ve still got to like the songs that we write and they’re not so much like Rascal Flatts and they’re not so much like Keith Urban, so that will have to be the point of difference. We’re still going to write the songs that we write for this country and for our fan base and it will just sound a bit bigger.
 Do you write when you have a deadline, when you know there’s an album coming up, or do you tend to just keep writing along the way?
Well, I’m always writing, mostly with other people, but when we’ve got some time, then we knuckle down together and we [say] okay, we’ve got this amount of time to actually do it and get a list of cracker songs, but then I tend not to write with other people so much and try and focus my energy on McAlister Kemp stuff.
The two of you together, this has been a really successful ride, at least from my point of view – the first album came out and you’ve been working steadily, touring, releasing a second album, you’ve got a great amount of attention for it, Saturday Night Country and things like that.  So, obviously, you’re working musicians – would you recommend that life to people?
Not the twenty years before this [laughs].
[Laughs] Yeah, right, well, that’s the story, isn’t it?
Yeah, yeah. No, look, it’s not an issue – looking at plenty of jobs out there – but we are shift workers essentially and it’s a hard life too so would I recommend my girls do it, no. I’d push them to do something else [laughs].  No, the rewards are – and the feeling of writing songs and recording them and hearing people sing them back, there’s nothing like it. If I could’ve done that from the very, very first time I started out in music and had that reward then, maybe I’d think differently.  But that’s life and we’re having a blast now and we’re excited about the future, lots to come.
Well, as you should be. But just back on the twenty years before that you mentioned – you know, this is a big part of the story for any creative person or any artist working, whether it’s music or painting or whatever. What drives you in that time – is it the songwriting, is it the performing, is it just that feeling that you need to be doing this, that you’re prepared to make those sacrifices?
Songwriting, for me anyway, has been something that I’ve always been passionate about and I will continue to write no matter what happens.  I’ve written for many years and not made a lot of money out of it, but it’s very satisfying to somehow create something that didn’t exist yesterday, you know, and have someone record it, it’s pretty cool.  But – yeah, it’s twenty years of doing cover gigs stuff, I mean – I guess, one, we don’t do anything else and we’ve done odd jobs over the years, mostly with music – that was one thing we were good at.  But it’s the love of the song, I suppose, there’s no way to describe it.  We could have gone and done something else and probably been more miserable, you know? So music was the obvious fit, I guess.
It’s fantastic, it’s always really inspiring to hear these sorts of stories, because a lot of people will have a dream and not realise how much work actually goes into making it come true, and I think when we hear you and people like you talking about it – no one ever says ‘overnight success’ but it can look like, oh, it’s just been the last couple of years. But, really, it’s many years of work.
Yeah, yeah, it is.  And we’re not unique, by any means; there’s lots of people out there who are working in all different sorts of businesses, who’ve worked hard to get to a place where they feel they’re successful – imagine being some of those people who go into the Olympics – they train for years and years and – you know, four years between your next gig and imagine the pressure, you know.  So we really can’t complain, we’re pretty lucky, we’ve got healthy families and at this point in our career, for whatever reason, things seem to be starting to happen so we’ll just run with it.
So you’re ending off the year with a few dates and then presumably you’re having a little rest before Tamworth?
Yes, we have a little rest and then we’ve got two shows booked in at the moment for Tamworth.  We’ve got our normal Blazes gig on the Thursday of the second week, it’s five o’clock. And there’s another one lined up.
Blazes is a great gig for people to go to. So it seems like everything is – not falling into place, I won’t say, because you’ve worked to get it in place, but it seems like you guys are at a really great spot in your careers.
We are, it’s pretty cool.  I mean, right now is when you want to keep the train on the track and actually see the fruits of it, and right now is a pretty important time, and the third album, I think, is as important as the first two because you’ve got to go one better.  And you’ve got to keep the fans that have supported you and try and make new ones.  But we’re in a pretty good spot and we’re both feeling pretty good about things and we’ve got a great record company that seems to be really, really behind us, so we’ll just keep trying to kick some goals.
I suppose on the other side of that is you do have to keep on going, you can’t really have a rest or a break, but it does sound like you’re enjoying it.
Yeah, definitely.  And we wouldn’t want to stop; we prefer to be out there on our own, doing our thing, writing songs, and too much time on our hands is not good, I don’t think, certainly not for me [laughs].
Then you’re in a very good job.
[Laughs] Thank you.