Inside the five-week marathon album decades in the making.
“Have you had enough of this crazy ride yet
We’ve been on since the day we met”
- Adam Eckersley and Brooke McClymont, Train Wreck
Like Tim and Faith, or Batman and Superman, the team up was inevitable. Two of Australian country music’s most respected singer/songwriters, who also happened to be long-term romantic partners, coming together as a duo. There had been the occasional on-stage team up, a duet here or there, but fans around the nation wondered: would Adam Eckersley and Brooke McCylmont ever become Adam Eckersley & Brooke McClymont?
“We’ve always talked about” says Adam. “Our common bond when we got into a relationship was our love of music and country music. We met through country music when we were sixteen. We talked about it heaps but time just didn’t allow.”
The obstacle had always been their own respective successes. While I avoid any hackneyed questions about where they keep their awards, they have enough ARIAs, APRAs, Golden Guitars and other trophies to fill up a whole spare bedroom. For over ten years, Brooke and her sisters have lived one of Australia’s great mainstream country success stories as the McClymonts. Adam has led the Adam Eckersley Band through all corners of the nation building a reputation that stands up against not just any country artist, but in the rock world too. It was the realities of family life that opened up a window of opportunity.
“Sam and Molly were both having babies,” Adam recalls. “We realised we have a window of time we can do this thing now – if we hook in right away. So basically it was five weeks between us deciding to do this project together and us writing and recording the album and planning the tour.”
In an era where artists often spend months in writing and preproduction before even booking studio time, the looming hard deadline would have scared off less confident artists, but with instincts and talents honed through years of writing and recording, they bet on their own follow through and leaped in.
“I work great having a deadline” says Brooke. “We just took it day by day. We’d put our little girl to bed and head up to the shed and got creative.”
“We certainly had to let go of sensible for a period of time” says Adam. “Normally when we’re off the road and at home, we’re parents and that’s it. We weren’t neglecting that, but we knew we couldn’t just sit around hope the creative stuff happened. So we got the scotch out, got the beers out, sat up in the shed and waited for the songs to come. Sometimes that was at 7pm and sometimes that was at 4am.”
The pressures of the compressed timeline forced the couple of make decisions quickly and not second guess themselves – pouncing on or abandoning ideas ruthlessly.
“When we started working on a song and it wasn’t happening, we just moved on to the next idea” remembers Adam. “If it felt good, we wrestled it to the ground til it submitted to us.”
The natural momentum of the project also led to a natural allocation of decisions about aspects of the production and sound between Adam and Brooke. Instead of a contrived ‘one from column A, one from column B’ approach to blending the soaring melody forward sound of the McClymonts with the guitar-driven earthiness of AEB, the couple instinctively fell into an easy blend of their musical sensibilities.
“I think we just trusted each other with it” Brooke explains. “I trusted him with the sound of the band and he really trusted me with the melodies”.
“The common thing where we meet from years ago was country music” says Adam. “We borrowed a lot from the music from the past that we love, whether it was rock, country or whatever. We certainly wanted to create our own sound, but you can certainly hear where Brooke’s influence comes in – she’s great at making sure there’s a hook and a melody that sticks with you. I love the sound of the band being a little bit free. It kind of just happened – we didn’t fight as much as we thought we might on it. We just met in the middle somewhere.”
The recording process was swift and painless – seven people in the studio, the fundamentals of the record cut more or less live in three and a half days. After a few more sessions of tidying up and overdubs, the album was complete. The resulting record, simply titled ‘Adam & Brooke’, is probably what you’d expect – a collection of soulful original duets, as two of our most charismatic voices trade verses and bristle through tender harmonies, coaxing some of each other’s most passionate vocal performances.
It’s an album built on the depth and foundation of their real life emotional bond and love for each other. It’s also an album that they could only have made at this point in both their careers and relationship. As I learned when I asked the couple to recall their first impressions of one another when they met as teenagers, it hasn’t always been sweet harmonies.
“I didn’t think much of him at all” says Brooke without equivocation. “I thought he was very cocky and very sure of himself.”
“We lived in the same street as each other” Adam recalls. “I was driving a V8 panel van and I had a pretty rockin’ mullet and was doing country-rock gigs at the pubs every Friday-Saturday night, chasing girls around as you do. I was pretty open in my pursuit of Brooke. From my point of view back then, when we were sixteen, she was working on the local radio and she was in the newspaper every second week – she was the small town hero and didn’t want a bar of me.”
Even at this point, Brooke’s unarguable talent was a big part of the attraction for Adam.
“I was just a bogan, which I still am, but the whole way through, I thought she was an absolute freak of a singer and maintained the respect for what she could do. It still spins me out hearing her sing. Sometimes, hearing her scream at me at home, I don’t know whether to dance or run away. That all remains the same.”
The two drifted apart, as Brooke traveled the world and Adam toured the pub circuit, living in his car. Years later, the two reconnected and hit it off. Some key factors had changed.
“The mullet was gone” explains Brooke. “He’d grown into his nose, he was gorgeous. I just found him quite funny and we became really good mates. Adam ended up having his son while we were still mates, then about seven months later we kind of went ‘Are we gonna do this? It’s just too easy’.”
So mates become co-inhabitants of Adam’s van, and eventually a house. Now they’re in the midst of planning their first proper tour together – which Adam has unofficially dubbed ‘two fools on stools’, featuring the material from their duo record along with some favorites from the McClymonts and AEB catalogue.
While both Brooke and Adam are clearly having the time of their lives rolling out this album together, they are clear that fans of their best known musical identities need not be afraid.
“Certainly our priorities will still be the McClymonts and AEB,” Adam clairifies, “but we’re really excited with having this as an option now to do in the downtime. We both love touring and playing music together, and I think this will be something we do forever as long as people keep turning out to shows and enjoying it, we’ll keep doing it.”