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Brian Cadd On Going Country: 'I’m 77 Years Old, I Can Do Whatever I Want To Do'

5 April 2024 | 12:00 pm | Noel Mengel

Australian songwriting legend Brian Cadd opens up about an extraordinary life in music, why he finally made a country album, and the unforgettable experience of recording 'The Real Thing'.

Brian Cadd

Brian Cadd (Credit: Lisa Businovski)

Country music has always been close to Brian Cadd’s heart, right from childhood when he tuned in to a Sunday morning country show on Perth radio.

“At eight or nine, I was exposed to everything from Hank Williams to Smoky Dawson, and the storytelling I heard coming out of those songs was enormous,” Cadd says. “That really helped me when I was writing songs of my own.”

Even if his fans in Australia always knew him as a rock’n’roller, the imprint of country music is deep in many of his best-loved songs. 

While he has written songs with Americana and country flavours for much of his career, his new album, Dream Train, is a country record from start to finish, from instrumentation to the heartbreak ballads.

“I moved back to the Gold Coast about three years ago after I had been living in New York,” Cadd says. “I started hearing about the Kross Kut Records studio where John Williamson records, and I knew some of the players already.”

A country record was the logical step.

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“Five years ago, I never would have done this, thinking of the way I am perceived as coming from the rock’n’roll world. Then I thought, I’m 77 years old; I can do whatever I want to do. It was a magical experience.

“I felt I had been given this freedom. Let’s have more dobro [and] more pedal steel. They even sneaked some banjo into the mix, and that is something I never would have done before.”

That freedom he was feeling unlocks some of Cadd’s finest songwriting, a record that can stand alongside his classic ’70s albums like Brian Cadd and Parabrahm.

The album opens with the Tex-Mex flavours of You Know What To Say, complete with piano accordion and the kind of irresistible melody that is always front and centre in Cadd’s writing.

Songs like All I Need To Know and The One That Got Away are tales of heartache and regret of the kind that George Jones once made his own, while Only We Know finds hope in new love.

The album closes with the title tune, Cadd’s story of an extraordinary life spent in music. 

As he said at his 2007 induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame, “I can't really imagine how it could have been much better or any more fun.”

 “I started playing around on piano at home, and at 12, I was playing on television in WA,” Cadd says. “Not many people get to do that or to figure out so early in life that is what they want to do.”

Cadd was 20 when he co-wrote his first hit, Woman You’re Breaking Me, for his early band, The Groop, and his song Elevator Driver was a hit for The Masters Apprentices in 1968.

That’s him on piano and Hammond organ on one of the all-time greatest Australian singles, Russell Morris’s The Real Thing, recorded in Melbourne in early 1969 with IanMollyMeldrum as producer. 

Cadd’s personal tastes were already heading in another direction, taking inspiration from The Band’s Music From Big Pink album with its groundbreaking mix of folk, country and rock’nroll.

Glenn Shorrock and I both heard that album, and it was like a quasi-religious experience. Our axis shifted, [and] everything we thought about music changed.

“We found the right combination of like-minded people, and that became Axiom. The Band was unique, but it showed us there was a way to take the country-rock things we loved and to make it our own.”

Axiom brought that fresh sound into a new decade with the hits Arkansas Grass and A Little Ray Of Sunshine before Cadd launched his solo career with songs like Ginger Man and Let Go.

While A Little Ray Of Sunshine remains a staple on Australian radio to this day, Let Go is the song that took his name around the world as a songwriter. Glen Campbell’s version of the song remains Cadd’s favourite cover version of one of his songs, although he admits he was dubious about the song’s prospects when he wrote it. 

“The song just tumbled out,” Cadd says. “It was so blatantly a country song I wasn’t sure it should go on the album I was making.” 

Ron Tudor, who backed Cadd as a songwriter, house producer, band leader and solo artist with his Bootleg label, insisted otherwise.

“Ron said, ‘I don’t care what you think. It’s my record label, and I am putting it out as a single.’ He was right. The song has been recorded 61 times and is a hit all over the world.”

America was calling, where Cadd wrote songs for artists including Dobie Gray, Joe Cocker and Ringo Starr. At one point, he owned a studio in Nashville, a connection that led to his joining The Flying Burrito Brothers, another prime country-rock influence on his music. He toured the world with them for three years.

The Pointer Sisters recorded his song Love Is Like A Rolling Stone, which became the B side to their worldwide hit with the Bruce Springsteen song Fire.  

“I was lucky enough to play on the session for the song with people like Elton John’s guitarist Davey Johnstone,” Cadd says. “Those ladies rocked. We cut the track, and in walked their mate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and at that point, things climbed into the surreal. This is one of the great basketballers of all time, and he’s asking me what piano I like to play.”

As someone who has survived as a musician and songwriter for 60 years, what is Cadd’s advice for the next generation?

“Never ever give up. I have known so many incredibly talented people in my life. They have a bit of a go, and they don’t quite get there, and then they tend to fade away or play the pubs when really they had the ability to do anything. 

“They are great, but they don’t have the drive. That’s why you find the people who make it are this annoying combination of talent and drive. They never take their eye off the ball.”

Recording The Real Thing


“That was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The phrase ‘everything including the kitchen sink’ is apt. After we all thought the recording was finished, Molly kept getting us to play the ending. Eventually, the drummer stopped, saying, ‘I’m exhausted, I can’t play anymore.’ That’s why there is an explosion to finish the song because it didn’t have an ending.

“The song was more than six minutes long. There was the thought, they are never going to release this because no one is going to play it. It seems ridiculous when you think about it now, but that’s what it was like then. They liked two-minute records because you could play them before the news!”

‘Dream Train’ (Ambition Entertainment) is out now—pre-order a physical copy here.