How To Avoid The "Watering Down" Of Music In The Mainstream Scene

29 October 2015 | 3:05 pm | Chris Familton

"I do spend time in both scenes and there's a lot of good music coming out of both but I do get more excited about the Americana scene."

Lachlan Bryan's new album The Mountain is a noticeable shift in both sound and the way he approaches the subject matter of his songs. A regular visitor to the USA, Bryan has soaked up the influences and musical culture of the South and with the combined input of his band they've added a new depth and stylistic range to their music. With the album now released, Bryan is excited about people hearing and hopefully enjoying it.

"I listen to a lot of Van Morrison, Ray Charles and others so I have loftier ideas than keeping it strictly country music."

"We didn't finish it that long ago so it's not really a case of finishing a record and having months and months to wait, building up the suspense of getting tired of waiting. It's still pretty new to me so I feel happy about it and ready for it to come out. When you make your first album you tend to play all your songs for ages and then you record them. Somewhere along the line the cycle switches and so with this one we've not had much of a chance to play them live other than me playing them at a few songwriter nights."

The increased input from The Wildes in the writing and arranging of the new album has made for a more diverse collection of songs and though a conscious decision was made to widen the boundaries it was still a very natural process.

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"It came out pretty organically. You're always a product of what you're listening to. I keep going back to the same artists and much of what I listen to has its roots in the 1970s. The songs on our previous album were written really quickly and designed to be performed by a four-piece band and cut live in the studio. With this one we had some bigger arrangements in mind. I listen to a lot of Van Morrison, Ray Charles and others so I have loftier ideas than keeping it strictly country music. As a band we're quite diverse in what we listen to. I'm the most into Americana stuff, our bass player is a rock guy, our new guitarist is across a lot of different music and our drummer is a jazz guy so there were a lot of different influences on this collaborative record. In the past my influence has been really strong and this time I've had quite a bit of input from everyone else which has been great and made it more fun to do," Bryan enthuses.

Fun aside, there is a greater focus on dark and personally heartfelt subject matter on The Mountain. To pinpoint how that came to be, Bryan casts his mind back to his high school years and how Tom Waits was responsible for shaping his songwriting style.

"I first got into music because of Tom Waits. I had an English teacher who gave me a cassette with all of Bone Machine and some early years Tom Waits. I couldn't reconcile how the same artist could do both those things but I found them just as interesting as each other. I found that you could write songs that weren't just personal love songs, you could write about characters and I was determined that I wouldn't write from my own point of view too much. It's only been recently that I've been able to write more from my own perspective and put my own experiences in the songs. This album is definitely the first time that I've made it really personal," confesses Bryan.

Though country music in Australia is dominated by the commercial world of pop country and exhausted cliches, there has been a recent groundswell of activity and popularity in the alt-country genre. Bryan holds a fairly unique position by being involved in both scenes and though many are drawn to one or the other Bryan finds value in all areas of the genre.

"My take is that I want good music to have as much of an audience as it can. It's a large market for mainstream country music but my experience is that an audience likes the music that is brought to them. If you go to regional towns and play and do a good show then they don't really mind whether you sound like Lee Kernaghan or Emma Swift, they're just receptive to music. I like that a lot of the musicians in the mainstream scene are very, very good but I also dislike the focus on the watering down of the music. I think in the alt-country world you can also only judge the artist based on their performance and the songs. I do spend time in both scenes and there's a lot of good music coming out of both but I do get more excited about the Americana scene, just because it is more aligned with the music that got me into country music. There is a bit of a divide between the two scenes but I don't think it's really coming from the musicians themselves. In Australia people like Catherine Britt and Harmony James are pushing the boundary between the two scenes and my main thing is to not be too prejudiced either way."