Australian singer-songwriter Anne McCue’s latest album, Broken Promise Land, recently hit store shelves and she’s in Austin playing several shows around town to promote it.
Earlier this month she was able to take a few moments to speak with us from her home in Nashville about recording live, her favorite films and her Eskimo jacket.
Q: You’ve got a new record out, what can you tell us about it?
A: I set out to do more of a rock record, in the tradition of the early ’70s, late ’60s bands like the Yardbirds, Jimi Hendrix, even a little Led Zeppelin influence but it doesn’t sound like Led Zeppelin and my favorite guitar players, like Link Wray. I went around in that territory and did more psychedelic stuff.
I’m really pleased with “Lonesome Child,” it’s set in the Outback and I also got to use a brass section which I’m pretty thrilled about. I was going for a “live in the studio” feel and I listened a lot to Albert King’s album, Born Under A Bad Sign and I think that’s where I got the idea of using the brass. We all set up in one room and played, it was fun and we did it in a few days. It took probably 4 days to record the whole album.
Q: Did you go into the process with a solid idea of what you wanted to create or did it come about organically while recording?
A: I produced it and recorded some of it at home in my studio. I demoed quite a few songs and came up with the arrangements and I knew exactly what the style was. I’m willing to let people play what they want to play but everyone was on the same page as far as the vibe we were going for. Some of the songs like “Lonesome Child” and “Ol’ Black Sky” I had sketched out but we narrowed down the riffs while we were in the studio.
Q: Who are some of the guest players on the album?
A: Bones Hillman is the bass player from Midnight Oil, one of the greatest Australian bands of all time, I was thrilled to get to play with him. He’s an awesome bass player, lots of personality, no one else plays like Bones. He’s got his own style, very creative and very focused. And Ken Coomer played with Wilco and Uncle Tupelo and when you get guys like that that have had a lot of experience in the studio and they’re very creative it makes it very easy to jam, no one’s frightened, it’s a really creative process.
I’ve also got my friend Jess Leary, he’s a great rhythm guitar player and we play a lot as a duo. It was just like a real band, we wanted that fit of a real band and playing together like the Doors or whatever, I think we managed to do it.
I have a band in every state, I tend to pick up bands as I go. I have a band in London, one in Australia, Germany, New York, Philadelphia, LA, Seattle, Texas, Nashville, ideally I’d like to take the same band on the road but I do get to play with some great musicians.
Q: When did you decide to get into the music industry?
A: I guess I always wanted to do it, I started played piano and switched to guitar when I was about 16. I wanted to be in a band but I was always very shy, when I finished my university degree I tried to be a novelist for a year and I got sick of being alone all the time. I answered an ad in the paper–’wild women for a rock ‘n’ roll band’ and I knew it was a joke. From that point on we made some demos and they went on the radio. We got a record deal and I’ve been in the music business ever since.
Q: How does having been a film student play into how you approach music videos?
A: I like it when they look like a short film and they tell stories. I look at my songwriting the same way, trying to convey strong images with the music and the lyrics. I was a film buff for a long time, I used to watch 20 films a week. I don’t do that any more because I don’t have the time but definitely film is one of the things that inform my music.
Do you have any favorite films?
It changes. Once upon a time I would have said “Apocalypse Now” and “The Sound of Music” but now I’ve gotten into different movies. I really like “Last Days” the … film about Kurt Cobain, that’s a really beautiful movie and I’ve started watching those dark sci-fi movies like “V For Vendetta” and “Dark City.”
Q: Besides your instruments, what are the top things that you must have while on the road?
A: My boots, my Eskimo jacket–I take it everywhere, even to Texas because you never know when you’re going to need an Eskimo jacket, it’s a good friend. Everything else is really secondary.
Q: How do you come up with ideas and new songs?
A: I let it happen, I don’t really set down and try and write a song. Usually I’ll write a song when I wake up in the morning and I’ll try to finish it that day if I can. For awhile I was having ideas and recording them and not finishing them but I’ve gone back to the old way of finishing songs as I start them. I wake up and I’ll pick up a guitar and I’ll have a song, I just have to make sure I write it down.
Q: What kinds of music are you listening to now?
A: I don’t listen to a lot of contemporary music because I don’t like to get caught up with the times. I try to make records that will last forever. You listen to Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush and it sounds just as good today as it did 30 years ago. I want to make records like that, that stand the test of time. I do listen to the Vanderbilt radio station and there’s a lot of great, new stuff on there but I don’t know who it is but I like hearing it. I like Jack White though, I like whatever he does. He’s probably my favorite artist around at the moment, and I like the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss album. I’m looking forward to Robert Plant’s new one.
Q: Where did you play your first concert?
A: It was in Melbourne, I was in a band called “Girl Monster” and we did our first show, November 11. I don’t remember what year.
Q: Is there anything people listening to your music need to know about you?
A: I’ve started producing other artists as well and I’m really enjoying that. I’m also playing guitar with other artists like Amelia Ward and Audrey Auld and I love doing that. It’s nice not to have the stress of it being your show all the time and I get to play guitar. It’s really important to me because as a singer-songwriter you have to focus on the writing, the singing and paying you never get to focus on one aspect of it and it’s nice to break it down and focus on one thing. Guitar playing is my favorite thing to do in the wold.