By Gareth Hipwell.
Take To The Shed, Go Big With The Second Album
East Coast outfit Adam Eckersley Band occupies a very necessary, yet oft-neglected, space in the local country scene, serving up robust slabs of Southern-influenced rock, tailor-made for open-air stages, car stereos, and vintage speaker-sets alike. A phenomenally tight collective of musicians’ musicians – comprising Adam on vocals and lead guitar, Scotty Greenaway on bass, drummer Benny Elliot, “Arizona” Dan Biederman on Hammond organ and keys, and stalwart multi-instrumentalist (and much-decorated filmmaker) Duncan Toombs on guitar and banjo – AE Band delivers a rare country treat with sophomore LP The Second Album: a collection of eleven towering tracks written and recorded by a band working together as a band.
And if you’re a fan of beards, this is the band for you.
“After we put out The First Album we started to get some big shows coming in, which gave us something to rehearse for!” Adam tells me via Bluetooth. He’s on his way home from his “young fella’s” sports carnival in the Blue Mountains – Harry can be heard to fidget in the backseat, while daughter Tiggy Heart chortles from time to time over the speakerphone. “There was only really the four or us on The First Album – me, Dan, Scotty, and Benny. But then, the more gigs we got in, the more we rehearsed. We always had stuff coming up that we had to get in the shed to rehearse for, and we really needed another guitar player, so Dunc came on board. It all happened fairly naturally – we met and started jamming with Duncan at Benny’s birthday party!”
Family occupies a privileged position on The Second Album, with several tracks celebrating the quietude and gentle rhythms of domestic life – as in ‘For You’, and a soulful dedication to Tiggy in ‘Hey Little Daughter’. Adam’s wife of six years, country powerhouse Brooke McClymont, also lends vocals to a handful of cuts. With Adam and Brooke touring and recording with Tiggy and Harry in tow, and Dan celebrating the birth of a baby of his own earlier this year, family is a subject tackled with considerable reverence across the album.
“With The First Album, I had a lot of stuff I had to say from the time before I recorded it – I was drawing on experiences from my twenties, from before I had a partner and kids,” Adam tells me. “But I always try to write from a place that feels real.”
Key to the patently real quality here was the involvement of the entire band in the writing process – as Adam explains.
“We decided this time that we wanted to do the majority of the songwriting ourselves. We had the opportunity to go and do the Nashville writing thing again, but we decided, seeing as it’s basically the first record we’ve done as the full band, we wanted to do it ourselves, here at home. Nick wrote on a couple of tracks – and Bernard Fanning (Powderfinger) is on there, too.
“We never actually met him! He was in Spain and Nick sent a couple of tracks over just to get his opinion, to see if he had any ideas on them, and with one in particular, he rang up from Spain one night and I had a good half hour chat to him and he just came up with a couple of really awesome lines that ended up on the song.”
The Second Album builds on the impressive gains won by the band’s 2014 debut. The First Album cemented Adam Eckersley Band’s status as one of the nation’s premier country acts. The group snared the Golden Guitar for Best New Talent at this year’s CMAA Awards, and took out Country Work of the Year at the 2015 APRA Awards. Crowning it all, the band was selected to perform at the Global Artist Showcase in Nashville as part of this year’s CMA Fest. The festival circuit has proved fertile ground for AE Band’s evolving sound, with Adam and company thrilling crowds in Gympie, Tamworth, and beyond.
“We like to try and challenge ourselves every time we play,” Adam says. “We’ll set a few, sort of tricky things to try during the show. And if we achieve them we’ll think, well, we’ve gotta think of something else to do at the next big gig.”
To assist in the task of replicating the pounding, soaring intensity of their live act on the record, AE Band enlisted sought-after U.S. expat Nick DiDia (Kasey Chambers, Powderfinger) to produce.
“Nick mixed The First Album,” Adam tells me. “So we got to know him through that process. And it was recorded in a completely different sort of way. Whereas this one, because we’ve been a full band for eighteen months or more, we really wanted to record as a band, to get that sound. All the stuff Nick’s done, we love. A lot of it’s with bands recording as bands. Every time we spoke about how we were going to do this record his name kept coming up. We wanted him. And then it was just a matter of convincing him that he wanted to do it!”
DiDia’s recording ethos proved a perfect fit for the stage-hardened, jam-happy five-piece.
“It was awesome!” Adam says of recording at Byron Bay’s Studios 301. “We played CMC rocks QLD on the Friday night, then got in the van after the gig and drove to Byron Bay through the night, woke up early, walked in, and pretty much everything was set up already in one room. The drums were there, right next to them’s the Hammond, myself, bass – all in there together as a band. And we got stuck into it. We’d just be jamming, thinking we were only warming up, and the next thing Nick would say, okay, come into the control room. He’d just been running red the whole time! He was always working to capture the most natural take for every song.”
The growth in the band’s collective confidence is palpable across the length and breadth of this work, with extended jams and jaw-dropping solos taking pride of place on several tracks. The record’s sound is couched, as ever, in the timeless vernacular of swamp and Southern rock ‘patres familias’ from Lynyrd Skynyrd to JJ Cale, and shot through with the outlaw posturing of Charlie Daniels and Waylon Jennings. Also featured here is a string quartet.
“I gave Nick the nod for that,” Dan explains, “he wanted a string quartet, so we just do what he says! Nick came up with an idea for a part and I just fleshed it out for the quartet.”
True to form, The Second Album brims with good humour – see Adam’s take on the needless over-complication of the modern coffee order in ‘Mocha’ – and hangovers in the making, as in snarling Saturday night anthem ‘Good Night’, with its tired boots, tattered jeans, and liquor secreted in a brown paper bag. From driving rock moments, to soulful, mid-tempo reflections on life and love, to freewheeling country tunes, The Second Album is a dependably good time from start to finish.
Adam Eckersley Band are now touring nationally, with three shows slated for this year’s Gympie Muster, on 28, 29, and 30 August.