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Country Kinda Guy is a working-class story for Brook Chivell

11 September 2020 | 10:30 am | Mallory Arbour

Brook Chivell has released his electric guitar-fuelled new single, Country Kinda Guy. We caught up with him to catch about his future plans.

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Brook Chivell has released his electric guitar-fuelled new single, Country Kinda Guy.

Inspired by the sounds of Randy Houser and Luke Combs, the song is feel-good and energetic about the grit and integrity needed to be a country kinda guy living on the land.

Following the success of his previous singles, Brook has made a name for himself as producing modern country that sits just as well in the Australian Country scene as it would in the American market.

After reaching the finals of the 2017 Toyota StarMaker Competition at Tamworth Country Music Festival, Brook has gone on to perform at iconic festivals such as Deni Ute Muster, Gympie Music Muster, Sydney Country Music Festival, Broadbeach/Groundwater Country Music Festival as well as Tamworth Country Music Festival.

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Brook is a songwriter at heart and loves the search for melody, the hook and the soul of the song.

Last time we spoke you had just released the single I Wonder What You Kiss Like with Natalie Pearson. You’ve since gone on to release the singles Country Kinda Guy, Fingerprints, In My Life, and the title track Fearless Rider, off the also newly released album. I feel like I’ve missed so much in the year since we last spoke. What else have I missed?

I [have been] in the studio recording [a new album], and I'm still on a bit of a high from that. I recorded bass, drums and guitar, and then I've got a whole bunch of other stuff to still do. I haven't even written lyrics for a couple of the songs [laughs], so they're all ways off yet.

I'm going old school. That's how they used to do back in the 70s. I mean, I’m talking about 70s rock stars. The first album, you get 25 years to write your first album, because you’re got all those years of writing when you’re learning your instruments. The second album’s usually done, they’d come off the road and literally go into the studio with nothing and start from scratch. That’s why a lot of times, bands used to fail on their second albums because they wrote them in the studio.

This is my third album, so I wanted to try something different. I’ve always had all the songs completely written and done before I went into the studio to touch them, but this time, I really dig this music, so, I’m going to go in and record, and, that way, I can really craft the lyrics over the top of it and make sure it all fits together. It’s exciting.

Many artists I have recently spoken to have said that being in forced isolation has allowed them time to write and be more creative. Is the pandemic the reason behind this experimentation?

Probably. Because we were locked down for about three and a half months [in Queensland], we lost all our gigs and I [started] playing guitar for fun and I probably put over 100 ideas into my phone. The last album was written, aside from the song Fearless Rider, before 2014, so there was about five years where I literally didn’t write. I was gigging way too much and, when you gig a lot, well for me personally, I go through headspaces. I’m either writing, recording or gigging – I’m not doing all three at the same time. To be creative, I can’t be playing cover songs five nights a week and that’s what I was doing.

Your latest single Country Kinda Guy is a working-class song about the grit and integrity needed to be a country kinda guy living on the land. Fuelled by electric guitars, powerful driving drums and bass, the song is feel-good and energetic. Where did the idea for the single come from?

The song is about [how] guys can do some dumb stuff, but it doesn't mean we won't be there when the crunch hits. I wrote it in 2013. I had just come back from Nashville and was lucky enough to be out on the road with one of my mates who was the sound guy for Randy Houser. I was lucky to go out on the road a couple of times with them, and the song is inspired by the Randy Houser sound. I really was digging that vibe at the time. The reason it wasn't released earlier is because that sound disappeared a little bit, so I was hesitant to release it. But in the last couple of years, Luke Combs has released some rocky stuff, so it's given me an opportunity to revisit that sound.

I made a decision a couple years ago that the country rock thing is my sound and I'd feel like I was being disingenuous if I followed the trend of writing tracks with snap tracks and going poppy. I'd rather find people that like what I do opposed to chase what other people are doing.

