Drew McAlister has long been recognised as one of the nation’s premier songwriters and performers. He recently lent his voice in support of the drought crisis facing our local farmers and, to coincide with the release of his third single off his current album, he’s been hard at work co-organising the forthcoming three-day Mount Hunter Country Music Stampede.
You released Kissing a Girl Goodnight recently off your album Coming Your Way. In the past we’ve spoken about how important you feel it is to perform songs you’ve written yourself – however, this is a song you found through a demo – and the sound as well is quite different to things you’ve recorded in the past. Does this song resonate with your life and is that what you connected with lyrically?
It’s exactly my life. I connected to it and I think other people will too, that’s why I recorded it. I think a lot of people will be living or will have lived some similar the version of that. It’s quite a difficult song to sing because it’s so low and then so high in the chorus, so I was a bit trepidatious, to be honest, when we were going to record this vocal. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, but I had to work on it for a while and sing it quite a few times to make sure it sat right and I had the right key.
It’s very orchestral and that was how the demo was done. Even though I don’t really have any of that stuff in any of the albums I’ve done in the past or even have a band that does that, it still felt right because of the demo that was done originally. In the clip, I’m playing piano very badly but still playing piano. It is different for me. I want to let the song, the lyric, the melody sell it, but dress it up with current stuff – that’s what I’ve tried to do on this album.
Normally I write the majority of songs on every album, but this time around I asked my producer Andy Mack to send me a couple of songs to mix it up, so we’ve got a bit of variety on the 10 song album, Coming Your Way. I’ve done two up-tempo and anthemic songs before this single, so I think it was a nice change.
You’re quite a private person when it comes to your family and personal life, so I was surprised that your daughters feature in the new music video, dancing sweetly around you as your play the piano. What was the idea behind their appearance?
Yeah, both my little girls are in the video, which I thought was fitting given the lyric. My daughter Jessica, as soon as she got the album she said to me, “Dad is Kissing a Girl Goodnight going to be single? Can I be in the clip?” This was over a year ago now. My wife said, “If Jessica is in the clip then Tilly is going to be in clip.”
They had a ball and if there was ever a song that would suit my kids being in a clip, that’s probably the only one it will be. I don’t put that out in the public; it’s a special clip for that reason. Once you put them in a clip you can’t put it back in the bottle. It was very much a conscious decision because they keep harping on about it. But as it turns out, we released the clip and I don’t think any friends at school even said anything [laughs]. It was just something they wanted to do and then they’ve done it now, they’re kind of just disinterested. They just did it and moved on basically.
You’re also involved in Matt Scullion‘s Shout the Land a Drink charity project alongside James Blundell, Tania Kernaghan and Simply Bushed. What can you say about this important cause for those who aren’t aware of it?
Matt Scullion called me and asked if I wanted to be involved in this song. Both my parents come from farming backgrounds and obviously, I’m in a genre which tries to help wherever we can, so I said absolutely! We shot the video clip on a farmer’s property in Scone and you could see how dry it was and he’s just one story – there are thousands and thousands of stories like that.
People are trying to do every bit they can. The thing about this drought is they don’t really know when this is going to end. If we don’t get decent rain in the next 6-12 months then it flows on everywhere. You can’t buy rain but you can help the farmers live through however long this is going to take. If they aren’t unable to sustain their farms and the produce comes from them then what are we going to eat? Where is it going to come from?
All proceeds from anything that this song makes goes to Rural Aid and Buy A Bale. There’s going to be 250,000 singles printed off and put in every Caltex around Australia. So five dollars a single and hopefully that will generate some income that will hopefully get back to Rural Aid, the company who get to distribute and allocated this to all the right places, because they’re right in the thick of it.
You’ve also been heavily involved in organising the Mount Hunter Stampede alongside businessman and owner of K Ranch, Mick Kearney. Situated just a 50 minute drive from Sydney airport, this three-day festival is a celebration of country life and music. Although still early into its infancy stage, are you changing anything compared to last years stunning debut?
This year it’s over three days – the 12th, 13th and 14th of October. We have Adam Brand, Adam Harvey, myself, Christie Lamb, Jasmine Rae and Teleisha Eade, who won the Maton Rising Star last year. They’ll be the three of the girls on a Friday and then the boys on a Saturday. We’ve basically gone up another level. It’s looking pretty good. We’ve had 10 months this time to really work out exactly what we’re gonna do and we’ve got a great team around us.
The K Ranch is what it’s called and it is a huge equestrian centre – its two acres undercover! It’s got a saloon bar and a western store – where you can buy jeans, boots, and saddles, whatever you want. They’ve got jumping castles, Texas barbecue and coffee vans. It’s a real carnival like atmosphere when they’ve got events on. The kids are welcome; it’s a real family event. It’s one of these places you’re got to go and see.
K Ranch regularly hosts a variety of equestrian events, live music, private functions and corporate events. You also filmed your earlier single, Australian Heartbeat there. But how did you become involved in the stampede and what does your role entail?
Mick and I sat down a couple of years ago, had a beer and [worked out] what we wanted to do. Being I’ve played at a lot of festivals, we put together a blueprint. I booked all the acts and all the production. Everyone’s got a role. It’s been challenging, but a lot of fun. Mick is a very successful businessman, so I’m learning from him.
I’ve spent quite a lot of time out there over the last couple of years and watched it grow bigger and bigger and bigger. I’ve taken my family out there any opportunity I get. He’s got a hundred and fifty horse stalls out there as well, you pay $30 and you can stay in a stall for a night. Two king swags fit in one stalls. They’ve all got straw in them, so it’s actually a comfortable place to sleep. You can bring caravans and SUVs too.
The festival will also host the Maton Rising Star Competition. You got your start in a similar competition, so how does it feel to now be in the position of giving an opportunity to someone else?
It’s really cool. I got my start at the Maton Rising Star at the Gympie Muster and thankfully that year I won it and got to go to the College Of Country Music. This time round we’ve got the seniors and juniors and one of the junior winners will get to go to the college. They’ll be a trip to Nashville for the senior winner, plus guitar giveaways and cash. This year there is an over ten thousand dollar price pool.
It’s pretty important to give back and put on an opportunity where people have a chance to obviously experience performing, but have a chance to win too. We had people out there last year who weren’t very experienced but they went in it for the experience, which is cool.
Drew McAlister will be performing at The Mount Hunter Country Music Stampede which is held 12th – 14th October at K Ranch – Mount Hunter. For further information check https://www.countrymusicstampede.com/