INTERVIEW: The McClymonts announce One Acoustic Night tour
The McClymonts - sisters Brooke, Mollie and Sam - are Australia’s most successful and beloved country group. Since the release of their first EP in 2006, they have scored 4 number one albums on the country charts, 22 number one singles, won two ARIA Awards and been awarded Global Artist of the Year by the US Country Music Association. On top of all this they have also won a staggering 13 Golden Guitar Awards.
They have recently announced the One Acoustic Night tour which will see them travel across the east coast of Australia performing stripped back, acoustic versions of their biggest hits. “It’s been five years since we’ve done an acoustic tour,” says Sam. “We’re looking forward to taking the songs back to where they started, as ideas on acoustic guitars and bringing a different level of intimacy between the audience and us.”
We recently sat down with the three McClymonts to talk about not just the upcoming tour but also their incredible career, gender equality and sexism and their future plans.
I’m going to kick things off with the big one, I’m just going to throw it out there. Thirteen Golden Guitar awards. Now that is very impressive. How does that feel?
Mollie: It feels pretty good because they are very hard to get. Even though it sounds like we've got a lot, they're still really really hard to get.
Brooke: So, every time you get to nab one it's amazing.
Sam: We remember when we were first going to the awards before we even sang, we used to sit at our accommodation and listen to the awards on the radio. So, that's what's kind of crazy.
You mentioned Mollie it is a hard thing to win. Particularly can I say, for women. Country music is a very heavily male dominated area.
Sam: It is. In America it is.
Mollie: I think in Australia women are given more of a go and they're more dominant in the industry over here. They are equal in Australia which is nice.
Brooke: We've been really lucky to get through. I put it down to just if you're good, whether you're a male or female, you're going to rise to the top at any point. And I think too, it's also having a great team. We've had a great team around us and our work ethic has always been ‘okay, this is a job now. It's a career.’
Who were your country music heroes growing up?
Brooke: Shania Twain, Faith Hill, the Judds, the Eagles.
Sam: Dixie Chicks.
Brooke: Trisha Yearwood.
Mollie: Dolly. We listened to so much music, it's insane.
Brooke: Oh god, the list goes on forever.
Who did you pretend to be when you were little girls all growing up and singing together?
Brooke: No one really.
Sam: We were those girls who literally sang into our bedroom mirrors though. If you walked in on us, we would be singing, lip syncing in front of the mirror. Like we thought we were awesome! We’d sing to anyone, we'd bring out cassette tapes and just sing along.
Your single last year, ‘Like We Used To’, it's so much fun and the video is stunning, three of you rolling around the back of a ute having a great time. It feels to me like a clearer, mature, I’m almost going to say a punchier sound from your original work. Do you feel that's come from how you've come in your lives?
Brooke: Yeah, I think we kind of like to go with the times of what's happening in music. You've got to be versatile and you’ve got to kind of change and keep up with that’s happening in music. We're working with really great producers as well that are great at their job, that can also keep us going with the times. It's always going to be our voices. We're never going to change our sound. The three of us girls are always going to sound like The McClymonts. That’s our thing.
Mollie: Bringing something new. You want the producers to bring something new and fresh to our songs that we write.
Brooke: And keep us hip to the hobby!
Mollie: Which by saying that doesn’t keep us hip!
Brooke: I’m such a nerd.
You are all equally talented solo performers as well as being three sisters in a band. How did you decide to bring it together?
Sam: It was natural really. Brooke is five years older and she just always started singing and writing music before Mollie and I, so she was always on this musical path I guess you could say. Then Mollie and I came along and were always just singing harmonies. We were big on the talent quest scene growing up, weekend to weekend, and we started doing group sections. And that’s what became our thing.
Brooke: Just to win more trophies ha ha! But every time the three of us sang it was the biggest response from people. At the time I don't think we really thought much of it because it was just what we did. Then as we got older, Lee Kernaghan heard us and asked us to join his tour.
Sam: It was a natural progression, we were doing it together and that's what seemed to feel good as well. It just felt right. And then Universal saw us perform at the Gympie Muster and said when you're all finished school we'd like to do something together.
