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'This Was The Album I Was Meant To Make' Admits Clayton Doley

19 August 2015 | 3:59 pm | Michael Smith

"I feel I've come full circle."

"I was on tour with Harry Manx in Canada," keyboards player Clayton Doley explains the journey that he took to record his latest album, Bayou Billabong, "and the record had been in the back of my mind for a long time and I just happened to be in that part of the world and saw this opening in Harry's schedule — there were two weeks off where I thought I should probably try and make this happen, jump on this opportunity and go down to New Orleans, call up the guys, see if they're around, find a studio and make it all happen."

Luckily, "the guys" — past and present members of Jon Cleary's band, The Absolute Monster Gentlemen — were around and became the album's rhythm section. They got the record down in a day.

"When you write songs you just write about your own experiences, and my experiences are always Australian experiences pretty much. "

"And actually that night the drummer told me about this horn section that he was gonna go play with and so I went down, saw his gig and it ended up being Corey Henry from Galactic, so I basically booked him on the spot, said, 'Can you come in tomorrow and do a horn session?' Then I had to go back on tour and didn't really touch it for months after that, but I sort of knew I had something good."

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Back home in Sydney, he decided it would be nice to get the three singers — Mahalia Barnes, Jade MacRae and Juanita Tippins — who had performed with him and his brother Lachlan in The Hands as The Clay-Tones and featured on his 2004 Live And Breathe album, back together for the record.

For all the nodding to the jazz/blues/funk gumbo that is New Orleans music, the album title — Bayou Billabong — makes it clear this is an Australian album.

"It's sort of inevitable of course but when you write songs you just write about your own experiences, and my experiences are always Australian experiences pretty much. Hopefully it's got the best elements of the Australian [music] and the music I've been a student of my whole life, all the New Orleans and American blues.

"I feel like this is my best work. I've loved the New Orleans piano style and all that for so long — and this is the first time that I've done it — I feel like this is really almost like I've come full circle 'cause I started listening to that when I was first learning to play Professor Longhair and James Booker and those sorts of guys, Jon Cleary as well, and now I feel I was ready and good enough to do it and put it down on a recording. So I feel I've come full circle and this is the album I was meant to make, if that makes sense. I had to go through a few experiences and doing a few gigs in New Orleans probably helped."