Last year Adam Brand celebrated twenty years in Australian country music with the release of his album Milestones; this year he has been relatively quiet – because his life has just changed, in a big and wonderful way. No mystery, then, that the first single from his upcoming album (due for release next year) is ‘Life’s Been Good to Me’. We talked about the song, the very good change in his life, and the reason why his album was recorded a year early.
Your new song is another cracker and you certainly have a knack for catchy tunes. Is that a skill you’ve honed, in identifying those sorts of tunes, or is it innate?
I have no idea [laughs].
But you keep doing it, Adam! You keep finding these great songs and writing these great songs.
Look, the fact that you’ve said that is very touching. Thank you very much. But you know, when you’re writing or even choosing – I don’t write all my own stuff these days, I listen to songs from other songwriters and things like that – I just want to sing stuff that gets me going, that gets me really excited or emotional. So I guess in some ways I’m representative of a normal music fan. If it gets me excited, then it’s possibly going to excite someone else.
And maybe also part of the skill of it is in not overthinking that – it’s actually trusting your response to the song and not sitting there wondering, Am I right about that?
Second-guessing and overthinking are probably an artist’s and songwriter’s worst enemy: ‘Have I done too many of those songs?’ or ‘Will people get it?’ ‘What will they think?’ And all that kind of stuff. I learned long ago that I’ve got to shut those voices out and just go with what my heart feels. Am I excited? Does it feel good? Then it doesn’t matter, you know. Because you aren’t going to please everyone. People aren’t always going to get it. And then there’s that thing called people’s personal taste! [Laughs] They’re just not going to like it, so don’t try. Just make sure that what you’re singing, you believe in it, you love it, you love doing it yourself, and then leave the rest in God’s hands.
Just get out of your own way and let the work come through.
That’s a great way of putting it. Just because you’re creative certainly doesn’t mean you have the answers to all this stuff, so just create to the best of your ability and as honestly and as passionately as you can, and see what happens.
Musically this song is a little different for you, in a great way. It’s tempting to keep doing the things your fans love, but for you as an artist I imagine there’s a lot of interest in doing new things too.
Yes, absolutely there is. And again, it comes back to hearing something and loving it. When I first heard this song it was a demo and it wasn’t quite finished. This demo came through and it was sung really high and it was a really sort of different little melody. The first thing I thought was, Wow, I love this, but I just don’t think I’m going to be able to sing it. Then I thought, Okay, let me let me play around with it. I messed around with the key and then I started writing a few verses, a few lines and a few bits and pieces of myself to see if I could make it more sort of me. And then lo and behold I thought, Actually, this could fit. And I was actually sort of surprised, you know? Because it was a little different sounding, a little different to a melody than I’d normally attempt. So I really enjoyed the process of making this song my own.
The song’s called ‘Life’s Been Good to Me’ – do you think you might’ve been good to life? By which I mean, have you created your own luck in your career?
I think in anything you do you’ve got to create your own luck at it. And there’s that old saying, the harder you work the luckier you get. I think that has a lot to do with that. If you work hard in this life, nothing’s guaranteed. There’s no exact science of achieving your goals. But the harder you work at it, the better chance you have. So I’ve always subscribed to that thing of just work hard and do what feels right and things will happen.
I think you take a lot of opportunities that come to you and you also create a lot opportunities. Has there ever been a point where you’ve thought, I’m tired. I’ve been working a lot. I need to back off.
Yes, this year! [Laughs] I think that’s probably more about becoming a daddy and not getting much more than those three-hour sleep cycles. I’ve never been so tired in my life, but I’ve never been so happy.
Which is wonderful. How old is your baby now?
She’s three and a half months and this year was purposely set aside, as far as I’m not touring, I’m not doing a lot of things, I’m just focusing on just staying at home and watching her grow and watching her take her first little steps and everything. So this year certainly is dedicated to learning to be a dad, watching my little girl learning to be a little human. But thinking to this song and what it means and the title, I felt like it really summed up life perfectly for me. So many times we stress and we strive for the things that we don’t have that probably we think we should have. And in doing so we stop taking note, stop appreciating the things that we do have. It’s kind of like [the movie] The Castle. I’ve got a new video coming up for the song and it’s definitely built around that Castle theme. That idea – ‘Hey, we don’t have a mansion. This is our little place – but it’s ours.’ The words in the song are ‘Stop, take a second and breathe, things aren’t as bad as they seem, when you really think about it life’s been good to us, so enjoy it’.
I know you have an active relationship with your fans – you’re really good at communicating with them, whether it’s on social media or in person. I’m wondering if you’re mindful with a song like this that the message in that song is going to be heard by people and taken on board by them and could actually really help them. Is that part of your consideration as an artist or is it just a nice byproduct?
A hundred per cent. We all need to hear this message. We all need to hear that we don’t need a lot of things that stress us out. We live in a great country, we’ve got to look at the things that are around us – our family and our friends, our little back yards that are big enough. We don’t have to go and put ourselves under pressure to be able to afford a yard twice the size, so you need a bigger lawnmower and then it takes twice as long to mow the lawn. It’s those simple things that we just get so caught up in, you know – ‘My car’s not good enough, I need to put myself in debt so I can spend another 40 grand on getting a bigger car that ultimately is going to do the same thing that this one’s doing, which is going to make my life more stressful.’ And I get it, because we’re all guilty of it. We all want bigger and we all want better. But if we just stop for a second and look around us and say, ‘You know, I’ve kind of got what I need – this is not too bad ‘. And that doesn’t mean you give up and roll over and say, ‘That’s it – I’m never going to try to get anything more’. But more ‘If this is what it is, we can be okay. Life’s pretty good.’
