McFadden: Delta collaboration a one-off

Published in The Music Network

 

Brian McFadden‘s new song Mistakes featuring real-time fiance Delta Goodrem may be all over radio this week, but don’t expect another collab any time soon.

Speaking exclusively with TMN, McFadden admits there’s little chance of collaboration given the separate musical paths the lovers-in-life are pursuing.

“We’ve tried to write some songs, but we’re clashing a bit more because our headspaces musically have gone in two different directions.”

Although McFadden contributed a fistful of songwriting credits to the 2007 Delta album, Mistakes is the pair’s first official single release since Almost Here, a #1 hit on the ARIA Singles chart in 2005.

“At the time of doing Delta and my last record Set in Stone, we were both close in our headspace of music,” says McFadden. “But I’ve gone completely for a synthetic, electro sound. Whereas she’s going back to her roots again. She’s gone more piano-oriented, which is almost ‘anti’ what’s happening at the moment in the industry.”

Mistakes is the third single from McFadden’s Top 30-charting album Wall Of Soundz, but it was initially intended as a solo track. That all changed on Goodrem’s suggestion that a female vocal would send the song into orbit.

“She came in and did a vocal and everyone just went crazy for it,” the former Westlife singer recalls. “Ironically,” he points out, “it’s a break-up song. It’s not even a love song. It’s a four-on-the-floor break-up song.”

With a #1 single to its credit (Just Say So), McFadden’s third solo album will be repackaged with bonus tracks for the Australian market, and will enjoy a staggered international roll-out through Universal Music Group later this year.

Keep an eye out for TMN’s in-depth interview in which the Irish singer discusses his pop reinvention, his new label, wedding bells and his thoughts on reuniting with Westlife.

 

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The Hot Seat: Rod McCormack

Published in The Music Network

 

Sony Music Australia is expanding its country music activities through an alliance with Core Music, the new label owned by celebrated producer Rod McCormack. McCormack’s production credits include albums with the likes of ARIA winners Troy Cassar-Daley and veteran singer songwriter Paul Kelly, and accomplished country artist Adam Harvey. TMN rounded up McCormack for a glimpse at Core, and a look into the issues surrounding country.

What’s Core all about?

It’s a new label set up through Sony Music’s distribution channel. We’ve got releases coming out with Beccy Cole and Gina Jeffreys in September. Later we’d like to establish a songwriter branch. We’re hoping to develop and foster much more domestic Australian country talent than Sony has had the chance to do in the past.

CMC’s Tim Daley had some carefully worded criticism about the direction of Tamworth Festival. Is Tamworth a drag?

I agree with a lot of what Tim says, but it’s easy to generalise. What’s hard is to come up with the answer that will make a difference. I’d like to see Tamworth move forward and progress but we have many challenges in country music.

Is an image problem at the root of those challenges?

The demographic is generally older. The reality is that’s where the records are being sold. Along the way it’s vitally important that we also nurture new talent that can in-turn sell records to a younger demographic. So far, we probably haven’t seen an artist come through and do that as successfully as Kasey Chambers. But I’d love to see it happen more.

Keith Urban is a mainstream star in the US, but here he’s best-known as Nicole Kidman’s husband. What’s holding back our country artists from hitting the mainstream?

In America, country music is a part of their culture and way of life. People discuss Beyonce and George Strait in the same breath. It’s easy to talk about how we’re going to market artists here and what image we want them to have. The challenge right now is for our artists to come up with music that people want to buy. Then you can package it. The industry has to come up with that product that people want.

Country is strong in the US, Canada and Australia. But will it ever expand elsewhere?

Absolutely. Some of our artists are already seeing sales in other countries. Not large, but enough to back tours. Kasey Chambers has a very solid fanbase through Europe and the States. Adam Harvey does very well in Canada and other territories. The McClymonts have a great opportunity to do that. It’s about young artists, and coming up with the product that can do that.

How do you break a new country artist here?

That’s a good question. It comes down to the artist. With the new artists we definitely have to be creative and find new ways to utilize the online world, and certainly TV is very important. We need to find interesting and good ways to service them to radio. We’ll certainly be looking to be innovative (at Core) with the new artists we break through.

