There are plenty of worthy statuettes available to fill any nooks and crannies that might pocket the Central Coast hideaway of Brooke McClymont and Adam Eckersley.
The couple, who married in 2009, have each enjoyed incredible careers, and between Brooke’s work with her sisters in the McClymonts and Adam’s eponymous Adam Eckersley Band (AEB), they’ve collected a swag of gongs to adorn the marital home.
Brooke has two ARIAs for Country Album of the Year (2010 and 2012), Adam’s tune “Give Her the World” won the 2015 APRA Award for Country Work of the Year, and between them, they’ve amassed an impressive 12 Golden Guitars and seven ARIA Top Ten Country Albums. On the global stage, Brooke was awarded the U.S. Country Music Association Global Artist of the Year in 2011, and Adam won the Country section of the esteemed International Songwriting Competition in 2014.
In fact, up to this point in their musical careers, about the only thing Brooke and Adam hadn’t managed to do was record an album together. Now, they’re putting that to right.
“Ever since we got together, we’ve talked about it,” says Brooke. “For eight years we have been like, ‘One day we’ll do an album together.’ We knew this would happen eventually.”
The couple’s debut collaboration – aptly titled Adam & Brooke – is brim full of honest, rock-tinged country, a perfect blend of their distinct personalities. And, like all the best moments of a good relationship, it was actually a bit of a surprise when it finally happened.
“My sisters are busy having babies,” explains Brooke, “and so Adam and I realised we have a 12-month opportunity to make an album and tour it. But it happened really suddenly. Once we saw we could do it, everything happened in a six-week period.”
Realising it might be now or never, in June this year, Adam paused work on the next AEB record, and the couple started writing for Adam & Brooke. They quickly discovered, however, that a happy home life doesn’t necessarily translate into songwriting magic.
“We actually had to make a conscious decision not to be sensible for a while,” Adam admits. “When we’re off the road, we are pretty sensible, raising our daughter, going to bed early. But we realised that, sometimes, songs don’t visit you at 7.30 at night. You have to wait up until two or three to meet them.”
“So, it was time to start drinking,” laughs Brooke. “Yep,” confirms Adam. “We set up in the shed with a couple of bottles of Scotch and plenty of beers to wait for the songs to come.”
Those late-night sessions yielded some of the best material of either artist’s career, as decades of experience melded with years of friendship to conjure up songs that truly represent Brooke and Adam, both as individuals and as a couple.
“We have written a lot together in the past,” says Brooke, “but I mean, doing our own projects and stuff, that’s been hard. But I love writing with Adam, so when we got into this, I was like, ‘Oh my god this is really good – we know each other so well!’”
Over an intensive three-week period, the couple carved out six new songs to add to a handful of older tunes they’d been saving just for this occasion. Then in August, they debunked to La Cueva Studios, the picturesque Byron Bay recording complex owned by Bernard Fanning and world-renowned producer Nick DiDia.
While DiDia came on board to mix the album, from the outset, the aim with Adam & Brooke was to capture the moment honestly, rather than create a studio extravaganza. So, in another first for both artists, Brooke and Adam decided to produce the sessions themselves.
“We’ve never produced a record before, but we’ve both been in the studio a fair bit,” says Adam. “So, we thought, ‘Let’s have a go, let’s do it, just the pair of us. We didn’t know whether we’d butt heads, but we seem to complement each other. Where Brooke’s strengths are, I’d sort of take a backseat and vice versa.”
Further enhancing the organic, honest atmosphere of the sessions was the decision to bring in members of AEB as backing musicians, rather than use a cast of session players.
“Working with those boys adds something,” says Brooke. “You know, those guys really took pride, and obviously having played together for so long, it really brought out something special. I think it surprised them a bit as well, because we made a record that’s a little more country than they might be used to. It’s not all country, but it’s definitely there.”
That melding of flavours and influences is one of the outstanding features of Adam & Brooke, with the couple finding a middle ground between their individual styles, to create something that sounds like both of them, but not quite like either of them alone.
“That bit was easy actually,” admits Brooke. “Whatever worked for the song, worked for us. I feel we’ve given ourselves across the whole album, and there’s definitely both of us on it, but at the same time, it doesn’t sound like the McClymonts or AEB.”
First single “Train Wreck” has already introduced audiences to one side of that new sound, a barnstorming fusion of Brooke’s inimitable country sensibilities and Adam’s full-throttle barroom blues.“That song really sets the record up,” says Brooke. “It shows our personalities, we both sing on it, and the lyrical content, well, it pretty much says, ‘Even if we end up breaking up, it has been a great fun ride.’”
That rollercoaster country rock sound is one that the album revisits on a number of key tracks, including goodtime road tune “Love On The Loose” and standout “Highway Sky”.
“We wrote that before we had our daughter,” says Brooke. “We’ve wanted to do it for ages, and when we finally got to do it, it actually took on a cool, different sort of vibe. That whole outro section was cut live and we just rocked out. It was a lot of fun.”
Between those more raucous tracks, Adam & Brooke also mines some deeper emotion, and while both artists accept there’s no escaping their own relationship on a project like this, they weren’t scared to explore other stories as well.
“Sometimes,” says Adam carefully, “I find if you’re particularly happy and married and cruising, well, it’s hard to come up with stuff to write about from your own point of view. People don’t wanna hear about how happy you are!”
The necessary emotional balance comes in the form of tracks like the Chris Stapleton-flavoured “Nothing Left To Win” – which Adam describes as a “good old fashioned cheatin’ song” – and the contemplative “One Man”, which shakes its head at a world that just won’t learn. Elsewhere, “Out Of My Hands” renders a tender rumination on the reality of kids with two homes. “You know I’ve got a son that I wish I saw more, he lives with his mum,” says Adam. “That’s always a sensitive thing to navigate.”
Equally difficult and deftly handled is another of the album’s standouts, the gorgeously barebones “Not How I Feel”, which Adam wrote in Nashville last year with Bob DiPiero, a country legend who has penned fifteen U.S. Number Ones.
“Brooke and I were both over there on a writing trip,” says Adam. “It was a bit of mayhem and we were sort of hooking into the booze one particular night, and we had a barney about something stupid. The next day I was sitting there just chatting to Bob, you know, just talking about marriage and stuff and he was like, ‘Man there’s a song.’”
While, at the time, Adam may never have imagined recording it with Brooke, it’s hard to think of a better way for that song to see the light of day – the ultimate honest addition to an album from two artists who are, above all else, best friends … for better, for worse.