The Teskey Brothers: ‘Oh My God! Since When Did We Start Playing Stadiums!?’

20 June 2024 | 1:55 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

Ahead of The Teskey Brothers’ national run with A Day On The Green, Sam Teskey shares his tips for staying “sane on the road” while touring with the fam (kids included), and fellow muso sightings in Nashville.

The Teskey Brothers

The Teskey Brothers (Credit: Ian Laidlaw)

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“We rolled into Vancouver [for our gig] yesterday and it was almost like a stadium, it was huge!” Sam Teskey of The Teskey Brothers marvels, wide-eyed, via Zoom. “We were just like, ‘Oh my God! Since when did we start playing stadiums!?’ It's a bit of a shock. We've only been to Vancouver once before, eight months ago, and it was a much smaller venue then, but it was sold out. And so now we had to experiment with a bigger venue and, yeah! It's a bit mind-blowing, really.”

So where is said tour bus currently parked? “In Edmonton, Canada. It's beautiful here,” he enthuses. “It's cold and it doesn't really get dark all that much, which we've been noticing the more north we get. It stays light for a long time, because it's full summer at the moment. But we're off to Nashville tomorrow. We’re heading there for a big festival outside of Nashville called Bonnaroo. I'm excited to get back there. Love that city.

“When we were there for three months last year, every Tuesday night we'd go honky-tonk dancing at the American Legion [Post 82]. They do some really good traditional two-step dancing – not so much line dancing, but the good country two-step – and we seem to always bump into a whole bunch of Aussie acts at that place, including Sierra Ferrell [one of the ace supports on The Teskey Brothers’ upcoming A Day On The Green tour, which is rounded out by Band Of Horses, Irish singer-songwriter CMAT (who’ll be making her Australian debut) and Charlie Needs Braces].

“[Sierra] goes there a bit – she's not Aussie, of course, but that's just where all the musicians kinda go, which is really cool. And who did we see the last time we were there? God, her name's just slipped my mind. Anyway, it'll come to me... [Straight after our interview, Teskey’s publicist passed on that Julia Jacklin was the name that escaped him].

“A great Australian artist we also saw out there is Archer, he's really cool. And I saw him on the dancefloor. You bump into all sorts of musicians from all over the world in Nashville, they all come to that little hub and it's great, great fun. So I'm looking forward to getting back there and catching up with a lot of the local friends we’ve made.

“As far as hooking up writing sessions with other people, I had actually organised something with a band called The Cordovas – they're a great folk-country act, a great bunch of musicians – and I caught up with them last time. We did a whole bunch of songwriting together and we were gonna catch up this time, but unfortunately – as it always goes with musicians – you're always like ships [that pass] in the night, you know? You just miss ‘em. I fly there tomorrow and I think they leave tomorrow,” he laments, chuckling. “So I'll just be finding the dancing spots and getting that happening.”

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The Teskey Brothers have been busy taking over the world of late, basing themselves overseas to tour extensively around Europe, the UK and North America, where their musical roots run particularly deep. Let’s face it, if a Teskey Brothers track popped up on shuffle between Otis Redding and The Allman Brothers Band, their authentic, soulful, bluesy sound – often resplendent with Hammond and horns – would slot right in.

“It's funny, you find – state to state – it’s very different over here,” Teskey shares. “So you see people react to songs very differently, and I put that down to [local radio stations] playing certain songs. I guess it comes from independent radio being so big; every state has its own independent radio station and that's how you hit the radio market here in America.

“But one thing I can say that I think the States really love, is there's obviously a massive, massive culture – which you don’t get as much down in Australia – of this very progressive, deadhead – these bands that had this really long-winded, sometimes fully instrumental music that just, you know, give a sort of energy. So you definitely feel it when we go into some of those sections in our set, where we string everything out and start to get a bit jammy; you can feel the excitement build in a certain way in the audiences here in America, maybe more so than in Australia.

“I guess having The Allman Brothers being so big [in the States], there's a certain response. And then that also goes for the soul side of things as well. There's a certain response to soul music and the way Josh sings that we don't get as much of in Australia, or maybe it's just the response is more loudly spoken here in America… So it's been fun, a good little tour.”

The sibling duo takes their families on tour – a partner plus two young children apiece. Josh’s family bagsed “the other end of the bus”, but Sam beams, “I'm lucky! They wanted to have the kitchen, so they said I get to have the double bed and the good room up the back.”

We’re hoping Teskey can share some tips for fellow musos who might feel hesitant to bring their families on tour. “I think every family’s different,” Teskey posits. “Even my family, as opposed to Josh's family – our needs are vastly different. So you've got to set yourself up in a way that works for you. Last year we toured overseas for nine months and six months of that was in Europe, so we set up camp somewhere and then we'd only gig on the weekends. So we'd go do two or three shows a week – just over the weekend – and then fly home. We set up a base camp somewhere.

“If you manage well on a tour bus, I think that’s the best way to do it because the kids have their solid home; they've always got the same bed. I find with my kids, as soon as you go somewhere else – to a different hotel, or a different room – they don't sleep as well. But because we're in the same spot every night, they've always got a place to nap.

