Originally one half of the award-winning duo, McAlister Kemp – Troy Kemp is making a name for himself with his recently released first solo album, Against The Grain. About to hit the road on the This Crazy Life tour – we spoke about the tour, what defines modern country music and the comradery between Australian country music artists.
You’re soon to hit the road on the This Crazy Life tour, headlined by the Wolfe Brothers with artists Gord Bamford, Caitlyn Shadbolt, Christie Lamb, Craig Heath, Jody Direen and yourself. What can you tell me about this unique tour?
It’s seven acts from 3 different countries all touring together as a mini festival, on the road, kind of thing. I think in Australia there’s a real stigma around what country music is. A lot of people will think it’s all dinky and traditional – but there’s a modern wave of country music that’s coming through that’s really rocky and poppy and [country music is] becoming really diverse. If a lot of younger people heard what country music sounds like now, they’d go, “that’s actually pretty cool!” So, that’s what the whole emphasis of the show is. It’s trying to bring that awareness and sound out, and hopefully win some new country music fans [as well].
What do you think defines country music?
The common thread in country music is the lyric. The styles [are] so diverse – I do a rocky style of country, there’s a poppy style of country, and some of the country is even starting to sound a bit R&B! There’s dance beats starting to happen in country music which is so far removed from what Johnny Cash ever was, or Willie Nelson, or any of these legends!
Lyrically, not so much about the tractor breaking down or the dog running away – there’s a lot of party stuff, dancing on the tailgate, dixie cups, and raise your glass; but there’s still real life story stuff that happens in country music now. And [that’s] still the thing that defines what country music is.
As an artist, you’ve got to be aware of that and make sure that you keep those stories real so people aren’t getting confused by what you’re putting out there. Just throw some banjos in the background, it’s still some kind of country [laughs].
It must be a great time to be a part of the country music scene then?
Yeah, it’s really cool. It’s good to be part of the new movement – and that’s what the whole idea of this tour is. It is going to be a bit of an eye opener for country music fans.
It’s definitely getting more energetic and there’s a whole fun vibe about it, which I really like. As an artist, it’s really good to go and play these festivals, rodeos and outdoor events where [fans are] pumped, throwing their hands into the air and going for it. It’s better than sitting on your seat and looking at your feet all night, you know what I mean?
Is there any chance of collaborating – either on stage or songwriting – with any of the artists during the tour?
Oh yeah, there will probably be some songwriting done if we’re all just kicking around doing nothing in hotel rooms during the days; but I’m hoping, as the show rolls on, that we all get on stage and do a couple of songs together. Who knows, by the last show in Toowoomba it could just be an all in jam! At this stage, it’s a very structured animal right now, but, to be honest, I think it’s going to be fun from the word go!
Have you toured with any of the acts before?
I’ve done shows with Christie Lamb before, and I’ve seen these guys perform at festivals, but none of us have really toured together as such. I’m a big fan of the Wolfe Brothers – they’re good mates of mine and I’ve known those guys for years. I’ll be hanging with the Wolfies, jamming, playing guitars, probably eating the wrong foods, and having too much fun!
You started your career as one half of McAlister Kemp, with help essentially under the mentorship of Adam Brand. Is part of this tour also to help mentor these new and upcoming artists?
Definitely. There’s definitely a comradery within the industry and everyone helps everyone. We were lucky, early days, with Adam to get his help and he took us out on the road for about a year. We played as the opening act to his fans, he helped created a profile for McAlister Kemp and helped us get a record deal.
Not that I’m a veteran of it, but we had a 6-7 great years with McAlister Kemp, so I’ve been through a lot of great experiences, had a lot of wins and it’s really cool – [so it’s] nice to see young guys coming in, like Craig Heath and other young acts, that you can take under your own wing now and help try and nurture their talents, and give them the same experiences.
You don’t see it as much in different genres, but I really enjoy that part of the business. They say [country music is] like a big family, but it really is. Everyone really looks out for each other.
And you’re bringing a bit of that into your next music video as well, is that correct?
Yeah, A Little More Country. I’ve had a lot of different country acts film themselves on their phones singing a line of my song, so I’ve joined them together and I’m going to put this video out soon as my new video clip. I think country fans are really going to dig seeing a Troy Kemp video that’s full of all the other country acts as well.
I put the feelers out to a whole bunch of people – some got back to me, some were too busy, and some I didn’t even hear from at all – but I ended up with people like Luke O’Shea, Jasmine Rae, Christie Lamb, the Wolfe Brothers, Damien Baguley from the Viper Creek Band, Jayne Denham, Simply Bushed and a whole bunch of acts! Liam Brew, Iain Archibald Band, Chelsea Basham – it’s really cool. Probably about ten to 15 artists make a little appearance in the video clip – I’m just [putting] the finishing touches on it this week and [will] get it out soon.
Do people ask you to play your old McAlister Kemp songs on the road?
They do. I still throw in Hell Yeah, Harder to Tame and Cold Beer, Hot Women, but I’m mixing it up with a bunch of my new songs off my new album, Against the Grain, as well as throwing in a couple of old country classics like, It’s Five O’clock Somewhere, Friends in Low Places and Sweet Home Alabama if I need to – it’s a mixed up show but there’s a little bit for everybody! I’ll definitely keep throwing the McAlister Kemp stuff in there because obviously it’s my past and I don’t want to ignore it, but for this tour, I’m just going to stick to Troy Kemp stuff [and] promote my new album.
It’s Five O’clock Somewhere is one of the songs Adam Brand and the Outlaws sing, which Drew is a part of, that’s so controversial! How do you feel about Adam having chosen Drew to be a member and not you?
[laughs] I’m totally cool with it. I’m going to put together another couple of bunch of mates and we’ll get our own band going – yeah, me, Morgan Evans, Damien Baguley, and a couple of boys out of the Wolfe brothers, and we’ll call ourselves the Inlaws. It should be fun, what do you reckon?
I think you’re onto a winner! There’s always a chance of you and Drew running into each other at a gig – is there a chance of you guys reforming if only for a song?
I’m totally open to it, as long as he was. You’re right, we are always going to bump into each other around the place. I really enjoyed the McAlister Kemp project, and I’m sure he did as well [but] we got to a point where we needed have a break and we both wanted to do some solo stuff. I like to think moving forward, we can possibly get back together and do some one off shows. I can’t promise anything, but you never know what could happen.
So, what is next for Troy Kemp upcoming?
This month for me personally, I’ve got a harbour cruise in Sydney on the 17th of September [and] on the 30th, I’m doing a show with the Viper Creek Band. October, obviously, This Crazy Life tour. November, I’m playing a big festival called ‘Country at the Camp’. And other than that, I’m just trying to fill a few holes through December, and then we do Tamworth next year.
2017 hits and we start it all over again – hit the road and get more gigs, put out new songs and hopefully a new album – so always busy, but best job in the world so can’t complain!
I also saw you’re on the line up for the 2017 Cruisin’ Country cruise …
It’s a really good cruise and it’s getting bigger every year! It’s definitely something I urge the country music fans come along – you’ve got 2200 country fans all crammed on a ship out on the south pacific for 8 to 10 days. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of drinking, you meet a lot of people, and get to meet a lot of the acts and hang out with.
I’m doing the 2017 cruise called Family Reunion, essentially a lot of the big acts that are actually going to be on stage in the main theatre with their children singing some songs. That won’t be myself – I’m going to be I’ve got about 4 or 5 shows to do around in different parts of the ship and on the pool deck. I’m going to be more of the party guy that happens after hours, god knows where! [laughs] But that’ll be my role on the ship next year.
For more information on Troy, go to: www.facebook.com/troykempmusic
[Originally posted at the AU review]