Interview: Adam Brand (Perth) reflects on his twenty years in the industry

On July 13th, 1998, Adam Brand released his debut album. Fast forward to 2018, and he’s done what a lot of artists have failed to do before him – and that’s last 20 years in the competitive music industry. Celebrating his two-CD release Milestones…20 years, after a nation-wide call out for unique venues, he’s taking his current tour to big cities, small towns and places he’s never been.

Your latest release Milestones…20 years was released twenty years to the day (on July 13th, 2018) featuring all your greatest hits, like ‘The Anzac’, ‘Good Friends’, ‘Get Loud’, ‘Hell of a Ride’ and many more. Do you ever get sick of performing these songs?

You hear artists talking about their first songs and singles, and, then, later in a career, they don’t want to play them anymore. They want to play their newer stuff, because they’re sick of playing the old songs. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve played ‘Dirt Track Cowboys’,  ‘Good Friends’ or ‘Last Man Standing’, I could buy a bigger house! [laughs] but those songs are the reason why I’m sitting here today, so, I’m quite the opposite. I don’t get sick of singing those songs; I’m thankful. I count my blessings.

The thing that always strikes me about greatest hits albums, that aren’t changed or re-recorded in some way, is who they’re marketed towards. Your fans are most likely to have most of the songs in their play lists already and if someone is discovering you now after twenty years, the album may seem a little disjointed because your style has changed and evolved so much in your career.

When we were deciding what to do for these 20 years, I was always adamant if we’re going to do something, we got to do it properly. I wanted to show the whole journey. If we can’t tell a story properly; we might as well not tell it. There’s the first two songs I ever wrote and recorded on there. I wanted to put them on there because it shows the first steps I took on this 20 year journey. The steps are a bit wobbly, so if I can have some wobbly first steps and then still be here 20 years later, then it gives hope to other young artists [laughs].

I think if they listened to the whole album, read the story in the booklet, look at all those photos, listen to my voice as a progress, the subject matter; they’ll get a good sense of that 20 year journey. They’ll feel where I started, who I became, what I’m hopeful for now and where I’m going in the future. It’s pretty much mapped out there in music and photos.

The booklet is a huge photo album! It’s like a diary or an autobiography in some ways put to music and photos. Maybe some people would leave out the embarrassing ones, but I think they’ve got to be in there to give people a sense of this journey. What did he go through? Did he go through embarrassing phases like me? Well, yes, he did! I don’t want to hide that. I don’t want to pretend they weren’t there and give my best glossy moments, because that’s not real life. I wanted to bare it all. All my social media stuff is not all glossy, photo shopped and edited; I show things as they are. It’s honest and realistic.

‘King of the Road’ was your first single release. What special moment or memory comes to mind when you think of that song?

You hear a lot of artists talk about their early songs that paved the way for their career and started them off. ‘King of the Road’ was my very first one that got me the attention of people in industry. I remember the first time I got any feedback about that song. There used to be a radio show called The Outback Club. Keith Urban was a special guest there, when he was starting out as well and had the band, The Ranch. [Hosts] Colin Buchanan and Lee Kernaghan played the song and I remember they really liked it. I remember my little chest puffed out, eyes glazed over; I was like, “Wow! They know my name! They know who I am!” That song will always have that little special memory for me.

There’s a song on the album called ‘Sheriff Bullfrog’, which sticks out on the album as being a little bit different from the others. It was one of the first songs you ever wrote and recorded that the record company hated but you loved. For all intensive purposes this song is on the new album for long time fans that know its origins and/or may have heard it partially at the end of one of your DVDs. Have you played it live yet this tour?

Not yet. I can feel it’s coming. Over the years, so many times, people have out shouted out ‘Sheriff Bullfrog!’ [Now I’m] getting lots of messages on Facebook [from] people saying, “I can’t believe they kept this from us for 20 years!” Of course, I’m responding to them going, “Thank you! Yes! You’re a legend!” I’m like, “Ner ner ner ner ner! Told you it was a good song!” I still like it. I still believe in Sheriff Bullfrog. He’s my hero [laughs].

You’ve released two singles off Milestones … 20 years. The first being the title track, ‘Milestones’ and second, the recently released ‘Party Down Under’. ‘Milestones’ is all about your journey whereas ‘Party Down Under’ celebrates this amazing country of ours. What inspired you to write an Australian-themed anthem?

When [the Country Music Channel] brings American artists out, they give them a bit of an Aussie quiz. “What’s a swag? What’s a chook?” etc and Americans have to guess what they are. Obviously, it’s Australian slang, so I started thinking about all the things they’ve got and we’ve got. They have their big pick up trucks; we’ve got Utes. They’ve got Outlaws – Jesse James, Billy the Kid; we’ve got old Ned wearing a garbage can. They’ve got this big Grand Canyon; we got one big rock out the middle of the desert that would fill the whole Grand Canyon up! They play football in their helmets and shoulder pads; we run out on the field in a singlet and underpants. We’ve got Wolverine, AC/DC, Crocodile Hunter and all the cool things, like our festivals, Crowbar at Gympie, Peel Street at Tamworth, the Deni Ute Muster and CMC Rocks. It’s a fun, big ol’ party song!

Americans think everything in Australia is trying to kill you – we’ve got spiders, snakes, kangaroos that beat you up, and crocodiles. They think it’s this mystical land where everyone’s just tough as nails. I thought it was quite funny. It was a play on that. In a lot of American country songs, there’ a lot of rap parts, little hip hop breaks in the middle of a song, so I thought it was about time we had an Aussie rap. Let’s have a bit of fun with them and us!

Does that mean you’ve been quizzed on American slang when you’ve toured the US?

No, they’re more interested in us. They think we’ve got a great accent and what we’ve got is amazing! We think everything over there is bigger and better, but they think quite the opposite.

Which of your songs do you think has connected the most with people over your twenty-year span in the industry?

Songs connect to people for different reasons. Obviously ‘The Anzac’ connects with anyone who has had some kind of connection with serving our country, and even if we don’t have someone, you still have respect for our servicemen. That song certainly connects us all. Anyone’s that’s been through a journey that hasn’t been easy, which probably is every single person on the planet, ‘Hell of a Ride’ rings true – “We didn’t win every battle, but God knows we tried. We had a hell of a ride!” Anyone who has a grandparent who was musical in some way, there’s a connection to ‘Grandpa’s Piano’. I feel privileged and honoured to get to sing these songs that connect to people for different reasons.

You bring up ‘The Anzac’ which is a song that is so synonymous with who you are. It’s one of my favourites to see you perform live as well, especially when it morphs into ‘Waltzing Matilda’. I don’t remember ever being at another gig and experiencing such a powerful, emotionally-driven moment that connects live like that one does. I think that’s a testament to not only well-written lyrics, but the heightened intensity of your delivery.

It’s all about what you’re communicating. If I put a different balled in there; it wouldn’t come through. It’s what the song stands for that sobers the crowd up in a second. In the rowdiest, drunkest crowd of full of people who are just off their chops, I can do that song right in between two rocking, loud songs, drop it right down to this really slow ballad and it cuts through like hot knife through butter. People stop and go, “Doesn’t matter how drunk I am … It doesn’t matter how crazy I’m feeling, this is the moment … I’m going to put my hand on my heart.” All the guys who, 30 seconds before who are jumping up and down and rocking in a mosh pit, they’ll stop, put their arms around each other and their hands on their heart. That’s the emotion of this song. It’s not for me. I’m just a communicator saying, “Right now, don’t clap, don’t stand for me; this is the time when we all stand together for the men and women who deserve it.”

 Milestones…20 Years is out now.