There’s no better way to learn about the Davidson Brothers than to hear it directly them. For the writing of their eighth studio album – All You Need Is Music, out April 7 – the brothers met half way. Hamish (vocals, banjo, fiddle) who’s based in Bendigo and Lachlan (vocals, mandolin) based in Melbourne booked a B&B in the small town of Benloch. Hamish said, “We got out there and wrote [lead single] ‘Take A Little Drive’ in that first session… It was sort of a bluesier thing when we wrote it.” When the song was recorded, however, country elements seeped in “and you sorta get the two colours.”
‘Take A Little Drive’, is the first taste of the duo’s new album, and the song’s jaunty tempo and irresistible chorus melody celebrates “gettin’ out of town” at the end of the working week with an accompanying video that sees the Davidson Brothers and pals jamming on a porch.
Hamish explains the sound of the new album, “Lachie toured with Lee Kernaghan for two years, and I did a lot of session work with lots of other country singers, and I think we just sorta got used to being the bluegrass sound in a country band.” But Lachie admits, “We didn’t wanna do a full record just country, ’cause I feel like we’re getting better at bluegrass after touring so hard and doin’ it live. “So we decided to do an A- and a B-side concept.”
After performing at Meredith Music Festival in 2013, Lachlan says he’s noticed the Davidson Brothers attract a more diverse audience these days, which inspired them to take a ”broader approach” on their latest record. “We didn’t wanna turn off the people who were enjoying what we’ve been doing at our live shows, but then we wanted to step it up a level, we kept the upright bass instead of the electric bass to keep that acoustic feel in there. And the drummer’s not an intense Dave Grohl kinda drummer,” he laughs.
They’ve been recording together since 1998 and at the end of 2016, with Hamish about to become a dad for the second time, Lachlan points out, “We didn’t wanna stall an album even longer”. So when he clocked Qantas were having a “big sale” (“I think it was 500 bucks each, return, to Nashville”), he immediately got on the blower to his brother.
They booked Nashville’s Sidekick Sound Studios and rounded up some hot players to work with alongside producers/previous collaborators Mark Thornton and Larry Marrs. “Mark Thornton’s a different cat,” Hamish offers. “He comes from the Jerry Reed school of musicians – he played in Jerrry’s band for 12 years – and his studio, it’s like going back in a time machine… RCA mics and they’ve even got an RCA stove in the studio, so we were cookin’ lunch on that in between doin’ dubs and things. And he’s got gear that used to belong to, like, legends and it’s got their names with little dymo labels on the mics and things – all of these guys have gone now, but it’s kinda cool.”
“And our other producer Larry Mars is also a bit intimidating if you know his past… We had to do something at Larry’s studio one night and there was a picture of Larry singing with Merle Haggard on his dunny door and he goes, ‘Oh, ain’t that kewl!’” Hamish cracks up. “He just never mentioned it, you know?” Lachlan contributes, “They record old-school style, like, old mics from the Grand Ole Opry and stuff, and we just cut everything live.” Because “all the great session guys respect those guys”, the Davidson Brothers were able to “pretty much book [their] first-choice musicians” for these sessions, Lachlan stresses. “Bryan Sutton’s one of the top bluegrass guitar players. He grew up in North Carolina, but he’s done, like, Dolly Parton bluegrass records and the Dixie Chicks stuff. “The guy that played percussion [Kenny Malone], he’s 76; he played at JFK’s inauguration and funeral….. We’re playing with the best musos in the world, in our field.”
All You Need Is Music is the fifth record the brothers have recorded in Nashville. Lachlan recounts, “Our Nan lent us money for our first album when we were teenagers, and then a banjo player lent us some money, he was a truck driver [laughs]. He wanted us to go to Nashville and make our first record there, and so he lent us a wad of cash at a truck stop… But we’ve always had people who have supported us in that way.”
It was the brother’s late grandmother who drove them towards country. “I feel like she was probably a big driver for us to win a Golden Guitar, ’cause Tamworth meant the most to her out of everyone in the family,” he continues (in fact Davidson Brothers have been awarded three of these prestigious Australian Country Music Awards to date). Nan must’ve been smiling proudly down on her grandsons in January when the Davidson Brothers added their hand prints to the Hands Of Fame monument during the Tamworth Country Music Festival, further cementing their status among the most influential artists in Australian music history.
“If you ask me all you need is music/And a little red wine/To have a good time.” And if said music just so happens to be All You Need Is Music by the Davidson Brothers? Then those good times are guaranteed. All You Need Is Music will be suitably launched at Melbourne’s newest and classiest live music venue, Longhorn Saloon. Stay tuned for support announcement, tickets on sale now.