Is commercial radio too restrictive with its formats?

Often that’s the case, but that’s ok. I’d love to see more stations that are permanently programming 24/7 country music, and I think they’re slowly emerging. But they’re more at a community and grassroots level. The lineup of the Gympie Muster includes contemporary rock bands, such as Spiderbait.

Does the country scene need to crossover?

I love the idea of mainstream artist coming to town and working with the country artists. I’d much rather they actually did songs with Rod McCormack with them rather than just a set. That kind of interaction can really help bring audiences to new country artists.

Is there any such thing as a new “wave” of Aussie talent ready to break the US? I hope so. I’d like to think those artists can do it just from their own originality, rather than just the fact they’re Australian.

Who do you see doing the business abroad? Adam Brand and the McClymonts have made tremendous inroads and they’re fantastic ambassadors. The person who comes through maybe we don’t know yet. If I knew the answer to that, I’d be putting out the album every week.

 

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No More Country For Old Men

In our in-depth cover story for TMN’s Country Issue, we look at how a younger market can save Australian country music.

The late Slim Dusty set the bar exceptionally high for Australian country music. During a career, which spanned more than half a century, the prolific artist smashed every barrier there was to a slouch-hat wearing Australian country singer.

The trailblazer recorded upwards of 100 albums, collected countless awards and he even cracked it abroad, his 1959 hit A Pub With No Beer reaching No. 3 in the UK.

The Slim Dusty Movie from 1984 enshrined his legacy in the Silver Screen. And right there is the problem. Many music fans both here and overseas still associate Australia’s country music scene with Slim and his veteran class. The country music scene in Australia is currently at a juncture. Its fans are growing older (with a few notable exceptions), its young talent continues to be ignored by the mainstream, and the big stars are more famous in the US than they are at home.

“As an industry,” explains ABC Music’s A&R and Label Manager Tim Holland. “We haven’t really acknowledged that the core profile of country music fan has changed. We’ve been much too slow to change our mentality.”

The quality of Australian artists isn’t an issue. Australia’s current crop of country talent is arguably as strong and relevant as the market has ever produced. Caboolture’s golden boy Keith Urban opened at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 with his 2009 Capitol Nashville album, Defying Gravity. While two rising stars Adam Brand and The McClymonts are carving out their own paths to the U.S., striking deals with Arista and Executive Music Group respectively.

The Country Music Channel (CMC) is beefing up its live dimension while at ABC Music, the label has invested heavily in local country talent in the four years since Holland came on board. The Corporation’s recorded music arm has more than doubled its stable of country music artists to 12.

However, to the ordinary Facebook fixated Australian teen, Urban is best known as the other half of Hollywood star Nicole Kidman. And without such famous partners, the likes of Brand and the McClymonts are largely ignored outside country circles.

Smashing the time-worn perception of Australian country music will take some time, and some doing. It’ll require a retooling of the business. Australia’s country scene must tackle the online space and network TV, say executives, but save its biggest shakedown for the traditional Tamworth Festival and the annual Country Music Awards of Australia Awards.

The long-running Tamworth jamboree in regional New South Wales has come in for some stick in recent times. Out of touch with new fans and out of the general public’s mind are typical of some negative sentiment bubbling up from within the community. Tamworth has come to epitomise the issues facing Australia’s country scene.

“If the Tamworth festival had any mind to grow the festival, it would make it appealing to young people and restock the fanbase,” argues CMC Program Director Tim Daley. Currently, more than 44% of the core audience of the festival is 55 year of age and over. According to Daley, only 14% of the CMC audience is over 55, whereas 42% is 24 and under. “It’s pretty simple,” says Daley, “you make it appeal to young people, and you restock the fanbase.”

Daley crystallized his comments in a controversial online “blueprint” for the Tamworth Country Music Festival, which was initially pitched for Country Update magazine, but was spiked before it could hit the newsstands. “Fix the number one marketing tool for both country music and the Tamworth Festival. The Country Music Awards of Australia need a complete reboot,” he wrote. US-born Daley goes as far as blaming Tamworth Festival for country music’s image problem. “

Speaking to The Music Network, Daley explained. “The imagery that comes out of that festival in January on mainstream TV is line-dancers, people with chickens on their shoulder and buskers playing really bad music. It’s the colour of the festival, but that reinforces the perception that country music sucks. There has to be a communications plan coming out of Tamworth.”