You mentioned the trend of using snap tracks and having a pop/commercial sound. Given how varied the country music genre is these days, almost to the extent where almost anybody could find a sub-genre of country they would like, how do you convince people to give country music a chance when all they hear is the word ‘country’ and are immediately turned off by it?

I don't know. I used to always say that what I do is like a gateway drug, because somebody who's into rock can listen to what I do. It's a soft way to get into country because they're not getting smashed in the face with ‘my wife left and my dog died’ and ‘my truck ran away with my tractor’, it's more subtle than that, and it's still familiar sounds.

Not to stereotype, but what are the characteristics of a typical country kinda guy?

This song is aimed at young guys [who] are pretty loose when they're at a BNS ball – they’re having fun, making flames out of the back of their ute, and doing donuts in the car park – but I know darn well those guys work on their farms probably 120 hours a week. So, they play hard because they work so hard. And, at some point in time, they're gonna settle down, get married and they're gonna be there 100% to make life good for the family. That's gonna be what their lives are so I forgive the playing up, because you got to do that sometimes.

I read in an interview where you said that you wrote your first song at six years old. Have you held onto these old lyrics?

I have a folder somewhere filled with pages with lyrics written on them, [but] I remember the first one. The first song I ever wrote, it's embarrassing, it was called Take Me Back to My Home in America. I'd never been to America. I'm not from America. But that's what the song was called [laughs].

Do you also have a collection of old video footage of you performing somewhere on VHS as well?

No, I've got a hard disk recorder. I could put all my videos onto the hard disk so then I could record onto a CD. I put quite a few of them on that. I've got a couple of gigs from the early 2000s on there, which is funny to go back and look at. I was only the guitar player in that band, so I wasn't singing or anything.

Were you also writing your own songs while you were playing guitar in that band?

That was a covers band. I did the Melbourne cover band for way too long. Unfortunately, I got stuck and it's such an easy thing to do when you've got that money coming in. Original music, it's a bigger investment of time and you may never get paid, so it was one of those things. I was under no illusions as to what I was doing. I know guys in the cover scene that think they're rockstars, but I knew it was never that. I didn't start writing country until 2009, so I was probably in the cover scene for a good 10 years not doing anything too creative. I did record a rock album in 2005 or 2006 but it never saw the light of day. It never got finished. We got most of the way through and then the band imploded, it got messy and the band broke up. I've got [the album] on a hard drive. Whether it still works, I don't know.

When do you think your lyrics got better to the point where you wouldn’t be embarrassed to actually perform them live or release them?

They really started to improve when I started writing with other people. I've got a good ear and creative, in a way. I don’t think I'm the best writer in the world, so when somebody else comes up with something better, I'm more than happy to admit it. It's not an ego thing. I don't take it personally. I love it when people have constructive criticism [but] when people are just bashing you, that's completely different. I don’t think I write bad songs. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying I’m not against other people’s ideas. Nothing is set in stone until it’s set in stone.

I Wonder What You Kiss Like [his previous single], Kaylee Bell and The Wolfe Brothers wrote that song and it's a completely different vibe releasing a song you didn't write. When people are singing along in the crowd [to a song I wrote], they’re singing along to part of my life, something that happened to me [or] an idea I had. That's why I do it in the first place, to have that connection with people. I think singing other people's songs takes some of that away.

That’s a good lesson too in wanting to be better, working on your craft and following your dreams no matter the obstacles.

There are a million reasons why people stop worrying about what their dream was. I could just never let mine go. I look at it this way – I don’t think people sit down and go, “Hey, remember that day 15 years ago at work? That was such a great day! I did that tax return for that guy – it was amazing!” But I guarantee you, if they had a fun time on stage, they’ll remember that for the rest of their lives. That’s why I keep doing it. And a lot of musos forget that a large majority of people can’t do what we do.

Country Kinda Guy is out now.

For more of our long form interviews, check out here. And keep up to date with Brook Chivell via his Facebook here.