Gareth Leach and the Davidson Brothers swing by THEAUSSIEWORD.COM for a special interview.
How and where did it all begin for you? What drew your interest to the music industry?
Gareth Leach (GL): I’ve been playing music since I was 3, tinkering away on the family piano from a young age, moving on to drums in my teens, record production and playing/writing in bands in my 20s; and then transitioning to singing/song writing as a solo artist in my 30s. For as long as I can remember, other than wanting to be a policeman when I was in kinder, music is just something that I’ve always wanted to do.
Lachlan Davidson (LD): We were born into a music loving family, it was all around us. We started busking back in about 1993 shortly after taking up the fiddle, and as we got better we started getting invited to perform at events, and finally getting paid, which kept us away from day jobs. There’s always been something exciting down the road in the music industry, and there still is.
Hamish Davidson (HD): The passion for music began attending folk festivals with the family as kids. World music, blues, celtic rock, then bluegrass music. As far as taking our music to the next level and entering the ‘industry,’ I guess we were aware that when we played together we would get enthusiastic reactions in most places, so we just went with it. Everywhere we went, people would ask, “Did you bring your fiddle?” “Have you got your banjo?” … and up we’d go! We’d jump on stage with anyone. Still do.
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?
GL: I developed my philosophy for music, and I guess for life in general when I was slugging it out in the huge yet unforgiving Melbourne live scene in the early 2000s, and that is if I can put a smile on one person’s face or positively impact the mood or whatever of just one person, then it’s ALL worthwhile. The impact we leave on others is our legacy.
LD: We played a lot of contests early on; eisteddfods, talent quests in Tamworth, and band contests which gave us great feedback and experiences with what audiences reacted to. Getting to see a lot of great live music growing up was a huge motivation to get better, and then see how we can move an audience with the music we create.
HD: Leaving behind a back catalogue of recordings that still sound solid decades into the future. It is very cool to see people that you have inspired to play music doing well years later, and watching the bluegrass music scene grow in Australia.
What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish?
GL: Other than being a good person, good dad and good husband, I just wanna keep on doing this forever. That’s my biggest goal. To be able to do my music, full time without having to subsidise this career by having a day job would be the dream!
LD:Looking back on the past 20 years we’ve had some pretty cool opportunities already, but some of the most fun is getting to take our music overseas and connecting with new people that continue to support us.
HD: I really get a kick out of hearing other artists cover our songs. I’d love to see more of that. We’d like to start our own music festival some day.
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?
LD: It’s been a slow year, and we’re just getting back in the swing of things. Next year is already looking more promising with some fun events on the horizon.
GL: Me and my band (the Narratives of Hope) are gearing up to release our 3rd full-length album in the new year. We’ve got a bunch of festival shows and rodeos coming up and yeah, hopefully a pretty comprehensive East coast tour, hopefully even South Australia and Tassie in there too!
HD: I’m always cutting tracks for people in the studio, but I’m trying to make time to experiment with some new sounds of my own. I enjoy cutting demos of ideas I’ve developed and presenting them to my brother to see if it might work for the DBs.
Tell us a bit about your latest release and how would you best describe your music?
GL: This song Big Ole Feelings is about the little people in our lives and wanting to teach them about mindfulness, in particular being able to observe your ‘Big” feelings and control reactions. It’s something that as a person, a dad, and teacher, I am I guess hyper-aware of. Whilst I’ve not shied away from dark concept lyrically and musically from time-to-time, I also want to send out positivity and intertwine that with playfulness. I feel like this song does that. As a country musician, I have always related to and respected the fearless approach of the “outlaws” I guess. Introspective lyrics, stylistically versatile to capture the essence of a song rather than a scene or image. That’s why I suppose I feel comfortable allowing my musical path being more eclectic than many others in the Aussie Country Scene.
HD: Cutting a half-acoustic and half-electric album gave us a licence to really branch out. Obviously, people know us for our bluegrass music, but we’ve sat in with so many different artists over the years, and we get a kick out of crossing over into other genres.
Give us an insight into your creative process. What gets you writing songs?
HD: The creative process for me usually starts with a spontaneous idea, a chorus I’ve forged in the shower, or a musical idea I’ve come up with on one of my string-axes. I’m possibly more logically minded than Lachie, so finishing a song for me can be like finishing a sudoku puzzle, but Lachie’s strength is in the abstract and intuitive elements. We’re a good team.
GL: It really depends on the day of the week, haha! For the most part the process for me usually starts with a guitar and a riff, rather than chords and a melody. Maybe it’s ‘cause of being fed a musical diet of 90’s rock and grunge music as a kid, but I’ve always aspired to creating “the riff” and “musical hooks” – from there I really just dig in to whatever is happening in the labyrinth that is my mind to decide on a lyrical theme or emotion to draw upon. Choruses seem to come more naturally as I find myself getting bogged down in the semantics of messages and meanings in verses, so they usually take me longer.
Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?
GL: HA! ALMOST ALWAYS!
HD: If anything, I try to make sure we always have some songs with uplifting and empowering themes. I have definitely inserted a few positive affirmations along the way so that if someone listens to an album regularly, they can expect a degree of inner healing. We should never underestimate the healing power of music. It is common for us to keep a take in the studio that is not technically what we’d strive for, but genuine emotion has been captured.
Success, what is the secret to it?
LD: Keeping yourself motivated and living and breathing what you love to do.
GL: I’ll let ya know when I find it! Seriously though, as I kinda touched on before, it’s looking for the positive in what you do. Setting goals in life that are attainable are far more better allowing you to feel like you have accomplished something or been “successful”. I try to set realistic goals, work towards them and celebrate each one.
HD: Work your balls off. There’s no shortcut.
What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
GL: Hitting the ARIA charts with our last record was HUGE for me and always been a little dream of mine. Other than that, being able to play festival shows with the band and see people singing along to our songs – that NEVER gets old!
HD: Being accepted into the wider bluegrass music scene in the US. They truly make us feel like part of the family. Everyone on this scene has different strengths and it is a very respectful and nurturing culture.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
LD: We’ve worked with some great artists who’ve had major success in years gone by, but they still have the love for music and finding a way forward to keep creating and sharing what they do. Those artists are the most inspiring, especially when they’re willing to support us and share stories.
HD: Anyone who can channel a vocal that seems too good to be real. Anyone who visibly inspires the other musicians around them and lifts them up.
GL: I am inspired by so many musicians and producers in the music industry. If I were to name a few that I’ve been watching in awe of lately I’d say “Daniel Johns” of silverchair fame with the way he has really honed in on his target demographic in the marketing campaign of his latest solo record by making a film holding, having super exclusive merch drops and even holding an exhibition. I am also always keeping an eye on Willie Nelson, he’s my alltime favourite musician and he’s still incredible. I also like to know what Jack White is up to, both musically and as a producer. He’s a leader of the music industry and musically he’s a wizard – he really seems switched on.
Are there any new projects in the pipeline?
HD: Always 🙂
GL: Other than the new album, which is coming in the new year, I’ve been enjoying producing, mixing and engineering records for a range of other artists lately. I’ve even had the chance to play some live gigs on my main instrument as a drummer with them lately, so that’s been a tonne of fun and something I’d love to keep my toes dipped in!
The music industry is constantly changing, where do you see yourself a few years?
HD: The model of how we used to be profitable in the music industry is changing so constantly, that it is hard to see the future, but the human elements never change. Our fans are still human. I would be stoked if we were still in a position where people willingly part with their hard earned money to see us perform and support what we love to do.
GL: It really is, and ya just can’t predict what will happen next – take covid for example and all the livestreams we had to do especially here in Melbourne to maintain a connection with our audience whist attempting to fill our own musical and emotional cups. Whatever it is I’m doing, I just hope I enjoy it and that it isn’t happening in front of a laptop with a virtual audience. I am D.O.N.E. with that!
What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why?
HD: Favourite part is working with gifted, passionate and kind people. Least favourite part is the inverse of that.
LD: Travelling to new places and meeting new people. When you’re out performing people are usually there to have a good time. Least favourite is probably the waiting around in transit on long journeys and keeping up with ever changing social media platforms.
GL: I love being able to hang out with my mates, make tunes, collaborate with other artists, drink a beer, talk rubbish, get deep and occasionally record some songs and play live. What I hate about this line of work is the politics, and constant undervaluing of music as an artform that actively and positively contributes to the wellbeing and connectedness of our society. Every bloody culture on this planet since our ancestors started walking upright has made music as a form of communication and expression. It is fundamental to the human experience and I feel that politicians, venue bookers, promoters and even the general public need to place more value on that fact by supporting musicians, not always trying to negotiate us down to contribute / perform for free in exchange for “exposure” or “publicity”. We need to eat and live under a shelter too.. preferably with enough bucks in our account to not have to live week to week, pay to pay, gig to gig… with a Netflix account and a smart tv – just like them!
Name a few of your favourite Australian artists.
HD: Joe Camilleri, Troy Cassar Daley, Sara Storer, Melinda Schneider, Joe Robinson, Ian Moss.
GL: Musical artists? Oh man – so many!
- Hamish and Lachlan – the mighty, bloody Davidson Brothers, of course haha!
- Kasey Chambers
- Sunk Loto
- Jimmy Barnes
- Andrew Swift
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?
HD: The modern industry can be draining compared to the way we used to do things. It feels like a lot of your energy yields absolutely no return. However, the digital revolution definitely has created opportunities for us to reach people we previously would not have been able to reach.
GL: It is what it is, I suppose. It is a weird thing because I feel that the whole social media thing makes music experience “seem” more personal, but it is really just feeding this weird capitalist beast that feeds on advertising. And music, well , music just isn’t as important to those people as algorithms, targets and quarterly profit growth. It is such a double edged sword. You gotta play the game, but you also have to know it’s just that – a game. Bucks talk and if you aren’t feeding it by chucking bucks in to the beast, then the beast doesn’t give a fuck about what you’re doing – good, bad or otherwise.
How will you continue appealing to the international market?
HD: We keep our lyrics mostly universal, and play with the energy of the pioneers in our genre. As bluegrass music evolves and becomes more progressive, there is still a demand for artists who can kill the stuff that leans toward the trad end of the spectrum.
GL: I have an amazing team with me in RTC Records and Nardia Drayton. She’s put my music in the hands and ears of people that I never imagined would hear my music, both locally and abroad. I’ll keep working with her, and maybe one day we’ll be able to take this show on the road internationally, but for now – I’m just so grateful to her and for the connection that I’ve made with other music fans worldwide by doing what I do. The internet CAN be useful, if you harness its powers for good and not evil!
Do you collaborate with others? Who is on your wish-list?
GL: Well this song is a collab, so of course! But yeah, as a producer and songwriter I am constantly learning and growing as a musician and songwriter. Those collaborations and interactions are integral for me in that continual growth. It’s a journey, not a destination.
HD: We love to collaborate with other artists. I’d love to cut a record in Europe (maybe in Amsterdam or Edinborough), flying in the hottest players from their continent. That would be cool.
What advice do you give for other artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
HD: Oh god… Don’t do what we do. Haha! Or… Find your own niche. It’s not so wise to copy and compete.
GL: Do it for the right reasons, not for fame and fortune etc. Music is art, and unfortunately most of us don’t achieve the heights that indicate your success to others. Like I said before, set realistic goals, achieve them and always be ready to learn and grow from an experience. And be a genuine, kind and empathetic person – as the coined phrase from the wise Bill Chambers goes – “Don’t be a dickhead”
A message for your fans. How do you best interact and respond with your followers and fans?
HD: In person, online, at the farmers market, down Aisle 7 of the supermarket. Wherever. We’re real people.
GL: I’m probably best at interacting with folks on Instagram, and I guess facebook also to a lesser extent. But honestly, I’m more comfortable in the real world – so come along to a show and have a chat with us – we’re all pretty bloody lovely guys, even if I say so myself!
Any last words?
HD: I wanna see the Davidson Brothers tattooed somewhere special on Gareth’s body. Hehe.
GL: HAHA, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED HA! Seriously though, my last words are: Thanks! I know that seems really short, but if ya read into it – it’s just all about that one word. I am so grateful for this opportunity to chat with “the Aussie Word” and the idea that someone might read this and enjoy it is bloody awesome. The idea that someone may read this and smile at some of the nonsense I blurt out or nod in agreeance with some random though or point of view I share (ps. my point of view is exactly that – it’s not necessarily a fact – and rarely is if you ask some of my mates) is really cool. If that helps ya stumble on to our music then BONZA! Mission accomplished. Stay rad!