Should the festival shift the focus back onto music, artists and fans and get the communication-message right, he argues, Tamworth “will regain momentum and be around for a long time to come”. But until that time, the Tamworth Festival will continue to lose relevance. “A strong Tamworth will be good for the business,” he says, “but it’s not crucial.”

Organizers of Tamworth acknowledge some of the criticism, and they’ve taken strides to safeguard its future. The Tamworth Council recently released a “strategic” plan for the festival, following consultation with the likes of Peer Media Group, owners of TMN.

“The industry is changing, the artists are changing, and the audience is changing. We’re conscious of that. But it’s very difficult to change years of tradition,” admits James Treloar, the Mayor of the Tamworth Region and Chair of the Working Group which currently includes Tourism Tamworth, Tamworth Regional Council and the Country Music Association of Australia.

Among the new recommendations is a targeted-program to attract new audiences, which would be developed and implemented for the first weekend of the January fest. “We’ve come up with a host of excellent ideas,” notes Treloar. Daley, however, argues that the plan is engrossed with country’s “heritage” acts and largely misses the youth market.

Tamworth isn’t the only country festival with a view to the future. The Gympie “Muster” is a mainstay on the country calendar. But in recent years, the Queensland event has reshaped its program to introduce a mix of mainstream artists into its bill. With telecoms network Optus as its headline sponsor; this year’s line-up puts alternative rock acts Spiderbait and Thirsty Merc alongside the likes of country acts Troy Cassar-Daley, John Williamson and Sara Storer.

While Tamworth looks to reestablish its footing as Australia’s bastion of country music, some country executives are looking at opportunities in the non-traditional playing fields.

ABC Music has launched the Hitcountry.tv music portal, which casts its spotlight across the wider country scene. “It all starts with the marketing of country music, and accepting that music has evolved. A lot of people struggle with that,” says Holland. Until now, he explains, Australia hasn’t hosted a website that presents country music as “fun and now.” The new site can “help sell the story of great Australian country music,” he comments, “but we have a long way to go.

Eminent country producer Rod McCormack has no doubt as to who holds the power in Australian country music. “The spikes in our market over many years have always been to do with breakthrough artists and songs,” explains McCormack, whose new label Core has partnered with Sony Music Australia.

“We saw that in the early ‘90s when James Blundell, Lee Kernaghan and Gina Jeffreys came through, and we saw that followed-up with the likes of Kasey Chambers. When those people hit, there are spikes in our sales and it does great things for country music.”

 

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Speak Up

Published in Billboard Magazine

 

Europe’s hottest summer hit, “We No Speak Americano,” comes all the way from Sydney.

An Australian top five hit in June, the club anthem has been climbing charts across Europe in recent weeks. Its creators are Aussie dance duo Yolanda Be Cool (Sylvester Martinez and Johnson Peterson) and producer DCUP (Duncan MacLennan), who based the track on a sampled vocal from Italian artist Renato Carosone’s 1956 recording “Tu Vuo Fa L’Americano.”

The act nearly missed out when Canadian DJ Marco Calliari’s sound-alike version on his Tycoon Records label hit the U.K. market just before the Australian original. That was down to a delay in negotiations with EMI, which owns the Carosone recording, says Jamie Raeburn, joint owner of Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP’s Australian label Sweat It Out. The original was rush-released internationally July 5, which Raeburn suggests “probably helped us, because it didn’t have a chance to get downloaded illegally.”

Sweat It Out licensed the Universal-published track to various international partners. In Britain, it topped the Official Charts Co.’s July 31 singles listing on All Around the World/Universal; Calliari’s version hit No. 26 on the July 10 chart.

Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP’s version is already available through New York-based indie label Ultra in the United States, where Raeburn says it will receive a promotional push during September.

Yolanda Be Cool plays European shows through Sept. 18, booked by Xon Service Productions.