Mollie: And it wasn't even like ‘do we want to do this as our job?’ It was just like ‘Oh they want to sign us, okay no worries.’ We’ll go on tour, we'll do an album. We'll go to Nashville. As soon as we hit the road with Lee Kernaghan we went ‘this is it. This is what we're doing.’ Sam was going to university at that point and thought ‘well I better pull out.’
Sam: I didn't even do the first term exams. 'I was like ‘what’s the point? I’ll be a country rock star.’ Ha ha!
Country music is bigger than ever, but much like pop music, it used to be everyone's dirty secret. You know we'd all be like ‘oh I've just been listening to this amazing Indie release’, but really Kylie’s on
Brooke: Seriously, it's always been like that and I kind of think that's pretty cool. We've always loved it. Really whether we've been criticised or teased, we’ve kind of gone ‘whatever, we love it.’ And we've stood staunch with it.
Sam: We got that country label when we first came out. I think if we released music for the first time now, we wouldn't have been labelled so country, we might just be women in music. We might've even got further quicker if we released today. We did get that country label but we always had modern songs and crossover radio wouldn't play them because we were country and had maybe a bit of banjo and fiddle. And now Katy Perry’s got banjo and Lily Allen’s got banjo and fiddle and back then we weren't allowed to be played. Now you’ve got a lot of country artists being played on crossover radio, which is cool.
What I’m seeing is the change in that storytelling element. Because we're all working so hard and doing all our things now, we're missing that storytelling, the lyric - and that's country music.
Sam: Totally, definitely.
Brooke: And that's what pop music does miss a bit because it's just about the melody and driving and get up and dancing or whatever it is, whereas country music is something where you stop and you have to listen. It’s beautiful.
Mollie: It's a feeling.
Sam: Even if it isn't an upbeat party song, it's still a party you've been too, or you’ve been a part of.
That's very evident in ‘Don't Push It All Away’, which I'm sure has a lot of people crying in their cars.
Sam: Oh, when we sing that on stage, I have to not look at certain people because they're crying and that’ll make me cry. So I’m like, ‘okay, don't look at that person on the left or the right.’
Mollie: Yeah, they've really got their own story in it I guess.
You just said there are certain people you don't want to look at in the audience when you play that song, you've got a whole acoustic tour coming up, so there's going to be a lot of eye contact!
Mollie: It is going to be more stripped back, so it’s going to be more intense.
Sam: And not just storytelling in the songs but banter as well with an acoustic tour.
Brooke: It's exciting because a lot of our fans say they never get to hear our vocals, so hopefully on this tour, they're going to. It's just the three vocals accompanied by a few instruments. So we're going to have to be on our game girls!
Working as a trio, what is the creative song writing process? What does that look like?
Sam: Yeah, we're not very much like ‘I’ll call you up, hey, I've got an idea let's workshop it.’ We're more like, let's book time together. Let’s get babysitters, so we can focus and have days.
Brooke: I do a bit of prep before that, so I'm already thinking. I get the ball rolling and stuff and the girls come in with their magic and we all write the song together and it goes from there.
Mollie: We're not sitting up at 1 in the morning singing into our phones!
Aside from each other, you've collaborated with some great artists. Can I just say Ronan Keating ‘Islands in the Stream’?!
Brooke: You know what, we never actually sang with him! We were in Nashville at the time and he was in Sydney, so we never actually got to sing with him. And then he sang on our album - he sang in Perth and we had already done ours, so we've actually never recorded together.
Mollie: A bit like Beyoncé doing The Lion King she didn't get to sing with the rest of the cast. She did her bit and then they all did it together.
Sam: So, you’re saying we’re Beyoncé?
Brooke: No, Ronan’s the Beyoncé ha ha!
And if you could collaborate with someone, even outside the country box for one stupendous song, who would you choose?
Brooke: Shania, Shania’s amazing
Sam: What about the Eagles? Imagine how many voices that would be!
Brooke: I'd be adding in Keith Urban.