“Touring on a bus has to be the easiest way to do it. That means you can also do more shows, so it's more cost-effective, essentially, even though it might seem like a big outlay to get that bus to start with. And we've got a second bus for all the crew, so we don't have to bother them with the kids – they need their space, too. I'm a very homey sort of person. So wherever I go I like to set up my little home, my little space – I'm well into that.

“I brought my linen sheets with me this time as well, ‘cause the sheets are not so nice here in America usually. At home I've always got nice French flax linen sheets – once you go flax linen, you can't go back [laughs]. So the benefit of being on a tour bus is you can bring all your homey things with you and so when you go to bed at night you feel at home. So, yeah, it’s these little luxuries that I love.”

When it comes to protecting a touring musician’s mental health, quality sleep is crucial. “Oh, man, for sure,” Teskey agrees. “You've gotta have your good routines and make sure you’re sticking to them, no matter what time zone you're in. I feel like it’s the only way to stay sane on the road.”

We recently watched a reel of Teskey – a carpenter by trade – building “a guitar wardrobe” on the tour bus on the band’s socials so can’t help but wonder how that particular project’s coming along. “It's over there in the back,” he smiles, gesturing over his shoulder. “It's coming along nicely. I've just put some bootstraps on it so it holds my boots up at the top and I welded-up a little coat hanger that pokes out so I can hang all my shirts and stuff in there. It’s lined with canvas and it's got little leather pockets so it's a cool, old-lookin’ thing.

“It's a pretty heavy duty case. I took all the foam out so that I could fit all the other stuff in. It's my backstage case, so it's got my guitar in there and all the things that I would need backstage. It's a great little thing, I love it. So I’m gonna be able to bring that around Europe with me.”

Teskey also constructed a “good, strong, sturdy work desk” for his “little area” of the tour bus. “I made this little desk in front of the window,” he reveals, rotating his laptop to bring it into view. “I just went to Home Depot and got a piece of plywood cut up and bought a couple of clamps and just clamped it to the side. It's not gonna damage the bus at all.

“Constantly working on little craft projects is a great thing to do when I'm on the road, to make touring life more ergonomic.”

In April, 2021 – in the wake of their label boss Michael Gudinski’s passing – The Teskey Brothers re-released their cover of Never Tear Us Apart by INXS to honour the late, great Mushroom vibe merchant. The accompanying music video opens with Gudinski welcoming the band to the stage. “He had a lot of energy and a lot of power to give to us artists,” Teskey eulogises. “He always had such amazing enthusiasm – just beautiful energy around music – and we're still honoured to have had that man in our lives.

“From the first day we met him, you instantly got to know his character, which I'm sure lots of people would know. He rolled in when things just kicked off for us. In the early days, we went from playing a little, 30-capacity venue at the start of the year to trying to hit a milestone of playing the Corner Hotel at the end of the year. Lucky for us, we ended up playing four Corner shows and had Michael Gudinski come into a sound check one day. I was like, ‘Oh, who's this guy? He's pretty full-on, he's got some big energy about him’,” he recounts, laughing.

“But from that day right up until his last days, he still had so much enthusiasm – so much energy – for us and our music. And I'm always blown away by the stuff that he was able to get going for us. Somehow only Michael Gudinski could get us, in the middle of the COVID time, into the National Gallery of Victoria – this amazing place where no one else could be at that moment, with all these amazing paintings surrounding us. We got to do a little video there and have him there to celebrate our number one live record, which was a real moment for us. It was our Live At The Forum record and it was the first time there was a number one Australian live record since AC/DC’s Live record [1992]. And he definitely let us know how much of a special moment that was.”

To date, The Teskey Brothers have accrued five ARIA Awards to dust around in the trophy cabinet: three for Best Blues & Roots Album (2019’s Run Home Slow, 2020’s Live At The Forum and 2023’s The Winding Way) plus Best Group and Engineer Of The Year. Just last month, this sibling duo’s songwriting partnership was also recognised when they took out the prestigious Songwriter Of The Year category at the APRA Music Awards.   

“It's hard to fathom where we are now,” Teskey admits. “To come back to Australia to even bigger places, like A Day On The Green, is huge for us. And being able to play with these awesome acts, like Charlie [Needs Braces]: our favourite trumpet player, we used to play with her all the time – she's great! – and she's got an awesome little act. We were always suggesting these artists, so I think that got through to the bookers. It's gonna be a killer show, I reckon. We love the line-up.”

We’re hoping the Teskeys will bust out some fresh two-step dance moves he’s picked up in Nashville during these upcoming A Day On The Green dates as well. “Yeah, we will,” he vows with a chuckle. “I would love to get more Honky Tonks going. There's a great one that happens at The Gem [in Collingwood] – that's one that I always try and make it down to. But I’d love more like that, maybe in a bigger space, you know? Because it gets packed. When you find the good Honky Tonks anywhere, everyone wants the dancefloor – it's sought after.”




Wednesday January 8 – Perth, Burswood Park
Friday January 10 – Barossa Valley, Peter Lehmann Wines
Saturday January 11 – Geelong, Mt Duneed Estate
Sunday January 12 – Bowral, Centennial Vineyards
Saturday January 18 – Hunter Valley, Bimbadgen
Sunday January 19 – Mount Cotton, Sirromet Wines