I think it is a good message, particularly in a very consumerist age. And it might be a relief for people to hear it.
I’ve got to tell you, it’s kind of a relief for me singing it and speaking those words out loud, and walking around my house and I’m standing here at my kitchen window and I’m looking at the back and I’ve got weeds growing in the garden and I’ve got the blow-up pink flamingo that was in the video that’s sitting here half deflated in the back corner, and I’m thinking, No, that’s all right.
It will be summer soon, so you can reinflate it shortly. Now, you said there are other songs for this album that’s coming out. So it sounds like it’s already recorded.
Finished. All completely done. And, actually, it was finished just before bubba was born. I got into it early because I knew that this year was going to be a baby year and I didn’t want to be distracted from being home. So I said to my manager and record company, ‘I’m going to get this album done early. I’m going to give it to you early.’ When you release albums, the manager and the record company always want it early so they can do all their set-ups and their strategising and all that kind of stuff, and that’s always the big sticking point and always the big thing they’re whinging about: ‘Hurry up and get it finished!’ [laughs] This time I said, ‘Over a year early, here you go. Now don’t bother me – I’m having a baby.’
Is it difficult to now wait until next year for this to come out?
I think in a different time in life it would be, but right now it’s totally fine. I’m enjoying the relaxed and no-pressure lead-up to it. We’ve been planning the release of the songs and working on artwork, and there’s so much time that no one’s sending me ten emails a day – ‘We need it by this date, the cut-off date’s looming!’ I can say, ‘I got it to you early. Now it’s in your court!’
I would think in the past, if you were getting time pressure it would have been because you’re constantly on the move. You’re touring or doing other things, other projects, and so it’s not as if you’re wilfully sitting on your hands saying, ‘I’ll do that when I feel like it.’ You’ve just got a lot on.
Yes, there’s always that. But then there’s always that thing where you say, ‘I just want to do it one more time’, or ‘I just haven’t quite finished it’. And you put record companies under pressure when you do that. Everyone’s got a job to do. But I’m loving the fact that I’m prepared early with this because I’m not at home stressing about having to get that done. And the songs for this album really came together and I kind of had to plan to have this year off. So mid last year I started looking for the songs. I started thinking about getting this album recorded early in the year, and then I want to take a year off touring, so I want to get it all done. So I went to the studio in February and got it all done, but I’d been looking for the songs. I found the songs that just really flicked a switch inside me and I’m really happy with the songs and the message. The album has a lot of life anthems on it. There’s a lot of positivity and fun, and it’s just reflective of where I am at.
Still, July to February is not that much time to find the songs and have everything lined up. So that been a pretty hectic few months.
Ah … it actually wasn’t [laughs].
You are a professional, though. That’s the addendum. You’re a professional and you know what you’re doing.
I was looking for songs but I’ve always got songs in the pipeline. One of the songs on the album I’ve been wanting to record for twelve years. It’s been sitting there waiting for the right time. So immediately I thought, Right, I finally get to record that song – because the song’s about being a dad. Life’s all about timing and I think the timing was right. The right songs found me and I found them.
That’s really intriguing because that’s such a long game, and I know that your career has not been fits and starts, it is a long game, and it starts with connection to the audience and you being authentic to yourself and to your music. To have kept that song in mind for twelve years, to have other songs chosen for a while, that’s a long time to maintain the faith, I guess, with those things.
This song in particular I’ve loved it since the very first time I ever heard it. It was written by Travis Meadows, and Trav and I have been songwriting partners for so many years. We wrote ‘Hell of a Ride’, ‘It’s Going to Be Okay’, ‘It’s Crazy like That’, ‘Kissing the Phone’, ‘Blame It On Eve’, ‘My Side of the Street’ – it all comes from Trav. So it’s just one of those songs that I’ve held in my back pocket, thinking, One day I hope I really get to record the song. And when we [found out about the baby] and I first thought about songs, I thought, Wow, I finally get to do this song. The song’s called ‘I Don’t Want to Let You Down’. It’s just this amazing talk to a little baby.
Last year you had Milestones out and this year you’re in a new phase of your life, because you’ve become a father. Do you ever think of your career in terms of legacy – especially now, perhaps?
I don’t think I do. I haven’t really thought about it like that. So if I was to have a legacy I would want people to think about me and say, ‘There’s a guy, he just loved life and always did his best and endeavoured to make me smile.’ I don’t know – you caught me off guard!
It actually doesn’t surprise me that you haven’t thought in those terms because I think you’re really great at being in the moment when you’re performing. You have that art of being there and being engaged with your audience. So therefore it doesn’t surprise me that you’re not also thinking, What are people going to think about me in five or ten years’ time?
If they think about me at all, that’d be all right [laughs].
They’ve been thinking about you for twenty-odd years now, Adam!
[Laughs] I think what you’ve said there, being in the moment, I love experiencing moments. I look at my little girl and I’m watching her world just explode in front of her eyes every day. It’s simple things that we take for granted. It’s colour, it’s sight, it’s sound. It’s almost like she’s tripping every day. So I’m experiencing so many moments right now, it’s incredible.