Mollie: And Maren Morris
So on your One Acoustic Night tour what is the one song that you're really looking forward to performing?
Brooke: They've all got their own special, unique moment I think. There’s a definite favourite as such. I love the fact that we’ve got 5 albums and an EP to choose from.
Sam: Fan favourites are definitely ‘Kick It Up’ which will be stripped back and actually fun to sing. That is definitely the fan favourite. ‘Don't Push It All Away’ and ‘Forever Begins Tonight’ – that’s the wedding song and people just connect to it because they've either had a wedding or they've been to a wedding it's been playing at so they connect and sing the lyrics back. There’s a few.
Mollie: We just saw a guy this morning at one of our events and he's got lyrics to ‘Forever Begins Tonight’ tattooed on his arm!
Now this is the big Women in Pop question, your thoughts on gender equality particularly in the music industry. How have you found it in the country music scene, and do you think it's different as opposed to the mainstream pop music scene?
Sam: I think it's not when you're in front of the fans. They don't necessarily judge if you're a woman or a man. I think sometimes it was a little behind the scenes. Like walking into a boardroom and like ‘hey, can we do some business?’ And you're three sisters, three young women. It was hard to get taken seriously.
Brooke: But we stuck at it.
Sam: Or if you want to say no, you come across as a bitch. That's always been hard.
Mollie: A man can just say no and they don't get backlash for it, but I've found for us it's been tough. We've had some moments where we walk away going ‘it's because we're women.’
Brooke: As an overall thought it's like I said earlier on in the piece. If you're good, whether you're a male or a female, you will be great. You will get through it.
Sam: I feel we’ve been lucky too because we’re sisters and we’ve had each other to push through all of that as well.
Brooke: I do look at the solo female artists and it must be tough to make decisions. Whereas us three can bounce it off each other. It's nice to have.
Sam: If someone wanted us to sing a song and we weren't really feeling it, there were three of us to go ‘no we really don't believe in that song, I don’t want to do it’. Whereas I think if you were on your own you could easily get swayed, told what to do.
Mollie: I do think people do get a bit intimidated if it's three strong women.
Brooke: And us having opinions because we feel very confident with the three of us together, so when we go in, we are confident.
Sam: I think it's growing up and getting old and knowing our worth as well. I’m a mum now, I pick and choose and I know my value and I know my worth and I know what I deserve and it's okay to say no and to walk away.
Brooke: We used to think if we say no we won't get the opportunity now whereas it’s like, you know what, we're great. If they want us, they'll come to the table.
That's beautiful. Like we were talking about with the way your music is sounding at the moment - you're yourselves but you're clearer and stronger.
Brooke: Yeah and I think it's experience. That's learning and that is growing stronger as a team. Behind the scenes, not just singing but just going ‘no we're good’. Like Sam said, knowing our worth.
One last question. Aside from this beautiful acoustic tour you have coming up, what is on the horizon collectively for the three of you?
Mollie: New music.
Brooke: Yeah, new music definitely.
Sam: It's taking a bit longer than we would have liked. I’ve had a baby. I don't know if you know but Brooke's having another baby.
Mollie: We've nearly got all the songs though. We've literally got to write probably three more and the album’s done.
Brooke: Which we're really excited for everyone to hear about. It's going to be amazing.
The McClymonts “One Acoustic Night” 2019 Tour
Tickets on-sale now from www.themcclymonts.net.au/tours or contact the venues
Thursday October 31: Grafton, NSW, Saraton Theatre
Friday November 1: Laurieton, NSW, United Services Club
Saturday November 2: Armidale, NSW, Ex Services Club
Friday November 15: Mulgrave, VIC, Village Green Hotel
Saturday November 16: Wonthaggi, VIC, Workmens Club
Friday November 29: Dubbo, NSW, Dubbo RSL Memorial Club
Saturday November 30: Wentworthville, NSW, Wenty Leagues Club
Friday, December 6: Young, NSW, Young Services Club
Saturday December 7: Bargo, NSW, Bargo Sports Club, (02) 4684 1222
Upcoming Festival Appearances: