Charismatic, multi-award winning, singer/songwriter, Adam Harvey, alongside buxom poster girl Beccy Cole, have recently released The Great Country Songbook Volume II album, with a tour soon to follow. Following the success of the original 2013 release of The Great Country Songbook and tour with Troy Cassar-Daley; the 2017 release pays homage to some of the greatest male/female country duets ever written.
You released the Great Country Songbook with Troy Cassar-Daley in 2013. Last week you released Volume II of the Great Country Songbook with Beccy Cole. Did you always have the idea of making a second chapter?
I did. I remember when I did the first album with Troy Cassar-Daley and both of us were surprised at the success of that album. It made me realise that people still want to hear those great old songs. They’re timeless. I went to Troy and said, “Mate, I’d love [record] those great, classic, male and female duets. Troy said, “Harvey, I can tell you right now, there is no way I’m going to sing all those female parts!” I said, “Come on, mate. I’ll put a blonde wig on you, we’ll blow up some balloons and put them down your top – you’ll look just like Dolly Parton!” (laughs) He said, “No, you go and see your mad mate, Beccy Cole (who happens to be Dolly’s #1 fan) and see if she’ll do it with you.” That was how he came about with Beccy – who else can you pick, you know? Beccy and I have been such great friends over the years. She loves that classic country stuff [and] I love working with her! She’s the best in the business.
You’ve recorded with Beccy and Troy both before the Great Country Songbook releases. You even won a Golden Guitar Award with Beccy for Do I Ever Cross Your Mind in 2001, for example. What are the differences between touring and recording with Beccy and Troy?
They’re very different but they’re both great acts. I have a lot of respect for them. Troy’s a lot more sensible. Beccy’s crazy all the time (laughs). She’s got this warped sense of humour, which I love. My wife says we’re the male and female equivalent of each other. She’s always a bloody laugh-per-minute! It’s always hard to keep Beccy focused on the job at hand. But I think in some ways that’ll work really well because a lot of those classic country duets are about tragedy, heartbreak and devastation. Singing those and, also the humour and comedy that I’m sure we’ll get up to between the songs, will balance it all out.
The album features 16 classic, country hits – from Islands in the Stream by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton – to Jackson by Johnny Cash and June Carter – and more! As some of those songs may have had an outdated sound, was there a process of modernising them?
Yeah, it is a fine line between trying to keep them as close to the originals but then, in some of those instances, there was those big ballads from the 80s, Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer and We’ve Got Tonight – and you couldn’t try and re-do the originals because it wouldn’t sound right. It wouldn’t work. In that instance, you’ve got to go in a whole different direction with those songs, but hopefully people like our versions of them. Those songs are very simple, but dammit they were good! You don’t want to try and cram too much into them. You’ve got to try and keep it as close to the original, so it’s very important to stick as close as you can to it.
It’s a different thing when you’re putting out your own original material because no one has ever heard the songs before. When you’re trying to re-create that classic country stuff that made those songs great in the first place, you do get a little bit nervous about it.
Were their any disagreements during the song selection process for the album?
I picked my favourite songs, Bec picked a few of hers and then we looked back through history at what were the biggest male/female country hits of all time. A lot of those songs jumped out and stood out themselves. Bec wanted to record a song called ‘In Spite of Ourselves’ which I wasn’t a real big fan of, so I just forgot to put that on the album. She sent me a message the other day, “didn’t ‘In Spite of Ourselves’ go on the album?” and I was like, “Oh, dammit, I forgot!” (laughs).
Do you have a favourite track off the album?
It depends what kind of mood you’re in. I find that with any music. Sometimes I want to listen to You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly. Other times, there’s a song on there called My Elusive Dream and it’s actually Beccy’s ex-husband who plays all these beautiful string parts. Those violin parts on that song are just beautiful, so I think that’s probably up there as one of my favourites.
Listening to the album, it’s a great surprise to hear Troy make a cameo in the duet Country Heroes and well as the Yesterday’s Wine with you and Beccy.
It was nice to have him on there. He was keen to be a part of it and sing on it too. It was lovely to sing the duet with the three of us, and Troy and I wrote a song when we were on tour with that first album. [The song] was all about our heroes and the people we were singing about every night on stage. Troy asked, “Are you going to put that song on the end of this new album?” And I said, “I don’t think it’ll work. It’s about Beccy and I.” Troy said, “Gee, it’d be a shame if that song never saw the light of day and no one ever got to hear it.” I started to think about that and thought he’s probably right, so we threw that on the end as a bit of a bonus track.
Why not wait until you next solo album to put the song on that? Or on another kind of duets album, like you did with your 2009 release, Both Sides Now?
Yeah, that’s true. I like working with other people; it’s good fun! I love it. I’ve done plenty of it and hopefully people aren’t sick and tired of me and they’re willing to record with me again down the track. I’m sure after this tour, Beccy Cole will be sick and tired of me though, that’s for sure! (laughs).
I’ve started writing songs again. When you record those great, old, country songs, they really inspire you. There’s something about them. They’re simple, but there’s something just bloody special about them. It makes you want to get the old pen and paper out and start writing new songs again. I’ll keep busy, write a stack of songs and I guess recording next year.
I’ll have to pull my finger out and do something next year. Keep my wife in shoes – she seems to think you can never have too many pairs (laughs). She bought a pair of boots the other day and I was like, “Haven’t you got like a wardrobe full of boots? Surely, you don’t need anymore?” She said, “Who would have known? I didn’t know I needed anymore either, but I obviously did!” (laughs). When you think this tour is going to go into October/November, then it’s Christmas and then into 2018 – bloody scary how quick it all goes around!
I know it’s early days, but can we expect a Volume III?
Oh god, I don’t know! To be honest, I can’t see it at the moment. I don’t know what we’d do, unless Troy says, “hey, let’s do a Volume III and sing some songs from X, Y and Z” I don’t know. It wouldn’t be for a while anyway if it was gonna happen but you know that old story of ‘never say never,’ but what would we do? We’ve already done the male/male duets and the male/female duets.
Your daughter Leylah has contributed vocals on past recordings, and your son Conway is a DJ. Having two talented and musical-orientated children, is there a chance of a future Harvey family album?
That’s going to be hard because my son loves electronic music and heavy metal, and my daughter wants to be an Opera singer, so I don’t know how the three of us together is going to work out! (laughs). My son could rap the songs, my daughter could sing the Opera, and I could do a bit of country as well. Country, Rap and Opera – so we call it ‘Crapra!’ (laughs) We’ve just formed a brand new style of music. Crapra – the Harvey Family Album (laughs). No one wants to buy Crapra!
If you could do an album or song with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
I would love to have recorded with Johnny Cash. The people I know who have met him have said that he was this larger than life, giant of a man, who took the whole doorway up when he walked through, seemed like he was 7 foot tall. I would have loved to not only work with him; but to meet the man – that would have been pretty cool!
You’re about to go on tour with Beccy. Will you be running through the complete album or injecting some of your solo work in there as well?
We’re working on the show at the moment and we’ll start rehearing with the band soon. Bec and I on stage for the whole time together, we’ll probably do a couple of sets, have a little break in the middle, and we’ll go right through all of those songs. We’re talking about doing a little acoustic set in the middle where we might actually sing a little of each others stuff and no doubt take the Mickey out of one another! It can’t be helped – it’s a natural thing we do! (laughs) You’ve gotta have fun, have a good laugh – life’s too short! There’s so much doom and gloom in the world, people wanna come to a show and forget about all their cares and worries. Escapism, that’s what it is. If you haven’t got a sense of humour than maybe you shouldn’t be going to an Adam Harvey show (laughs).
Is it good to have another front man on stage to banter with rather than being on your own?
Yeah, it is. It really is great to have someone up there who is as mad as me to bounce off of too. Laughter is always multiplied when you’ve got more than one person there – that energy on stage is the same thing. When you’ve got someone else to share it with; it’s really special. I reckon Beccy is the best entertainer in Country Music in Australia; in some ways, it really pushes you to be running at 110% to try and keep up with her (laughs).
[Originally posted on the AU Review]